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PERSONS & FAMILY RELATIONS |1

A.M. No. MTJ-92-706 March 29, 1995

LUPO ALMODIEL ATIENZA, complainant,


vs.
JUDGE FRANCISCO F. BRILLANTES, JR., Metropolitan Trial Court, Branch 28, Manila,
respondent.

QUIASON, J.:

This is a complaint by Lupo A. Atienza for Gross Immorality and Appearance of Impropriety
against Judge Francisco Brillantes, Jr., Presiding Judge of the Metropolitan Trial Court, Branch
20, Manila.

Complainant alleges that he has two children with Yolanda De Castro, who are living together at
No. 34 Galaxy Street, Bel-Air Subdivision, Makati, Metro Manila. He stays in said house, which
he purchased in 1987, whenever he is in Manila.

In December 1991, upon opening the door to his bedroom, he saw respondent sleeping on his
(complainant's) bed. Upon inquiry, he was told by the houseboy that respondent had been
cohabiting with De Castro. Complainant did not bother to wake up respondent and instead left
the house after giving instructions to his houseboy to take care of his children.

Thereafter, respondent prevented him from visiting his children and even alienated the
affection of his children for him.

Complainant claims that respondent is married to one Zenaida Ongkiko with whom he has five
children, as appearing in his 1986 and 1991 sworn statements of assets and liabilities.
Furthermore, he alleges that respondent caused his arrest on January 13, 1992, after he had a
heated argument with De Castro inside the latter's office.

For his part, respondent alleges that complainant was not married to De Castro and that the
filing of the administrative action was related to complainant's claim on the Bel-Air residence,
which was disputed by De Castro.

Respondent denies that he caused complainant's arrest and claims that he was even a witness
to the withdrawal of the complaint for Grave Slander filed by De Castro against complainant.
According to him, it was the sister of De Castro who called the police to arrest complainant.

Respondent also denies having been married to Ongkiko, although he admits having five
children with her. He alleges that while he and Ongkiko went through a marriage ceremony
before a Nueva Ecija town mayor on April 25, 1965, the same was not a valid marriage for lack
PERSONS & FAMILY RELATIONS |2

of a marriage license. Upon the request of the parents of Ongkiko, respondent went through
another marriage ceremony with her in Manila on June 5, 1965. Again, neither party applied for
a marriage license. Ongkiko abandoned respondent 17 years ago, leaving their children to his
care and custody as a single parent.

Respondent claims that when he married De Castro in civil rites in Los Angeles, California on
December 4, 1991, he believed, in all good faith and for all legal intents and purposes, that he
was single because his first marriage was solemnized without a license.

Under the Family Code, there must be a judicial declaration of the nullity of a previous marriage
before a party thereto can enter into a second marriage. Article 40 of said Code provides:

The absolute nullity of a previous marriage may be invoked for the purposes of remarriage on
the basis solely of a final judgment declaring such previous marriage void.

Respondent argues that the provision of Article 40 of the Family Code does not apply to him
considering that his first marriage took place in 1965 and was governed by the Civil Code of the
Philippines; while the second marriage took place in 1991 and governed by the Family Code.

Article 40 is applicable to remarriages entered into after the effectivity of the Family Code on
August 3, 1988 regardless of the date of the first marriage. Besides, under Article 256 of the
Family Code, said Article is given "retroactive effect insofar as it does not prejudice or impair
vested or acquired rights in accordance with the Civil Code or other laws." This is particularly
true with Article 40, which is a rule of procedure. Respondent has not shown any vested right
that was impaired by the application of Article 40 to his case.

The fact that procedural statutes may somehow affect the litigants' rights may not preclude
their retroactive application to pending actions. The retroactive application of procedural laws
is not violative of any right of a person who may feel that he is adversely affected (Gregorio v.
Court of Appeals, 26 SCRA 229 [1968]). The reason is that as a general rule no vested right may
attach to, nor arise from, procedural laws (Billones v. Court of Industrial Relations, 14 SCRA 674
[1965]).

Respondent is the last person allowed to invoke good faith. He made a mockery of the
institution of marriage and employed deceit to be able to cohabit with a woman, who beget
him five children.

Respondent passed the Bar examinations in 1962 and was admitted to the practice of law in
1963. At the time he went through the two marriage ceremonies with Ongkiko, he was already
a lawyer. Yet, he never secured any marriage license. Any law student would know that a
marriage license is necessary before one can get married. Respondent was given an opportunity
PERSONS & FAMILY RELATIONS |3

to correct the flaw in his first marriage when he and Ongkiko were married for the second time.
His failure to secure a marriage license on these two occasions betrays his sinister motives and
bad faith.

It is evident that respondent failed to meet the standard of moral fitness for membership in the
legal profession.

While the deceit employed by respondent existed prior to his appointment as a Metropolitan
Trial Judge, his immoral and illegal act of cohabiting with De Castro began and continued when
he was already in the judiciary.

The Code of Judicial Ethics mandates that the conduct of a judge must be free of a whiff of
impropriety, not only with respect to his performance of his judicial duties but also as to his
behavior as a private individual. There is no duality of morality. A public figure is also judged by
his private life. A judge, in order to promote public confidence in the integrity and impartiality
of the judiciary, must behave with propriety at all times, in the performance of his judicial
duties and in his everyday life. These are judicial guideposts too self-evident to be overlooked.
No position exacts a greater demand on moral righteousness and uprightness of an individual
than a seat in the judiciary (Imbing v. Tiongzon, 229 SCRA 690 [1994]).

WHEREFORE, respondent is DISMISSED from the service with forfeiture of all leave and
retirement benefits and with prejudice to reappointment in any branch, instrumentality, or
agency of the government, including government-owned and controlled corporations. This
decision is immediately executory.

SO ORDERED.

Narvasa, C.J., Feliciano, Padilla, Bidin, Regalado, Davide, Jr., Romero, Bellosillo, Melo, Puno,
Vitug, Kapunan, Mendoza and Francisco, JJ., concur.a
PERSONS & FAMILY RELATIONS |4

G.R. No. 179922 December 16, 2008

JUAN DE DIOS CARLOS, petitioner,


vs.
FELICIDAD SANDOVAL, also known as FELICIDAD S. VDA. DE CARLOS or FELICIDAD SANDOVAL
CARLOS or FELICIDAD SANDOVAL VDA. DE CARLOS, and TEOFILO CARLOS II, respondents.

DECISION

REYES, R.T., J.:

ONLY a spouse can initiate an action to sever the marital bond for marriages solemnized during
the effectivity of the Family Code, except cases commenced prior to March 15, 2003. The nullity
and annulment of a marriage cannot be declared in a judgment on the pleadings, summary
judgment, or confession of judgment.

We pronounce these principles as We review on certiorari the Decision1 of the Court of


Appeals (CA) which reversed and set aside the summary judgment2 of the Regional Trial Court
(RTC) in an action for declaration of nullity of marriage, status of a child, recovery of property,
reconveyance, sum of money, and damages.

The Facts

The events that led to the institution of the instant suitare unveiled as follows:

Spouses Felix B. Carlos and Felipa Elemia died intestate. They left six parcels of land to their
compulsory heirs, Teofilo Carlos and petitioner Juan De Dios Carlos. The lots are particularly
described as follows:

Parcel No. 1

Lot No. 162 of the MUNTINLUPA ESTATE SUBDIVISION, Case No. 6137 of the Court of Land
Registration.

Exemption from the provisions of Article 567 of the Civil Code is specifically reserved.

Area: 1 hectare, 06 ares, 07 centares.

Parcel No. 2
PERSONS & FAMILY RELATIONS |5

A parcel of land (Lot No. 159-B), being a portion of Lot 159, situated in the Bo. of Alabang,
Municipality of Muntinlupa, Province of Rizal, x x x containing an area of Thirteen Thousand
Four Hundred Forty One (13,441) square meters.

Parcel No. 3

A parcel of land (Lot 159-B-2 of the subd. plan [LRC] Psd-325903, approved as a non-subd.
project), being a portion of Lot 159-B [LRC] Psd- Alabang, Mun. of Muntinlupa, Metro Manila,
Island of Luzon. Bounded on the NE, points 2 to 4 by Lot 155, Muntinlupa Estate; on the SE,
point 4 to 5 by Lot 159-B-5; on the S, points 5 to 1 by Lot 159-B-3; on the W, points 1 to 2 by Lot
159-B-1 (Road widening) all of the subd. plan, containing an area of ONE HUNDRED THIRTY
(130) SQ. METERS, more or less.

PARCEL No. 4

A parcel of land (Lot 28-C of the subd. plan Psd-13-007090, being a portion of Lot 28,
Muntinlupa Estate, L.R.C. Rec. No. 6137), situated in the Bo. of Alabang, Mun. of Muntinlupa,
Metro Manila. Bounded on the NE, along lines 1-2 by Lot 27, Muntinlupa Estate; on the East &
SE, along lines 2 to 6 by Mangangata River; and on the West., along line 6-1, by Lot 28-B of the
subd. plan x x x containing an area of ONE THUSAND AND SEVENTY-SIX (1,076) SQUARE
METERS.

PARCEL No. 5

PARCELA DE TERRENO No. 50, Manzana No. 18, de la subd. de Solocan. Linda por el NW, con la
parcela 49; por el NE, con la parcela 36; por el SE, con la parcela 51; y por el SW, con la calle Dos
Castillas. Partiendo de un punto marcado 1 en el plano, el cual se halla a S. gds. 01'W, 72.50
mts. Desde el punto 1 de esta manzana, que es un mojon de concreto de la Ciudad de Manila,
situado on el esquina E. que forman las Calles Laong Laan y Dos. Castillas, continiendo un
extension superficial de CIENTO CINCUENTA (150) METROS CUADRADOS.

PARCEL No. 6

PARCELA DE TERRENO No. 51, Manzana No. 18, de la subd. De Solocon. Linda por el NW, con la
parcela 50; por el NE, con la parcela 37; por el SE, con la parcela 52; por el SW, con la Calle Dos
Castillas. Partiendo de un punto Marcado 1 en el plano, el cual se halla at S. 43 gds. 01'E, 82.50
mts. Desde el punto 1 de esta manzana, que es un mojon de concreto de la Ciudad de Manila,
situado on el esquina E. que forman las Calles Laong Laan y Dos. Castillas, continiendo una
extension superficial de CIENTO CINCUENTA (150) METROS CUADRADOS.3
PERSONS & FAMILY RELATIONS |6

During the lifetime of Felix Carlos, he agreed to transfer his estate to Teofilo. The agreement
was made in order to avoid the payment of inheritance taxes. Teofilo, in turn, undertook to
deliver and turn over the share of the other legal heir, petitioner Juan De Dios Carlos.

Eventually, the first three (3) parcels of land were transferred and registered in the name of
Teofilo. These three (3) lots are now covered by Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. 234824
issued by the Registry of Deeds of Makati City; TCT No. 139061 issued by the Registry of Deeds
of Makati City; and TCT No. 139058 issued by the Registry of Deeds of Makati City.

Parcel No. 4 was registered in the name of petitioner. The lot is now covered by TCT No. 160401
issued by the Registry of Deeds of Makati City.

On May 13, 1992, Teofilo died intestate. He was survived by respondents Felicidad and their
son, Teofilo Carlos II (Teofilo II). Upon Teofilo's death, Parcel Nos. 5 & 6 were registered in the
name of respondent Felicidad and co-respondent, Teofilo II. The said two (2) parcels of land are
covered by TCT Nos. 219877 and 210878, respectively, issued by the Registry of Deeds of
Manila.

In 1994, petitioner instituted a suit against respondents before the RTC in Muntinlupa City,
docketed as Civil Case No. 94-1964. In the said case, the parties submitted and caused the
approval of a partial compromise agreement. Under the compromise, the parties
acknowledged their respective shares in the proceeds from the sale of a portion of the first
parcel of land. This includes the remaining 6,691-square-meter portion of said land.

On September 17, 1994, the parties executed a deed of extrajudicial partition, dividing the
remaining land of the first parcel between them.

Meanwhile, in a separate case entitled Rillo v. Carlos,4 2,331 square meters of the second
parcel of land were adjudicated in favor of plaintiffs Rillo. The remaining 10,000-square meter
portion was later divided between petitioner and respondents.

The division was incorporated in a supplemental compromise agreement executed on August


17, 1994, with respect to Civil Case No. 94-1964. The parties submitted the supplemental
compromise agreement, which was approved accordingly.

Petitioner and respondents entered into two more contracts in August 1994. Under the
contracts, the parties equally divided between them the third and fourth parcels of land.

In August 1995, petitioner commenced an action, docketed as Civil Case No. 95-135, against
respondents before the court a quo with the following causes of action: (a) declaration of
PERSONS & FAMILY RELATIONS |7

nullity of marriage; (b) status of a child; (c) recovery of property; (d) reconveyance; and (e) sum
of money and damages. The complaint was raffled to Branch 256 of the RTC in Muntinlupa.

In his complaint, petitioner asserted that the marriage between his late brother Teofilo and
respondent Felicidad was a nullity in view of the absence of the required marriage license. He
likewise maintained that his deceased brother was neither the natural nor the adoptive father
of respondent Teofilo Carlos II.

Petitioner likewise sought the avoidance of the contracts he entered into with respondent
Felicidad with respect to the subject real properties. He also prayed for the cancellation of the
certificates of title issued in the name of respondents. He argued that the properties covered by
such certificates of title, including the sums received by respondents as proceeds, should be
reconveyed to him.

Finally, petitioner claimed indemnification as and by way of moral and exemplary damages,
attorney's fees, litigation expenses, and costs of suit.

On October 16, 1995, respondents submitted their answer. They denied the material
averments of petitioner's complaint. Respondents contended that the dearth of details
regarding the requisite marriage license did not invalidate Felicidad's marriage to Teofilo.
Respondents declared that Teofilo II was the illegitimate child of the deceased Teofilo Carlos
with another woman.

On the grounds of lack of cause of action and lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter,
respondents prayed for the dismissal of the case before the trial court. They also asked that
their counterclaims for moral and exemplary damages, as well as attorney's fees, be granted.

But before the parties could even proceed to pre-trial, respondents moved for summary
judgment. Attached to the motion was the affidavit of the justice of the peace who solemnized
the marriage. Respondents also submitted the Certificate of Live Birth of respondent Teofilo II.
In the certificate, the late Teofilo Carlos and respondent Felicidad were designated as parents.

On January 5, 1996, petitioner opposed the motion for summary judgment on the ground of
irregularity of the contract evidencing the marriage. In the same breath, petitioner lodged his
own motion for summary judgment. Petitioner presented a certification from the Local Civil
Registrar of Calumpit, Bulacan, certifying that there is no record of birth of respondent Teofilo
II.

Petitioner also incorporated in the counter-motion for summary judgment the testimony of
respondent Felicidad in another case. Said testimony was made in Civil Case No. 89-2384,
PERSONS & FAMILY RELATIONS |8

entitled Carlos v. Gorospe, before the RTC Branch 255, Las Piñas. In her testimony, respondent
Felicidad narrated that co-respondent Teofilo II is her child with Teofilo.5

Subsequently, the Office of the City Prosecutor of Muntinlupa submitted to the trial court its
report and manifestation, discounting the possibility of collusion between the parties.

RTC and CA Dispositions

On April 8, 1996, the RTC rendered judgment, disposing as follows:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, defendant's (respondent's) Motion for Summary Judgment


is hereby denied. Plaintiff's (petitioner's) Counter-Motion for Summary Judgment is hereby
granted and summary judgment is hereby rendered in favor of plaintiff as follows:

1. Declaring the marriage between defendant Felicidad Sandoval and Teofilo Carlos solemnized
at Silang, Cavite on May 14, 1962, evidenced by the Marriage Certificate submitted in this case,
null and void ab initio for lack of the requisite marriage license;

2. Declaring that the defendant minor, Teofilo S. Carlos II, is not the natural, illegitimate, or
legally adopted child of the late Teofilo E. Carlos;

3. Ordering defendant Sandoval to pay and restitute to plaintiff the sum of P18,924,800.00
together with the interest thereon at the legal rate from date of filing of the instant complaint
until fully paid;

4. Declaring plaintiff as the sole and exclusive owner of the parcel of land, less the portion
adjudicated to plaintiffs in Civil Case No. 11975, covered by TCT No. 139061 of the Register of
Deeds of Makati City, and ordering said Register of Deeds to cancel said title and to issue
another title in the sole name of plaintiff herein;

5. Declaring the Contract, Annex "K" of complaint, between plaintiff and defendant Sandoval
null and void, and ordering the Register of Deeds of Makati City to cancel TCT No. 139058 in the
name of Teofilo Carlos, and to issue another title in the sole name of plaintiff herein;

6. Declaring the Contract, Annex M of the complaint, between plaintiff and defendant Sandoval
null and void;

7. Ordering the cancellation of TCT No. 210877 in the names of defendant Sandoval and
defendant minor Teofilo S. Carlos II and ordering the Register of Deeds of Manila to issue
another title in the exclusive name of plaintiff herein;
PERSONS & FAMILY RELATIONS |9

8. Ordering the cancellation of TCT No. 210878 in the name of defendant Sandoval and
defendant Minor Teofilo S. Carlos II and ordering the Register of Deeds of Manila to issue
another title in the sole name of plaintiff herein.

Let this case be set for hearing for the reception of plaintiff's evidence on his claim for moral
damages, exemplary damages, attorney's fees, appearance fees, and litigation expenses on
June 7, 1996 at 1:30 o'clock in the afternoon.

SO ORDERED.6

Dissatisfied, respondents appealed to the CA. In the appeal, respondents argued, inter alia, that
the trial court acted without or in excess of jurisdiction in rendering summary judgment
annulling the marriage of Teofilo, Sr. and Felicidad and in declaring Teofilo II as not an
illegitimate child of Teofilo, Sr.

On October 15, 2002, the CA reversed and set aside the RTC ruling, disposing as follows:

WHEREFORE, the summary judgment appealed from is REVERSED and SET ASIDE and in lieu
thereof, a new one is entered REMANDING the case to the court of origin for further
proceedings.

SO ORDERED.7

The CA opined:

We find the rendition of the herein appealed summary judgment by the court a quo contrary to
law and public policy as ensconced in the aforesaid safeguards. The fact that it was appellants
who first sought summary judgment from the trial court, did not justify the grant thereof in
favor of appellee. Not being an action "to recover upon a claim" or "to obtain a declaratory
relief," the rule on summary judgment apply (sic) to an action to annul a marriage. The mere
fact that no genuine issue was presented and the desire to expedite the disposition of the case
cannot justify a misinterpretation of the rule. The first paragraph of Article 88 and 101 of the
Civil Code expressly prohibit the rendition of decree of annulment of a marriage upon a
stipulation of facts or a confession of judgment. Yet, the affidavits annexed to the petition for
summary judgment practically amount to these methods explicitly proscribed by the law.

We are not unmindful of appellee's argument that the foregoing safeguards have traditionally
been applied to prevent collusion of spouses in the matter of dissolution of marriages and that
the death of Teofilo Carlos on May 13, 1992 had effectively dissolved the marriage herein
impugned. The fact, however, that appellee's own brother and appellant Felicidad Sandoval
lived together as husband and wife for thirty years and that the annulment of their marriage is
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 10

the very means by which the latter is sought to be deprived of her participation in the estate
left by the former call for a closer and more thorough inquiry into the circumstances
surrounding the case. Rather that the summary nature by which the court a quo resolved the
issues in the case, the rule is to the effect that the material facts alleged in the complaint for
annulment of marriage should always be proved. Section 1, Rule 19 of the Revised Rules of
Court provides:

"Section 1. Judgment on the pleadings. - Where an answer fails to tender an issue, or otherwise
admits the material allegations of the adverse party's pleading, the court may, on motion of
that party, direct judgment on such pleading. But in actions for annulment of marriage or for
legal separation, the material facts alleged in the complaint shall always be proved."
(Underscoring supplied)

Moreover, even if We were to sustain the applicability of the rules on summary judgment to
the case at bench, Our perusal of the record shows that the finding of the court a quo for
appellee would still not be warranted. While it may be readily conceded that a valid marriage
license is among the formal requisites of marriage, the absence of which renders the marriage
void ab initio pursuant to Article 80(3) in relation to Article 58 of the Civil Code the failure to
reflect the serial number of the marriage license on the marriage contract evidencing the
marriage between Teofilo Carlos and appellant Felicidad Sandoval, although irregular, is not as
fatal as appellee represents it to be. Aside from the dearth of evidence to the contrary,
appellant Felicidad Sandoval's affirmation of the existence of said marriage license is
corroborated by the following statement in the affidavit executed by Godofredo Fojas, then
Justice of the Peace who officiated the impugned marriage, to wit:

"That as far as I could remember, there was a marriage license issued at Silang, Cavite on May
14, 1962 as basis of the said marriage contract executed by Teofilo Carlos and Felicidad
Sandoval, but the number of said marriage license was inadvertently not placed in the marriage
contract for the reason that it was the Office Clerk who filled up the blanks in the Marriage
Contract who in turn, may have overlooked the same."

Rather than the inferences merely drawn by the trial court, We are of the considered view that
the veracity and credibility of the foregoing statement as well as the motivations underlying the
same should be properly threshed out in a trial of the case on the merits.

If the non-presentation of the marriage contract - the primary evidence of marriage - is not
proof that a marriage did not take place, neither should appellants' non-presentation of the
subject marriage license be taken as proof that the same was not procured. The burden of
proof to show the nullity of the marriage, it must be emphasized, rests upon the plaintiff and
any doubt should be resolved in favor of the validity of the marriage.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 11

Considering that the burden of proof also rests on the party who disputes the legitimacy of a
particular party, the same may be said of the trial court's rejection of the relationship between
appellant Teofilo Carlos II and his putative father on the basis of the inconsistencies in appellant
Felicidad Sandoval's statements. Although it had effectively disavowed appellant's prior claims
regarding the legitimacy of appellant Teofilo Carlos II, the averment in the answer that he is the
illegitimate son of appellee's brother, to Our mind, did not altogether foreclose the possibility
of the said appellant's illegitimate filiation, his right to prove the same or, for that matter, his
entitlement to inheritance rights as such.

Without trial on the merits having been conducted in the case, We find appellee's bare
allegation that appellant Teofilo Carlos II was merely purchased from an indigent couple by
appellant Felicidad Sandoval, on the whole, insufficient to support what could well be a minor's
total forfeiture of the rights arising from his putative filiation. Inconsistent though it may be to
her previous statements, appellant Felicidad Sandoval's declaration regarding the illegitimate
filiation of Teofilo Carlos II is more credible when considered in the light of the fact that, during
the last eight years of his life, Teofilo Carlos allowed said appellant the use of his name and the
shelter of his household. The least that the trial court could have done in the premises was to
conduct a trial on the merits in order to be able to thoroughly resolve the issues pertaining to
the filiation of appellant Teofilo Carlos II.8

On November 22, 2006, petitioner moved for reconsideration and for the inhibition of the
ponente, Justice Rebecca De Guia-Salvador. The CA denied the twin motions.

Issues

In this petition under Rule 45, petitioner hoists the following issues:

1. That, in reversing and setting aside the Summary Judgment under the Decision, Annex A
hereof, and in denying petitioner's Motion for reconsideration under the Resolution, Annex F
hereof, with respect to the nullity of the impugned marriage, petitioner respectfully submits
that the Court of Appeals committed a grave reversible error in applying Articles 88 and 101 of
the Civil Code, despite the fact that the circumstances of this case are different from that
contemplated and intended by law, or has otherwise decided a question of substance not
theretofore decided by the Supreme Court, or has decided it in a manner probably not in
accord with law or with the applicable decisions of this Honorable Court;

2. That in setting aside and reversing the Summary Judgment and, in lieu thereof, entering
another remanding the case to the court of origin for further proceedings, petitioner most
respectfully submits that the Court of Appeals committed a serious reversible error in applying
Section 1, Rule 19 (now Section 1, Rule 34) of the Rules of Court providing for judgment on the
pleadings, instead of Rule 35 governing Summary Judgments;
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 12

3. That in reversing and setting aside the Summary Judgment and, in lieu thereof, entering
another remanding the case to the court of origin for further proceedings, petitioner most
respectfully submits that the Court of Appeals committed grave abuse of discretion,
disregarded judicial admissions, made findings on ground of speculations, surmises, and
conjectures, or otherwise committed misapplications of the laws and misapprehension of the
facts.9 (Underscoring supplied)

Essentially, the Court is tasked to resolve whether a marriage may be declared void ab initio
through a judgment on the pleadings or a summary judgment and without the benefit of a trial.
But there are other procedural issues, including the capacity of one who is not a spouse in
bringing the action for nullity of marriage.

Our Ruling

I. The grounds for declaration of absolute nullity of marriage must be proved. Neither judgment
on the pleadings nor summary judgment is allowed. So is confession of judgment disallowed.

Petitioner faults the CA in applying Section 1, Rule 1910 of the Revised Rules of Court, which
provides:

SECTION 1. Judgment on the pleadings. - Where an answer fails to tender an issue, or otherwise
admits the material allegations of the adverse party's pleading, the court may, on motion of
that party, direct judgment on such pleading. But in actions for annulment of marriage or for
legal separation, the material facts alleged in the complaint shall always be proved.

He argues that the CA should have applied Rule 35 of the Rules of Court governing summary
judgment, instead of the rule on judgment on the pleadings.

Petitioner is misguided. The CA did not limit its finding solely within the provisions of the Rule
on judgment on the pleadings. In disagreeing with the trial court, the CA likewise considered
the provisions on summary judgments, to wit:

Moreover, even if We are to sustain the applicability of the rules on summary judgment to the
case at bench, Our perusal of the record shows that the finding of the court a quo for appellee
would still not be warranted. x x x11

But whether it is based on judgment on the pleadings or summary judgment, the CA was
correct in reversing the summary judgment rendered by the trial court. Both the rules on
judgment on the pleadings and summary judgments have no place in cases of declaration of
absolute nullity of marriage and even in annulment of marriage.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 13

With the advent of A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC, known as "Rule on Declaration of Absolute Nullity of
Void Marriages and Annulment of Voidable Marriages," the question on the application of
summary judgments or even judgment on the pleadings in cases of nullity or annulment of
marriage has been stamped with clarity. The significant principle laid down by the said Rule,
which took effect on March 15, 200312 is found in Section 17, viz.:

SEC. 17. Trial. - (1) The presiding judge shall personally conduct the trial of the case. No
delegation of evidence to a commissioner shall be allowed except as to matters involving
property relations of the spouses.

(2) The grounds for declaration of absolute nullity or annulment of marriage must be proved.
No judgment on the pleadings, summary judgment, or confession of judgment shall be allowed.
(Underscoring supplied)

Likewise instructive is the Court's pronouncement in Republic v. Sandiganbayan.13 In that case,


We excluded actions for nullity or annulment of marriage from the application of summary
judgments.

Prescinding from the foregoing discussion, save for annulment of marriage or declaration of its
nullity or for legal separation, summary judgment is applicable to all kinds of actions.14
(Underscoring supplied)

By issuing said summary judgment, the trial court has divested the State of its lawful right and
duty to intervene in the case. The participation of the State is not terminated by the declaration
of the public prosecutor that no collusion exists between the parties. The State should have
been given the opportunity to present controverting evidence before the judgment was
rendered.15

Both the Civil Code and the Family Code ordain that the court should order the prosecuting
attorney to appear and intervene for the State. It is at this stage when the public prosecutor
sees to it that there is no suppression of evidence. Concomitantly, even if there is no
suppression of evidence, the public prosecutor has to make sure that the evidence to be
presented or laid down before the court is not fabricated.

To further bolster its role towards the preservation of marriage, the Rule on Declaration of
Absolute Nullity of Void Marriages reiterates the duty of the public prosecutor, viz.:

SEC. 13. Effect of failure to appear at the pre-trial. - (a) x x x


P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 14

(b) x x x If there is no collusion, the court shall require the public prosecutor to intervene for the
State during the trial on the merits to prevent suppression or fabrication of evidence.
(Underscoring supplied)

Truly, only the active participation of the public prosecutor or the Solicitor General will ensure
that the interest of the State is represented and protected in proceedings for declaration of
nullity of marriages by preventing the fabrication or suppression of evidence.16

II. A petition for declaration of absolute nullity of void marriage may be filed solely by the
husband or wife. Exceptions: (1) Nullity of marriage cases commenced before the effectivity of
A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC; and (2) Marriages celebrated during the effectivity of the Civil Code.

Under the Rule on Declaration of Absolute Nullity of Void Marriages and Annulment of Voidable
Marriages, the petition for declaration of absolute nullity of marriage may not be filed by any
party outside of the marriage. The Rule made it exclusively a right of the spouses by stating:

SEC. 2. Petition for declaration of absolute nullity of void marriages. -

(a) Who may file. - A petition for declaration of absolute nullity of void marriage may be filed
solely by the husband or the wife. (Underscoring supplied)

Section 2(a) of the Rule makes it the sole right of the husband or the wife to file a petition for
declaration of absolute nullity of void marriage. The rationale of the Rule is enlightening, viz.:

Only an aggrieved or injured spouse may file a petition for annulment of voidable marriages or
declaration of absolute nullity of void marriages. Such petition cannot be filed by compulsory or
intestate heirs of the spouses or by the State. The Committee is of the belief that they do not
have a legal right to file the petition. Compulsory or intestate heirs have only inchoate rights
prior to the death of their predecessor, and, hence, can only question the validity of the
marriage of the spouses upon the death of a spouse in a proceeding for the settlement of the
estate of the deceased spouse filed in the regular courts. On the other hand, the concern of the
State is to preserve marriage and not to seek its dissolution.17 (Underscoring supplied)

The new Rule recognizes that the husband and the wife are the sole architects of a healthy,
loving, peaceful marriage. They are the only ones who can decide when and how to build the
foundations of marriage. The spouses alone are the engineers of their marital life. They are
simultaneously the directors and actors of their matrimonial true-to-life play. Hence, they alone
can and should decide when to take a cut, but only in accordance with the grounds allowed by
law.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 15

The innovation incorporated in A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC sets forth a demarcation line between
marriages covered by the Family Code and those solemnized under the Civil Code. The Rule
extends only to marriages entered into during the effectivity of the Family Code which took
effect on August 3, 1988.18

The advent of the Rule on Declaration of Absolute Nullity of Void Marriages marks the
beginning of the end of the right of the heirs of the deceased spouse to bring a nullity of
marriage case against the surviving spouse. But the Rule never intended to deprive the
compulsory or intestate heirs of their successional rights.

While A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC declares that a petition for declaration of absolute nullity of
marriage may be filed solely by the husband or the wife, it does not mean that the compulsory
or intestate heirs are without any recourse under the law. They can still protect their
successional right, for, as stated in the Rationale of the Rules on Annulment of Voidable
Marriages and Declaration of Absolute Nullity of Void Marriages, compulsory or intestate heirs
can still question the validity of the marriage of the spouses, not in a proceeding for declaration
of nullity but upon the death of a spouse in a proceeding for the settlement of the estate of the
deceased spouse filed in the regular courts.19

It is emphasized, however, that the Rule does not apply to cases already commenced before
March 15, 2003 although the marriage involved is within the coverage of the Family Code. This
is so, as the new Rule which became effective on March 15, 200320 is prospective in its
application. Thus, the Court held in Enrico v. Heirs of Sps. Medinaceli,21 viz.:

As has been emphasized, A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC covers marriages under the Family Code of the
Philippines, and is prospective in its application.22 (Underscoring supplied)

Petitioner commenced the nullity of marriage case against respondent Felicidad in 1995. The
marriage in controversy was celebrated on May 14, 1962. Which law would govern depends
upon when the marriage took place.23

The marriage having been solemnized prior to the effectivity of the Family Code, the applicable
law is the Civil Code which was the law in effect at the time of its celebration.24 But the Civil
Code is silent as to who may bring an action to declare the marriage void. Does this mean that
any person can bring an action for the declaration of nullity of marriage?

We respond in the negative. The absence of a provision in the Civil Code cannot be construed
as a license for any person to institute a nullity of marriage case. Such person must appear to
be the party who stands to be benefited or injured by the judgment in the suit, or the party
entitled to the avails of the suit.25 Elsewise stated, plaintiff must be the real party-in-interest.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 16

For it is basic in procedural law that every action must be prosecuted and defended in the name
of the real party-in-interest.26

Interest within the meaning of the rule means material interest or an interest in issue to be
affected by the decree or judgment of the case, as distinguished from mere curiosity about the
question involved or a mere incidental interest. One having no material interest to protect
cannot invoke the jurisdiction of the court as plaintiff in an action. When plaintiff is not the real
party-in-interest, the case is dismissible on the ground of lack of cause of action.27

Illuminating on this point is Amor-Catalan v. Court of Appeals,28 where the Court held:

True, under the New Civil Code which is the law in force at the time the respondents were
married, or even in the Family Code, there is no specific provision as to who can file a petition
to declare the nullity of marriage; however, only a party who can demonstrate "proper
interest" can file the same. A petition to declare the nullity of marriage, like any other actions,
must be prosecuted or defended in the name of the real party-in-interest and must be based on
a cause of action. Thus, in Niñal v. Badayog, the Court held that the children have the
personality to file the petition to declare the nullity of marriage of their deceased father to their
stepmother as it affects their successional rights.

xxxx

In fine, petitioner's personality to file the petition to declare the nullity of marriage cannot be
ascertained because of the absence of the divorce decree and the foreign law allowing it.
Hence, a remand of the case to the trial court for reception of additional evidence is necessary
to determine whether respondent Orlando was granted a divorce decree and whether the
foreign law which granted the same allows or restricts remarriage. If it is proved that a valid
divorce decree was obtained and the same did not allow respondent Orlando's remarriage,
then the trial court should declare respondent's marriage as bigamous and void ab initio but
reduced the amount of moral damages from P300,000.00 to P50,000.00 and exemplary
damages from P200,000.00 to P25,000.00. On the contrary, if it is proved that a valid divorce
decree was obtained which allowed Orlando to remarry, then the trial court must dismiss the
instant petition to declare nullity of marriage on the ground that petitioner Felicitas Amor-
Catalan lacks legal personality to file the same.29 (Underscoring supplied)

III. The case must be remanded to determine whether or not petitioner is a real-party-in-
interest to seek the declaration of nullity of the marriage in controversy.

In the case at bench, the records reveal that when Teofilo died intestate in 1992, his only
surviving compulsory heirs are respondent Felicidad and their son, Teofilo II. Under the law on
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 17

succession, successional rights are transmitted from the moment of death of the decedent and
the compulsory heirs are called to succeed by operation of law.30

Upon Teofilo's death in 1992, all his property, rights and obligations to the extent of the value
of the inheritance are transmitted to his compulsory heirs. These heirs were respondents
Felicidad and Teofilo II, as the surviving spouse and child, respectively.

Article 887 of the Civil Code outlined who are compulsory heirs, to wit:

(1) Legitimate children and descendants, with respect to their legitimate parents and
ascendants;

(2) In default of the foregoing, legitimate parents and ascendants, with respect to their
legitimate children and descendants;

(3) The widow or widower;

(4) Acknowledged natural children, and natural children by legal fiction;

(5) Other illegitimate children referred to in Article 287 of the Civil Code.31

Clearly, a brother is not among those considered as compulsory heirs. But although a collateral
relative, such as a brother, does not fall within the ambit of a compulsory heir, he still has a
right to succeed to the estate. Articles 1001 and 1003 of the New Civil Code provide:

ART. 1001. Should brothers and sisters or their children survive with the widow or widower, the
latter shall be entitled to one-half of the inheritance and the brothers and sisters or their
children to the other half.

ART. 1003. If there are no descendants, ascendants, illegitimate children, or a surviving spouse,
the collateral relatives shall succeed to the entire estate of the deceased in accordance with the
following articles. (Underscoring supplied)

Indeed, only the presence of descendants, ascendants or illegitimate children excludes


collateral relatives from succeeding to the estate of the decedent. The presence of legitimate,
illegitimate, or adopted child or children of the deceased precludes succession by collateral
relatives.32 Conversely, if there are no descendants, ascendants, illegitimate children, or a
surviving spouse, the collateral relatives shall succeed to the entire estate of the decedent.33

If respondent Teofilo II is declared and finally proven not to be the legitimate, illegitimate, or
adopted son of Teofilo, petitioner would then have a personality to seek the nullity of marriage
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 18

of his deceased brother with respondent Felicidad. This is so, considering that collateral
relatives, like a brother and sister, acquire successional right over the estate if the decedent
dies without issue and without ascendants in the direct line.

The records reveal that Teofilo was predeceased by his parents. He had no other siblings but
petitioner. Thus, if Teofilo II is finally found and proven to be not a legitimate, illegitimate, or
adopted son of Teofilo, petitioner succeeds to the other half of the estate of his brother, the
first half being allotted to the widow pursuant to Article 1001 of the New Civil Code. This makes
petitioner a real-party-interest to seek the declaration of absolute nullity of marriage of his
deceased brother with respondent Felicidad. If the subject marriage is found to be void ab
initio, petitioner succeeds to the entire estate.

It bears stressing, however, that the legal personality of petitioner to bring the nullity of
marriage case is contingent upon the final declaration that Teofilo II is not a legitimate,
adopted, or illegitimate son of Teofilo.

If Teofilo II is proven to be a legitimate, illegitimate, or legally adopted son of Teofilo, then


petitioner has no legal personality to ask for the nullity of marriage of his deceased brother and
respondent Felicidad. This is based on the ground that he has no successional right to be
protected, hence, does not have proper interest. For although the marriage in controversy may
be found to be void from the beginning, still, petitioner would not inherit. This is because the
presence of descendant, illegitimate,34 or even an adopted child35 excludes the collateral
relatives from inheriting from the decedent.

Thus, the Court finds that a remand of the case for trial on the merits to determine the validity
or nullity of the subject marriage is called for. But the RTC is strictly instructed to dismiss the
nullity of marriage case for lack of cause of action if it is proven by evidence that Teofilo II is a
legitimate, illegitimate, or legally adopted son of Teofilo Carlos, the deceased brother of
petitioner.

IV. Remand of the case regarding the question of filiation of respondent Teofilo II is proper and
in order. There is a need to vacate the disposition of the trial court as to the other causes of
action before it.

Petitioner did not assign as error or interpose as issue the ruling of the CA on the remand of the
case concerning the filiation of respondent Teofilo II. This notwithstanding, We should not leave
the matter hanging in limbo.

This Court has the authority to review matters not specifically raised or assigned as error by the
parties, if their consideration is necessary in arriving at a just resolution of the case.36
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 19

We agree with the CA that without trial on the merits having been conducted in the case,
petitioner's bare allegation that respondent Teofilo II was adopted from an indigent couple is
insufficient to support a total forfeiture of rights arising from his putative filiation. However, We
are not inclined to support its pronouncement that the declaration of respondent Felicidad as
to the illegitimate filiation of respondent Teofilo II is more credible. For the guidance of the
appellate court, such declaration of respondent Felicidad should not be afforded credence. We
remind the CA of the guaranty provided by Article 167 of the Family Code to protect the status
of legitimacy of a child, to wit:

ARTICLE 167. The child shall be considered legitimate although the mother may have declared
against its legitimacy or may have been sentenced as an adulteress. (Underscoring supplied)

It is stressed that Felicidad's declaration against the legitimate status of Teofilo II is the very act
that is proscribed by Article 167 of the Family Code. The language of the law is unmistakable.
An assertion by the mother against the legitimacy of her child cannot affect the legitimacy of a
child born or conceived within a valid marriage.37

Finally, the disposition of the trial court in favor of petitioner for causes of action concerning
reconveyance, recovery of property, and sum of money must be vacated. This has to be so, as
said disposition was made on the basis of its finding that the marriage in controversy was null
and void ab initio.

WHEREFORE, the appealed Decision is MODIFIED as follows:

1. The case is REMANDED to the Regional Trial Court in regard to the action on the status and
filiation of respondent Teofilo Carlos II and the validity or nullity of marriage between
respondent Felicidad Sandoval and the late Teofilo Carlos;

2. If Teofilo Carlos II is proven to be the legitimate, or illegitimate, or legally adopted son of the
late Teofilo Carlos, the RTC is strictly INSTRUCTED to DISMISS the action for nullity of marriage
for lack of cause of action;

3. The disposition of the RTC in Nos. 1 to 8 of the fallo of its decision is VACATED AND SET
ASIDE.

The Regional Trial Court is ORDERED to conduct trial on the merits with dispatch and to give
this case priority in its calendar.

No costs.

SO ORDERED.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 20

G.R. No. 174238 July 7, 2009

ANITA CHENG, Petitioner,


vs.
SPOUSES WILLIAM SY and TESSIE SY, Respondents.

DECISION

NACHURA, J.:

This is a petition1 for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court of the Order
dated January 2, 20062 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 18, Manila in Civil Case No. 05-
112452 entitled Anita Cheng v. Spouses William Sy and Tessie Sy.

The antecedents are as follows—

Petitioner Anita Cheng filed two (2) estafa cases before the RTC, Branch 7, Manila against
respondent spouses William and Tessie Sy (Criminal Case No. 98-969952 against Tessie Sy and
Criminal Case No. 98-969953 against William Sy) for issuing to her Philippine Bank of Commerce
(PBC) Check Nos. 171762 and 71860 for ₱300,000.00 each, in payment of their loan, both of
which were dishonored upon presentment for having been drawn against a closed account.

Meanwhile, based on the same facts, petitioner, on January 20, 1999, filed against respondents
two (2) cases for violation of Batas Pambansa Bilang (BP Blg.) 22 before the Metropolitan Trial
Court (MeTC), Branch 25, Manila (Criminal Case Nos. 341458-59).

On March 16, 2004, the RTC, Branch 7, Manila dismissed the estafa cases for failure of the
prosecution to prove the elements of the crime. The Order dismissing Criminal Case No. 98-
969952 contained no declaration as to the civil liability of Tessie Sy.3 On the other hand, the
Order in Criminal Case No. 98-969953 contained a statement, "Hence, if there is any liability of
the accused, the same is purely ‘civil,’ not criminal in nature."4

Later, the MeTC, Branch 25, Manila, dismissed, on demurrer, the BP Blg. 22 cases in its Order5
dated February 7, 2005 on account of the failure of petitioner to identify the accused
respondents in open court. The Order also did not make any pronouncement as to the civil
liability of accused respondents.1avvphi1

On April 26, 2005, petitioner lodged against respondents before the RTC, Branch 18, Manila, a
complaint6 for collection of a sum of money with damages (Civil Case No. 05-112452) based on
the same loaned amount of ₱600,000.00 covered by the two PBC checks previously subject of
the estafa and BP Blg. 22 cases.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 21

In the assailed Order7 dated January 2, 2006, the RTC, Branch 18, Manila, dismissed the
complaint for lack of jurisdiction, ratiocinating that the civil action to collect the amount of
₱600,000.00 with damages was already impliedly instituted in the BP Blg. 22 cases in light of
Section 1, paragraph (b) of Rule 111 of the Revised Rules of Court.

Petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration8 which the court denied in its Order9 dated June
5, 2006. Hence, this petition, raising the sole legal issue –

Whether or not Section 1 of Rule 111 of the 2000 Rules of Criminal Procedure and Supreme
Court Circular No. 57-97 on the Rules and Guidelines in the filing and prosecution of criminal
cases under BP Blg. 22 are applicable to the present case where the nature of the order
dismissing the cases for bouncing checks against the respondents was [based] on the failure of
the prosecution to identify both the accused (respondents herein)?10

Essentially, petitioner argues that since the BP Blg. 22 cases were filed on January 20, 1999, the
2000 Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure promulgated on December 1, 2000 should not apply,
as it must be given only prospective application. She further contends that that her case falls
within the following exceptions to the rule that the civil action correspondent to the criminal
action is deemed instituted with the latter—

(1) additional evidence as to the identities of the accused is necessary for the resolution of the
civil aspect of the case;

(2) a separate complaint would be just as efficacious as or even more expedient than a timely
remand to the trial court where the criminal action was decided for further hearings on the civil
aspect of the case;

(3) the trial court failed to make any pronouncement as to the civil liability of the accused
amounting to a reservation of the right to have the civil liability litigated in a separate action;

(4) the trial court did not declare that the facts from which the civil liability might arise did not
exist;

(5) the civil complaint is based on an obligation ex-contractu and not ex-delicto pursuant to
Article 3111 of the Civil Code; and

(6) the claim for civil liability for damages may be had under Article 2912 of the Civil Code.

Petitioner also points out that she was not assisted by any private prosecutor in the BP Blg. 22
proceedings.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 22

The rule is that upon the filing of the estafa and BP Blg. 22 cases against respondents, where
the petitioner has not made any waiver, express reservation to litigate separately, or has not
instituted the corresponding civil action to collect the amount of ₱600,000.00 and damages
prior to the criminal action, the civil action is deemed instituted with the criminal cases.13

This rule applies especially with the advent of the 2000 Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure.
Thus, during the pendency of both the estafa and the BP Blg. 22 cases, the action to recover the
civil liability was impliedly instituted and remained pending before the respective trial courts.
This is consonant with our ruling in Rodriguez v. Ponferrada14 that the possible single civil
liability arising from the act of issuing a bouncing check can be the subject of both civil actions
deemed instituted with the estafa case and the prosecution for violation of BP Blg. 22,
simultaneously available to the complaining party, without traversing the prohibition against
forum shopping.15 Prior to the judgment in either the estafa case or the BP Blg. 22 case,
petitioner, as the complainant, cannot be deemed to have elected either of the civil actions
both impliedly instituted in the said criminal proceedings to the exclusion of the other.16

The dismissal of the estafa cases for failure of the prosecution to prove the elements of the
crime beyond reasonable doubt—where in Criminal Case No. 98-969952 there was no
pronouncement as regards the civil liability of the accused and in Criminal Case No. 98-969953
where the trial court declared that the liability of the accused was only civil in nature—
produced the legal effect of a reservation by the petitioner of her right to litigate separately the
civil action impliedly instituted with the estafa cases, following Article 29 of the Civil Code.17

However, although this civil action could have been litigated separately on account of the
dismissal of the estafa cases on reasonable doubt, the petitioner was deemed to have also
elected that such civil action be prosecuted together with the BP Blg. 22 cases in light of the
Rodriguez v. Ponferrada ruling.

With the dismissal of the BP Blg. 22 cases for failure to establish the identity of the accused, the
question that arises is whether such dismissal would have the same legal effect as the
dismissed estafa cases. Put differently, may petitioner’s action to recover respondents’ civil
liability be also allowed to prosper separately after the BP Blg. 22 cases were dismissed?

Section 1 (b), Rule 111 of the 2000 Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure states –

Section 1. Institution of criminal and civil actions. –

xxx
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 23

(b) The criminal action for violation of Batas Pambansa Blg. 22 shall be deemed to include the
corresponding civil action. No reservation to file such civil action separately shall be allowed.

Upon filing of the joint criminal and civil actions, the offended party shall pay in full the filing
fees based on the amount of the check involved, which shall be considered as the actual
damages claimed. Where the complaint or information also seeks to recover liquidated, moral,
nominal, temperate or exemplary damages, the offended party shall pay the filing fees based
on the amounts alleged therein. If the amounts are not so alleged but any of these damages [is]
subsequently awarded by the court, the filing fees based on the amount awarded shall
constitute a first lien on the judgment.

Where the civil action has been filed separately and trial thereof has not yet commenced, it
may be consolidated with the criminal action upon application with the court trying the latter
case. If the application is granted, the trial of both actions shall proceed in accordance with
section 2 of this Rule governing consolidation of the civil and criminal actions.

Petitioner is in error when she insists that the 2000 Rules on Criminal Procedure should not
apply because she filed her BP Blg. 22 complaints in 1999. It is now settled that rules of
procedure apply even to cases already pending at the time of their promulgation. The fact that
procedural statutes may somehow affect the litigants’ rights does not preclude their retroactive
application to pending actions. It is axiomatic that the retroactive application of procedural
laws does not violate any right of a person who may feel that he is adversely affected, nor is it
constitutionally objectionable. The reason for this is that, as a general rule, no vested right may
attach to, nor arise from, procedural laws.18

Indeed, under the present revised Rules, the criminal action for violation of BP Blg. 22 includes
the corresponding civil action to recover the amount of the checks. It should be stressed, this
policy is intended to discourage the separate filing of the civil action. In fact, the Rules even
prohibits the reservation of a separate civil action, i.e., one can no longer file a separate civil
case after the criminal complaint is filed in court. The only instance when separate proceedings
are allowed is when the civil action is filed ahead of the criminal case. Even then, the Rules
encourages the consolidation of the civil and criminal cases. Thus, where petitioner’s rights may
be fully adjudicated in the proceedings before the court trying the BP Blg. 22 cases, resort to a
separate action to recover civil liability is clearly unwarranted on account of res judicata, for
failure of petitioner to appeal the civil aspect of the cases. In view of this special rule governing
actions for violation of BP Blg. 22, Article 31 of the Civil Code is not applicable.19

Be it remembered that rules governing procedure before the courts, while not cast in stone, are
for the speedy, efficient, and orderly dispensation of justice and should therefore be adhered to
in order to attain this objective.20
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 24

However, in applying the procedure discussed above, it appears that petitioner would be left
without a remedy to recover from respondents the ₱600,000.00 allegedly loaned from her. This
could prejudice even the petitioner’s Notice of Claim involving the same amount filed in Special
Proceedings No. 98-88390 (Petition for Voluntary Insolvency by Kolin Enterprises, William Sy
and Tessie Sy), which case was reportedly archived for failure to prosecute the petition for an
unreasonable length of time.21 Expectedly, respondents would raise the same defense that
petitioner had already elected to litigate the civil action to recover the amount of the checks
along with the BP Blg. 22 cases.

It is in this light that we find petitioner’s contention that she was not assisted by a private
prosecutor during the BP Blg. 22 proceedings critical. Petitioner indirectly protests that the
public prosecutor failed to protect and prosecute her cause when he failed to have her
establish the identities of the accused during the trial and when he failed to appeal the civil
action deemed impliedly instituted with the BP Blg. 22 cases. On this ground, we agree with
petitioner.

Faced with the dismissal of the BP Blg. 22 cases, petitioner’s recourse pursuant to the prevailing
rules of procedure would have been to appeal the civil action to recover the amount loaned to
respondents corresponding to the bounced checks. Hence, the said civil action may proceed
requiring only a preponderance of evidence on the part of petitioner. Her failure to appeal
within the reglementary period was tantamount to a waiver altogether of the remedy to
recover the civil liability of respondents. However, due to the gross mistake of the prosecutor in
the BP Blg. 22 cases, we are constrained to digress from this rule.

It is true that clients are bound by the mistakes, negligence and omission of their counsel.22
But this rule admits of exceptions – (1) where the counsel’s mistake is so great and serious that
the client is prejudiced and denied his day in court, or (2) where the counsel is guilty of gross
negligence resulting in the client’s deprivation of liberty or property without due process of
law.23 Tested against these guidelines, we hold that petitioner’s lot falls within the exceptions.

It is an oft-repeated exhortation to counsels to be well-informed of existing laws and rules and


to keep abreast with legal developments, recent enactments and jurisprudence. Unless they
faithfully comply with such duty, they may not be able to discharge competently and diligently
their obligations as members of the Bar.24 Further, lawyers in the government service are
expected to be more conscientious in the performance of their duties as they are subject to
public scrutiny. They are not only members of the Bar but are also public servants who owe
utmost fidelity to public service.25 Apparently, the public prosecutor neglected to equip
himself with the knowledge of the proper procedure for BP Blg. 22 cases under the 2000 Rules
on Criminal Procedure such that he failed to appeal the civil action impliedly instituted with the
BP Blg. 22 cases, the only remaining remedy available to petitioner to be able to recover the
money she loaned to respondents, upon the dismissal of the criminal cases on demurrer. By
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 25

this failure, petitioner was denied her day in court to prosecute the respondents for their
obligation to pay their loan.

Moreover, we take into consideration the trial court’s observation when it dismissed the estafa
charge in Criminal Case No. 98-969953 that if there was any liability on the part of respondents,
it was civil in nature. Hence, if the loan be proven true, the inability of petitioner to recover the
loaned amount would be tantamount to unjust enrichment of respondents, as they may now
conveniently evade payment of their obligation merely on account of a technicality applied
against petitioner.

There is unjust enrichment when (1) a person is unjustly benefited, and (2) such benefit is
derived at the expense of or with damages to another. This doctrine simply means that a
person shall not be allowed to profit or enrich himself inequitably at another’s expense. One
condition for invoking this principle of unjust enrichment is that the aggrieved party has no
other recourse based on contract, quasi-contract, crime, quasi-delict or any other provision of
law.26

Court litigations are primarily designed to search for the truth, and a liberal interpretation and
application of the rules which will give the parties the fullest opportunity to adduce proof is the
best way to ferret out the truth. The dispensation of justice and vindication of legitimate
grievances should not be barred by technicalities.27 For reasons of substantial justice and
equity, as the complement of the legal jurisdiction that seeks to dispense justice where courts
of law, through the inflexibility of their rules and want of power to adapt their judgments to the
special circumstances of cases, are incompetent to do so,28 we thus rule, pro hac vice, in favor
of petitioner.

WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. Civil Case No. 05-112452 entitled Anita Cheng v.
Spouses William Sy and Tessie Sy is hereby ordered REINSTATED. No pronouncement as to
costs.

SO ORDERED.

ANTONIO EDUARDO B. NACHURA


Associate Justice

Footnotes:
11 Art. 31. When the civil action is based on an obligation not arising from the act or omission
complained of as a felony, such civil action may proceed independently of the criminal
proceedings and regardless of the result of the latter.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 26

12 Art. 29. When the accused in a criminal prosecution is acquitted on the ground that his guilt
has not been proved beyond reasonable doubt, a civil action for damages for the same act or
omission may be instituted. Such action requires only a preponderance of evidence. Upon
motion of the defendant, the court may require the plaintiff to file a bond to answer for
damages in case the complaint should be found to be malicious.

13 Section 1. Institution of criminal and civil actions. – When a criminal action is instituted, the
civil action for the recovery of civil liability is impliedly instituted with the criminal action, unless
the offended party waives the civil action, reserves his right to institute it separately, or
institutes the civil action prior to the criminal action.

Such civil action includes recovery of indemnity under the Revised Penal Code, and damages
under Articles 32, 33, 34 and 2176 of the Civil Code of the Philippines arising from the same act
or omission of the accused.

A waiver of any of the civil actions extinguishes the others. The institution of, or the reservation
of the right to file, any of said civil actions separately waives the others.

The reservation of the right to institute the separate civil actions shall be made before the
prosecution starts to present its evidence and under circumstances affording the offended
party a reasonable opportunity to make such reservation.

In no case may the offended party recover damages twice for the same act or omission of the
accused.

When the offended party seeks to enforce civil liability against the accused by way of moral,
nominal, temperate or exemplary damages, the filing fees for such civil action as provided in
these Rules shall constitute a first lien on the judgment except in an award for actual damages.

In cases wherein the amount of damages, other than actual, is alleged in the complaint or
information, the corresponding filing fees shall be paid by the offended party upon the filing
thereof in court for trial. (Rule 111, 1988 Rules on Criminal Procedure)
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 27

G.R. No. 189649, April 20, 2015

ADORACION CAROLINO (SPOUSE AND IN SUBSTITUTION OF THE DECEASED JEREMIAS A.


CAROLINO), Petitioner, v. GEN. GENEROSO SENGA, AS CHIEF OF STAFF OF THE ARMED
FORCES OF THE PHILIPPINES (AFP); BRIG. GEN. FERNANDO ZABAT, AS CHIEF OF THE AFP
FINANCE CENTER; COMMO. REYNALDO BASILIO, AS CHIEF OF THE AFP-GHQ MANAGEMENT
AND FISCAL OFFICE; AND COMMO. EMILIO MARAYAG, PENSION AND GRATUITY OFFICER,
PENSION AND GRATUITY MANAGEMENT CENTER, AFP FINANCE CENTER, Respondent.

DECISION

PERALTA, J.:

Before us is a petition for review under Rule 45 seeking to reverse and set aside the Decision1
dated May 25, 2009 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. SP No. 103502 and the Resolution2
dated September 10, 2009 denying reconsideration thereof.

The factual and legal antecedents are as follows:

On December 1, 1976, Jeremias A. Carolino, petitioner's husband, retired3 from the Armed
Forces of the Philippines (AFP) with the rank of Colonel under General Order No. 1208 dated
November 29, 1976, pursuant to the provisions of Sections 1(A) and 10 of Republic Act (RA) No.
340,4 as amended. He started receiving his monthly retirement pay in the amount of
P18,315.00 in December 1976 until the same was withheld by respondents in March 2005. On
June 3, 2005, Jeremias wrote a letter5 addressed to the AFP Chief of Staff asking for the reasons
of the withholding of his retirement pay. In a letter reply,6 Myrna F. Villaruz, LTC (FS) PA,
Pension and Gratuity Officer of the AFP Finance Center, informed Jeremias that his loss of
Filipino citizenship caused the deletion of his name in the alpha list of the AFP Pensioners'
Payroll effective March 5, 2005; and that he could avail of re-entitlement to his retirement
benefits and the restoration of his name in the AFP Pensioners' Masterlist Payroll by complying
with the requirements prescribed under RA No. 9225, or the Dual Citizenship Act.

It appeared that the termination of Jeremias' pension was done pursuant to Disposition Form7
dated October 29, 2004, which was approved by the Chief of Staff and made effective in
January 2005. In the said Disposition Form, the AFP Judge Advocate General opined that under
the provisions of Sections 4, 5, and 6 of RA No. 340, retired military personnel are disqualified
from receiving pension benefits once incapable to render military service as a result of his
having sworn allegiance to a foreign country. It was also mentioned that termination of
retirement benefits of pensioner of the AFP could be done pursuant to the provisions of
Presidential Decree (PD) No. 16388 which provides that the name of a retiree who loses his
Filipino citizenship shall be removed from the retired list and his retirement benefits terminated
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 28

upon such loss. It being in consonance with the policy consideration that all retirement laws
inconsistent with the provisions of PD No. 1638 are repealed and modified accordingly.

On August 24, 2006, Jeremias filed with the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Quezon City, a Petition
for Mandamus9 against Gen. Generoso Senga, as Chief of Staff of the AFP, Brig. Gen. Fernando
Zabat, as Chief of the AFP Finance Center, Comm. Reynaldo Basilio, as Chief of the AFP-GHQ
Management and Fiscal Office, and Comm. Emilio Marayag, Pension and Gratuity Management
Officer, Pension and Gratuity Management Center, AFP Finance Center, seeking reinstatement
of his name in the list of the AFP retired officers, resumption of payment of his retirement
benefits under RA No. 340, and the reimbursement of all his retirement pay and benefits which
accrued from March 5, 2005 up to the time his name is reinstated and, thereafter, with claim
for damages and attorney's fees. The case was docketed as Civil Case No. Q-06-58686, and
raffled off to Branch 220.

On February 26, 2007, the RTC rendered its Decision10 granting the petition for mandamus, the
dispositive portion of which reads:

WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered ordering General Hermogenes Esperon, Jr., as Chief
of Staff of the AFP, Brigadier General Fernando Zabat, as the Commanding Officer of the AFP
Finance Center, Commodore Reynaldo Basilio, as Chief of the AFP-GFIQ Management and Fiscal
Office, and Captain Theresa M. Nicdao, as Pension and Gratuity Officer of the Pension and
Gratuity Management Center, or any of their respective successors and those taking
instructions from them as agents or subordinates, to:
immediately reinstate the name of petitioner in the list of retired AFP Officers, and to resume
payment of his retirement benefits under RA 340; and

release to [petitioner] all retirement benefits due him under RA 340 which accrued to him from
March 2005 continuously up to the time his name is reinstated in the list of AFP retired
officers.11
The RTC found that the issue for resolution is the applicability of RA No. 340 and PD No. 1638
upon Jeremias' retirement benefits. It found that he retired as a commissioned officer of the
AFP in 1976; thus, RANo. 340 is the law applicable in determining his entitlement to his
retirement benefits and not PD No. 1638 which was issued only in 1979. Article 4 of the Civil
Code provides that "laws shall have no retroactive effect unless the contrary is provided." PD
No. 1638 does not provide for such retroactive application. Also, it could not have been the
intendment of PD No. 1638 to deprive its loyal soldiers of a monthly pension during their old
age especially where, as here, the right had been vested to them through time. RA No. 340
does not provide that the loss of Filipino citizenship would terminate one's retirement benefits;
and that PD No. 1638 does not reduce whatever benefits that any person has already been
receiving under existing law.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 29

Respondents sought reconsideration,12 but the RTC denied the same in an Order13 dated May
25, 2007, the decretal portion of which reads:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the instant Motion for Reconsideration is hereby DENIED,
considering that the questioned decision has not yet attained.its finality. The Motion for
Execution in the meantime is hereby DENIED.14cralawlawlibrary
Aggrieved, respondents elevated the case to the CA. After the submission of the parties'
respective memoranda, the case was submitted for decision.

Jeremias died on September 30, 200715 and was substituted by his wife, herein petitioner.

On May 25, 2009, the CA granted respondents' appeal. The dispositive portion of the CA
decision reads:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the instant appeal is GRANTED. The appealed decision is
REVOKED and SET ASIDE.16cralawlawlibrary
In so ruling, the CA found that while it is true that Jeremias retired in 1976 under the provisions
of RA No. 340, as amended, which does not contain any provision anent cessation or loss of
retirement benefits upon acquiring another citizenship, PD No. 1638, which was signed in 1979,
effectively repealed RA No. 340, as amended. Section 27 of PD No. 1638, which provides that
the name of a retiree who loses his Filipino citizenship shall be removed from the retired list
and his retirement benefits terminated upon such loss, was correctly made applicable to
Jeremias' retirement benefits. Logic dictates that since Jeremias had already renounced his
allegiance to the Philippines, he cannot now be compelled by the State to render active service
and to render compulsory military service when the need arises. The CA found that for the writ
of mandamus to lie, it is essential that Jeremias should have a clear legal right to the thing
demanded and it must be the imperative duty of respondents to perform the act required
which petitioner failed to show; thus, mandamus will not lie.

Petitioner's motion for reconsideration was denied in a Resolution dated September 10, 2009.

Hence, this petition raising the following:


RESPONDENT COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED GRAVE REVERSIBLE ERROR IN RENDERING THE
ASSAILED DECISION AND RESOLUTION WHICH SET ASIDE AND REVERSED THE 26 FEBRUARY
2007 DECISION OF THE QC RTC BECAUSE:
PD 1638 should not have been applied and cannot be used against petitioner as her husband's
retirement and pension were granted to him by the AFP under RA 340 which was not
superseded by PD 1638, a later statute.

Petitioner correctly availed of the remedy of mandamus to compel the reinstatement of his
pension and benefits from the AFP under RA 340 as PD 1638 was not applicable to him.
Petitioner contends that her husband's retirement from the active service in 1976 was pursuant
to the provisions of RA No. No. 340 as PD No. 1638 was not yet in existence then, and there was
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 30

nothing in RA No. 340 that disqualifies a retired military personnel from receiving retirement
benefits after acquiring foreign citizenship. The concept of retirement benefits is such that one
is entitled to them for services already rendered and not for those to be made at a future time.
Retirement benefits due petitioner's husband under RA No. 340, is an acquired right which
cannot be taken away by a subsequent law. PD No. 1638 does not expressly provide for its
retroactive application. Respondents, being officers of the AFP tasked to implement the
provisions of RA No. 340 have neglected their function thereunder by delisting petitioner's
husband as a retiree, thus, mandamus is proper.

In his Comment, the Solicitor General argues that PD No. 1638 applies to all military personnel
in the service of the AFP whether active or retired; hence, it applies retroactively to petitioner's
husband. Even when a retiree is no longer in the active service, his being a Filipino still makes
him a part of the Citizen Armed Forces; that whether a military personnel retires under the
provisions of RA No. 340 or under PD No. 1638, he is still in the service of the military and/or
the State only that he is retired, thus, they should not be treated differently upon the loss of
Filipino citizenship. He argues when there is an irreconcilable conflict between the two laws of
different vintages, i.e., RA No. 340 and PD No. 1638, the latter enactment prevails.

The Solicitor General argues that mandamus will not issue to enforce a right to compel
compliance with a duty which is questionable or over which a substantial doubt exists. In this
case, petitioner's husband does not have a well-defined, clear and certain legal right to
continuously receive retirement benefits after becoming an American citizen. Likewise, the AFP
does not have a clear and imperative duty to grant the said benefits considering that Section 27
of PD No. 1638 provides that the name of a retiree who loses his Filipino citizenship shall be
removed from the retired list and his retirement benefits terminated upon such loss.

Petitioner filed her reply thereto. We find merit in the petition.

Petitioner's husband retired in 1976 under RA No. 340. He was already receiving his monthly
retirement benefit in the amount of P18,315.00 since December 1976 until it was terminated in
March 2005. Section 5, RA No. 340 provides:

Sec. 5. Officers and enlisted men placed in the retired list shall be subject to the rules and
articles of war and to trial by court-martial for any breach thereof. At any time said officers and
enlisted men may be called to active service by the President. Refusal on the part of any officer
or enlisted man to perform such services shall terminate his right to further participation in the
benefits of this Act provided he resides in the Philippines and is physically fit for service. Such
fitness for service shall be determined by applicable regulations.
The afore-quoted provision clearly shows how a retiree's retirement benefits may be
terminated, i.e., when the retiree refuses to perform active service when called to do so
provided that (1) the retiree resides in the Philippines and (2) is physically fit for service. There
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 31

is no other requirement found in the law which would be the reason for the termination of a
retiree's retirement benefits. Petitioner's husband was never called to perform active service
and refused to do so, however, his retirement benefit was terminated. The reason for such
termination was his loss of Filipino citizenship based on Section 27 of PD No. 1638, to wit:
Section 27. Military personnel retired under Sections 4, 5, 10, 11 and 12 shall be carried in the
retired list of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. The name of a retiree who loses his Filipino
citizenship shall be removed from the retired list and his retirement benefits terminated upon
such loss.
We find that the CA erred in applying PD No. 1638 to the retirement benefits of petitioner's
husband.

Firstly, PD No. 1638 was signed by then President Ferdinand Marcos on September 10, 1979.
Under Article 4 of the Civil Code, it is provided that laws shall have no retroactive effect, unless
the contrary is provided. It is said that the law looks to the future only and has no retroactive
effect unless the legislator may have formally given that effect to some legal provisions;17 that
all statutes are to be construed as having only prospective operation, unless the purpose and
intention of the legislature to give them a retrospective effect is expressly declared or is
necessarily implied from the language used; and that every case of doubt must be resolved
against retrospective effect.18 These principles also apply to amendments of statutes.

PD No. 1638 does not contain any provision regarding its retroactive application, nor the same
may be implied from its language. In fact, Section 36 of PD No. 1638 clearly provides that the
decree shall take effect upon its approval. As held in Parreno v. COA,19 there is no question
that PD No. 1638, as amended, applies prospectively. Since PD No. 1638, as amended, is about
the new system of retirement and separation from service of military personnel, it should apply
to those who were in the service at the time of its approval.20 Conversely, PD No. 1638 is not
applicable to those who retired before its effectivity in 1979. The rule is familiar that after an
act is amended, the original act continues to be in force with regard to all rights that had
accrued prior to such amendment.21

Moreover, Section 27 of PD No. 1638 specifically provides for the retirees to whom the law
shall be applied, to wit:
Section 27. Military personnel retired under Sections 4, 5, 10, 11 and 12 shall be carried in the
retired list of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. The name of a retiree who loses his Filipino
citizenship shall be removed from the retired list and his retirement benefits terminated upon
such loss, (emphasis supplied)
Notably, petitioner's husband did not retire under those above-enumerated Sections of PD No.
1638 as he retired under RA No. 340.

Secondly, it has been held that before a right to retirement benefits or pension vests in an
employee, he must have met the stated conditions of eligibility with respect to the nature of
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 32

employment, age, and length of service.22 Undeniably, petitioner's husband had complied with
the conditions of eligibility to retirement benefits as he was then receiving his retirement
benefits on a monthly basis until it was terminated. Where the employee retires and meets the
eligibility requirements, he acquires a vested right to the benefits that is protected by the due
process clause.23 It is only upon retirement that military personnel acquire a vested right to
retirement benefits.24 Retirees enjoy a protected property interest whenever they acquire a
right to immediate payment under pre-existing law.25

In Ayog v. Cusi,26 we expounded the nature of a vested right, thus:


"A right is vested when the right to enjoyment has become the property of some particular
person or persons as a present interest" (16 C.J.S. 1173). It is "the privilege to enjoy property
legally vested, to enforce contracts, and enjoy the rights of property conferred by the existing
law" (12 C.J.S. 955, Note 46, No. 6) or "some right or interest in property which has become
fixed and established and is no longer open to doubt or controversy" (Downs vs. Blount 170
Fed. 15, 20, cited in Balboa vs. Farrales, 51 Phil. 498, 502).

The due process clause prohibits the annihilation of vested rights. "A state may not impair
vested rights by legislative enactment, by the enactment or by the subsequent repeal of a
municipal ordinance, or by a change in the constitution of the State, except in a legitimate
exercise of the police power" (16 C.J.S. 1177-78).

It has been observed that, generally, the term "vested right" expresses the concept of present
fixed interest, which in right reason and natural justice should be protected against arbitrary
State action, or an innately just and imperative right which an enlightened free society,
sensitive to inherent and irrefragable individual rights, cannot deny (16 C.J.S. 1174, Note 71,
No. 5, citing Pennsylvania Greyhound Lines, Inc. vs. Rosenthal, 192 Atl. 2nd
587).27cralawlawlibrary
Petitioner's husband acquired vested right to the payment of his retirement benefits which
must be respected and cannot be affected by the subsequent enactment of PD No. 1638 which
provides that loss of Filipino citizenship terminates retirement benefits. Vested rights include
not only legal or equitable title to the enforcement of a demand, but also an exemption from
new obligations after the right has vested.28

In fact, Sections 33 and 35 of PD No. 1638 recognize such vested right, to wit:
Section 33. Nothing in this Decree shall be construed in any manner to reduce whatever
retirement and separation pay or gratuity or other monetary benefits which any person is
heretofore receiving or is entitled to receive under the provisions of existing law.

xxxx
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 33

Section. 35. Except those necessary to give effect to the provisions of this Decree and to
preserve the rights granted to retired or separated military personnel, all laws, rules and
regulations inconsistent with the provisions of this Decree are hereby repealed or modified
accordingly.
Section 33 of PD No. 1638 is clear that the law has no intention to reduce or to revoke whatever
retirement benefits being enjoyed by a retiree at the time of its passage. Hence, Section 35
provides for an exception to what the decree repealed or modified, i.e., except those necessary
to preserve the rights granted to retired or separated military personnel.

We also find that the CA erred in finding that mandamus will not lie.

Section 3, Rule 65 of the Rules of Court lay down under what circumstances petition for
mandamus may be filed, to wit:
SEC. 3. Petition for mandamus. - When any tribunal, corporation, board, officer or person
unlawfully neglects the performance of an act which the law specifically enjoins as a duty
resulting from an office, trust, or station, or unlawfully excludes another from the use and
enjoyment of a right or office to which such other is entitled, and there is no other plain,
speedy and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law, the person aggrieved thereby may
file a verified petition in the proper court, alleging the facts with certainty and praying that
judgment be rendered commanding the respondent, immediately or at some other time to be
specified by the court, to do the act required to be done to protect the rights of the petitioner,
and to pay the damages sustained by the petitioner by reason of the wrongful acts of the
respondent.
A writ of mandamus can be issued only when petitioner's legal right to the performance of a
particular act which is sought to be compelled is clear and complete. A clear legal right is a right
which is indubitably granted by law or is inferable as a matter of law.29 A doctrine well-
embedded in our jurisprudence is that mandamus will issue only when the petitioner has a
clear legal right to the performance of the act sought to be compelled and the respondent has
an imperative duty to perform the same.30 The remedy of mandamus lies to compel the
performance of a ministerial duty.31 A purely ministerial act or duty is one that an officer or
tribunal performs in a given state of facts, in a prescribed manner, in obedience to the mandate
of a legal authority, without regard to or the exercise of its own judgment upon the propriety or
impropriety of the act done.32 If the law imposes a duty upon a public officer, and gives him
the right to decide how or when the duty shall be performed, such duty is discretionary and not
ministerial.33

The petition for mandamus filed by petitioner's husband with the RTC was for the payment of
his terminated retirement benefits, which has become vested, and being a ministerial duty on
the part of the respondents to pay such claim, mandamus is the proper remedy to compel such
payment.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 34

The doctrine of exhaustion of administrative remedies calls for resort first to the appropriate
administrative authorities in the resolution of a controversy falling under their jurisdiction
before the same may be elevated to the courts of justice for review.34 However, the principle
of exhaustion of administrative remedies need not be adhered to when the question is purely
legal.35 This is because issues of law cannot be resolved with finality by the administrative
officer.36 Appeal to the administrative officer would only be an exercise in futility.37 Here, the
question raised is purely legal, i.e., what law should be applied in the payment of retirement
benefits of petitioner's husband. Thus, there was no need to exhaust all administrative
remedies before a judicial relief can be sought.cralawred

WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The Decision dated May 25, 2009 and the Resolution
dated September 10, 2009 of the Court of Appeals are hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The
Decision dated February 26, 2007 of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 220, is
AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.

Velasco, Jr., (Chairperson), Perez,* Reyes, and Jardeleza, JJ., concur.

Footnotes:

4 AN ACT TO ESTABLISH A UNIFORM RETIREMENT SYSTEM FOR THE ARMED FORCES OF THE
PHILIPPINES, TO PROVIDE FOR SEPARATION THEREFROM, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.

8 ESTABLISHING A NEW SYSTEM OF RETIREMENT AND SEPARATION FOR MILITARY PERSONNEL


OF THE ARMED FORCES OF THE PHILIPPINES AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 35

G.R. No. 150429 August 29, 2006

ROBERTO G. FAMANILA, Petitioner,


vs.
THE COURT OF APPEALS (Spc. Fmr. Seventh Division) and BARBERSHIP MANAGEMENT
LIMITED and NFD INTERNATIONAL MANNING AGENTS, INC. Respondents.

DECISION

YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.:

Before us is a petition for review on certiorari assailing the Decision 1 of the Court of Appeals in
CA-G.R. SP No. 50615 dated March 30, 2001 which affirmed the Decision 2 of the National
Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) dated March 31, 1998 dismissing petitioner’s complaint for
payment of disability and other benefits for lack of merit and the Resolution 3 dated October 5,
2001 of the Court of Appeals denying petitioner’s motion for reconsideration.

The antecedent facts are as follows:

In 1989, respondent NFD International Manning Agents, Inc. hired the services of petitioner
Roberto G. Famanila as Messman 4 for Hansa Riga, a vessel registered and owned by its
principal and co-respondent, Barbership Management Limited.

On June 21, 1990, while Hansa Riga was docked at the port of Eureka, California, U.S.A. and
while petitioner was assisting in the loading operations, the latter complained of a headache.
Petitioner experienced dizziness and he subsequently collapsed. Upon examination, it was
determined that he had a sudden attack of left cerebral hemorrhage from a ruptured cerebral
aneurysm. 5 Petitioner underwent a brain operation and he was confined at the Emmanuel
Hospital in Portland, Oregon, U.S.A. On July 19, 1990, he underwent a second brain operation.

Owing to petitioner’s physical and mental condition, he was repatriated to the Philippines. On
August 21, 1990, he was examined at the American Hospital in Intramuros, Manila where the
examining physician, Dr. Patricia Abesamis declared that he "cannot go back to sea duty and
has been observed for 120 days, he is being declared permanently, totally disabled." 6

Thereafter, authorized representatives of the respondents convinced him to settle his claim
amicably by accepting the amount of US$13,200. 7 Petitioner accepted the offer as evidenced
by his signature in the Receipt and Release dated February 28, 1991. 8 His wife, Gloria Famanila
and one Richard Famanila, acted as witnesses in the signing of the release.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 36

On June 11, 1997, petitioner filed a complaint 9 with the NLRC which was docketed as NLRC
OCW Case No. 6-838-97-L praying for an award of disability benefits, share in the insurance
proceeds, moral damages and attorney’s fees. On September 29, 1997, Acting Executive Labor
Arbiter Voltaire A. Balitaan dismissed the complaint on the ground of prescription. Petitioner
appealed the decision with the NLRC. On March 31, 1998, the NLRC promulgated its decision 10
finding the appeal to be without merit and ordered its dismissal. When the motion for
reconsideration 11 was denied by the NLRC in its resolution dated June 29, 1998, 12 petitioner
filed a petition for certiorari with this Court. On December 2, 1998, we resolved to refer the
case to the Court of Appeals pursuant to our ruling in St. Martin Funeral Home v. National Labor
Relations Commission. 13

On March 30, 2001, the Court of Appeals promulgated the assailed decision which dismissed
the petition for lack of merit. Petitioner’s motion for reconsideration was denied, hence, the
present petition for review raising the following issues:

I. THE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION AMOUNTING TO LACK


OR EXCESS OF JURISDICTION IN UPHOLDING THE VALIDITY OF THE RECEIPT AND RELEASE SINCE
PETITIONER’S CONSENT THERETO WAS VITIATED THEREBY MAKING THE SAME VOID AND
UNENFORCEABLE.

II. THE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION AMOUNTING TO LACK
OR EXCESS OF JURISDICTION IN HOLDING THAT THE PRESCRIPTION PERIOD APPLICABLE TO THE
CLAIM OF THE PETITIONER IS THE 3-YEAR PERIOD PROVIDED FOR UNDER THE LABOR CODE OF
THE PHILIPPINES AND NOT THE 10-YEAR PERIOD PROVIDED FOR UNDER THE CIVIL CODE.

Petitioner claims that he did not sign the Receipt and Release voluntarily or freely because he
was permanently disabled and in financial constraints. These factors allegedly vitiated his
consent which makes the Receipt and Release void and unenforceable.

The petition lacks merit.

It is fundamental that the scope of the Supreme Court’s judicial review under Rule 45 of the
Rules of Court is confined only to errors of law. It does not extend to questions of fact. More so
in labor cases where the doctrine applies with greater force. 14 The Labor Arbiter and the NLRC
have already determined the factual issues, and these were affirmed by the Court of Appeals.
Thus, they are accorded not only great respect but also finality and are deemed binding upon
this Court so long as they are supported by substantial evidence. 15 We reviewed the records of
the case and we find no reason to deviate from the findings of the labor arbiter, NLRC and the
Court of Appeals.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 37

A vitiated consent does not make a contract void and unenforceable. A vitiated consent only
gives rise to a voidable agreement. Under the Civil Code, the vices of consent are mistake,
violence, intimidation, undue influence or fraud. 16 If consent is given through any of the
aforementioned vices of consent, the contract is voidable. 17 A voidable contract is binding
unless annulled by a proper action in court. 18

Petitioner contends that his permanent and total disability vitiated his consent to the Receipt
and Release thereby rendering it void and unenforceable. However, disability is not among the
factors that may vitiate consent. Besides, save for petitioner’s self-serving allegations, there is
no proof on record that his consent was vitiated on account of his disability. In the absence of
such proof of vitiated consent, the validity of the Receipt and Release must be upheld. We
agree with the findings of the Court of Appeals that:

In the case at bar, there is nothing in the records to show that petitioner’s consent was vitiated
when he signed the agreement. Granting that petitioner has not fully recovered his health at
the time he signed the subject document, the same cannot still lead to the conclusion that he
did not voluntar[il]y accept the agreement, for his wife and another relative witnessed his
signing.

Moreover, the document entitled receipt and release which was attached by petitioner in his
appeal does not show on its face any violation of law or public policy. In fact, petitioner did not
present any proof to show that the consideration for the same is not reasonable and
acceptable. Absent any evidence to support the same, the Court cannot, on its own accord,
decide against the unreasonableness of the consideration. 19

It is true that quitclaims and waivers are oftentimes frowned upon and are considered as
ineffective in barring recovery for the full measure of the worker’s right and that acceptance of
the benefits therefrom does not amount to estoppel. 20 The reason is plain. Employer and
employee, obviously do not stand on the same footing. 21 However, not all waivers and
quitclaims are invalid as against public policy. If the agreement was voluntarily entered into and
represents a reasonable settlement, it is binding on the parties and may not later be disowned
simply because of change of mind. It is only where there is clear proof that the waiver was
wangled from an unsuspecting or gullible person, or the terms of the settlement are
unconscionable on its face, that the law will step in to annul the questionable transaction. But
where it is shown that the person making the waiver did so voluntarily, with full understanding
of what he was doing, and the consideration for the quitclaim is credible and reasonable, the
transaction must be recognized as a valid and binding undertaking, 22 as in this case.

To be valid and effective, waivers must be couched in clear and unequivocal terms, leaving no
doubt as to the intention of those giving up a right or a benefit that legally pertains to them. 23
We have reviewed the terms and conditions contained in the Receipt and Release and we find
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 38

the same to be clear and unambiguous. The signing was even witnessed by petitioner’s wife,
Gloria T. Famanila and one Richard T. Famanila. The Receipt and Release provides in part:

That for and in consideration of the sum of THIRTEEN THOUSAND TWO HUNDRED DOLLARS
(US$13,200.00) or its equivalent in Philippine currency THREE HUNDRED SIXTY FIVE THOUSAND
NINE HUNDRED FOUR PESOS (365,904.00), the receipt of which is hereby acknowledged to my
full and complete satisfaction x x x I, ROBERTO G. FAMANILA, x x x hereby remise, release and
forever discharge said vessel "HANSA RIGA", her Owners, operators, managers, charterers,
agents, underwriters, P and I Club, master, officers, and crew and all parties at interest therein
or thereon, whether named or not named, including but not limited to BARBER SHIP
MANAGEMENT LIMITED, NFD INTERNATIONAL MANNING AGENTS, INC. and
ASSURANCEFORENIGEN GARD from any and all claims, demands, debts, dues, liens, actions or
causes of action, at law or in equity, in common law or in admiralty, statutory or contractual,
arising from and under the laws of the United States of America, Norway, Hongkong or the
Republic of the Philippines and/or any other foreign country now held, owned or possessed by
me or by any person or persons, arising from or related to or concerning whether directly or
indirectly, proximately or remotely, without being limited to but including the said illness
suffered by me on board the vessel "HANSA RIGA" on or about 21st June 1990 at Portland,
Oregon and disability compensation in connection therewith.

This instrument is a GENERAL RELEASE intended to release all liabilities of any character and/or
claims or damages and/or losses and/or any other liabilities whatsoever, whether contractual
or statutory, at common law or in equity, tortious or in admiralty, now or henceforth in any way
related to or occurring as a consequence of the illness suffered by me as Messman of the vessel
"HANSA RIGA", including but not limited to all damages and/or losses consisting of loss of
support, loss of earning capacity, loss of all benefits of whatsoever nature and extent incurred,
physical pain and suffering and/or all damages and/or indemnities claimable in law, tort,
contract, common law, equity and/or admiralty by me or by any person or persons pursuant to
the laws of the United States of America, Norway, Hongkong or the Republic of the Philippines
and of all other countries whatsoever.

I hereby certify that I am of legal age and that I fully understand this instrument which was read
to me in the local dialect and I agree that this is a FULL AND FINAL RELEASE AND DISCHARGE of
all parties and things referred to herein, and I further agree that this release may be pleaded as
an absolute and final bar to any suit or suits or legal proceedings that may hereafter be
prosecuted by me or by any one claiming by, through, or under me, against any of the persons
or things

referred to or related herein, for any matter or thing referred to or related herein. 24
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 39

It is elementary that a contract is perfected by mere consent and from that moment the parties
are bound not only to the fulfillment of what has been expressly stipulated but also to all the
consequences which, according to their nature, may be in keeping with good faith, usage and
law. 25 Further, dire necessity is not an acceptable ground for annulling the Receipt and
Release since it has not been shown that petitioner was forced to sign it. 26

Regarding prescription, the applicable prescriptive period for the money claims against the
respondents is the three year period pursuant to Article 291 of the Labor Code which provides
that:

ART. 291. Money Claims. – All money claims arising from employer-employee relations accruing
during the effectivity of this Code shall be filed within three (3) years from the time the cause of
action accrued; otherwise they shall be forever barred.

xxxx

Since petitioner’s demand for an award of disability benefits is a money claim arising from his
employment, Article 291 of the Labor Code applies. From the time petitioner was declared
permanently and totally disabled on August 21, 1990 which gave rise to his entitlement to
disability benefits up to the time that he filed the complaint on June 11, 1997, more than three
years have elapsed thereby effectively barring his claim.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The Decision of the Court of Appeals dated March 30,
2001 in CA-G.R. SP No. 50615 which affirmed the Decision of the National Labor Relations
Commission dismissing petitioner’s complaint for disability and other benefits for lack of merit,
and

the Resolution dated October 5, 2001 denying the motion for reconsideration, are AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.

CONSUELO YNARES-SANTIAGO

Associate Justice
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 40

G.R. No. 163707 September 15, 2006

MICHAEL C. GUY, petitioner,


vs.
HON. COURT OF APPEALS, HON. SIXTO MARELLA, JR., Presiding Judge, RTC, Branch 138,
Makati City and minors, KAREN DANES WEI and KAMILLE DANES WEI, represented by their
mother, REMEDIOS OANES, respondents.

DECISION

YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.:

This petition for review on certiorari assails the January 22, 2004 Decision1 of the Court of
Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 79742, which affirmed the Orders dated July 21, 20002 and July 17,
20033 of the Regional Trial Court of Makati City, Branch 138 in SP Proc. Case No. 4549 denying
petitioner's motion to dismiss; and its May 25, 2004 Resolution4 denying petitioner's motion
for reconsideration.

The facts are as follows:

On June 13, 1997, private respondent-minors Karen Oanes Wei and Kamille Oanes Wei,
represented by their mother Remedios Oanes (Remedios), filed a petition for letters of
administration5 before the Regional Trial Court of Makati City, Branch 138. The case was
docketed as Sp. Proc. No. 4549 and entitled Intestate Estate of Sima Wei (a.k.a. Rufino Guy
Susim).

Private respondents alleged that they are the duly acknowledged illegitimate children of Sima
Wei, who died intestate in Makati City on October 29, 1992, leaving an estate valued at
P10,000,000.00 consisting of real and personal properties. His known heirs are his surviving
spouse Shirley Guy and children, Emy, Jeanne, Cristina, George and Michael, all surnamed Guy.
Private respondents prayed for the appointment of a regular administrator for the orderly
settlement of Sima Wei's estate. They likewise prayed that, in the meantime, petitioner Michael
C. Guy, son of the decedent, be appointed as Special Administrator of the estate. Attached to
private respondents' petition was a Certification Against Forum Shopping6 signed by their
counsel, Atty. Sedfrey A. Ordoñez.

In his Comment/Opposition,7 petitioner prayed for the dismissal of the petition. He asserted
that his deceased father left no debts and that his estate can be settled without securing letters
of administration pursuant to Section 1, Rule 74 of the Rules of Court. He further argued that
private respondents should have established their status as illegitimate children during the
lifetime of Sima Wei pursuant to Article 175 of the Family Code.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 41

The other heirs of Sima Wei filed a Joint Motion to Dismiss8 on the ground that the certification
against forum shopping should have been signed by private respondents and not their counsel.
They contended that Remedios should have executed the certification on behalf of her minor
daughters as mandated by Section 5, Rule 7 of the Rules of Court.

In a Manifestation/Motion as Supplement to the Joint Motion to Dismiss,9 petitioner and his


co-heirs alleged that private respondents' claim had been paid, waived, abandoned or
otherwise extinguished by reason of Remedios' June 7, 1993 Release and Waiver of Claim
stating that in exchange for the financial and educational assistance received from petitioner,
Remedios and her minor children discharge the estate of Sima Wei from any and all liabilities.

The Regional Trial Court denied the Joint Motion to Dismiss as well as the Supplemental Motion
to Dismiss. It ruled that while the Release and Waiver of Claim was signed by Remedios, it had
not been established that she was the duly constituted guardian of her minor daughters. Thus,
no renunciation of right occurred. Applying a liberal application of the rules, the trial court also
rejected petitioner's objections on the certification against forum shopping.

Petitioner moved for reconsideration but was denied. He filed a petition for certiorari before
the Court of Appeals which affirmed the orders of the Regional Trial Court in its assailed
Decision dated January 22, 2004, the dispositive portion of which states:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the present petition is hereby DENIED DUE COURSE and
accordingly DISMISSED, for lack of merit. Consequently, the assailed Orders dated July 21, 2000
and July 17, 2003 are hereby both AFFIRMED. Respondent Judge is hereby DIRECTED to resolve
the controversy over the illegitimate filiation of the private respondents (sic) minors [-] Karen
Oanes Wei and Kamille Oanes Wei who are claiming successional rights in the intestate estate
of the deceased Sima Wei, a.k.a. Rufino Guy Susim.

SO ORDERED.10

The Court of Appeals denied petitioner's motion for reconsideration, hence, this petition.

Petitioner argues that the Court of Appeals disregarded existing rules on certification against
forum shopping; that the Release and Waiver of Claim executed by Remedios released and
discharged the Guy family and the estate of Sima Wei from any claims or liabilities; and that
private respondents do not have the legal personality to institute the petition for letters of
administration as they failed to prove their filiation during the lifetime of Sima Wei in
accordance with Article 175 of the Family Code.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 42

Private respondents contend that their counsel's certification can be considered substantial
compliance with the rules on certification of non-forum shopping, and that the petition raises
no new issues to warrant the reversal of the decisions of the Regional Trial Court and the Court
of Appeals.

The issues for resolution are: 1) whether private respondents' petition should be dismissed for
failure to comply with the rules on certification of non-forum shopping; 2) whether the Release
and Waiver of Claim precludes private respondents from claiming their successional rights; and
3) whether private respondents are barred by prescription from proving their filiation.

The petition lacks merit.

Rule 7, Section 5 of the Rules of Court provides that the certification of non-forum shopping
should be executed by the plaintiff or the principal party. Failure to comply with the
requirement shall be cause for dismissal of the case. However, a liberal application of the rules
is proper where the higher interest of justice would be served. In Sy Chin v. Court of Appeals,11
we ruled that while a petition may have been flawed where the certificate of non-forum
shopping was signed only by counsel and not by the party, this procedural lapse may be
overlooked in the interest of substantial justice.12 So it is in the present controversy where the
merits13 of the case and the absence of an intention to violate the rules with impunity should
be considered as compelling reasons to temper the strict application of the rules.

As regards Remedios' Release and Waiver of Claim, the same does not bar private respondents
from claiming successional rights. To be valid and effective, a waiver must be couched in clear
and unequivocal terms which leave no doubt as to the intention of a party to give up a right or
benefit which legally pertains to him. A waiver may not be attributed to a person when its
terms do not explicitly and clearly evince an intent to abandon a right.14

In this case, we find that there was no waiver of hereditary rights. The Release and Waiver of
Claim does not state with clarity the purpose of its execution. It merely states that Remedios
received P300,000.00 and an educational plan for her minor daughters "by way of financial
assistance and in full settlement of any and all claims of whatsoever nature and kind x x x
against the estate of the late Rufino Guy Susim."15 Considering that the document did not
specifically mention private respondents' hereditary share in the estate of Sima Wei, it cannot
be construed as a waiver of successional rights.

Moreover, even assuming that Remedios truly waived the hereditary rights of private
respondents, such waiver will not bar the latter's claim. Article 1044 of the Civil Code, provides:

ART. 1044. Any person having the free disposal of his property may accept or repudiate an
inheritance.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 43

Any inheritance left to minors or incapacitated persons may be accepted by their parents or
guardians. Parents or guardians may repudiate the inheritance left to their wards only by
judicial authorization.

The right to accept an inheritance left to the poor shall belong to the persons designated by the
testator to determine the beneficiaries and distribute the property, or in their default, to those
mentioned in Article 1030. (Emphasis supplied)

Parents and guardians may not therefore repudiate the inheritance of their wards without
judicial approval. This is because repudiation amounts to an alienation of property16 which
must pass the court's scrutiny in order to protect the interest of the ward. Not having been
judicially authorized, the Release and Waiver of Claim in the instant case is void and will not bar
private respondents from asserting their rights as heirs of the deceased.

Furthermore, it must be emphasized that waiver is the intentional relinquishment of a known


right. Where one lacks knowledge of a right, there is no basis upon which waiver of it can rest.
Ignorance of a material fact negates waiver, and waiver cannot be established by a consent
given under a mistake or misapprehension of fact.17

In the present case, private respondents could not have possibly waived their successional
rights because they are yet to prove their status as acknowledged illegitimate children of the
deceased. Petitioner himself has consistently denied that private respondents are his co-heirs.
It would thus be inconsistent to rule that they waived their hereditary rights when petitioner
claims that they do not have such right. Hence, petitioner's invocation of waiver on the part of
private respondents must fail.

Anent the issue on private respondents' filiation, we agree with the Court of Appeals that a
ruling on the same would be premature considering that private respondents have yet to
present evidence. Before the Family Code took effect, the governing law on actions for
recognition of illegitimate children was Article 285 of the Civil Code, to wit:

ART. 285. The action for the recognition of natural children may be brought only during the
lifetime of the presumed parents, except in the following cases:

(1) If the father or mother died during the minority of the child, in which case the latter may file
the action before the expiration of four years from the attainment of his majority;

(2) If after the death of the father or of the mother a document should appear of which nothing
had been heard and in which either or both parents recognize the child.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 44

In this case, the action must be commenced within four years from the finding of the
document. (Emphasis supplied)

We ruled in Bernabe v. Alejo18 that illegitimate children who were still minors at the time the
Family Code took effect and whose putative parent died during their minority are given the
right to seek recognition for a period of up to four years from attaining majority age. This
vested right was not impaired or taken away by the passage of the Family Code.19

On the other hand, Articles 172, 173 and 175 of the Family Code, which superseded Article 285
of the Civil Code, provide:

ART. 172. The filiation of legitimate children is established by any of the following:

(1) The record of birth appearing in the civil register or a final judgment; or

(2) An admission of legitimate filiation in a public document or a private handwritten


instrument and signed by the parent concerned.

In the absence of the foregoing evidence, the legitimate filiation shall be proved by:

(1) The open and continuous possession of the status of a legitimate child; or

(2) Any other means allowed by the Rules of Court and special laws.

ART. 173. The action to claim legitimacy may be brought by the child during his or her lifetime
and shall be transmitted to the heirs should the child die during minority or in a state of
insanity. In these cases, the heirs shall have a period of five years within which to institute the
action.

The action already commenced by the child shall survive notwithstanding the death of either or
both of the parties.

ART. 175. Illegitimate children may establish their illegitimate filiation in the same way and on
the same, evidence as legitimate children.

The action must be brought within the same period specified in Article 173, except when the
action is based on the second paragraph of Article 172, in which case the action may be brought
during the lifetime of the alleged parent.

Under the Family Code, when filiation of an illegitimate child is established by a record of birth
appearing in the civil register or a final judgment, or an admission of filiation in a public
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 45

document or a private handwritten instrument signed by the parent concerned, the action for
recognition may be brought by the child during his or her lifetime. However, if the action is
based upon open and continuous possession of the status of an illegitimate child, or any other
means allowed by the rules or special laws, it may only be brought during the lifetime of the
alleged parent.

It is clear therefore that the resolution of the issue of prescription depends on the type of
evidence to be adduced by private respondents in proving their filiation. However, it would be
impossible to determine the same in this case as there has been no reception of evidence yet.
This Court is not a trier of facts. Such matters may be resolved only by the Regional Trial Court
after a full-blown trial.

While the original action filed by private respondents was a petition for letters of
administration, the trial court is not precluded from receiving evidence on private respondents'
filiation. Its jurisdiction extends to matters incidental and collateral to the exercise of its
recognized powers in handling the settlement of the estate, including the determination of the
status of each heir.20 That the two causes of action, one to compel recognition and the other
to claim inheritance, may be joined in one complaint is not new in our jurisprudence.21 As held
in Briz v. Briz:22

The question whether a person in the position of the present plaintiff can in any event maintain
a complex action to compel recognition as a natural child and at the same time to obtain
ulterior relief in the character of heir, is one which in the opinion of this court must be
answered in the affirmative, provided always that the conditions justifying the joinder of the
two distinct causes of action are present in the particular case. In other words, there is no
absolute necessity requiring that the action to compel acknowledgment should have been
instituted and prosecuted to a successful conclusion prior to the action in which that same
plaintiff seeks additional relief in the character of heir. Certainly, there is nothing so peculiar to
the action to compel acknowledgment as to require that a rule should be here applied different
from that generally applicable in other cases. x x x

The conclusion above stated, though not heretofore explicitly formulated by this court, is
undoubtedly to some extent supported by our prior decisions. Thus, we have held in numerous
cases, and the doctrine must be considered well settled, that a natural child having a right to
compel acknowledgment, but who has not been in fact acknowledged, may maintain partition
proceedings for the division of the inheritance against his coheirs (Siguiong vs. Siguiong, 8 Phil.,
5; Tiamson vs. Tiamson, 32 Phil., 62); and the same person may intervene in proceedings for the
distribution of the estate of his deceased natural father, or mother (Capistrano vs. Fabella, 8
Phil., 135; Conde vs. Abaya, 13 Phil., 249; Ramirez vs. Gmur, 42 Phil., 855). In neither of these
situations has it been thought necessary for the plaintiff to show a prior decree compelling
acknowledgment. The obvious reason is that in partition suits and distribution proceedings the
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 46

other persons who might take by inheritance are before the court; and the declaration of
heirship is appropriate to such proceedings.

WHEREFORE, the instant petition is DENIED. The Decision dated January 22, 2004 of the Court
of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 79742 affirming the denial of petitioner's motion to dismiss; and
its Resolution dated May 25, 2004 denying petitioner's motion for reconsideration, are
AFFIRMED. Let the records be REMANDED to the Regional Trial Court of Makati City, Branch
138 for further proceedings.

SO ORDERED.

Panganiban, C.J., Chairperson, Austria-Martinez, Callejo, Sr., Chico-Nazario, J.J., concur.


P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 47

G.R. No. 189516, June 08, 2016

EDNA MABUGAY-OTAMIAS, JEFFREN M. OTAMIAS AND MINOR JEMWEL M. OTAMIAS,


REPRESENTED BY THEIR MOTHER EDNA MABUGAY-OTAMIAS, Petitioners, v. REPUBLIC OF
THE PHILIPPINES, REPRESENTED BY COL. VIRGILIO O. DOMINGO, IN HIS CAPACITY AS THE
COMMANDING OFFICER OF THE PENSION AND GRATUITY MANAGEMENT CENTER (PGMC) OF
THE ARMED FORCES OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.

DECISION

LEONEN, J.:

A writ of execution lies against the pension benefits of a retired officer of the Armed Forces of
the Philippines, which is the subject of a deed of assignment drawn by him granting support to
his wife and five (5) children. The benefit of exemption from execution of pension benefits is a
statutory right that may be waived, especially in order to comply with a husband's duty to
provide support under Article XV of the 1987 Constitution and the Family Code.

Petitioner Edna Mabugay-Otamias (Edna) and retired Colonel Francisco B. Otamias (Colonel
Otamias) were married on June 16, 1978 and had five (5) children.1

On September 2000, Edna and Colonel Otamias separated due to his alleged infidelity.2 Their
children remained with Edna.3

On August 2002, Edna filed a Complaint-Affidavit against Colonel Otamias before the Provost
Marshall Division of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.4 Edna demanded monthly support
equivalent to 75% of Colonel Otamias' retirement benefits.5 Colonel Otamias executed an
Affidavit, stating:

That sometime in August or September 2002, I was summoned at the Office of the Provost
Marshal, Philippine Army, in connection with a complaint affidavit submitted to said Office by
my wife Mrs. Edna M. Otamias signifying her intention 75% of my retirement benefits from the
AFP;

That at this point, I can only commit 50% of my retirement benefits to be pro-rated among my
wife and five (5) children;

That in order to implement this compromise, I am willing to enter into Agreement with my wife
covering the same;
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 48

That I am executing this affidavit to attest to the truth of the foregoing facts and whatever legal
purpose it may serve.6cralawred
On February 26, 2003, Colonel Otamias executed a Deed of Assignment where he waived 50%
of his salary and pension benefits in favor of Edna and their children.7 The Deed of Assignment
was considered by the parties as a compromise agreement.8 It stated:
This Assignment, made and executed unto this 26th day of February 2003 at Fort Bonifacio,
Makati City, by the undersigned LTC Francisco B. Otamias, 0-0-111045 (INP) PA, of legal age,
married and presently residing at Dama De Noche St., Pembo, Makati City.

WITNESSETH

WHEREAS, the undersigned affiant is the legal husband of EDNA M. OTAMIAS and the father of
Julie Ann, Jonathan, Jennifer, Jeffren and Jemwel all residing at Patag, Cagayan de Oro City;

WHEREAS, the undersigned will be retiring from the military service and expects to receive
retirement benefits from the Armed Forces of the Philippines;

WHEREAS, the undersigned had expressed his willingness to give a share in his retirement
benefits to my wife and five (5) abovenamed children,

NOW, THEREFORE, for and in consideration of the foregoing premises, the undersigned hereby
stipulated the following:

1. That the undersigned will give to my legal wife and five (5) children FIFTY PERCENT (50%) of
my retirement benefits to be pro- rated among them.

2. That a separate check(s) be issued and to be drawn and encash [sic] in the name of the legal
wife and five (5) children pro-rating the fifty (50%) percent of my retirement benefits.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this 26th day of February 2003 at Fort
Bonifacio, Makati City.9cralawred
Colonel Otamias retired on April 1, 2003.10

The agreement was honored until January 6, 2006.11 Edna alleged that "the A[rmed] F[orces]
[of the] Philippines] suddenly decided not to honor the agreement"12 between Colonel
Otamias and his legitimate family.

In a letter13 dated April 3, 2006, the Armed Forces of the Philippines Pension and Gratuity
Management Center (AFP PGMC) informed Edna that a court order was required for the AFP
PGMC to recognize the Deed of Assignment.14
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 49

In another letter15 dated April 17, 2006, the AFP PGMC reiterated that it could not act on
Edna's request to receive a portion of Colonel Otamias' pension "unless ordered by [the]
appropriate court.16

Heeding the advice of the AFP PGMC, Edna, on behalf of herself and Jeffren M. Otamias and
Jemwel M. Otamias (Edna, et al.), filed before the Regional Trial Court of Cagayan de Oro,
Misamis Oriental an action for support, docketed as F.C. Civil Case No. 2006-039.17

The trial court's Sheriff tried to serve summons on Colonel Otamias several times, to no avail.18
Substituted service was resorted to.19 Colonel Otamias was subsequently declared in default
for failure to file a responsive pleading despite order of the trial court.20

The trial court ruled in favor of Edna, et al. and ordered the automatic deduction of the amount
of support from the monthly pension of Colonel Otamias.21

The dispositive portion of the trial court's Decision stated:


ALL THE FOREGOING CONSIDERED, and in consonance with the legal obligation of the
defendant to the plaintiffs, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, through its Finance Center
and/or appropriate Finance Officer thereof, is thereby ordered to release to Edna Mabugay
Otamias and minor Jemwel M. Otamias, herein represented by his mother Edna, their fifty
(50%) per cent share of each of the monthly pension due to Colonel Francisco B. Otamias, AFP
PA (Retired).

Defendant Francisco Otamias is also ordered to pay plaintiff Edna M. Otamias, fifty (50%) per
cent of whatever retirement benefits he has already received from the Armed Forces of the
Philippines AND the arrears in support, effective January 2006 up to the time plaintiff receives
her share direct from the Finance Center of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

IT IS SO ORDERED.22
The Armed Forces of the Philippines, through the Office of the Judge Advocate General, filed a
Manifestation/Opposition23 to the Decision of the trial court, but it was not given due course
due to its late filing.24

Edna, et al., through counsel, filed a Motion for Issuance of Writ of Execution25 dated February
22, 2008. The trial court granted the Motion, and a writ of execution was issued by the trial
court on April 10, 2008.26

The Armed Forces of the Philippines Finance Center (AFP Finance Center), tlirough the Office of
the Judge Advocate General, filed a Motion to Quash27 the writ of execution and argued that
the AFP Finance Center's duty to disburse benefits is ministerial. It releases benefits only upon
the AFP PGMC's approval.28
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 50

The trial court denied the Motion to Quash and held that:
Under the law and existing jurisprudence, the "right to support" is practically equivalent to the
"right to life." The "right to life" always takes precedence over "property rights." The "right to
support/life" is also a substantive right which always takes precedence over
technicalities/procedural rules. It being so, technical rules must yield to substantive justice.
Besides, this Court's Decision dated February 27, 2007 has long acquired finality, and as such, is
ripe for enforcement/execution.

THE FOREGOING CONSIDERED, the instant Motion is hereby DENIED.29cralawred


The AFP PGMC moved for reconsideration of the order denying the Motion to Quash,30 but the
Motion was also denied by the trial court in the Order31 dated August 6, 2008.

A Notice of Garnishment was issued by the trial court on July 15, 2008 and was received by the
AFP PGMC on September 9, 2008.32

The AFP PGMC filed before the Court of Appeals a Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition.33

The Court of Appeals granted34 the Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition and partially nullified
the trial court's Decision insofar as it directed the automatic deduction of support from the
pension benefits of Colonel Otamias.

The Court of Appeals discussed that Section 3135 of Presidential Decree No. 1638, otherwise
known as the AFP Military Personnel Retirement and Separation Decree of 1979, "provides for
the exemption of the monthly pension of retired military personnel from execution and
attachment[,]"36 while Rule 39, Section 13 of the Rules of Court provides:
SEC. 13. Property exempt from execution. Except as otherwise expressly provided by law, the
following property, and no other, shall be exempt from execution:

....

(1) The right to receive legal support, or money or property obtained as such support, or any
pension or gratuity from the Government[.]
The Court of Appeals also cited Pacific Products, Inc. vs. Ong:37
[M]oneys sought to be garnished, as long as they remain in the hands of the disbursing officer
of the Government, belong to the latter, although the defendant in garnishment may be
entitled to a specific portion thereof. And still another reason which covers both of the
foregoing is that every consideration of public policy forbids it.38cralawred
In addition, the AFP PGMC was not impleaded as a party in the action for support; thus, it is not
bound by the Decision.39
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 51

The dispositive portion of the Court of Appeals Decision reads:


WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The assailed Decision of the Regional Trial Court, Branch
19, Cagayan de Oro City dated February 27, 2007 in Civil Case No. 2006-039 is PARTIALLY
NULLIFIED in so far as it directs the Armed Forces of the Philippines Finance Center to
automatically deduct the financial support in favor of private respondents, Edna Otamias and
her children Jeffren and Jemwel Otamias, from the pension benefits of Francisco Otamias, a
retired military officer. The Order dated June 10, 2008, Order dated August 6, 2008 and Writ of
Execution dated April 10, 2008, all issued by the court a quo are likewise SET ASIDE. Perforce,
let a writ of permanent injunction issue enjoining the implementation of the assailed Writ of
Execution dated April 10, 2008 and the corresponding Notice of Garnishment dated July 15,
2008. No pronouncement as to costs.

SO ORDERED.40 (Emphasis in the original)


Edna, et al. moved for reconsideration, but the Motion was denied by the Court of Appeals.41

Edna, et al. filed before this Court a Petition for Review on Certiorari42 on November 11, 2009.
In the Resolution43 dated January 20, 2010, this Court required respondent to comment.

In the Resolution44 dated August 4, 2010, this Court noted the Comment filed by the Office of
the Solicitor General and required Edna, et al. to file a reply.45

A Reply46 was filed on September 27, 2010.

Edna, et al. argue that the Deed of Assignment Colonel Otamias executed Is valid and legal.47

They claim that Section 31 of Presidential Decree No. 163848 "does not include support";49
hence, the retirement benefits of Colonel Otamias can be executed upon.

Edna, et al. also argue that the Court of Appeals erred in granting respondent's Petition because
it effectively rendered the Deed of Assignment of no force and effect.50 On the other hand, the
trial court's Decision implements the Deed of Assignment and Edna, et al.'s right to support.51

Further, the AFP PGMC had already recognized the validity of the agreement and had made
payments to them until it suddenly stopped payment.52 After Edna, et al. obtained a court
order, the AFP PGMC still refused to honor the Deed of Assignment.53

The Armed Forces of the Philippines, through the Office of the Solicitor General, argues that it
was not a party to the case filed by Edna, et al.54 Thus, "it cannot be compelled to release part
of the monthly pension benefits of retired Colonel Otamias in favor of [Edna, et al]."55
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 52

The Office of the Solicitor General avers that the AFP PGMC never submitted itself to the
jurisdiction of the trial court.56 It was not a party to the case as the trial court never acquired
jurisdiction over the AFP PGMC.57

The Office of the Solicitor General also argues that Section 31 of Presidential Decree No. 1638
and Rule 39, Section 13(1) of the Rules of Court support the Court of Appeals Decision that
Colonel Otamias' pension benefits are exempt from execution.58

Section 31 of Presidential Decree No. 1638 "does not deprive the survivor/s of a retired or
separated officer or enlisted man of their right to support."59 Rather, "[w]hat is prohibited is
for respondent [AFP PGMC] to segregate a portion of the pension benefit in favor of the
retiree's family while still in the hands of the A[rmed] F[orces] [of the] Philippines]."60

Thus, the AFP PGMC "cannot be compelled to directly give or issue a check in favor of [Edna, et
al.] out of the pension gratuity of Col. Otamias."61

In their Reply,62 Edna, et al. argue that the Armed Forces of the Philippines should not be
allowed to question the legal recourse they took because it was an officer of the Armed Forces
of the Philippines who had advised them to file an action for support.63

They argue that the phrase "while in the active service" in Section 31 of Presidential Decree No.
1638 refers to the "time when the retired officer incurred his accountabilities in favor of a
private creditor[,]"64 who is a third person. The phrase also "serves as a timeline designed to
separate the debts incurred by the retired officer after his retirement from those which he
incurred prior thereto."65

Further, the accountabilities referred to in Section 31 of Presidential Decree No. 1638 refer to
debts or loans, not to support.66

The issues for resolution are:

First, whether the Court of Appeals erred in ruling that the AFP Finance Center cannot be
directed to automatically deduct the amount of support needed by the legitimate family of
Colonel Otamias; and

Second, whether Colonel Otamias' pension benefits can be executed upon for the financial
support of his legitimate family.

The Petition is granted.

I
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 53

Article 6 of the Civil Code provides:


Article 6. Rights may be waived, unless the waiver is contrary to law, public order, public policy,
morals or good customs, or prejudicial to a third person with a right recognized by law.
The concept of waiver has been defined by this Court as:

a voluntary and intentional relinquishment or abandonment of a known existing legal right,


advantage, benefit, claim or privilege, which except for such waiver the party would have
enjoyed; the voluntary abandonment or surrender, by a capable person, of a right known by
him to exist, with the intent that such right shall be surrendered and such person forever
deprived of its benefit; or such conduct as warrants an inference of the relinquishment of such
right; or the intentional doing of an act inconsistent with claiming it.67cralawred
In determining whether a statutory right can be waived, this Court is guided by the following
pronouncement:

[T]he doctrine of waiver extends to rights and privileges of any character, and, since the word
'waiver' covers every conceivable right, it is the general rule that a person may waive any
matter which affects his property, and any alienable right or privilege of which he is the owner
or which belongs to him or to which he is legally entitled, whether secured by contract,
conferred with statute, or guaranteed by constitution, provided such rights and privileges rest
in the individual, are intended for his sole benefit, do not infringe on the rights of others, and
further provided the waiver of the right or privilege is not forbidden by law, and does not
contravene public policy; and the principle is recognized that everyone has a right to waive, and
agree to waive, the advantage of a law or rule made solely for the benefit and protection of the
individual in his private capacity, if it can be dispensed with and relinquished without infringing
on any public right, and without detriment to the community at large[.]68 (Emphasis in the
original)

When Colonel Otamias executed the Deed of Assignment, he effectively waived his right to
claim that his retirement benefits are exempt from execution. The right to receive retirement
benefits belongs to Colonel Otamias. His decision to waive a portion of his retirement benefits
does not infringe on the right of third persons, but even protects the right of his family to
receive support.

In addition, the Deed of Assignment should be considered as the law between the parties, and
its provisions should be respected in the absence of allegations that Colonel Otamias was
coerced or defrauded in executing it. The general rule is that a contract is the law between
parties and parties are free to stipulate terms and conditions that are not contrary to law,
morals, good customs, public order, or public policy.69
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 54

The Deed of Assignment executed by Colonel Otamias was not contrary to law; it was in
accordance with the provisions on support in the Family Code. Hence, there was no reason for
the AFP PGMC not to recognize its validity.

Further, this Court notes that the AFP PGMC granted the request for support of the wives of
other retired military personnel in a similar situation as that of petitioner in this case. Attached
to the Petition are the affidavits of the wives of retired members of the military, who have
received a portion of their husbands' pensions.70

One affidavit stated:


That when I consulted and appeared before the Office of PGMC, I was instructed to submit a
Special Power of Authority from my husband so they can release part of his pension to me;

That my husband signed the Special Power of Attorney at the PGMC ceding 50% of his pension
to me; the SPA form was given to us by the PGMC and the same was signed by my husband at
the PGMC;. . .
....
That the amount was deposited directly to my account by the PGMC- Finance Center AFP out of
the pension of my husband;

That only the Special Power of Attorney was required by the PGMC in order for them to
segregate my share of my husband's pension and deposit the same to my account[.]71
The other affidavit stated:
That my husband signed the Special Power of Attorney at the PGMC ceding 50% of his pension
to me; the SPA form was given to us by the PGMC and the same was signed by my husband at
the PGMC[.]72
In addition, the AFP PGMC's website informs the public of the following procedure:
Tanong: My husband-retiree cut-off my allotment. How can I have it restored?
Sagot: Pension benefits are separate properties of the retiree and can not [sic] be subject of a
Ocurt [sic] Order for execution nor can they be assigned to any third party (Sec 31, PD 1638, as
amended). However, a valid Special Power of Attorney (SPA) by the retiree himself empowering
the AFP Finance Center to deduct certain amount from his lumpsum [sic] or pension pay as the
case maybe, as a rule, is a valid waiver of rights which can be effectively implemented by the
AFP F[inance] C[enter].73cralawred
Clearly, the AFP PGMC allows deductions from a retiree's pension for as long as the retiree
executes a Special Power of Attorney authorizing the AFP PGMC to deduct a certain amount for
the benefit of the retiree's beneficiary.

It is curious why Colonel Otamias was allowed to execute a Deed of Assignment by the
administering officer when, in the first place, the AFP PGMC's recognized procedure was to
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 55

execute a Special Power of Attorney, which would have been the easier remedy for Colonel
Otamias' family.

Instead, Colonel Otamias' family was forced to incur litigation expenses just to be able to
receive the financial support that Colonel Otamias was willing to give to Edna, et al.

II

Section 31 of Presidential Decree No. 1638 provides:


Section 31. The benefits authorized under this Decree, except as provided herein, shall not be
subject to attachment, garnishment, levy, execution or any tax whatsoever; neither shall they
be assigned, ceded, or conveyed to any third person: Provided, That if a retired or separated
officer or enlisted man who is entitled to any benefit under this Decree has unsettled money
and/or property accountabilities incurred while in the active service, not more than fifty per
centum of the pension gratuity or other payment due such officer or enlisted man or his
survivors under this Decree may be withheld and be applied to settle such accountabilities.
Under Section 31, Colonel Otamias' retirement benefits are exempt from execution. Retirement
benefits are exempt from execution so as to ensure that the retiree has enough funds to
support himself and his family.

On the other hand, the right to receive support is provided under the Family Code. Article 194
of the Family Code defines support as follows:
Art. 194. Support comprises everything indispensable for sustenance, dwelling, clothing,
medical attendance, education and transportation, in keeping with the financial capacity of the
family.

The education of the person entitled to be supported referred to in the preceding paragraph
shall include his schooling or training for some profession, trade or vocation, even beyond the
age of majority. Transportation shall include expenses in going to and from school, or to and
from place of work.
The provisions of the Family Code also state who are obliged to give support, thus:
Art. 195. Subject to the provisions of the succeeding articles, the following are obliged to
support each other to the whole extent set forth in the preceding article:

(1) The spouses;

(2) Legitimate ascendants and descendants;

(3) Parents and their legitimate children and the legitimate and illegitimate children of the
latter;
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 56

(4) Parents and their illegitimate children and the legitimate and illegitimate children of the
latter; and

(5) Legitimate brothers and sisters, whether of the full or half- blood.

Art. 196. Brothers and sisters not legitimately related, whether of the full or half-blood, are
likewise bound to support each other to the full extent set forth in Article 194 except only when
the need for support of the brother or sister, being of age, is due to a cause imputable to the
claimant's fault or negligence.

Art. 197. For the support of legitimate ascendants; descendants, whether legitimate or
illegitimate; and brothers and sisters, whether legitimately or illegitimately related, only the
separate property of the person obliged to give support shall be answerable provided that in
case the obligor has no separate property, the absolute community or the conjugal partnership,
if financially capable, shall advance the support, which shall be deducted from the share of the
spouses obliged upon the liquidation of the absolute community or of the conjugal
partnership[.]
The provisions of Rule 39 of the Rules of Court that are applicable to this case are in apparent
conflict with each other. Section 4 provides that judgments in actions for support are
immediately executory. On the other hand, Section 13(1) provides that the right to receive
pension from government is exempt from execution, thus:
RULE 39

EXECUTION, SATISFACTION, AND EFFECT OF JUDGMENTS

....

SEC. 4. Judgments not stayed by appeal. — Judgments in actions for injunction, receivership,
accounting and support, and such other judgments as are now or may hereafter be declared to
be immediately executory, shall be enforceable after their rendition and shall not, be stayed by
an appeal taken therefrom, unless otherwise ordered by the trial court. On appeal therefrom,
the appellate court in its discretion may make an order suspending, modifying, restoring or
granting the injunction, receivership, accounting, or award of support.

The stay of execution shall be upon such terms as to bond or otherwise as may be considered
proper for the security or protection of the rights of the adverse party.

....

SEC. 13. Property exempt from execution. — Except as otherwise expressly provided by law, the
following property, and no other, shall be exempt from execution:
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 57

....

(1) The right to receive legal support, or money or property obtained as such support, or any
pension or gratuity from the Government;

....

But no article or species of property mentioned in this section shall be exempt from execution
issued upon a judgment recovered for its price or upon a judgment of foreclosure of a
mortgage thereon. (Emphasis supplied)cralawred
Based on the Family Code, Colonel Otamias is obliged to give support to his family, petitioners
in this case. However, he retired in 2003, and his sole source of income is his pension.
Judgments in actions for support are immediately executory, yet under Section 31 of
Presidential Decree No. 1638, his pension cannot be executed upon.

However, considering that Colonel Otamias has waived a portion of his retirement benefits
through his Deed of Assignment, resolution on the conflict between the civil code provisions on
support and Section 31 of Presidential Decree No. 1638 should be resolved in a more
appropriate case.

III

Republic v. Yahon74 is an analogous case because it involved the grant of support to the spouse
of a retired member of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

In Republic v. Yahon, Daisy R. Yahon filed a Petition for the Issuance of Protection Order under
Republic Act No. 9262.75 She alleged that she did not have any source of income because her
husband made her resign from her job.76 The trial court issued a temporary restraining order, a
portion of which stated:
To insure that petitioner [Daisy R. Yahon] can receive a fair share of respondent's retirement
and other benefits, the following agencies thru their heads are directed to WITHHOLD any
retirement, pension [,] and other benefits of respondent, S/SGT. CHARLES A. YAHON, a member
of the Armed Forces of the Philippines assigned at 4ID, Camp Evangelista, Patag, Cagayan de
Oro City until further orders from the court:
1. Commanding General/Officer of the Finance Center of the Armed Forces of the Philippines,
Camp Emilio Aguinaldo, Quezon City;

2. The Management of RSBS, Camp Emilio Aguinaldo, Quezon City;


P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 58

3. The Regional Manager of PAG-IBIG, Mortola St., Cagayan de Oro City.77 (Emphasis in the
original)cralawred
The trial court subsequently granted Daisy's Petition and issued a permanent protection
order78 and held:
Pursuant to the order of the court dated February 6, 2007, respondent, S/Sgt. Charles A. Yahon
is directed to give it to petitioner 50% of whatever retirement benefits and other claims that
may be due or released to him from the government and the said share of petitioner shall be
automatically deducted from respondent's benefits and claims and be given directly to the
petitioner, Daisy R. Yahon.

Let copy of this decision be sent to the Commanding General/Officer of Finance Center of the
Armed Forces of the Philippines, Camp Emilio Aguinaldo, Quezon City; the Management of
RSBS, Camp Emilio Aguinaldo, Quezon City and the Regional Manager of PAG-IBIG, Mortola St.,
Cagayan de Oro City for their guidance and strict compliance.79cralawred
In that case, the AFP Finance Center filed before the trial court a Manifestation and Motion
stating that "it was making a limited and special appearance"80 and argued that the trial court
did not acquire jurisdiction over the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Hence, the Armed Forces
of the Philippines is not bound by the trial court's ruling.81

The Armed Forces of the Philippines also cited Pacific Products, where this Court ruled that:
A rule, which has never been seriously questioned, is that money in the hands of public officers,
although it may be due government employees, is not liable to the creditors of these
employees in the process of garnishment. One reason is, that the State, by virtue of its
sovereignty may not be sued in its own courts except by express authorization by the
Legislature, and to subject its officers to garnishment would be to permit indirectly what is
prohibited directly. Another reason is that moneys sought to be garnished, as long as they
remain in the hands of the disbursing officer of the Government, belong to the latter, although
the defendant in garnishment may be entitled to a specific portion thereof. And still another
reason which covers both of the foregoing is that every consideration of public policy forbids
it.82 (Citations omitted)

This Court in Republic v. Yahon denied the Petition and discussed that because Republic Act No.
9262 is the later enactment, its provisions should prevail,83 thus:
We hold that Section 8(g) of R.A. No. 9262, being a later enactment, should be construed as
laying down an exception to the general rule above stated that retirement benefits are exempt
from execution. The law itself declares that the court shall order the withholding of a
percentage of the income or salary of the respondent by the employer, which shall be
automatically remitted directly to the woman "[n]otwithstanding other laws to the contrary"84
(Emphasis in the original)
IV
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 59

The 1987 Constitution gives much importance to the family as the basic unit of society, such
that Article XV85 is devoted to it.

The passage of the Family Code further implemented Article XV of the Constitution. This Court
has recognized the importance of granting support to minor children, provided that the filiation
of the child is proven. In this case, the filiation of Jeffren M. Otamias and Jemwel M. Otamias
was admitted by Colonel Otamias in the Deed of Assignment.86

Even before the passage of the Family Code, this Court has given primary consideration to the
right of a child to receive support. In Samson v. Yatco,87 a petition for support was dismissed
with prejudice by the trial court on the ground that the minor asking for support was not
present in court during trial. An appeal was filed, but it was dismissed for having been filed out
of time. This Court relaxed the rules of procedure and held that "[i]f the order of dismissal with
prejudice of the petition for support were to stand, the petitioners would be deprived of their
right to present and nature support."88

In Gan v. Reyes,89 Augustus Caezar R. Gan (Gan) questioned the trial court's decision requiring
him to give support and claimed that that he was not the father of the minor seeking support.
He also argued that he was not given his day in court. This Court held that Gan's arguments
were meant to delay the execution of the judgment, and that in any case, Gan himself filed a
Motion for Leave to Deposit in Court Support Pendente Lite:
In all cases involving a child, his interest and welfare are always the paramount concerns. There
may be instances where, in view of the poverty of the child, it would be a travesty of justice to
refuse him support until the decision of the trial court attains finality while time continues to
slip away. An excerpt from the early case of De Leon v. Soriano is relevant, thus:
The money and property adjudged for support and education should and must be given
presently and without delay because if it had to wait the final judgment, the children may in the
meantime have suffered because of lack of food or have missed and lost years in school
because of lack of funds. One cannot delay the payment of such funds for support and
education for the reason that if paid long afterwards, however much the accumulated amount,
its payment cannot cure the evil and repair the damage caused. The children with such belated
payment for support and education cannot act as gluttons and eat voraciously and unwisely,
afterwards, to make up for the years of hunger and starvation. Neither may they enrol in
several classes and schools and take up numerous subjects all at once to make up for the years
they missed in school, due to non-payment of the funds when needed.90cralawred
V

The non-inclusion of the AFP PGMC or the AFP Finance Center in the action for support was
proper, considering that both the AFP PGMC and the AFP Finance Center are not the persons
obliged to give support to Edna, et al. Thus, it was not a real party-in-interest.91 Nor was the
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 60

AFP PGMC a necessary party because complete relief could be obtained even without
impleading the AFP PGMC.92

WHEREFORE, the Petition is GRANTED. The Court of Appeals Decision dated May 22, 2009 and
Resolution dated August 11, 2009 in CA-G.R. SP No. 02555-MIN are REVERSED and SET ASIDE.
The Regional Trial Court Decision dated February 27, 2007 in F.C. Civil Case No. 2006-039 is
REINSTATED.

SO ORDERED.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 61

G.R. No. 174689 October 22, 2007

ROMMEL JACINTO DANTES SILVERIO, petitioner,


vs.
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, respondent.

DECISION

CORONA, J.:

When God created man, He made him in the likeness of God; He created them male and
female. (Genesis 5:1-2)

Amihan gazed upon the bamboo reed planted by Bathala and she heard voices coming from
inside the bamboo. "Oh North Wind! North Wind! Please let us out!," the voices said. She
pecked the reed once, then twice. All of a sudden, the bamboo cracked and slit open. Out came
two human beings; one was a male and the other was a female. Amihan named the man
"Malakas" (Strong) and the woman "Maganda" (Beautiful). (The Legend of Malakas and
Maganda)

When is a man a man and when is a woman a woman? In particular, does the law recognize the
changes made by a physician using scalpel, drugs and counseling with regard to a person’s sex?
May a person successfully petition for a change of name and sex appearing in the birth
certificate to reflect the result of a sex reassignment surgery?

On November 26, 2002, petitioner Rommel Jacinto Dantes Silverio filed a petition for the
change of his first name and sex in his birth certificate in the Regional Trial Court of Manila,
Branch 8. The petition, docketed as SP Case No. 02-105207, impleaded the civil registrar of
Manila as respondent.

Petitioner alleged in his petition that he was born in the City of Manila to the spouses Melecio
Petines Silverio and Anita Aquino Dantes on April 4, 1962. His name was registered as "Rommel
Jacinto Dantes Silverio" in his certificate of live birth (birth certificate). His sex was registered as
"male."

He further alleged that he is a male transsexual, that is, "anatomically male but feels, thinks and
acts as a female" and that he had always identified himself with girls since childhood.1 Feeling
trapped in a man’s body, he consulted several doctors in the United States. He underwent
psychological examination, hormone treatment and breast augmentation. His attempts to
transform himself to a "woman" culminated on January 27, 2001 when he underwent sex
reassignment surgery2 in Bangkok, Thailand. He was thereafter examined by Dr. Marcelino
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 62

Reysio-Cruz, Jr., a plastic and reconstruction surgeon in the Philippines, who issued a medical
certificate attesting that he (petitioner) had in fact undergone the procedure.

From then on, petitioner lived as a female and was in fact engaged to be married. He then
sought to have his name in his birth certificate changed from "Rommel Jacinto" to "Mely," and
his sex from "male" to "female."

An order setting the case for initial hearing was published in the People’s Journal Tonight, a
newspaper of general circulation in Metro Manila, for three consecutive weeks.3 Copies of the
order were sent to the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) and the civil registrar of Manila.

On the scheduled initial hearing, jurisdictional requirements were established. No opposition to


the petition was made.

During trial, petitioner testified for himself. He also presented Dr. Reysio-Cruz, Jr. and his
American fiancé, Richard P. Edel, as witnesses.

On June 4, 2003, the trial court rendered a decision4 in favor of petitioner. Its relevant portions
read:

Petitioner filed the present petition not to evade any law or judgment or any infraction thereof
or for any unlawful motive but solely for the purpose of making his birth records compatible
with his present sex.

The sole issue here is whether or not petitioner is entitled to the relief asked for.

The [c]ourt rules in the affirmative.

Firstly, the [c]ourt is of the opinion that granting the petition would be more in consonance
with the principles of justice and equity. With his sexual [re-assignment], petitioner, who has
always felt, thought and acted like a woman, now possesses the physique of a female.
Petitioner’s misfortune to be trapped in a man’s body is not his own doing and should not be in
any way taken against him.

Likewise, the [c]ourt believes that no harm, injury [or] prejudice will be caused to anybody or
the community in granting the petition. On the contrary, granting the petition would bring the
much-awaited happiness on the part of the petitioner and her [fiancé] and the realization of
their dreams.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 63

Finally, no evidence was presented to show any cause or ground to deny the present petition
despite due notice and publication thereof. Even the State, through the [OSG] has not seen fit
to interpose any [o]pposition.

WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered GRANTING the petition and ordering the Civil
Registrar of Manila to change the entries appearing in the Certificate of Birth of [p]etitioner,
specifically for petitioner’s first name from "Rommel Jacinto" to MELY and petitioner’s gender
from "Male" to FEMALE. 5

On August 18, 2003, the Republic of the Philippines (Republic), thru the OSG, filed a petition for
certiorari in the Court of Appeals.6 It alleged that there is no law allowing the change of entries
in the birth certificate by reason of sex alteration.

On February 23, 2006, the Court of Appeals7 rendered a decision8 in favor of the Republic. It
ruled that the trial court’s decision lacked legal basis. There is no law allowing the change of
either name or sex in the certificate of birth on the ground of sex reassignment through
surgery. Thus, the Court of Appeals granted the Republic’s petition, set aside the decision of the
trial court and ordered the dismissal of SP Case No. 02-105207. Petitioner moved for
reconsideration but it was denied.9 Hence, this petition.

Petitioner essentially claims that the change of his name and sex in his birth certificate is
allowed under Articles 407 to 413 of the Civil Code, Rules 103 and 108 of the Rules of Court and
RA 9048.10

The petition lacks merit.

A Person’s First Name Cannot Be Changed On the Ground of Sex Reassignment

Petitioner invoked his sex reassignment as the ground for his petition for change of name and
sex. As found by the trial court:

Petitioner filed the present petition not to evade any law or judgment or any infraction thereof
or for any unlawful motive but solely for the purpose of making his birth records compatible
with his present sex. (emphasis supplied)

Petitioner believes that after having acquired the physical features of a female, he became
entitled to the civil registry changes sought. We disagree.

The State has an interest in the names borne by individuals and entities for purposes of
identification.11 A change of name is a privilege, not a right.12 Petitions for change of name are
controlled by statutes.13 In this connection, Article 376 of the Civil Code provides:
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 64

ART. 376. No person can change his name or surname without judicial authority.

This Civil Code provision was amended by RA 9048 (Clerical Error Law). In particular, Section 1
of RA 9048 provides:

SECTION 1. Authority to Correct Clerical or Typographical Error and Change of First Name or
Nickname. – No entry in a civil register shall be changed or corrected without a judicial order,
except for clerical or typographical errors and change of first name or nickname which can be
corrected or changed by the concerned city or municipal civil registrar or consul general in
accordance with the provisions of this Act and its implementing rules and regulations.

RA 9048 now governs the change of first name.14 It vests the power and authority to entertain
petitions for change of first name to the city or municipal civil registrar or consul general
concerned. Under the law, therefore, jurisdiction over applications for change of first name is
now primarily lodged with the aforementioned administrative officers. The intent and effect of
the law is to exclude the change of first name from the coverage of Rules 103 (Change of Name)
and 108 (Cancellation or Correction of Entries in the Civil Registry) of the Rules of Court, until
and unless an administrative petition for change of name is first filed and subsequently
denied.15 It likewise lays down the corresponding venue,16 form17 and procedure. In sum, the
remedy and the proceedings regulating change of first name are primarily administrative in
nature, not judicial.

RA 9048 likewise provides the grounds for which change of first name may be allowed:

SECTION 4. Grounds for Change of First Name or Nickname. – The petition for change of first
name or nickname may be allowed in any of the following cases:

(1) The petitioner finds the first name or nickname to be ridiculous, tainted with dishonor or
extremely difficult to write or pronounce;

(2) The new first name or nickname has been habitually and continuously used by the petitioner
and he has been publicly known by that first name or nickname in the community; or

(3) The change will avoid confusion.

Petitioner’s basis in praying for the change of his first name was his sex reassignment. He
intended to make his first name compatible with the sex he thought he transformed himself
into through surgery. However, a change of name does not alter one’s legal capacity or civil
status.18 RA 9048 does not sanction a change of first name on the ground of sex reassignment.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 65

Rather than avoiding confusion, changing petitioner’s first name for his declared purpose may
only create grave complications in the civil registry and the public interest.

Before a person can legally change his given name, he must present proper or reasonable cause
or any compelling reason justifying such change.19 In addition, he must show that he will be
prejudiced by the use of his true and official name.20 In this case, he failed to show, or even
allege, any prejudice that he might suffer as a result of using his true and official name.

In sum, the petition in the trial court in so far as it prayed for the change of petitioner’s first
name was not within that court’s primary jurisdiction as the petition should have been filed
with the local civil registrar concerned, assuming it could be legally done. It was an improper
remedy because the proper remedy was administrative, that is, that provided under RA 9048. It
was also filed in the wrong venue as the proper venue was in the Office of the Civil Registrar of
Manila where his birth certificate is kept. More importantly, it had no merit since the use of his
true and official name does not prejudice him at all. For all these reasons, the Court of Appeals
correctly dismissed petitioner’s petition in so far as the change of his first name was concerned.

No Law Allows The Change of Entry In The Birth Certificate As To Sex On the Ground of Sex
Reassignment

The determination of a person’s sex appearing in his birth certificate is a legal issue and the
court must look to the statutes.21 In this connection, Article 412 of the Civil Code provides:

ART. 412. No entry in the civil register shall be changed or corrected without a judicial order.

Together with Article 376 of the Civil Code, this provision was amended by RA 9048 in so far as
clerical or typographical errors are involved. The correction or change of such matters can now
be made through administrative proceedings and without the need for a judicial order. In
effect, RA 9048 removed from the ambit of Rule 108 of the Rules of Court the correction of
such errors.22 Rule 108 now applies only to substantial changes and corrections in entries in
the civil register.23

Section 2(c) of RA 9048 defines what a "clerical or typographical error" is:

SECTION 2. Definition of Terms. – As used in this Act, the following terms shall mean:

xxx xxx xxx

(3) "Clerical or typographical error" refers to a mistake committed in the performance of


clerical work in writing, copying, transcribing or typing an entry in the civil register that is
harmless and innocuous, such as misspelled name or misspelled place of birth or the like, which
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 66

is visible to the eyes or obvious to the understanding, and can be corrected or changed only by
reference to other existing record or records: Provided, however, That no correction must
involve the change of nationality, age, status or sex of the petitioner. (emphasis supplied)

Under RA 9048, a correction in the civil registry involving the change of sex is not a mere clerical
or typographical error. It is a substantial change for which the applicable procedure is Rule 108
of the Rules of Court.

The entries envisaged in Article 412 of the Civil Code and correctable under Rule 108 of the
Rules of Court are those provided in Articles 407 and 408 of the Civil Code:24

ART. 407. Acts, events and judicial decrees concerning the civil status of persons shall be
recorded in the civil register.

ART. 408. The following shall be entered in the civil register:

(1) Births; (2) marriages; (3) deaths; (4) legal separations; (5) annulments of marriage; (6)
judgments declaring marriages void from the beginning; (7) legitimations; (8) adoptions; (9)
acknowledgments of natural children; (10) naturalization; (11) loss, or (12) recovery of
citizenship; (13) civil interdiction; (14) judicial determination of filiation; (15) voluntary
emancipation of a minor; and (16) changes of name.

The acts, events or factual errors contemplated under Article 407 of the Civil Code include even
those that occur after birth.25 However, no reasonable interpretation of the provision can
justify the conclusion that it covers the correction on the ground of sex reassignment.

To correct simply means "to make or set aright; to remove the faults or error from" while to
change means "to replace something with something else of the same kind or with something
that serves as a substitute."26 The birth certificate of petitioner contained no error. All entries
therein, including those corresponding to his first name and sex, were all correct. No correction
is necessary.

Article 407 of the Civil Code authorizes the entry in the civil registry of certain acts (such as
legitimations, acknowledgments of illegitimate children and naturalization), events (such as
births, marriages, naturalization and deaths) and judicial decrees (such as legal separations,
annulments of marriage, declarations of nullity of marriages, adoptions, naturalization, loss or
recovery of citizenship, civil interdiction, judicial determination of filiation and changes of
name). These acts, events and judicial decrees produce legal consequences that touch upon the
legal capacity, status and nationality of a person. Their effects are expressly sanctioned by the
laws. In contrast, sex reassignment is not among those acts or events mentioned in Article 407.
Neither is it recognized nor even mentioned by any law, expressly or impliedly.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 67

"Status" refers to the circumstances affecting the legal situation (that is, the sum total of
capacities and incapacities) of a person in view of his age, nationality and his family
membership.27

The status of a person in law includes all his personal qualities and relations, more or less
permanent in nature, not ordinarily terminable at his own will, such as his being legitimate or
illegitimate, or his being married or not. The comprehensive term status… include such matters
as the beginning and end of legal personality, capacity to have rights in general, family
relations, and its various aspects, such as birth, legitimation, adoption, emancipation, marriage,
divorce, and sometimes even succession.28 (emphasis supplied)

A person’s sex is an essential factor in marriage and family relations. It is a part of a person’s
legal capacity and civil status. In this connection, Article 413 of the Civil Code provides:

ART. 413. All other matters pertaining to the registration of civil status shall be governed by
special laws.

But there is no such special law in the Philippines governing sex reassignment and its effects.
This is fatal to petitioner’s cause.

Moreover, Section 5 of Act 3753 (the Civil Register Law) provides:

SEC. 5. Registration and certification of births. – The declaration of the physician or midwife in
attendance at the birth or, in default thereof, the declaration of either parent of the newborn
child, shall be sufficient for the registration of a birth in the civil register. Such declaration shall
be exempt from documentary stamp tax and shall be sent to the local civil registrar not later
than thirty days after the birth, by the physician or midwife in attendance at the birth or by
either parent of the newborn child.

In such declaration, the person above mentioned shall certify to the following facts: (a) date
and hour of birth; (b) sex and nationality of infant; (c) names, citizenship and religion of parents
or, in case the father is not known, of the mother alone; (d) civil status of parents; (e) place
where the infant was born; and (f) such other data as may be required in the regulations to be
issued.

xxx xxx xxx (emphasis supplied)

Under the Civil Register Law, a birth certificate is a historical record of the facts as they existed
at the time of birth.29 Thus, the sex of a person is determined at birth, visually done by the
birth attendant (the physician or midwife) by examining the genitals of the infant. Considering
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 68

that there is no law legally recognizing sex reassignment, the determination of a person’s sex
made at the time of his or her birth, if not attended by error,30 is immutable.31

When words are not defined in a statute they are to be given their common and ordinary
meaning in the absence of a contrary legislative intent. The words "sex," "male" and "female"
as used in the Civil Register Law and laws concerning the civil registry (and even all other laws)
should therefore be understood in their common and ordinary usage, there being no legislative
intent to the contrary. In this connection, sex is defined as "the sum of peculiarities of structure
and function that distinguish a male from a female"32 or "the distinction between male and
female."33 Female is "the sex that produces ova or bears young"34 and male is "the sex that
has organs to produce spermatozoa for fertilizing ova."35 Thus, the words "male" and "female"
in everyday understanding do not include persons who have undergone sex reassignment.
Furthermore, "words that are employed in a statute which had at the time a well-known
meaning are presumed to have been used in that sense unless the context compels to the
contrary."36 Since the statutory language of the Civil Register Law was enacted in the early
1900s and remains unchanged, it cannot be argued that the term "sex" as used then is
something alterable through surgery or something that allows a post-operative male-to-female
transsexual to be included in the category "female."

For these reasons, while petitioner may have succeeded in altering his body and appearance
through the intervention of modern surgery, no law authorizes the change of entry as to sex in
the civil registry for that reason. Thus, there is no legal basis for his petition for the correction
or change of the entries in his birth certificate.

Neither May Entries in the Birth Certificate As to First Name or Sex Be Changed on the Ground
of Equity

The trial court opined that its grant of the petition was in consonance with the principles of
justice and equity. It believed that allowing the petition would cause no harm, injury or
prejudice to anyone. This is wrong.

The changes sought by petitioner will have serious and wide-ranging legal and public policy
consequences. First, even the trial court itself found that the petition was but petitioner’s first
step towards his eventual marriage to his male fiancé. However, marriage, one of the most
sacred social institutions, is a special contract of permanent union between a man and a
woman.37 One of its essential requisites is the legal capacity of the contracting parties who
must be a male and a female.38 To grant the changes sought by petitioner will substantially
reconfigure and greatly alter the laws on marriage and family relations. It will allow the union of
a man with another man who has undergone sex reassignment (a male-to-female post-
operative transsexual). Second, there are various laws which apply particularly to women such
as the provisions of the Labor Code on employment of women,39 certain felonies under the
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 69

Revised Penal Code40 and the presumption of survivorship in case of calamities under Rule 131
of the Rules of Court,41 among others. These laws underscore the public policy in relation to
women which could be substantially affected if petitioner’s petition were to be granted.

It is true that Article 9 of the Civil Code mandates that "[n]o judge or court shall decline to
render judgment by reason of the silence, obscurity or insufficiency of the law." However, it is
not a license for courts to engage in judicial legislation. The duty of the courts is to apply or
interpret the law, not to make or amend it.

In our system of government, it is for the legislature, should it choose to do so, to determine
what guidelines should govern the recognition of the effects of sex reassignment. The need for
legislative guidelines becomes particularly important in this case where the claims asserted are
statute-based.

To reiterate, the statutes define who may file petitions for change of first name and for
correction or change of entries in the civil registry, where they may be filed, what grounds may
be invoked, what proof must be presented and what procedures shall be observed. If the
legislature intends to confer on a person who has undergone sex reassignment the privilege to
change his name and sex to conform with his reassigned sex, it has to enact legislation laying
down the guidelines in turn governing the conferment of that privilege.

It might be theoretically possible for this Court to write a protocol on when a person may be
recognized as having successfully changed his sex. However, this Court has no authority to
fashion a law on that matter, or on anything else. The Court cannot enact a law where no law
exists. It can only apply or interpret the written word of its co-equal branch of government,
Congress.

Petitioner pleads that "[t]he unfortunates are also entitled to a life of happiness, contentment
and [the] realization of their dreams." No argument about that. The Court recognizes that there
are people whose preferences and orientation do not fit neatly into the commonly recognized
parameters of social convention and that, at least for them, life is indeed an ordeal. However,
the remedies petitioner seeks involve questions of public policy to be addressed solely by the
legislature, not by the courts.

WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby DENIED.

Costs against petitioner.

SO ORDERED.

Puno, C.J., Chairperson, Sandoval-Gutierrez, Azcuna, Garcia, JJ., concur.


P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 70

Footnotes:

1 Petitioner went for his elementary and high school, as well as his Bachelor of Science in
Statistics and Master of Arts, in the University of the Philippines. He took up Population Studies
Program, Master of Arts in Sociology and Doctor of Philosophy in Sociology at the University of
Hawaii, in Manoa, Hawaii, U.S.A. Rollo, p. 48.

2 This consisted of "penectomy [surgical removal of penis] bilateral oschiectomy [or


orchiectomy which is the surgical excision of the testes] penile skin inversion vaginoplasty
[plastic surgery of the vagina] clitoral hood reconstruction and augmentation mammoplasty
[surgical enhancement of the size and shape of the breasts]." Id.

10 An Act Authorizing the City or Municipal Civil Registrar or the Consul General to Correct a
Clerical or Typographical Error in an Entry and/or Change of First Name or Nickname in the Civil
Register Without Need of a Judicial Order, Amending for the Purpose Articles 376 and 412 of
the Civil Code of the Philippines.

14 Under Section 2 (6) of RA 9048, "first name" refers to a name or nickname given to a person
which may consist of one or more names in addition to the middle names and last names. Thus,
the term "first name" will be used here to refer both to first name and nickname.

15 The last paragraph of Section 7 of RA 9048 provides:

SECTION 7. Duties and Powers of the Civil Registrar General. – xxx xxx xxx

Where the petition is denied by the city or municipal civil registrar or the consul general, the
petitioner may either appeal the decision to the civil registrar general or file the appropriate
petition with the proper court.

16 SECTION 3. Who May File the Petition and Where. – Any person having direct and personal
interest in the correction of a clerical or typographical error in an entry and/or change of first
name or nickname in the civil register may file, in person, a verified petition with the local civil
registry office of the city or municipality where the record being sought to be corrected or
changed is kept.

In case the petitioner has already migrated to another place in the country and it would not be
practical for such party, in terms of transportation expenses, time and effort to appear in
person before the local civil registrar keeping the documents to be corrected or changed, the
petition may be filed, in person, with the local civil registrar of the place where the interested
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 71

party is presently residing or domiciled. The two (2) local civil registrars concerned will then
communicate to facilitate the processing of the petition.

Citizens of the Philippines who are presently residing or domiciled in foreign countries may file
their petition, in person, with the nearest Philippine Consulates.

The petitions filed with the city or municipal civil registrar or the consul general shall be
processed in accordance with this Act and its implementing rules and regulations.

All petitions for the clerical or typographical errors and/or change of first names or nicknames
may be availed of only once.

17 SECTION 5. Form and Contents of the Petition. – The petition shall be in the form of an
affidavit, subscribed and sworn to before any person authorized by the law to administer oaths.
The affidavit shall set forth facts necessary to establish the merits of the petition and shall show
affirmatively that the petitioner is competent to testify to the matters stated. The petitioner
shall state the particular erroneous entry or entries, which are sought to be corrected and/or
the change sought to be made.

The petition shall be supported with the following documents:

(1) A certified true machine copy of the certificate or of the page of the registry book containing
the entry or entries sought to be corrected or changed;

(2) At least two (2) public or private documents showing the correct entry or entries upon
which the correction or change shall be based; and

(3) Other documents which the petitioner or the city or municipal civil registrar or the consul
general may consider relevant and necessary for the approval of the petition.

In case of change of first name or nickname, the petition shall likewise be supported with the
documents mentioned in the immediately preceding paragraph. In addition, the petition shall
be published at least once a week for two (2) consecutive weeks in a newspaper of general
circulation. Furthermore, the petitioner shall submit a certification from the appropriate law
enforcement agencies that he has no pending case or no criminal record.

29 This, of course, should be taken in conjunction with Articles 407 and 412 of the Civil Code
which authorizes the recording of acts, events and judicial decrees or the correction or change
of errors including those that occur after birth. Nonetheless, in such cases, the entries in the
certificates of birth are not be corrected or changed. The decision of the court granting the
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 72

petition shall be annotated in the certificates of birth and shall form part of the civil register in
the Office of the Local Civil Registrar. (Co v. Civil Register of Manila, supra note 24)

30 The error pertains to one where the birth attendant writes "male" or "female" but the
genitals of the child are that of the opposite sex.

31 Moreover, petitioner’s female anatomy is all man-made. The body that he inhabits is a male
body in all aspects other than what the physicians have supplied.

39 These are Articles 130 to 138 of the Labor Code which include nightwork prohibition,
facilities for women, prohibition on discrimination and stipulation against marriage, among
others.

40 These include Article 333 on adultery, Articles 337 to 339 on qualified seduction, simple
seduction and acts of lasciviousness with the consent of the offended party and Articles 342
and 343 on forcible and consented abduction, among others.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 73

G.R. No. 193707 December 10, 2014

NORMA A. DEL SOCORRO, for and in behalf of her minor child RODERIGO NORJO VAN
WILSEM, Petitioner,
vs.
ERNST JOHAN BRINKMAN VAN WILSEM, Respondent.

DECISION

PERALTA, J.:

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 Orders1 dated February 19, 2010 and September 1, 2010,
respectively, of the Regional Trial Court of Cebu City (RTC-Cebu), which dismissed the criminal
case entitled People of the Philippines v. Ernst Johan Brinkman Van Wilsem, docketed as
Criminal Case No. CBU-85503, for violation of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 9262, otherwise known as
the Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act of 2004.

The following facts are culled from the records:

Petitioner Norma A. Del Socorro and respondent Ernst Johan Brinkman Van Wilsem contracted
marriage in Holland on September 25, 1990.2 On January 19, 1994, they were blessed with a
son named Roderigo Norjo Van Wilsem, who at the time of the filing of the instant petition was
sixteen (16) years of age.3

Unfortunately, their marriage bond ended on July 19, 1995 by virtue of a Divorce Decree issued
by the appropriate Court of Holland.4 At that time, their son was only eighteen (18) months
old.5 Thereafter, petitioner and her son came home to the Philippines.6

According to petitioner, respondent made a promise to provide monthly support to their son in
the amount of Two Hundred Fifty (250) Guildene (which is equivalent to Php17,500.00 more or
less).7 However, since the arrival of petitioner and her son in the Philippines, respondent never
gave support to the son, Roderigo.8

Not long thereafter, respondent cameto the Philippines and remarried in Pinamungahan, Cebu,
and since then, have been residing thereat.9 Respondent and his new wife established a
business known as Paree Catering, located at Barangay Tajao, Municipality of Pinamungahan,
Cebu City.10 To date, all the parties, including their son, Roderigo, are presently living in Cebu
City.11
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 74

On August 28, 2009, petitioner, through her counsel, sent a letter demanding for support from
respondent. However, respondent refused to receive the letter.12

Because of the foregoing circumstances, petitioner filed a complaint affidavit with the
Provincial Prosecutor of Cebu City against respondent for violation of Section 5, paragraph E(2)
of R.A. No. 9262 for the latter’s unjust refusal to support his minor child with petitioner.13
Respondent submitted his counter-affidavit thereto, to which petitioner also submitted her
reply-affidavit.14 Thereafter, the Provincial Prosecutor of Cebu City issued a Resolution
recommending the filing of an information for the crime charged against herein respondent.

The information, which was filed with the RTC-Cebu and raffled to Branch 20 thereof, states
that:

That sometime in the year 1995 and up to the present, more or less, in the Municipality of
Minglanilla, Province of Cebu, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court,
the above-named accused, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and deliberately deprive,
refuse and still continue to deprive his son RODERIGO NORJO VAN WILSEM, a fourteen (14)
year old minor, of financial support legally due him, resulting in economic abuse to the victim.
CONTRARY TO LAW.15

Upon motion and after notice and hearing, the RTC-Cebu issued a Hold Departure Order against
respondent.16 Consequently, respondent was arrested and, subsequently, posted bail.17
Petitioner also filed a Motion/Application of Permanent Protection Order to which respondent
filed his Opposition.18 Pending the resolution thereof, respondent was arraigned.19
Subsequently, without the RTC-Cebu having resolved the application of the protection order,
respondent filed a Motion to Dismiss on the ground of: (1) lack of jurisdiction over the offense
charged; and (2) prescription of the crime charged.20

On February 19, 2010, the RTC-Cebu issued the herein assailed Order,21 dismissing the instant
criminal case against respondent on the ground that the facts charged in the information do
not constitute an offense with respect to the respondent who is an alien, the dispositive part of
which states:

WHEREFORE, the Court finds that the facts charged in the information do not constitute an
offense with respect to the accused, he being an alien, and accordingly, orders this case
DISMISSED.

The bail bond posted by accused Ernst Johan Brinkman Van Wilsem for his provisional liberty is
hereby cancelled (sic) and ordered released.

SO ORDERED.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 75

Cebu City, Philippines, February 19, 2010.22

Thereafter, petitioner filed her Motion for Reconsideration thereto reiterating respondent’s
obligation to support their child under Article 19523 of the Family Code, thus, failure to do so
makes him liable under R.A. No. 9262 which "equally applies to all persons in the Philippines
who are obliged to support their minor children regardless of the obligor’s nationality."24

On September 1, 2010, the lower court issued an Order25 denying petitioner’s Motion for
Reconsideration and reiterating its previous ruling. Thus:

x x x The arguments therein presented are basically a rehash of those advanced earlier in the
memorandum of the prosecution. Thus, the court hereby reiterates its ruling that since the
accused is a foreign national he is not subject to our national law (The Family Code) in regard to
a parent’s duty and obligation to givesupport to his child. Consequently, he cannot be charged
of violating R.A. 9262 for his alleged failure to support his child. Unless it is conclusively
established that R.A. 9262 applies to a foreigner who fails to give support tohis child,
notwithstanding that he is not bound by our domestic law which mandates a parent to give
such support, it is the considered opinion of the court that no prima faciecase exists against the
accused herein, hence, the case should be dismissed.

WHEREFORE, the motion for reconsideration is hereby DENIED for lack of merit.

SO ORDERED.

Cebu City, Philippines, September 1, 2010.26

Hence, the present Petition for Review on Certiorari raising the following issues:

1. Whether or not a foreign national has an obligation to support his minor child under
Philippine law; and

2. Whether or not a foreign national can be held criminally liable under R.A. No. 9262 for his
unjustified failure to support his minor child.27

At the outset, let it be emphasized that We are taking cognizance of the instant petition despite
the fact that the same was directly lodged with the Supreme Court, consistent with the ruling in
Republic v. Sunvar Realty Development Corporation,28 which lays down the instances when a
ruling of the trial court may be brought on appeal directly to the Supreme Court without
violating the doctrine of hierarchy of courts, to wit:
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 76

x x x Nevertheless, the Rules do not prohibit any of the parties from filing a Rule 45 Petition
with this Court, in case only questions of law are raised or involved. This latter situation was
one that petitioners found themselves in when they filed the instant Petition to raise only
questions of law. In Republic v. Malabanan, the Court clarified the three modes of appeal from
decisions of the RTC, to wit: (1) by ordinary appeal or appeal by writ of error under Rule 41,
whereby judgment was rendered in a civil or criminal action by the RTC in the exercise of its
original jurisdiction; (2) by a petition for review under Rule 42, whereby judgment was
rendered by the RTC in the exercise of its appellate jurisdiction; and (3) by a petition for review
on certiorari before the Supreme Court under Rule 45. "The first mode of appeal is taken to the
[Court of Appeals] on questions of fact or mixed questions of fact and law. The second mode of
appeal is brought to the CA on questions of fact, of law, or mixed questions of fact and law. The
third mode of appealis elevated to the Supreme Court only on questions of law." (Emphasis
supplied)

There is a question of law when the issue does not call for an examination of the probative
value of the evidence presented or of the truth or falsehood of the facts being admitted, and
the doubt concerns the correct application of law and jurisprudence on the matter. The
resolution of the issue must rest solely on what the law provides on the given set of
circumstances.29

Indeed, the issues submitted to us for resolution involve questions of law – the response
thereto concerns the correct application of law and jurisprudence on a given set of facts,
i.e.,whether or not a foreign national has an obligation to support his minor child under
Philippine law; and whether or not he can be held criminally liable under R.A. No. 9262 for his
unjustified failure to do so.

It cannot be negated, moreover, that the instant petition highlights a novel question of law
concerning the liability of a foreign national who allegedly commits acts and omissions
punishable under special criminal laws, specifically in relation to family rights and duties. The
inimitability of the factual milieu of the present case, therefore, deserves a definitive ruling by
this Court, which will eventually serve as a guidepost for future cases. Furthermore, dismissing
the instant petition and remanding the same to the CA would only waste the time, effort and
resources of the courts. Thus, in the present case, considerations of efficiency and economy in
the administration of justice should prevail over the observance of the hierarchy of courts.

Now, on the matter of the substantive issues, We find the petition meritorious. Nonetheless,
we do not fully agree with petitioner’s contentions.

To determine whether or not a person is criminally liable under R.A. No. 9262, it is imperative
that the legal obligation to support exists.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 77

Petitioner invokes Article 19530 of the Family Code, which provides the parent’s obligation to
support his child. Petitioner contends that notwithstanding the existence of a divorce decree
issued in relation to Article 26 of the Family Code,31 respondent is not excused from complying
with his obligation to support his minor child with petitioner.

On the other hand, respondent contends that there is no sufficient and clear basis presented by
petitioner that she, as well as her minor son, are entitled to financial support.32 Respondent
also added that by reason of the Divorce Decree, he is not obligated topetitioner for any
financial support.33

On this point, we agree with respondent that petitioner cannot rely on Article 19534 of the
New Civil Code in demanding support from respondent, who is a foreign citizen, since Article
1535 of the New Civil Code stresses the principle of nationality. In other words, insofar as
Philippine laws are concerned, specifically the provisions of the Family Code on support, the
same only applies to Filipino citizens. By analogy, the same principle applies to foreigners such
that they are governed by their national law with respect to family rights and duties.36

The obligation to give support to a child is a matter that falls under family rights and duties.
Since the respondent is a citizen of Holland or the Netherlands, we agree with the RTC-Cebu
that he is subject to the laws of his country, not to Philippinelaw, as to whether he is obliged to
give support to his child, as well as the consequences of his failure to do so.37

In the case of Vivo v. Cloribel,38 the Court held that –

Furthermore, being still aliens, they are not in position to invoke the provisions of the Civil Code
of the Philippines, for that Code cleaves to the principle that family rights and duties are
governed by their personal law, i.e.,the laws of the nation to which they belong even when
staying in a foreign country (cf. Civil Code, Article 15).39

It cannot be gainsaid, therefore, that the respondent is not obliged to support petitioner’s son
under Article195 of the Family Code as a consequence of the Divorce Covenant obtained in
Holland. This does not, however, mean that respondent is not obliged to support petitioner’s
son altogether.

In international law, the party who wants to have a foreign law applied to a dispute or case has
the burden of proving the foreign law.40 In the present case, respondent hastily concludes that
being a national of the Netherlands, he is governed by such laws on the matter of provision of
and capacity to support.41 While respondent pleaded the laws of the Netherlands in advancing
his position that he is not obliged to support his son, he never proved the same.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 78

It is incumbent upon respondent to plead and prove that the national law of the Netherlands
does not impose upon the parents the obligation to support their child (either before, during or
after the issuance of a divorce decree), because Llorente v. Court of Appeals,42 has already
enunciated that:

True, foreign laws do not prove themselves in our jurisdiction and our courts are not authorized
to takejudicial notice of them. Like any other fact, they must be alleged and proved.43

In view of respondent’s failure to prove the national law of the Netherlands in his favor, the
doctrine of processual presumption shall govern. Under this doctrine, if the foreign law
involved is not properly pleaded and proved, our courts will presume that the foreign law is the
same as our local or domestic or internal law.44 Thus, since the law of the Netherlands as
regards the obligation to support has not been properly pleaded and proved in the instant case,
it is presumed to be the same with Philippine law, which enforces the obligation of parents to
support their children and penalizing the non-compliance therewith.

Moreover, while in Pilapil v. Ibay-Somera,45 the Court held that a divorce obtained in a foreign
land as well as its legal effects may be recognized in the Philippines in view of the nationality
principle on the matter of status of persons, the Divorce Covenant presented by respondent
does not completely show that he is notliable to give support to his son after the divorce
decree was issued. Emphasis is placed on petitioner’s allegation that under the second page of
the aforesaid covenant, respondent’s obligation to support his child is specifically stated,46
which was not disputed by respondent.

We likewise agree with petitioner that notwithstanding that the national law of respondent
states that parents have no obligation to support their children or that such obligation is not
punishable by law, said law would still not find applicability,in light of the ruling in Bank of
America, NT and SA v. American Realty Corporation,47 to wit:

In the instant case, assuming arguendo that the English Law on the matter were properly
pleaded and proved in accordance with Section 24, Rule 132 of the Rules of Court and the
jurisprudence laid down in Yao Kee, et al. vs. Sy-Gonzales, said foreign law would still not find
applicability.

Thus, when the foreign law, judgment or contract is contrary to a sound and established public
policy of the forum, the said foreign law, judgment or order shall not be applied.

Additionally, prohibitive laws concerning persons, their acts or property, and those which have
for their object public order, public policy and good customs shall not be rendered ineffective
by laws or judgments promulgated, or by determinations or conventions agreed upon in a
foreign country.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 79

The public policy sought to be protected in the instant case is the principle imbedded in our
jurisdiction proscribing the splitting up of a single cause of action.

Section 4, Rule 2 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure is pertinent

If two or more suits are instituted on the basis of the same cause of action, the filing of one or a
judgment upon the merits in any one is available as a ground for the dismissal of the others.
Moreover, foreign law should not be applied when its application would work undeniable
injustice to the citizens or residents of the forum. To give justice is the most important function
of law; hence, a law, or judgment or contract that is obviously unjust negates the fundamental
principles of Conflict of Laws.48

Applying the foregoing, even if the laws of the Netherlands neither enforce a parent’s
obligation to support his child nor penalize the noncompliance therewith, such obligation is still
duly enforceable in the Philippines because it would be of great injustice to the child to be
denied of financial support when the latter is entitled thereto.

We emphasize, however, that as to petitioner herself, respondent is no longer liable to support


his former wife, in consonance with the ruling in San Luis v. San Luis,49 to wit:

As to the effect of the divorce on the Filipino wife, the Court ruled that she should no longerbe
considered marriedto the alien spouse. Further, she should not be required to perform her
marital duties and obligations. It held:

To maintain, as private respondent does, that, under our laws, petitioner has to be considered
still married to private respondent and still subject to a wife's obligations under Article 109, et.
seq. of the Civil Code cannot be just. Petitioner should not be obliged to live together with,
observe respect and fidelity, and render support to private respondent. The latter should not
continue to be one of her heirs with possible rights to conjugal property. She should not be
discriminated against in her own country if the ends of justice are to be served. (Emphasis
added)50

Based on the foregoing legal precepts, we find that respondent may be made liable under
Section 5(e) and (i) of R.A. No. 9262 for unjustly refusing or failing to give support topetitioner’s
son, to wit:

SECTION 5. Acts of Violence Against Women and Their Children.- The crime of violence against
women and their children is committed through any of the following acts:
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 80

xxxx

(e) Attempting to compel or compelling the woman or her child to engage in conduct which the
woman or her child has the right to desist from or desist from conduct which the woman or her
child has the right to engage in, or attempting to restrict or restricting the woman's or her
child's freedom of movement or conduct by force or threat of force, physical or other harm or
threat of physical or other harm, or intimidation directed against the woman or child. This shall
include, butnot limited to, the following acts committed with the purpose or effect of
controlling or restricting the woman's or her child's movement or conduct:

xxxx

(2) Depriving or threatening to deprive the woman or her children of financial support legally
due her or her family, or deliberately providing the woman's children insufficient financial
support; x x x x

(i) Causing mental or emotional anguish, public ridicule or humiliation to the woman or her
child, including, but not limited to, repeated verbal and emotional abuse, and denial of financial
support or custody of minor childrenof access to the woman's child/children.51

Under the aforesaid special law, the deprivation or denial of financial support to the child is
considered anact of violence against women and children.

In addition, considering that respondent is currently living in the Philippines, we find strength in
petitioner’s claim that the Territoriality Principle in criminal law, in relation to Article 14 of the
New Civil Code, applies to the instant case, which provides that: "[p]enal laws and those of
public security and safety shall be obligatory upon all who live and sojourn in Philippine
territory, subject to the principle of public international law and to treaty stipulations." On this
score, it is indisputable that the alleged continuing acts of respondent in refusing to support his
child with petitioner is committed here in the Philippines as all of the parties herein are
residents of the Province of Cebu City. As such, our courts have territorial jurisdiction over the
offense charged against respondent. It is likewise irrefutable that jurisdiction over the
respondent was acquired upon his arrest.

Finally, we do not agree with respondent’s argument that granting, but not admitting, that
there is a legal basis for charging violation of R.A. No. 9262 in the instant case, the criminal
liability has been extinguished on the ground of prescription of crime52 under Section 24 of
R.A. No. 9262, which provides that:
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 81

SECTION 24. Prescriptive Period. – Acts falling under Sections 5(a) to 5(f) shall prescribe in
twenty (20) years. Acts falling under Sections 5(g) to 5(I) shall prescribe in ten (10) years.

The act of denying support to a child under Section 5(e)(2) and (i) of R.A. No. 9262 is a
continuing offense,53 which started in 1995 but is still ongoing at present. Accordingly, the
crime charged in the instant case has clearly not prescribed.

Given, however, that the issue on whether respondent has provided support to petitioner’s
child calls for an examination of the probative value of the evidence presented, and the truth
and falsehood of facts being admitted, we hereby remand the determination of this issue to the
RTC-Cebu which has jurisdiction over the case.

WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The Orders dated February 19, 2010 and September 1,
2010, respectively, of the Regional Trial Court of the City of Cebu are hereby REVERSED and SET
ASIDE. The case is REMANDED to the same court to conduct further proceedings based on the
merits of the case.

SO ORDERED.

DIOSDADO M. PERALTA
Associate Justice

Footnotes:
23 Art. 195. Subject to the provisions of the succeeding articles, the following are obliged to
support each other to the whole extent set forth in the preceding article:

(1) The spouses;

(2) Legitimate ascendants and descendants;

(3) Parents and their legitimate children and the legitimate and illegitimate children of the
latter;

(4) Parents and their illegitimate children and the legitimate and illegitimate children of the
latter; and

(5) Legitimate brothers and sisters, whether of full or half-blood.

31 Art. 26. All marriages solemnized outside the Philippines, in accordance with the laws in
force in the country where they were solemnized, and valid there assuch, shall also be valid in
this country, except those prohibited under Articles 35 (1), (4), (5) and (6), 3637 and 38.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 82

Where a marriage between a Filipino citizen and a foreigner is validly celebrated and a divorce
is thereafter validly obtained abroad by the alien spouse capacitating him or her to remarry, the
Filipino spouse shall have capacity to remarry under Philippine law. (As amended by Executive
Order 227)

35 Art. 15. Laws relating to family rights and duties, or to the status, condition and legal
capacity of persons are binding upon citizens of the Philippines, even though living abroad.

53 In People v. De Leon, 608 Phil. 701, 722 (2009), it was held that:

A continued (continuous or continuing) crime is defined as a single crime, consisting of a series


of acts but all arising from one criminal resolution. Although there is a series of acts, there is
only one crime committed; hence, only one penalty shall be imposed.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 83

G.R. No. L-68470 October 8, 1985

ALICE REYES VAN DORN, petitioner,


vs.
HON. MANUEL V. ROMILLO, JR., as Presiding Judge of Branch CX, Regional Trial Court of the
National Capital Region Pasay City and RICHARD UPTON respondents.

MELENCIO-HERRERA, J.:\

In this Petition for certiorari and Prohibition, petitioner Alice Reyes Van Dorn seeks to set aside
the Orders, dated September 15, 1983 and August 3, 1984, in Civil Case No. 1075-P, issued by
respondent Judge, which denied her Motion to Dismiss said case, and her Motion for
Reconsideration of the Dismissal Order, respectively.

The basic background facts are that petitioner is a citizen of the Philippines while private
respondent is a citizen of the United States; that they were married in Hongkong in 1972; that,
after the marriage, they established their residence in the Philippines; that they begot two
children born on April 4, 1973 and December 18, 1975, respectively; that the parties were
divorced in Nevada, United States, in 1982; and that petitioner has re-married also in Nevada,
this time to Theodore Van Dorn.

Dated June 8, 1983, private respondent filed suit against petitioner in Civil Case No. 1075-P of
the Regional Trial Court, Branch CXV, in Pasay City, stating that petitioner's business in Ermita,
Manila, (the Galleon Shop, for short), is conjugal property of the parties, and asking that
petitioner be ordered to render an accounting of that business, and that private respondent be
declared with right to manage the conjugal property. Petitioner moved to dismiss the case on
the ground that the cause of action is barred by previous judgment in the divorce proceedings
before the Nevada Court wherein respondent had acknowledged that he and petitioner had
"no community property" as of June 11, 1982. The Court below denied the Motion to Dismiss in
the mentioned case on the ground that the property involved is located in the Philippines so
that the Divorce Decree has no bearing in the case. The denial is now the subject of this
certiorari proceeding.

Generally, the denial of a Motion to Dismiss in a civil case is interlocutory and is not subject to
appeal. certiorari and Prohibition are neither the remedies to question the propriety of an
interlocutory order of the trial Court. However, when a grave abuse of discretion was patently
committed, or the lower Court acted capriciously and whimsically, then it devolves upon this
Court in a certiorari proceeding to exercise its supervisory authority and to correct the error
committed which, in such a case, is equivalent to lack of jurisdiction. 1 Prohibition would then
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 84

lie since it would be useless and a waste of time to go ahead with the proceedings. 2
Weconsider the petition filed in this case within the exception, and we have given it due course.

For resolution is the effect of the foreign divorce on the parties and their alleged conjugal
property in the Philippines.

Petitioner contends that respondent is estopped from laying claim on the alleged conjugal
property because of the representation he made in the divorce proceedings before the
American Court that they had no community of property; that the Galleon Shop was not
established through conjugal funds, and that respondent's claim is barred by prior judgment.

For his part, respondent avers that the Divorce Decree issued by the Nevada Court cannot
prevail over the prohibitive laws of the Philippines and its declared national policy; that the acts
and declaration of a foreign Court cannot, especially if the same is contrary to public policy,
divest Philippine Courts of jurisdiction to entertain matters within its jurisdiction.

For the resolution of this case, it is not necessary to determine whether the property relations
between petitioner and private respondent, after their marriage, were upon absolute or
relative community property, upon complete separation of property, or upon any other regime.
The pivotal fact in this case is the Nevada divorce of the parties.

The Nevada District Court, which decreed the divorce, had obtained jurisdiction over petitioner
who appeared in person before the Court during the trial of the case. It also obtained
jurisdiction over private respondent who, giving his address as No. 381 Bush Street, San
Francisco, California, authorized his attorneys in the divorce case, Karp & Gradt Ltd., to agree to
the divorce on the ground of incompatibility in the understanding that there were neither
community property nor community obligations. 3 As explicitly stated in the Power of Attorney
he executed in favor of the law firm of KARP & GRAD LTD., 336 W. Liberty, Reno, Nevada, to
represent him in the divorce proceedings:

xxx xxx xxx

You are hereby authorized to accept service of Summons, to file an Answer, appear on my
behalf and do an things necessary and proper to represent me, without further contesting,
subject to the following:

1. That my spouse seeks a divorce on the ground of incompatibility.

2. That there is no community of property to be adjudicated by the Court.

3. 'I'hat there are no community obligations to be adjudicated by the court.


P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 85

xxx xxx xxx 4

There can be no question as to the validity of that Nevada divorce in any of the States of the
United States. The decree is binding on private respondent as an American citizen. For instance,
private respondent cannot sue petitioner, as her husband, in any State of the Union. What he is
contending in this case is that the divorce is not valid and binding in this jurisdiction, the same
being contrary to local law and public policy.

It is true that owing to the nationality principle embodied in Article 15 of the Civil Code, 5 only
Philippine nationals are covered by the policy against absolute divorces the same being
considered contrary to our concept of public police and morality. However, aliens may obtain
divorces abroad, which may be recognized in the Philippines, provided they are valid according
to their national law. 6 In this case, the divorce in Nevada released private respondent from the
marriage from the standards of American law, under which divorce dissolves the marriage. As
stated by the Federal Supreme Court of the United States in Atherton vs. Atherton, 45 L. Ed.
794, 799:

The purpose and effect of a decree of divorce from the bond of matrimony by a court of
competent jurisdiction are to change the existing status or domestic relation of husband and
wife, and to free them both from the bond. The marriage tie when thus severed as to one
party, ceases to bind either. A husband without a wife, or a wife without a husband, is unknown
to the law. When the law provides, in the nature of a penalty. that the guilty party shall not
marry again, that party, as well as the other, is still absolutely freed from the bond of the
former marriage.

Thus, pursuant to his national law, private respondent is no longer the husband of petitioner.
He would have no standing to sue in the case below as petitioner's husband entitled to exercise
control over conjugal assets. As he is bound by the Decision of his own country's Court, which
validly exercised jurisdiction over him, and whose decision he does not repudiate, he is
estopped by his own representation before said Court from asserting his right over the alleged
conjugal property.

To maintain, as private respondent does, that, under our laws, petitioner has to be considered
still married to private respondent and still subject to a wife's obligations under Article 109, et.
seq. of the Civil Code cannot be just. Petitioner should not be obliged to live together with,
observe respect and fidelity, and render support to private respondent. The latter should not
continue to be one of her heirs with possible rights to conjugal property. She should not be
discriminated against in her own country if the ends of justice are to be served.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 86

WHEREFORE, the Petition is granted, and respondent Judge is hereby ordered to dismiss the
Complaint filed in Civil Case No. 1075-P of his Court.

Without costs.

SO ORDERED.

Teehankee (Chairman), Plana, Relova, Gutierrez, Jr., De la Fuente and Patajo, JJ., concur.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 87

G.R. No. 80116 June 30, 1989

IMELDA MANALAYSAY PILAPIL, petitioner,


vs.
HON. CORONA IBAY-SOMERA, in her capacity as Presiding Judge of the Regional Trial Court of
Manila, Branch XXVI; HON. LUIS C. VICTOR, in his capacity as the City Fiscal of Manila; and
ERICH EKKEHARD GEILING, respondents.

REGALADO, J.:

An ill-starred marriage of a Filipina and a foreigner which ended in a foreign absolute divorce,
only to be followed by a criminal infidelity suit of the latter against the former, provides Us the
opportunity to lay down a decisional rule on what hitherto appears to be an unresolved
jurisdictional question.

On September 7, 1979, petitioner Imelda Manalaysay Pilapil, a Filipino citizen, and private
respondent Erich Ekkehard Geiling, a German national, were married before the Registrar of
Births, Marriages and Deaths at Friedensweiler in the Federal Republic of Germany. The
marriage started auspiciously enough, and the couple lived together for some time in Malate,
Manila where their only child, Isabella Pilapil Geiling, was born on April 20, 1980. 1

Thereafter, marital discord set in, with mutual recriminations between the spouses, followed by
a separation de facto between them.

After about three and a half years of marriage, such connubial disharmony eventuated in
private respondent initiating a divorce proceeding against petitioner in Germany before the
Schoneberg Local Court in January, 1983. He claimed that there was failure of their marriage
and that they had been living apart since April, 1982. 2

Petitioner, on the other hand, filed an action for legal separation, support and separation of
property before the Regional Trial Court of Manila, Branch XXXII, on January 23, 1983 where
the same is still pending as Civil Case No. 83-15866. 3

On January 15, 1986, Division 20 of the Schoneberg Local Court, Federal Republic of Germany,
promulgated a decree of divorce on the ground of failure of marriage of the spouses. The
custody of the child was granted to petitioner. The records show that under German law said
court was locally and internationally competent for the divorce proceeding and that the
dissolution of said marriage was legally founded on and authorized by the applicable law of that
foreign jurisdiction. 4
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 88

On June 27, 1986, or more than five months after the issuance of the divorce decree, private
respondent filed two complaints for adultery before the City Fiscal of Manila alleging that, while
still married to said respondent, petitioner "had an affair with a certain William Chia as early as
1982 and with yet another man named Jesus Chua sometime in 1983". Assistant Fiscal Jacinto
A. de los Reyes, Jr., after the corresponding investigation, recommended the dismissal of the
cases on the ground of insufficiency of evidence. 5 However, upon review, the respondent city
fiscal approved a resolution, dated January 8, 1986, directing the filing of two complaints for
adultery against the petitioner. 6 The complaints were accordingly filed and were eventually
raffled to two branches of the Regional Trial Court of Manila. The case entitled "People of the
Philippines vs. Imelda Pilapil and William Chia", docketed as Criminal Case No. 87-52435, was
assigned to Branch XXVI presided by the respondent judge; while the other case, "People of the
Philippines vs. Imelda Pilapil and James Chua", docketed as Criminal Case No. 87-52434 went to
the sala of Judge Leonardo Cruz, Branch XXV, of the same court. 7

On March 14, 1987, petitioner filed a petition with the Secretary of Justice asking that the
aforesaid resolution of respondent fiscal be set aside and the cases against her be dismissed. 8
A similar petition was filed by James Chua, her co-accused in Criminal Case No. 87-52434. The
Secretary of Justice, through the Chief State Prosecutor, gave due course to both petitions and
directed the respondent city fiscal to inform the Department of Justice "if the accused have
already been arraigned and if not yet arraigned, to move to defer further proceedings" and to
elevate the entire records of both cases to his office for review. 9

Petitioner thereafter filed a motion in both criminal cases to defer her arraignment and to
suspend further proceedings thereon. 10 As a consequence, Judge Leonardo Cruz suspended
proceedings in Criminal Case No. 87-52434. On the other hand, respondent judge merely reset
the date of the arraignment in Criminal Case No. 87-52435 to April 6, 1987. Before such
scheduled date, petitioner moved for the cancellation of the arraignment and for the
suspension of proceedings in said Criminal Case No. 87-52435 until after the resolution of the
petition for review then pending before the Secretary of Justice. 11 A motion to quash was also
filed in the same case on the ground of lack of jurisdiction, 12 which motion was denied by the
respondent judge in an order dated September 8, 1987. The same order also directed the
arraignment of both accused therein, that is, petitioner and William Chia. The latter entered a
plea of not guilty while the petitioner refused to be arraigned. Such refusal of the petitioner
being considered by respondent judge as direct contempt, she and her counsel were fined and
the former was ordered detained until she submitted herself for arraignment. 13 Later, private
respondent entered a plea of not guilty. 14

On October 27, 1987, petitioner filed this special civil action for certiorari and prohibition, with
a prayer for a temporary restraining order, seeking the annulment of the order of the lower
court denying her motion to quash. The petition is anchored on the main ground that the court
is without jurisdiction "to try and decide the charge of adultery, which is a private offense that
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 89

cannot be prosecuted de officio (sic), since the purported complainant, a foreigner, does not
qualify as an offended spouse having obtained a final divorce decree under his national law
prior to his filing the criminal complaint." 15

On October 21, 1987, this Court issued a temporary restraining order enjoining the respondents
from implementing the aforesaid order of September 8, 1987 and from further proceeding with
Criminal Case No. 87-52435. Subsequently, on March 23, 1988 Secretary of Justice Sedfrey A.
Ordoñez acted on the aforesaid petitions for review and, upholding petitioner's ratiocinations,
issued a resolution directing the respondent city fiscal to move for the dismissal of the
complaints against the petitioner. 16

We find this petition meritorious. The writs prayed for shall accordingly issue.

Under Article 344 of the Revised Penal Code, 17 the crime of adultery, as well as four other
crimes against chastity, cannot be prosecuted except upon a sworn written complaint filed by
the offended spouse. It has long since been established, with unwavering consistency, that
compliance with this rule is a jurisdictional, and not merely a formal, requirement. 18 While in
point of strict law the jurisdiction of the court over the offense is vested in it by the Judiciary
Law, the requirement for a sworn written complaint is just as jurisdictional a mandate since it is
that complaint which starts the prosecutory proceeding 19 and without which the court cannot
exercise its jurisdiction to try the case.

Now, the law specifically provides that in prosecutions for adultery and concubinage the person
who can legally file the complaint should be the offended spouse, and nobody else. Unlike the
offenses of seduction, abduction, rape and acts of lasciviousness, no provision is made for the
prosecution of the crimes of adultery and concubinage by the parents, grandparents or
guardian of the offended party. The so-called exclusive and successive rule in the prosecution of
the first four offenses above mentioned do not apply to adultery and concubinage. It is
significant that while the State, as parens patriae, was added and vested by the 1985 Rules of
Criminal Procedure with the power to initiate the criminal action for a deceased or
incapacitated victim in the aforesaid offenses of seduction, abduction, rape and acts of
lasciviousness, in default of her parents, grandparents or guardian, such amendment did not
include the crimes of adultery and concubinage. In other words, only the offended spouse, and
no other, is authorized by law to initiate the action therefor.

Corollary to such exclusive grant of power to the offended spouse to institute the action, it
necessarily follows that such initiator must have the status, capacity or legal representation to
do so at the time of the filing of the criminal action. This is a familiar and express rule in civil
actions; in fact, lack of legal capacity to sue, as a ground for a motion to dismiss in civil cases, is
determined as of the filing of the complaint or petition.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 90

The absence of an equivalent explicit rule in the prosecution of criminal cases does not mean
that the same requirement and rationale would not apply. Understandably, it may not have
been found necessary since criminal actions are generally and fundamentally commenced by
the State, through the People of the Philippines, the offended party being merely the
complaining witness therein. However, in the so-called "private crimes" or those which cannot
be prosecuted de oficio, and the present prosecution for adultery is of such genre, the offended
spouse assumes a more predominant role since the right to commence the action, or to refrain
therefrom, is a matter exclusively within his power and option.

This policy was adopted out of consideration for the aggrieved party who might prefer to suffer
the outrage in silence rather than go through the scandal of a public trial. 20 Hence, as cogently
argued by petitioner, Article 344 of the Revised Penal Code thus presupposes that the marital
relationship is still subsisting at the time of the institution of the criminal action for, adultery.
This is a logical consequence since the raison d'etre of said provision of law would be absent
where the supposed offended party had ceased to be the spouse of the alleged offender at the
time of the filing of the criminal case. 21

In these cases, therefore, it is indispensable that the status and capacity of the complainant to
commence the action be definitely established and, as already demonstrated, such status or
capacity must indubitably exist as of the time he initiates the action. It would be absurd if his
capacity to bring the action would be determined by his status before or subsequent to the
commencement thereof, where such capacity or status existed prior to but ceased before, or
was acquired subsequent to but did not exist at the time of, the institution of the case. We
would thereby have the anomalous spectacle of a party bringing suit at the very time when he
is without the legal capacity to do so.

To repeat, there does not appear to be any local precedential jurisprudence on the specific
issue as to when precisely the status of a complainant as an offended spouse must exist where
a criminal prosecution can be commenced only by one who in law can be categorized as
possessed of such status. Stated differently and with reference to the present case, the inquiry
;would be whether it is necessary in the commencement of a criminal action for adultery that
the marital bonds between the complainant and the accused be unsevered and existing at the
time of the institution of the action by the former against the latter.

American jurisprudence, on cases involving statutes in that jurisdiction which are in pari
materia with ours, yields the rule that after a divorce has been decreed, the innocent spouse no
longer has the right to institute proceedings against the offenders where the statute provides
that the innocent spouse shall have the exclusive right to institute a prosecution for adultery.
Where, however, proceedings have been properly commenced, a divorce subsequently granted
can have no legal effect on the prosecution of the criminal proceedings to a conclusion. 22
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 91

In the cited Loftus case, the Supreme Court of Iowa held that —

'No prosecution for adultery can be commenced except on the complaint of the husband or
wife.' Section 4932, Code. Though Loftus was husband of defendant when the offense is said to
have been committed, he had ceased to be such when the prosecution was begun; and
appellant insists that his status was not such as to entitle him to make the complaint. We have
repeatedly said that the offense is against the unoffending spouse, as well as the state, in
explaining the reason for this provision in the statute; and we are of the opinion that the
unoffending spouse must be such when the prosecution is commenced. (Emphasis supplied.)

We see no reason why the same doctrinal rule should not apply in this case and in our
jurisdiction, considering our statutory law and jural policy on the matter. We are convinced that
in cases of such nature, the status of the complainant vis-a-vis the accused must be determined
as of the time the complaint was filed. Thus, the person who initiates the adultery case must be
an offended spouse, and by this is meant that he is still married to the accused spouse, at the
time of the filing of the complaint.

In the present case, the fact that private respondent obtained a valid divorce in his country, the
Federal Republic of Germany, is admitted. Said divorce and its legal effects may be recognized
in the Philippines insofar as private respondent is concerned 23 in view of the nationality
principle in our civil law on the matter of status of persons.

Thus, in the recent case of Van Dorn vs. Romillo, Jr., et al., 24 after a divorce was granted by a
United States court between Alice Van Dornja Filipina, and her American husband, the latter
filed a civil case in a trial court here alleging that her business concern was conjugal property
and praying that she be ordered to render an accounting and that the plaintiff be granted the
right to manage the business. Rejecting his pretensions, this Court perspicuously demonstrated
the error of such stance, thus:

There can be no question as to the validity of that Nevada divorce in any of the States of the
United States. The decree is binding on private respondent as an American citizen. For instance,
private respondent cannot sue petitioner, as her husband, in any State of the Union. ...

It is true that owing to the nationality principle embodied in Article 15 of the Civil Code, only
Philippine nationals are covered by the policy against absolute divorces the same being
considered contrary to our concept of public policy and morality. However, aliens may obtain
divorces abroad, which may be recognized in the Philippines, provided they are valid according
to their national law. ...
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 92

Thus, pursuant to his national law, private respondent is no longer the husband of petitioner.
He would have no standing to sue in the case below as petitioner's husband entitled to exercise
control over conjugal assets. ... 25

Under the same considerations and rationale, private respondent, being no longer the husband
of petitioner, had no legal standing to commence the adultery case under the imposture that
he was the offended spouse at the time he filed suit.

The allegation of private respondent that he could not have brought this case before the decree
of divorce for lack of knowledge, even if true, is of no legal significance or consequence in this
case. When said respondent initiated the divorce proceeding, he obviously knew that there
would no longer be a family nor marriage vows to protect once a dissolution of the marriage is
decreed. Neither would there be a danger of introducing spurious heirs into the family, which is
said to be one of the reasons for the particular formulation of our law on adultery, 26 since
there would thenceforth be no spousal relationship to speak of. The severance of the marital
bond had the effect of dissociating the former spouses from each other, hence the actuations
of one would not affect or cast obloquy on the other.

The aforecited case of United States vs. Mata cannot be successfully relied upon by private
respondent. In applying Article 433 of the old Penal Code, substantially the same as Article 333
of the Revised Penal Code, which punished adultery "although the marriage be afterwards
declared void", the Court merely stated that "the lawmakers intended to declare adulterous the
infidelity of a married woman to her marital vows, even though it should be made to appear
that she is entitled to have her marriage contract declared null and void, until and unless she
actually secures a formal judicial declaration to that effect". Definitely, it cannot be logically
inferred therefrom that the complaint can still be filed after the declaration of nullity because
such declaration that the marriage is void ab initio is equivalent to stating that it never existed.
There being no marriage from the beginning, any complaint for adultery filed after said
declaration of nullity would no longer have a leg to stand on. Moreover, what was consequently
contemplated and within the purview of the decision in said case is the situation where the
criminal action for adultery was filed before the termination of the marriage by a judicial
declaration of its nullity ab initio. The same rule and requisite would necessarily apply where
the termination of the marriage was effected, as in this case, by a valid foreign divorce.

Private respondent's invocation of Donio-Teves, et al. vs. Vamenta, hereinbefore cited, 27 must
suffer the same fate of inapplicability. A cursory reading of said case reveals that the offended
spouse therein had duly and seasonably filed a complaint for adultery, although an issue was
raised as to its sufficiency but which was resolved in favor of the complainant. Said case did not
involve a factual situation akin to the one at bar or any issue determinative of the controversy
herein.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 93

WHEREFORE, the questioned order denying petitioner's motion to quash is SET ASIDE and
another one entered DISMISSING the complaint in Criminal Case No. 87-52435 for lack of
jurisdiction. The temporary restraining order issued in this case on October 21, 1987 is hereby
made permanent.

SO ORDERED.

Melencio-Herrera, Padilla and Sarmiento, JJ., concur.

Separate Opinions
PARAS, J., concurring:

It is my considered opinion that regardless of whether We consider the German absolute


divorce as valid also in the Philippines, the fact is that the husband in the instant case, by the
very act of his obtaining an absolute divorce in Germany can no longer be considered as the
offended party in case his former wife actually has carnal knowledge with another, because in
divorcing her, he already implicitly authorized the woman to have sexual relations with others.
A contrary ruling would be less than fair for a man, who is free to have sex will be allowed to
deprive the woman of the same privilege.

In the case of Recto v. Harden (100 Phil. 427 [1956]), the Supreme Court considered the
absolute divorce between the American husband and his American wife as valid and binding in
the Philippines on the theory that their status and capacity are governed by their National law,
namely, American law. There is no decision yet of the Supreme Court regarding the validity of
such a divorce if one of the parties, say an American, is married to a Filipino wife, for then two
(2) different nationalities would be involved.

In the book of Senate President Jovito Salonga entitled Private International Law and precisely
because of the National law doctrine, he considers the absolute divorce as valid insofar as the
American husband is concerned but void insofar as the Filipino wife is involved. This results in
what he calls a "socially grotesque situation," where a Filipino woman is still married to a man
who is no longer her husband. It is the opinion however, of the undersigned that very likely the
opposite expresses the correct view. While under the national law of the husband the absolute
divorce will be valid, still one of the exceptions to the application of the proper foreign law (one
of the exceptions to comity) is when the foreign law will work an injustice or injury to the
people or residents of the forum. Consequently since to recognize the absolute divorce as valid
on the part of the husband would be injurious or prejudicial to the Filipino wife whose marriage
would be still valid under her national law, it would seem that under our law existing before the
new Family Code (which took effect on August 3, 1988) the divorce should be considered void
both with respect to the American husband and the Filipino wife.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 94

The recent case of Van Dorn v. Romillo, Jr. (139 SCRA [1985]) cannot apply despite the fact that
the husband was an American can with a Filipino wife because in said case the validity of the
divorce insofar as the Filipino wife is concerned was NEVER put in issue.

Footnotes

25 The said pronouncements foreshadowed and are adopted in the Family Code of the
Philippines (Executive Order No. 209, as amended by Executive Order No. 227, effective on
August 3, 1988), Article 26 whereof provides that "(w)here marriage between a Filipino citizen
and a foreigner is validly celebrated and a divorce is thereafter validly obtained abroad by the
alien spouse capacitating him or her to remarry, the Filipino spouse shall likewise have capacity
to re under Philippine law.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 95

G.R. No. 138322 October 2, 2001

GRACE J. GARCIA, a.k.a. GRACE J. GARCIA-RECIO, petitioner,


vs.
REDERICK A. RECIO, respondents.

PANGANIBAN, J.:

A divorce obtained abroad by an alien may be recognized in our jurisdiction, provided such
decree is valid according to the national law of the foreigner. However, the divorce decree and
the governing personal law of the alien spouse who obtained the divorce must be proven. Our
courts do not take judicial notice of foreign laws and judgment; hence, like any other facts, both
the divorce decree and the national law of the alien must be alleged and proven according to
our law on evidence.

The Case

Before us is a Petition for Review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, seeking to nullify the
January 7, 1999 Decision1 and the March 24, 1999 Order2 of the Regional Trial Court of
Cabanatuan City, Branch 28, in Civil Case No. 3026-AF. The assailed Decision disposed as
follows:

"WHEREFORE, this Court declares the marriage between Grace J. Garcia and Rederick A. Recio
solemnized on January 12, 1994 at Cabanatuan City as dissolved and both parties can now
remarry under existing and applicable laws to any and/or both parties."3

The assailed Order denied reconsideration of the above-quoted Decision.

The Facts

Rederick A. Recio, a Filipino, was married to Editha Samson, an Australian citizen, in Malabon,
Rizal, on March 1, 1987.4 They lived together as husband and wife in Australia. On May 18,
1989,5 a decree of divorce, purportedly dissolving the marriage, was issued by an Australian
family court.

On June 26, 1992, respondent became an Australian citizen, as shown by a "Certificate of


Australian Citizenship" issued by the Australian government.6 Petitioner – a Filipina – and
respondent were married on January 12, 1994 in Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in
Cabanatuan City.7 In their application for a marriage license, respondent was declared as
"single" and "Filipino."8
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 96

Starting October 22, 1995, petitioner and respondent lived separately without prior judicial
dissolution of their marriage. While the two were still in Australia, their conjugal assets were
divided on May 16, 1996, in accordance with their Statutory Declarations secured in Australia.9

On March 3, 1998, petitioner filed a Complaint for Declaration of Nullity of Marriage10 in the
court a quo, on the ground of bigamy – respondent allegedly had a prior subsisting marriage at
the time he married her on January 12, 1994. She claimed that she learned of respondent's
marriage to Editha Samson only in November, 1997.

In his Answer, respondent averred that, as far back as 1993, he had revealed to petitioner his
prior marriage and its subsequent dissolution.11 He contended that his first marriage to an
Australian citizen had been validly dissolved by a divorce decree obtained in Australian in
1989;12 thus, he was legally capacitated to marry petitioner in 1994.1âwphi1.nêt

On July 7, 1998 – or about five years after the couple's wedding and while the suit for the
declaration of nullity was pending – respondent was able to secure a divorce decree from a
family court in Sydney, Australia because the "marriage ha[d] irretrievably broken down."13

Respondent prayed in his Answer that the Complained be dismissed on the ground that it
stated no cause of action.14 The Office of the Solicitor General agreed with respondent.15 The
court marked and admitted the documentary evidence of both parties.16 After they submitted
their respective memoranda, the case was submitted for resolution.17

Thereafter, the trial court rendered the assailed Decision and Order.

Ruling of the Trial Court

The trial court declared the marriage dissolved on the ground that the divorce issued in
Australia was valid and recognized in the Philippines. It deemed the marriage ended, but not on
the basis of any defect in an essential element of the marriage; that is, respondent's alleged
lack of legal capacity to remarry. Rather, it based its Decision on the divorce decree obtained by
respondent. The Australian divorce had ended the marriage; thus, there was no more martial
union to nullify or annual.

Hence, this Petition.18

Issues

Petitioner submits the following issues for our consideration:

"I
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 97

The trial court gravely erred in finding that the divorce decree obtained in Australia by the
respondent ipso facto terminated his first marriage to Editha Samson thereby capacitating him
to contract a second marriage with the petitioner.

"2

The failure of the respondent, who is now a naturalized Australian, to present a certificate of
legal capacity to marry constitutes absence of a substantial requisite voiding the petitioner'
marriage to the respondent.

"3

The trial court seriously erred in the application of Art. 26 of the Family Code in this case.

"4

The trial court patently and grievously erred in disregarding Arts. 11, 13, 21, 35, 40, 52 and 53
of the Family Code as the applicable provisions in this case.

"5

The trial court gravely erred in pronouncing that the divorce gravely erred in pronouncing that
the divorce decree obtained by the respondent in Australia ipso facto capacitated the parties to
remarry, without first securing a recognition of the judgment granting the divorce decree
before our courts."19

The Petition raises five issues, but for purposes of this Decision, we shall concentrate on two
pivotal ones: (1) whether the divorce between respondent and Editha Samson was proven, and
(2) whether respondent was proven to be legally capacitated to marry petitioner. Because of
our ruling on these two, there is no more necessity to take up the rest.

The Court's Ruling

The Petition is partly meritorious.

First Issue:

Proving the Divorce Between Respondent and Editha Samson


P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 98

Petitioner assails the trial court's recognition of the divorce between respondent and Editha
Samson. Citing Adong v. Cheong Seng Gee,20 petitioner argues that the divorce decree, like any
other foreign judgment, may be given recognition in this jurisdiction only upon proof of the
existence of (1) the foreign law allowing absolute divorce and (2) the alleged divorce decree
itself. She adds that respondent miserably failed to establish these elements.

Petitioner adds that, based on the first paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code, marriages
solemnized abroad are governed by the law of the place where they were celebrated (the lex
loci celebrationist). In effect, the Code requires the presentation of the foreign law to show the
conformity of the marriage in question to the legal requirements of the place where the
marriage was performed.

At the outset, we lay the following basic legal principles as the take-off points for our
discussion. Philippine law does not provide for absolute divorce; hence, our courts cannot grant
it.21 A marriage between two Filipinos cannot be dissolved even by a divorce obtained abroad,
because of Articles 1522 and 1723 of the Civil Code.24 In mixed marriages involving a Filipino
and a foreigner, Article 2625 of the Family Code allows the former to contract a subsequent
marriage in case the divorce is "validly obtained abroad by the alien spouse capacitating him or
her to remarry."26 A divorce obtained abroad by a couple, who are both aliens, may be
recognized in the Philippines, provided it is consistent with their respective national laws.27

A comparison between marriage and divorce, as far as pleading and proof are concerned, can
be made. Van Dorn v. Romillo Jr. decrees that "aliens may obtain divorces abroad, which may
be recognized in the Philippines, provided they are valid according to their national law."28
Therefore, before a foreign divorce decree can be recognized by our courts, the party pleading
it must prove the divorce as a fact and demonstrate its conformity to the foreign law allowing
it.29 Presentation solely of the divorce decree is insufficient.

Divorce as a Question of Fact

Petitioner insists that before a divorce decree can be admitted in evidence, it must first comply
with the registration requirements under Articles 11, 13 and 52 of the Family Code. These
articles read as follows:

"ART. 11. Where a marriage license is required, each of the contracting parties shall file
separately a sworn application for such license with the proper local civil registrar which shall
specify the following:

xxx xxx xxx


P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 99

"(5) If previously married, how, when and where the previous marriage was dissolved or
annulled;

xxx xxx xxx

"ART. 13. In case either of the contracting parties has been previously married, the applicant
shall be required to furnish, instead of the birth of baptismal certificate required in the last
preceding article, the death certificate of the deceased spouse or the judicial decree of
annulment or declaration of nullity of his or her previous marriage. x x x.

"ART. 52. The judgment of annulment or of absolute nullity of the marriage, the partition and
distribution of the properties of the spouses, and the delivery of the children's presumptive
legitimes shall be recorded in the appropriate civil registry and registries of property;
otherwise, the same shall not affect their persons."

Respondent, on the other hand, argues that the Australian divorce decree is a public document
– a written official act of an Australian family court. Therefore, it requires no further proof of its
authenticity and due execution.

Respondent is getting ahead of himself. Before a foreign judgment is given presumptive


evidentiary value, the document must first be presented and admitted in evidence.30 A divorce
obtained abroad is proven by the divorce decree itself. Indeed the best evidence of a judgment
is the judgment itself.31 The decree purports to be a written act or record of an act of an
officially body or tribunal of a foreign country.32

Under Sections 24 and 25 of Rule 132, on the other hand, a writing or document may be proven
as a public or official record of a foreign country by either (1) an official publication or (2) a copy
thereof attested33 by the officer having legal custody of the document. If the record is not kept
in the Philippines, such copy must be (a) accompanied by a certificate issued by the proper
diplomatic or consular officer in the Philippine foreign service stationed in the foreign country
in which the record is kept and (b) authenticated by the seal of his office.34

The divorce decree between respondent and Editha Samson appears to be an authentic one
issued by an Australian family court.35 However, appearance is not sufficient; compliance with
the aforemetioned rules on evidence must be demonstrated.

Fortunately for respondent's cause, when the divorce decree of May 18, 1989 was submitted in
evidence, counsel for petitioner objected, not to its admissibility, but only to the fact that it had
not been registered in the Local Civil Registry of Cabanatuan City.36 The trial court ruled that it
was admissible, subject to petitioner's qualification.37 Hence, it was admitted in evidence and
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 100

accorded weight by the judge. Indeed, petitioner's failure to object properly rendered the
divorce decree admissible as a written act of the Family Court of Sydney, Australia.38

Compliance with the quoted articles (11, 13 and 52) of the Family Code is not necessary;
respondent was no longer bound by Philippine personal laws after he acquired Australian
citizenship in 1992.39 Naturalization is the legal act of adopting an alien and clothing him with
the political and civil rights belonging to a citizen.40 Naturalized citizens, freed from the
protective cloak of their former states, don the attires of their adoptive countries. By becoming
an Australian, respondent severed his allegiance to the Philippines and the vinculum juris that
had tied him to Philippine personal laws.

Burden of Proving Australian Law

Respondent contends that the burden to prove Australian divorce law falls upon petitioner,
because she is the party challenging the validity of a foreign judgment. He contends that
petitioner was satisfied with the original of the divorce decree and was cognizant of the marital
laws of Australia, because she had lived and worked in that country for quite a long time.
Besides, the Australian divorce law is allegedly known by Philippine courts: thus, judges may
take judicial notice of foreign laws in the exercise of sound discretion.

We are not persuaded. The burden of proof lies with "the party who alleges the existence of a
fact or thing necessary in the prosecution or defense of an action."41 In civil cases, plaintiffs
have the burden of proving the material allegations of the complaint when those are denied by
the answer; and defendants have the burden of proving the material allegations in their answer
when they introduce new matters.42 Since the divorce was a defense raised by respondent, the
burden of proving the pertinent Australian law validating it falls squarely upon him.

It is well-settled in our jurisdiction that our courts cannot take judicial notice of foreign laws.43
Like any other facts, they must be alleged and proved. Australian marital laws are not among
those matters that judges are supposed to know by reason of their judicial function.44 The
power of judicial notice must be exercised with caution, and every reasonable doubt upon the
subject should be resolved in the negative.

Second Issue:

Respondent's Legal Capacity to Remarry

Petitioner contends that, in view of the insufficient proof of the divorce, respondent was legally
incapacitated to marry her in 1994.

Hence, she concludes that their marriage was void ab initio.


P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 101

Respondent replies that the Australian divorce decree, which was validly admitted in evidence,
adequately established his legal capacity to marry under Australian law.

Respondent's contention is untenable. In its strict legal sense, divorce means the legal
dissolution of a lawful union for a cause arising after marriage. But divorces are of different
types. The two basic ones are (1) absolute divorce or a vinculo matrimonii and (2) limited
divorce or a mensa et thoro. The first kind terminates the marriage, while the second suspends
it and leaves the bond in full force.45 There is no showing in the case at bar which type of
divorce was procured by respondent.

Respondent presented a decree nisi or an interlocutory decree – a conditional or provisional


judgment of divorce. It is in effect the same as a separation from bed and board, although an
absolute divorce may follow after the lapse of the prescribed period during which no
reconciliation is effected.46

Even after the divorce becomes absolute, the court may under some foreign statutes and
practices, still restrict remarriage. Under some other jurisdictions, remarriage may be limited by
statute; thus, the guilty party in a divorce which was granted on the ground of adultery may be
prohibited from remarrying again. The court may allow a remarriage only after proof of good
behavior.47

On its face, the herein Australian divorce decree contains a restriction that reads:

"1. A party to a marriage who marries again before this decree becomes absolute (unless the
other party has died) commits the offence of bigamy."48

This quotation bolsters our contention that the divorce obtained by respondent may have been
restricted. It did not absolutely establish his legal capacity to remarry according to his national
law. Hence, we find no basis for the ruling of the trial court, which erroneously assumed that
the Australian divorce ipso facto restored respondent's capacity to remarry despite the paucity
of evidence on this matter.

We also reject the claim of respondent that the divorce decree raises a disputable presumption
or presumptive evidence as to his civil status based on Section 48, Rule 3949 of the Rules of
Court, for the simple reason that no proof has been presented on the legal effects of the
divorce decree obtained under Australian laws.

Significance of the Certificate of Legal Capacity


P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 102

Petitioner argues that the certificate of legal capacity required by Article 21 of the Family Code
was not submitted together with the application for a marriage license. According to her, its
absence is proof that respondent did not have legal capacity to remarry.

We clarify. To repeat, the legal capacity to contract marriage is determined by the national law
of the party concerned. The certificate mentioned in Article 21 of the Family Code would have
been sufficient to establish the legal capacity of respondent, had he duly presented it in court.
A duly authenticated and admitted certificate is prima facie evidence of legal capacity to marry
on the part of the alien applicant for a marriage license.50

As it is, however, there is absolutely no evidence that proves respondent's legal capacity to
marry petitioner. A review of the records before this Court shows that only the following
exhibits were presented before the lower court: (1) for petitioner: (a) Exhibit "A" –
Complaint;51 (b) Exhibit "B" – Certificate of Marriage Between Rederick A. Recto (Filipino-
Australian) and Grace J. Garcia (Filipino) on January 12, 1994 in Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija;52
(c) Exhibit "C" – Certificate of Marriage Between Rederick A. Recio (Filipino) and Editha D.
Samson (Australian) on March 1, 1987 in Malabon, Metro Manila;53 (d) Exhibit "D" – Office of
the City Registrar of Cabanatuan City Certification that no information of annulment between
Rederick A. Recto and Editha D. Samson was in its records;54 and (e) Exhibit "E" – Certificate of
Australian Citizenship of Rederick A. Recto;55 (2) for respondent: (Exhibit "1" – Amended
Answer;56 (b) Exhibit "S" – Family Law Act 1975 Decree Nisi of Dissolution of Marriage in the
Family Court of Australia;57 (c) Exhibit "3" – Certificate of Australian Citizenship of Rederick A.
Recto;58 (d) Exhibit "4" – Decree Nisi of Dissolution of Marriage in the Family Court of Australia
Certificate;59 and Exhibit "5" – Statutory Declaration of the Legal Separation Between Rederick
A. Recto and Grace J. Garcia Recio since October 22, 1995.60

Based on the above records, we cannot conclude that respondent, who was then a naturalized
Australian citizen, was legally capacitated to marry petitioner on January 12, 1994. We agree
with petitioner's contention that the court a quo erred in finding that the divorce decree ipso
facto clothed respondent with the legal capacity to remarry without requiring him to adduce
sufficient evidence to show the Australian personal law governing his status; or at the very
least, to prove his legal capacity to contract the second marriage.

Neither can we grant petitioner's prayer to declare her marriage to respondent null and void on
the ground of bigamy. After all, it may turn out that under Australian law, he was really
capacitated to marry petitioner as a direct result of the divorce decree. Hence, we believe that
the most judicious course is to remand this case to the trial court to receive evidence, if any,
which show petitioner's legal capacity to marry petitioner. Failing in that, then the court a quo
may declare a nullity of the parties' marriage on the ground of bigamy, there being already in
evidence two existing marriage certificates, which were both obtained in the Philippines, one in
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 103

Malabon, Metro Manila dated March 1, 1987 and the other, in Cabanatuan City dated January
12, 1994.

WHEREFORE, in the interest of orderly procedure and substantial justice, we REMAND the case
to the court a quo for the purpose of receiving evidence which conclusively show respondent's
legal capacity to marry petitioner; and failing in that, of declaring the parties' marriage void on
the ground of bigamy, as above discussed. No costs.

SO ORDERED.

Footnotes

22 "ART. 15. Laws relating to family rights and duties, or to the status, condition and legal
capacity of persons are binding upon citizens of the Philippines, even though living abroad."

23 "ART. 17. The forms and solemnities of contracts, wills, and other public instruments shall be
governed by the laws of the country in which they are executed.

xxx xxx xxx

"Prohibitive laws concerning persons, their acts or property, and those which have for their
object public order, public policy and good customs shall not be rendered ineffective by laws or
judgments promulgated, or by determinations or conventions agreed upon in a foreign
country."

25 Tenchaves v. Escano 15 SCRA 355, 362, November 29, 1965; Barretto Gonzalez v. Gonzales,
58 Phil. 67, 71-72, March 7, 1933.

"Art. 26. All marriages solemnized outside the Philippines in accordance with the laws in force
in the country where they were solemnized, and valid there as such, shall also be valid in this
country, except those prohibited under Articles 35(1), (4), (5), and (6), 36, 37, and 38. (71a).

"Where a marriage between a Filipino citizen and a foreigner is validly celebrated and a divorce
is thereafter validly obtained abroad by the alien spouse capacitating him or her to remarry, the
Filipino spouse shall have capacity to remarry under Philippine law." (As amended by EO 227,
prom. July 27, 1987).

30 "SEC. 19. Classes of documents. – For the purpose of their presentation in evidence,
documents are either public or private.

"Public documents are:


P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 104

"(a) The written official acts, or records of the official acts of the sovereign authority, official
bodies and tribunals, and public officers, whether in the Philippines, or of a foreign country.

xxx xxx x x x."

31 Burr W. Jones, Commentaries on the Law of Evidence in Civil Cases, Vol. IV, 1926 ed., p.
3511; §3, Rule 130 of the Rules on Evidence provides that "when the subject of inquiry is the
contents of a document, no evidence shall be admissible other than the original document
itself."

32 "SEC. 19. Classes of documents. – For the purpose of their presentation in evidence,
documents are either public or private.

Public documents are:

"(a) The written official acts, or records of the official acts of the sovereign authority, official
bodies and tribunals, and public officers, whether in the Philippines, or of a foreign country.

xxx xxx x x x."

33 "Sec. 25. What attestation of copy must state. – Whenever a copy of a document or record is
attested for the purpose of evidence, the attestation must state, in substance, that the copy is a
correct copy of the original, or a specific part thereof, as the case may be. The attestation must
be under the official seal of the attesting officer, if there be any, or if he be the clerk of a court
having a seal, under the seal of such court."

34 "Sec. 24. Proof of official record. – The record of public documents referred to in paragraph
(a) of Section 19, when admissible for any purpose, may be evidenced by an official publication
thereof or by a copy attested by the officer having the legal custody of the record, or by his
deputy, and accompanied, if the record is not kept in the Philippines, with a certificate that
such officer has the custody. If the office in which the record is kept is in a foreign country, the
certificate may be made by a secretary of the embassy or legation, consul general, consul, vice-
consul, or consular agent or by any officer in the foreign service of the Philippines stationed in
the foreign country in which the record is kept, and authenticated by the seal of his office."

See also Asiavest Ltd. v. Court of Appeals, 296 SCRA 539, 550-551, September 25, 1998; Pacific
Asia Overseas Shipping Corp. v. National Labor Relations Commission, 161 SCRA 122, 133-134,
May 6, 1988.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 105

49 "SEC. 48. Effect of foreign judgments or final orders. – The effect of a judgment or final order
of a tribunal of a foreign country, having jurisdiction to render the judgment or final order is as
follows:

xxx xxx xxx

"(b) In case of a judgment or final order against a person, the judgment or final order is
presumptive evidence of a right as between the parties and their successors in interest by a
subsequent title.

"In either case, the judgment or final order may be repelled by evidence of a want of
jurisdiction, want of notice to the party, collusion, fraud, or clear mistake of law or fact."

50 In passing, we note that the absence of the said certificate is merely an irregularity in
complying with the formal requirement for procuring a marriage license. Under Article 4 of the
Family Code, an irregularity will not affect the validity of a marriage celebrated on the basis of a
marriage license issued without that certificate. (Vitug, Compendium, pp. 120-126); Sempio-
Diy, Handbook on the Family Code of the Philippines, 197 reprint, p. 17; Rufus Rodriguez, The
Family Code of the Philippines Annotated, 1990 ed., p. 42; Melencio Sta. Maria Jr., Persons and
Family Relations Law, 1999 ed., p. 146.).
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 106

G.R. No. 124862 December 22, 1998

FE D. QUITA, petitioner,
vs.
COURT OF APPEALS and BLANDINA DANDAN, * respondents.

BELLOSILLO, J.:

FE D. QUITA and Arturo T. Padlan, both Filipinos, were married in the Philippines on 18 May
1941. They were not however blessed with children. Somewhere along the way their
relationship soured. Eventually Fe sued Arturo for divorce in San Francisco, California, U.S.A.
She submitted in the divorce proceedings a private writing dated 19 July 1950 evidencing their
agreement to live separately from each other and a settlement of their conjugal properties. On
23 July 1954 she obtained a final judgment of divorce. Three (3) weeks thereafter she married a
certain Felix Tupaz in the same locality but their relationship also ended in a divorce. Still in the
U.S.A., she married for the third time, to a certain Wernimont.

On 16 April 1972 Arturo died. He left no will. On 31 August 1972 Lino Javier Inciong filed a
petition with the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City for issuance of letters of administration
concerning the estate of Arturo in favor of the Philippine Trust Company. Respondent Blandina
Dandan (also referred to as Blandina Padlan), claiming to be the surviving spouse of Arturo
Padlan, and Claro, Alexis, Ricardo, Emmanuel, Zenaida and Yolanda, all surnamed Padlan,
named in the children of Arturo Padlan opposed the petition and prayed for the appointment
instead of Atty. Leonardo Casaba, which was resolved in favor of the latter. Upon motion of the
oppositors themselves, Atty. Cabasal was later replaced by Higino Castillon. On 30 April 1973
the oppositors (Blandina and Padlan children) submitted certified photocopies of the 19 July
1950 private writing and the final judgment of divorce between petitioner and Arturo. Later
Ruperto T. Padlan, claiming to be the sole surviving brother of the deceased Arturo, intervened.

On 7 October 1987 petitioner moved for the immediate declaration of heirs of the decedent
and the distribution of his estate. At the scheduled hearing on 23 October 1987, private
respondent as well as the six (6) Padlan children and Ruperto failed to appear despite due
notice. On the same day, the trial court required the submission of the records of birth of the
Padlan children within ten (10) days from receipt thereof, after which, with or without the
documents, the issue on the declaration of heirs would be considered submitted for resolution.
The prescribed period lapsed without the required documents being submitted.

The trial court invoking Tenchavez v. Escaño 1 which held that "a foreign divorce between
Filipino citizens sought and decreed after the effectivity of the present Civil Code (Rep. Act 386)
was not entitled to recognition as valid in this jurisdiction," 2 disregarded the divorce between
petitioner and Arturo. Consecuently, it expressed the view that their marriage subsisted until
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 107

the death of Arturo in 1972. Neither did it consider valid their extrajudicial settlement of
conjugal properties due to lack of judicial approval. 3 On the other hand, it opined that there
was no showing that marriage existed between private respondent and Arturo, much less was it
shown that the alleged Padlan children had been acknowledged by the deceased as his children
with her. As regards Ruperto, it found that he was a brother of Arturo. On 27 November 1987 4
only petitioner and Ruperto were declared the intestate heirs of Arturo. Accordingly, equal
adjudication of the net hereditary estate was ordered in favor of the two intestate heirs. 5

On motion for reconsideration, Blandina and the Padlan children were allowed to present
proofs that the recognition of the children by the deceased as his legitimate children, except
Alexis who was recognized as his illegitimate child, had been made in their respective records of
birth. Thus on 15 February 1988 6 partial reconsideration was granted declaring the Padlan
children, with the exception of Alexis, entitled to one-half of the estate to the exclusion of
Ruperto Padlan, and petitioner to the other half. 7 Private respondent was not declared an heir.
Although it was stated in the aforementioned records of birth that she and Arturo were married
on 22 April 1947, their marriage was clearly void since it was celebrated during the existence of
his previous marriage to petitioner.

In their appeal to the Court of Appeals, Blandina and her children assigned as one of the errors
allegedly committed by the trial court the circumstance that the case was decided without a
hearing, in violation of Sec. 1, Rule 90, of the Rules of Court, which provides that if there is a
controversy before the court as to who are the lawful heirs of the deceased person or as to the
distributive shares to which each person is entitled under the law, the controversy shall be
heard and decided as in ordinary cases.

Respondent appellate court found this ground alone sufficient to sustain the appeal; hence, on
11 September 1995 it declared null and void the 27 November 1987 decision and 15 February
1988 order of the trial court, and directed the remand of the case to the trial court for further
proceedings. 8 On 18 April 1996 it denied reconsideration. 9

Should this case be remanded to the lower court for further proceedings? Petitioner insists that
there is no need because, first, no legal or factual issue obtains for resolution either as to the
heirship of the Padlan children or as to the decedent; and, second, the issue as to who between
petitioner and private respondent is the proper hier of the decedent is one of law which can be
resolved in the present petition based on establish facts and admissions of the parties.

We cannot sustain petitioner. The provision relied upon by respondent court is clear: If there is
a controversy before the court as to who are the lawful heirs of the deceased person or as to
the distributive shares to which each person is entitled under the law, the controversy shall be
heard and decided as in ordinary cases.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 108

We agree with petitioner that no dispute exists either as to the right of the six (6) Padlan
children to inherit from the decedent because there are proofs that they have been duly
acknowledged by him and petitioner herself even recognizes them as heirs of Arturo Padlan; 10
nor as to their respective hereditary shares. But controversy remains as to who is the legitimate
surviving spouse of Arturo. The trial court, after the parties other than petitioner failed to
appear during the scheduled hearing on 23 October 1987 of the motion for immediate
declaration of heirs and distribution of estate, simply issued an order requiring the submission
of the records of birth of the Padlan children within ten (10) days from receipt thereof, after
which, with or without the documents, the issue on declaration of heirs would be deemed
submitted for resolution.

We note that in her comment to petitioner's motion private respondent raised, among others,
the issue as to whether petitioner was still entitled to inherit from the decedent considering
that she had secured a divorce in the U.S.A. and in fact had twice remarried. She also invoked
the above quoted procedural rule. 11 To this, petitioner replied that Arturo was a Filipino and
as such remained legally married to her in spite of the divorce they obtained. 12 Reading
between the lines, the implication is that petitioner was no longer a Filipino citizen at the time
of her divorce from Arturo. This should have prompted the trial court to conduct a hearing to
establish her citizenship. The purpose of a hearing is to ascertain the truth of the matters in
issue with the aid of documentary and testimonial evidence as well as the arguments of the
parties either supporting or opposing the evidence. Instead, the lower court perfunctorily
settled her claim in her favor by merely applying the ruling in Tenchavez v. Escaño.

Then in private respondent's motion to set aside and/or reconsider the lower court's decision
she stressed that the citizenship of petitioner was relevant in the light of the ruling in Van Dorn
v. Romillo Jr. 13 that aliens may obtain divorces abroad, which may be recognized in the
Philippines, provided they are valid according to their national law. She prayed therefore that
the case be set for hearing. 14 Petitioner opposed the motion but failed to squarely address the
issue on her citizenship. 15 The trial court did not grant private respondent's prayer for a
hearing but proceeded to resolve her motion with the finding that both petitioner and Arturo
were "Filipino citizens and were married in the Philippines." 16 It maintained that their divorce
obtained in 1954 in San Francisco, California, U.S.A., was not valid in Philippine jurisdiction. We
deduce that the finding on their citizenship pertained solely to the time of their marriage as the
trial court was not supplied with a basis to determine petitioner's citizenship at the time of
their divorce. The doubt persisted as to whether she was still a Filipino citizen when their
divorce was decreed. The trial court must have overlooked the materiality of this aspect. Once
proved that she was no longer a Filipino citizen at the time of their divorce, Van Dorn would
become applicable and petitioner could very well lose her right to inherit from Arturo.

Respondent again raised in her appeal the issue on petitioner's citizenship; 17 it did not merit
enlightenment however from petitioner. 18 In the present proceeding, petitioner's citizenship
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 109

is brought anew to the fore by private respondent. She even furnishes the Court with the
transcript of stenographic notes taken on 5 May 1995 during the hearing for the reconstitution
of the original of a certain transfer certificate title as well as the issuance of new owner's
duplicate copy thereof before another trial court. When asked whether she was an American
citizen petitioner answered that she was since 1954. 19 Significantly, the decree of divorce of
petitioner and Arturo was obtained in the same year. Petitioner however did not bother to file
a reply memorandum to erase the uncertainty about her citizenship at the time of their divorce,
a factual issue requiring hearings to be conducted by the trial court. Consequently, respondent
appellate court did not err in ordering the case returned to the trial court for further
proceedings.

We emphasize however that the question to be determined by the trial court should be limited
only to the right of petitioner to inherit from Arturo as his surviving spouse. Private
respondent's claim to heirship was already resolved by the trial court. She and Arturo were
married on 22 April 1947 while the prior marriage of petitioner and Arturo was subsisting
thereby resulting in a bigamous marriage considered void from the beginning under Arts. 80
and 83 of the Civil Code. Consequently, she is not a surviving spouse that can inherit from him
as this status presupposes a legitimate relationship. 20

As regards the motion of private respondent for petitioner and a her counsel to be declared in
contempt of court and that the present petition be dismissed for forum shopping, 21 the same
lacks merit. For forum shopping to exist the actions must involve the same transactions and
same essential facts and circumstances. There must also be identical causes of action, subject
matter and issue. 22 The present petition deals with declaration of heirship while the
subsequent petitions filed before the three (3) trial courts concern the issuance of new owner's
duplicate copies of titles of certain properties belonging to the estate of Arturo. Obviously,
there is no reason to declare the existence of forum shopping.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The decision of respondent Court of Appeals ordering the
remand of the case to the court of origin for further proceedings and declaring null and void its
decision holding petitioner Fe D. Quita and Ruperto T. Padlan as intestate heirs is AFFIRMED.
The order of the appellate court modifying its previous decision by granting one-half (1/2) of
the net hereditary estate to the Padlan children, namely, Claro, Ricardo, Emmanuel, Zenaida
and Yolanda, with the exception of Alexis, all surnamed Padlan, instead of Arturo's brother
Ruperto Padlan, is likewise AFFIRMED. The Court however emphasizes that the reception of
evidence by the trial court should he limited to the hereditary rights of petitioner as the
surviving spouse of Arturo Padlan.

The motion to declare petitioner and her counsel in contempt of court and to dismiss the
present petition for forum shopping is DENIED.
SO ORDERED.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 110
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 111

G.R. No. 162580 January 27, 2006

ELMAR O. PEREZ, Petitioner,


vs.
COURT OF APPEALS, Fifth Division, TRISTAN A. CATINDIG and LILY GOMEZ-CATINDIG,
Respondents.

DECISION

YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.:

This petition for certiorari and prohibition under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court assails the July
25, 2003 Decision1 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 74456 which set aside and
declared as null and void the September 30, 2002 Order2 of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon
City, Branch 84, granting petitioner’s motion for leave to file intervention and admitting the
Complaint-in-Intervention3 in Civil Case No. Q-01-44847; and its January 23, 2004 Resolution4
denying the motion for reconsideration.

Private respondent Tristan A. Catindig married Lily Gomez Catindig5 twice on May 16, 1968.
The first marriage ceremony was celebrated at the Central Methodist Church at T.M. Kalaw
Street, Ermita, Manila while the second took place at the Lourdes Catholic Church in La Loma,
Quezon City. The marriage produced four children.

Several years later, the couple encountered marital problems that they decided to separate
from each other. Upon advice of a mutual friend, they decided to obtain a divorce from the
Dominican Republic. Thus, on April 27, 1984, Tristan and Lily executed a Special Power of
Attorney addressed to the Judge of the First Civil Court of San Cristobal, Dominican Republic,
appointing an attorney-in-fact to institute a divorce action under its laws.6

Thereafter, on April 30, 1984, the private respondents filed a joint petition for dissolution of
conjugal partnership with the Regional Trial Court of Makati. On June 12, 1984, the civil court in
the Dominican Republic ratified the divorce by mutual consent of Tristan and Lily.
Subsequently, on June 23, 1984, the Regional Trial Court of Makati City, Branch 133, ordered
the complete separation of properties between Tristan and Lily.

On July 14, 1984, Tristan married petitioner Elmar O. Perez in the State of Virginia in the United
States7 and both lived as husband and wife until October 2001. Their union produced one
offspring.8

During their cohabitation, petitioner learned that the divorce decree issued by the court in the
Dominican Republic which "dissolved" the marriage between Tristan and Lily was not
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 112

recognized in the Philippines and that her marriage to Tristan was deemed void under
Philippine law. When she confronted Tristan about this, the latter assured her that he would
legalize their union after he obtains an annulment of his marriage with Lily. Tristan further
promised the petitioner that he would adopt their son so that he would be entitled to an equal
share in his estate as that of each of his children with Lily.9

On August 13, 2001, Tristan filed a petition for the declaration of nullity of his marriage to Lily
with the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, docketed as Case No. Q-01-44847.

Subsequently, petitioner filed a Motion for Leave to File Intervention10 claiming that she has a
legal interest in the matter in litigation because she knows certain information which might aid
the trial court at a truthful, fair and just adjudication of the annulment case, which the trial
court granted on September 30, 2002. Petitioner’s complaint-in-intervention was also ordered
admitted.

Tristan filed a petition for certiorari and prohibition with the Court of Appeals seeking to annul
the order dated September 30, 2002 of the trial court. The Court of Appeals granted the
petition and declared as null and void the September 30, 2002 Order of the trial court granting
the motion for leave to file intervention and admitting the complaint-in-intervention.

Petitioner’s motion for reconsideration was denied, hence this petition for certiorari and
prohibition filed under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court. Petitioner contends that the Court of
Appeals gravely abused its discretion in disregarding her legal interest in the annulment case
between Tristan and Lily.

The petition lacks merit.

Ordinarily, the proper recourse of an aggrieved party from a decision of the Court of Appeals is
a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court. However, if the error
subject of the recourse is one of jurisdiction, or the act complained of was granted by a court
with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction, as alleged in this
case, the proper remedy is a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the said Rules.11 This is
based on the premise that in issuing the assailed decision and resolution, the Court of Appeals
acted with grave abuse of discretion, amounting to excess of lack of jurisdiction and there is no
plain, speedy and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law. A remedy is considered plain,
speedy, and adequate if it will promptly relieve the petitioner from the injurious effect of the
judgment and the acts of the lower court.12

It is therefore incumbent upon the petitioner to establish that the Court of Appeals acted with
grave abuse of discretion amounting to excess or lack of jurisdiction when it promulgated the
assailed decision and resolution.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 113

We have previously ruled that grave abuse of discretion may arise when a lower court or
tribunal violates or contravenes the Constitution, the law or existing jurisprudence. By grave
abuse of discretion is meant, such capricious and whimsical exercise of judgment as is
equivalent to lack of jurisdiction. The abuse of discretion must be grave as where the power is
exercised in an arbitrary or despotic manner by reason of passion or personal hostility and must
be so patent and gross as to amount to an evasion of positive duty or to a virtual refusal to
perform the duty enjoined by or to act at all in contemplation of law.13 The word "capricious,"
usually used in tandem with the term "arbitrary," conveys the notion of willful and unreasoning
action. Thus, when seeking the corrective hand of certiorari, a clear showing of caprice and
arbitrariness in the exercise of discretion is imperative.14

The Rules of Court laid down the parameters before a person, not a party to a case can
intervene, thus:

Who may intervene. — A person who has a legal interest in the matter in litigation, or in the
success of either of the parties, or an interest against both, or is so situated as to be adversely
affected by a distribution or other disposition of property in the custody of the court or of an
officer thereof may, with leave of court, be allowed to intervene in the action. The court shall
consider whether or not the intervention will unduly delay or prejudice the adjudication of the
rights of the original parties, and whether or not the intervenor’s rights may be fully protected
in a separate proceeding.15

The requirements for intervention are: [a] legal interest in the matter in litigation; and [b]
consideration must be given as to whether the adjudication of the original parties may be
delayed or prejudiced, or whether the intervenor’s rights may be protected in a separate
proceeding or not.16

Legal interest, which entitles a person to intervene, must be in the matter in litigation and of
such direct and immediate character that the intervenor will either gain or lose by direct legal
operation and effect of the judgment.17 Such interest must be actual, direct and material, and
not simply contingent and expectant.18

Petitioner claims that her status as the wife and companion of Tristan for 17 years vests her
with the requisite legal interest required of a would-be intervenor under the Rules of Court.

Petitioner’s claim lacks merit. Under the law, petitioner was never the legal wife of Tristan,
hence her claim of legal interest has no basis.

When petitioner and Tristan married on July 14, 1984, Tristan was still lawfully married to Lily.
The divorce decree that Tristan and Lily obtained from the Dominican Republic never dissolved
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 114

the marriage bond between them. It is basic that laws relating to family rights and duties, or to
the status, condition and legal capacity of persons are binding upon citizens of the Philippines,
even though living abroad.19 Regardless of where a citizen of the Philippines might be, he or
she will be governed by Philippine laws with respect to his or her family rights and duties, or to
his or her status, condition and legal capacity. Hence, if a Filipino regardless of whether he or
she was married here or abroad, initiates a petition abroad to obtain an absolute divorce from
spouse and eventually becomes successful in getting an absolute divorce decree, the
Philippines will not recognize such absolute divorce.20

When Tristan and Lily married on May 18, 1968, their marriage was governed by the provisions
of the Civil Code21 which took effect on August 30, 1950. In the case of Tenchavez v. Escano22
we held:

(1) That a foreign divorce between Filipino citizens, sought and decreed after the effectivity of
the present Civil Code (Rep. Act No. 386), is not entitled to recognition as valid in this
jurisdiction; and neither is the marriage contracted with another party by the divorced consort,
subsequently to the foreign decree of divorce, entitled to validity in the country. (Emphasis
added)

Thus, petitioner’s claim that she is the wife of Tristan even if their marriage was celebrated
abroad lacks merit. Thus, petitioner never acquired the legal interest as a wife upon which her
motion for intervention is based.

Since petitioner’s motion for leave to file intervention was bereft of the indispensable
requirement of legal interest, the issuance by the trial court of the order granting the same and
admitting the complaint-in-intervention was attended with grave abuse of discretion.
Consequently, the Court of Appeals correctly set aside and declared as null and void the said
order.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DISMISSED. The assailed Decision dated July 25, 2003 and
Resolution dated January 23, 2004 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 74456 are
AFFIRMED.

No pronouncement as to costs.

SO ORDERED.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 115

G.R. No. 133743 February 6, 2007

EDGAR SAN LUIS, Petitioner,


vs.
FELICIDAD SAN LUIS, Respondent.

x ---------------------------------------------------- x

G.R. No. 134029 February 6, 2007

RODOLFO SAN LUIS, Petitioner,


vs.
FELICIDAD SAGALONGOS alias FELICIDAD SAN LUIS, Respondent.

DECISION

YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.:

Before us are consolidated petitions for review assailing the February 4, 1998 Decision 1 of the
Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 52647, which reversed and set aside the September 12,
1995 2 and January 31, 1996 3 Resolutions of the Regional Trial Court of Makati City, Branch
134 in SP. Proc. No. M-3708; and its May 15, 1998 Resolution 4 denying petitioners’ motion for
reconsideration.

The instant case involves the settlement of the estate of Felicisimo T. San Luis (Felicisimo), who
was the former governor of the Province of Laguna. During his lifetime, Felicisimo contracted
three marriages. His first marriage was with Virginia Sulit on March 17, 1942 out of which were
born six children, namely: Rodolfo, Mila, Edgar, Linda, Emilita and Manuel. On August 11, 1963,
Virginia predeceased Felicisimo.

Five years later, on May 1, 1968, Felicisimo married Merry Lee Corwin, with whom he had a
son, Tobias. However, on October 15, 1971, Merry Lee, an American citizen, filed a Complaint
for Divorce 5 before the Family Court of the First Circuit, State of Hawaii, United States of
America (U.S.A.), which issued a Decree Granting Absolute Divorce and Awarding Child Custody
on December 14, 1973. 6

On June 20, 1974, Felicisimo married respondent Felicidad San Luis, then surnamed Sagalongos,
before Rev. Fr. William Meyer, Minister of the United Presbyterian at Wilshire Boulevard, Los
Angeles, California, U.S.A. 7 He had no children with respondent but lived with her for 18 years
from the time of their marriage up to his death on December 18, 1992.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 116

Thereafter, respondent sought the dissolution of their conjugal partnership assets and the
settlement of Felicisimo’s estate. On December 17, 1993, she filed a petition for letters of
administration 8 before the Regional Trial Court of Makati City, docketed as SP. Proc. No. M-
3708 which was raffled to Branch 146 thereof.

Respondent alleged that she is the widow of Felicisimo; that, at the time of his death, the
decedent was residing at 100 San Juanico Street, New Alabang Village, Alabang, Metro Manila;
that the decedent’s surviving heirs are respondent as legal spouse, his six children by his first
marriage, and son by his second marriage; that the decedent left real properties, both conjugal
and exclusive, valued at ₱30,304,178.00 more or less; that the decedent does not have any
unpaid debts. Respondent prayed that the conjugal partnership assets be liquidated and that
letters of administration be issued to her.

On February 4, 1994, petitioner Rodolfo San Luis, one of the children of Felicisimo by his first
marriage, filed a motion to dismiss 9 on the grounds of improper venue and failure to state a
cause of action. Rodolfo claimed that the petition for letters of administration should have
been filed in the Province of Laguna because this was Felicisimo’s place of residence prior to his
death. He further claimed that respondent has no legal personality to file the petition because
she was only a mistress of Felicisimo since the latter, at the time of his death, was still legally
married to Merry Lee.

On February 15, 1994, Linda invoked the same grounds and joined her brother Rodolfo in
seeking the dismissal 10 of the petition. On February 28, 1994, the trial court issued an Order
11 denying the two motions to dismiss.

Unaware of the denial of the motions to dismiss, respondent filed on March 5, 1994 her
opposition 12 thereto. She submitted documentary evidence showing that while Felicisimo
exercised the powers of his public office in Laguna, he regularly went home to their house in
New Alabang Village, Alabang, Metro Manila which they bought sometime in 1982. Further, she
presented the decree of absolute divorce issued by the Family Court of the First Circuit, State of
Hawaii to prove that the marriage of Felicisimo to Merry Lee had already been dissolved. Thus,
she claimed that Felicisimo had the legal capacity to marry her by virtue of paragraph 2, 13
Article 26 of the Family Code and the doctrine laid down in Van Dorn v. Romillo, Jr. 14

Thereafter, Linda, Rodolfo and herein petitioner Edgar San Luis, separately filed motions for
reconsideration from the Order denying their motions to dismiss. 15 They asserted that
paragraph 2, Article 26 of the Family Code cannot be given retroactive effect to validate
respondent’s bigamous marriage with Felicisimo because this would impair vested rights in
derogation of Article 256 16 of the Family Code.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 117

On April 21, 1994, Mila, another daughter of Felicisimo from his first marriage, filed a motion to
disqualify Acting Presiding Judge Anthony E. Santos from hearing the case.

On October 24, 1994, the trial court issued an Order 17 denying the motions for
reconsideration. It ruled that respondent, as widow of the decedent, possessed the legal
standing to file the petition and that venue was properly laid. Meanwhile, the motion for
disqualification was deemed moot and academic 18 because then Acting Presiding Judge Santos
was substituted by Judge Salvador S. Tensuan pending the resolution of said motion.

Mila filed a motion for inhibition 19 against Judge Tensuan on November 16, 1994. On even
date, Edgar also filed a motion for reconsideration 20 from the Order denying their motion for
reconsideration arguing that it does not state the facts and law on which it was based.

On November 25, 1994, Judge Tensuan issued an Order 21 granting the motion for inhibition.
The case was re-raffled to Branch 134 presided by Judge Paul T. Arcangel.

On April 24, 1995, 22 the trial court required the parties to submit their respective position
papers on the twin issues of venue and legal capacity of respondent to file the petition. On May
5, 1995, Edgar manifested 23 that he is adopting the arguments and evidence set forth in his
previous motion for reconsideration as his position paper. Respondent and Rodolfo filed their
position papers on June 14, 24 and June 20, 25 1995, respectively.

On September 12, 1995, the trial court dismissed the petition for letters of administration. It
held that, at the time of his death, Felicisimo was the duly elected governor and a resident of
the Province of Laguna. Hence, the petition should have been filed in Sta. Cruz, Laguna and not
in Makati City. It also ruled that respondent was without legal capacity to file the petition for
letters of administration because her marriage with Felicisimo was bigamous, thus, void ab
initio. It found that the decree of absolute divorce dissolving Felicisimo’s marriage to Merry Lee
was not valid in the Philippines and did not bind Felicisimo who was a Filipino citizen. It also
ruled that paragraph 2, Article 26 of the Family Code cannot be retroactively applied because it
would impair the vested rights of Felicisimo’s legitimate children.

Respondent moved for reconsideration 26 and for the disqualification 27 of Judge Arcangel but
said motions were denied. 28

Respondent appealed to the Court of Appeals which reversed and set aside the orders of the
trial court in its assailed Decision dated February 4, 1998, the dispositive portion of which
states:
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 118

WHEREFORE, the Orders dated September 12, 1995 and January 31, 1996 are hereby REVERSED
and SET ASIDE; the Orders dated February 28 and October 24, 1994 are REINSTATED; and the
records of the case is REMANDED to the trial court for further proceedings. 29

The appellante court ruled that under Section 1, Rule 73 of the Rules of Court, the term "place
of residence" of the decedent, for purposes of fixing the venue of the settlement of his estate,
refers to the personal, actual or physical habitation, or actual residence or place of abode of a
person as distinguished from legal residence or domicile. It noted that although Felicisimo
discharged his functions as governor in Laguna, he actually resided in Alabang, Muntinlupa.
Thus, the petition for letters of administration was properly filed in Makati City.

The Court of Appeals also held that Felicisimo had legal capacity to marry respondent by virtue
of paragraph 2, Article 26 of the Family Code and the rulings in Van Dorn v. Romillo, Jr. 30 and
Pilapil v. Ibay-Somera. 31 It found that the marriage between Felicisimo and Merry Lee was
validly dissolved by virtue of the decree of absolute divorce issued by the Family Court of the
First Circuit, State of Hawaii. As a result, under paragraph 2, Article 26, Felicisimo was
capacitated to contract a subsequent marriage with respondent. Thus –

With the well-known rule – express mandate of paragraph 2, Article 26, of the Family Code of
the Philippines, the doctrines in Van Dorn, Pilapil, and the reason and philosophy behind the
enactment of E.O. No. 227, — there is no justiciable reason to sustain the individual view —
sweeping statement — of Judge Arc[h]angel, that "Article 26, par. 2 of the Family Code,
contravenes the basic policy of our state against divorce in any form whatsoever." Indeed,
courts cannot deny what the law grants. All that the courts should do is to give force and effect
to the express mandate of the law. The foreign divorce having been obtained by the Foreigner
on December 14, 1992, 32 the Filipino divorcee, "shall x x x have capacity to remarry under
Philippine laws". For this reason, the marriage between the deceased and petitioner should not
be denominated as "a bigamous marriage.

Therefore, under Article 130 of the Family Code, the petitioner as the surviving spouse can
institute the judicial proceeding for the settlement of the estate of the deceased. x x x 33

Edgar, Linda, and Rodolfo filed separate motions for reconsideration 34 which were denied by
the Court of Appeals.

On July 2, 1998, Edgar appealed to this Court via the instant petition for review on certiorari. 35
Rodolfo later filed a manifestation and motion to adopt the said petition which was granted. 36

In the instant consolidated petitions, Edgar and Rodolfo insist that the venue of the subject
petition for letters of administration was improperly laid because at the time of his death,
Felicisimo was a resident of Sta. Cruz, Laguna. They contend that pursuant to our rulings in
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 119

Nuval v. Guray 37 and Romualdez v. RTC, Br. 7, Tacloban City, 38 "residence" is synonymous
with "domicile" which denotes a fixed permanent residence to which when absent, one intends
to return. They claim that a person can only have one domicile at any given time. Since
Felicisimo never changed his domicile, the petition for letters of administration should have
been filed in Sta. Cruz, Laguna.

Petitioners also contend that respondent’s marriage to Felicisimo was void and bigamous
because it was performed during the subsistence of the latter’s marriage to Merry Lee. They
argue that paragraph 2, Article 26 cannot be retroactively applied because it would impair
vested rights and ratify the void bigamous marriage. As such, respondent cannot be considered
the surviving wife of Felicisimo; hence, she has no legal capacity to file the petition for letters of
administration.

The issues for resolution: (1) whether venue was properly laid, and (2) whether respondent has
legal capacity to file the subject petition for letters of administration.

The petition lacks merit.

Under Section 1, 39 Rule 73 of the Rules of Court, the petition for letters of administration of
the estate of Felicisimo should be filed in the Regional Trial Court of the province "in which he
resides at the time of his death." In the case of Garcia Fule v. Court of Appeals, 40 we laid down
the doctrinal rule for determining the residence – as contradistinguished from domicile – of the
decedent for purposes of fixing the venue of the settlement of his estate:

[T]he term "resides" connotes ex vi termini "actual residence" as distinguished from "legal
residence or domicile." This term "resides," like the terms "residing" and "residence," is elastic
and should be interpreted in the light of the object or purpose of the statute or rule in which it
is employed. In the application of venue statutes and rules – Section 1, Rule 73 of the Revised
Rules of Court is of such nature – residence rather than domicile is the significant factor. Even
where the statute uses the word "domicile" still it is construed as meaning residence and not
domicile in the technical sense. Some cases make a distinction between the terms "residence"
and "domicile" but as generally used in statutes fixing venue, the terms are synonymous, and
convey the same meaning as the term "inhabitant." In other words, "resides" should be viewed
or understood in its popular sense, meaning, the personal, actual or physical habitation of a
person, actual residence or place of abode. It signifies physical presence in a place and actual
stay thereat. In this popular sense, the term means merely residence, that is, personal
residence, not legal residence or domicile. Residence simply requires bodily presence as an
inhabitant in a given place, while domicile requires bodily presence in that place and also an
intention to make it one’s domicile. No particular length of time of residence is required
though; however, the residence must be more than temporary. 41 (Emphasis supplied)
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 120

It is incorrect for petitioners to argue that "residence," for purposes of fixing the venue of the
settlement of the estate of Felicisimo, is synonymous with "domicile." The rulings in Nuval and
Romualdez are inapplicable to the instant case because they involve election cases. Needless to
say, there is a distinction between "residence" for purposes of election laws and "residence" for
purposes of fixing the venue of actions. In election cases, "residence" and "domicile" are
treated as synonymous terms, that is, the fixed permanent residence to which when absent,
one has the intention of returning. 42 However, for purposes of fixing venue under the Rules of
Court, the "residence" of a person is his personal, actual or physical habitation, or actual
residence or place of abode, which may not necessarily be his legal residence or domicile
provided he resides therein with continuity and consistency. 43 Hence, it is possible that a
person may have his residence in one place and domicile in another.

In the instant case, while petitioners established that Felicisimo was domiciled in Sta. Cruz,
Laguna, respondent proved that he also maintained a residence in Alabang, Muntinlupa from
1982 up to the time of his death. Respondent submitted in evidence the Deed of Absolute Sale
44 dated January 5, 1983 showing that the deceased purchased the aforesaid property. She
also presented billing statements 45 from the Philippine Heart Center and Chinese General
Hospital for the period August to December 1992 indicating the address of Felicisimo at "100
San Juanico, Ayala Alabang, Muntinlupa." Respondent also presented proof of membership of
the deceased in the Ayala Alabang Village Association 46 and Ayala Country Club, Inc., 47 letter-
envelopes 48 from 1988 to 1990 sent by the deceased’s children to him at his Alabang address,
and the deceased’s calling cards 49 stating that his home/city address is at "100 San Juanico,
Ayala Alabang Village, Muntinlupa" while his office/provincial address is in "Provincial Capitol,
Sta. Cruz, Laguna."

From the foregoing, we find that Felicisimo was a resident of Alabang, Muntinlupa for purposes
of fixing the venue of the settlement of his estate. Consequently, the subject petition for letters
of administration was validly filed in the Regional Trial Court 50 which has territorial jurisdiction
over Alabang, Muntinlupa. The subject petition was filed on December 17, 1993. At that time,
Muntinlupa was still a municipality and the branches of the Regional Trial Court of the National
Capital Judicial Region which had territorial jurisdiction over Muntinlupa were then seated in
Makati City as per Supreme Court Administrative Order No. 3. 51 Thus, the subject petition was
validly filed before the Regional Trial Court of Makati City.

Anent the issue of respondent Felicidad’s legal personality to file the petition for letters of
administration, we must first resolve the issue of whether a Filipino who is divorced by his alien
spouse abroad may validly remarry under the Civil Code, considering that Felicidad’s marriage
to Felicisimo was solemnized on June 20, 1974, or before the Family Code took effect on August
3, 1988. In resolving this issue, we need not retroactively apply the provisions of the Family
Code, particularly Art. 26, par. (2) considering that there is sufficient jurisprudential basis
allowing us to rule in the affirmative.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 121

The case of Van Dorn v. Romillo, Jr. 52 involved a marriage between a foreigner and his Filipino
wife, which marriage was subsequently dissolved through a divorce obtained abroad by the
latter. Claiming that the divorce was not valid under Philippine law, the alien spouse alleged
that his interest in the properties from their conjugal partnership should be protected. The
Court, however, recognized the validity of the divorce and held that the alien spouse had no
interest in the properties acquired by the Filipino wife after the divorce. Thus:

In this case, the divorce in Nevada released private respondent from the marriage from the
standards of American law, under which divorce dissolves the marriage. As stated by the
Federal Supreme Court of the United States in Atherton vs. Atherton, 45 L. Ed. 794, 799:

"The purpose and effect of a decree of divorce from the bond of matrimony by a competent
jurisdiction are to change the existing status or domestic relation of husband and wife, and to
free them both from the bond. The marriage tie, when thus severed as to one party, ceases to
bind either. A husband without a wife, or a wife without a husband, is unknown to the law.
When the law provides, in the nature of a penalty, that the guilty party shall not marry again,
that party, as well as the other, is still absolutely freed from the bond of the former marriage."

Thus, pursuant to his national law, private respondent is no longer the husband of petitioner.
He would have no standing to sue in the case below as petitioner’s husband entitled to exercise
control over conjugal assets. As he is bound by the Decision of his own country’s Court, which
validly exercised jurisdiction over him, and whose decision he does not repudiate, he is
estopped by his own representation before said Court from asserting his right over the alleged
conjugal property. 53

As to the effect of the divorce on the Filipino wife, the Court ruled that she should no longer be
considered married to the alien spouse. Further, she should not be required to perform her
marital duties and obligations. It held:

To maintain, as private respondent does, that, under our laws, petitioner has to be considered
still married to private respondent and still subject to a wife's obligations under Article 109, et.
seq. of the Civil Code cannot be just. Petitioner should not be obliged to live together with,
observe respect and fidelity, and render support to private respondent. The latter should not
continue to be one of her heirs with possible rights to conjugal property. She should not be
discriminated against in her own country if the ends of justice are to be served. 54 (Emphasis
added)

This principle was thereafter applied in Pilapil v. Ibay-Somera 55 where the Court recognized
the validity of a divorce obtained abroad. In the said case, it was held that the alien spouse is
not a proper party in filing the adultery suit against his Filipino wife. The Court stated that "the
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 122

severance of the marital bond had the effect of dissociating the former spouses from each
other, hence the actuations of one would not affect or cast obloquy on the other." 56

Likewise, in Quita v. Court of Appeals, 57 the Court stated that where a Filipino is divorced by
his naturalized foreign spouse, the ruling in Van Dorn applies. 58 Although decided on
December 22, 1998, the divorce in the said case was obtained in 1954 when the Civil Code
provisions were still in effect.

The significance of the Van Dorn case to the development of limited recognition of divorce in
the Philippines cannot be denied. The ruling has long been interpreted as severing marital ties
between parties in a mixed marriage and capacitating the Filipino spouse to remarry as a
necessary consequence of upholding the validity of a divorce obtained abroad by the alien
spouse. In his treatise, Dr. Arturo M. Tolentino cited Van Dorn stating that "if the foreigner
obtains a valid foreign divorce, the Filipino spouse shall have capacity to remarry under
Philippine law." 59 In Garcia v. Recio, 60 the Court likewise cited the aforementioned case in
relation to Article 26. 61

In the recent case of Republic v. Orbecido III, 62 the historical background and legislative intent
behind paragraph 2, Article 26 of the Family Code were discussed, to wit:

Brief Historical Background

On July 6, 1987, then President Corazon Aquino signed into law Executive Order No. 209,
otherwise known as the "Family Code," which took effect on August 3, 1988. Article 26 thereof
states:

All marriages solemnized outside the Philippines in accordance with the laws in force in the
country where they were solemnized, and valid there as such, shall also be valid in this country,
except those prohibited under Articles 35, 37, and 38.

On July 17, 1987, shortly after the signing of the original Family Code, Executive Order No. 227
was likewise signed into law, amending Articles 26, 36, and 39 of the Family Code. A second
paragraph was added to Article 26. As so amended, it now provides:

ART. 26. All marriages solemnized outside the Philippines in accordance with the laws in force
in the country where they were solemnized, and valid there as such, shall also be valid in this
country, except those prohibited under Articles 35(1), (4), (5) and (6), 36, 37 and 38.

Where a marriage between a Filipino citizen and a foreigner is validly celebrated and a divorce
is thereafter validly obtained abroad by the alien spouse capacitating him or her to remarry, the
Filipino spouse shall have capacity to remarry under Philippine law. (Emphasis supplied)
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 123

xxxx
Legislative Intent

Records of the proceedings of the Family Code deliberations showed that the intent of
Paragraph 2 of Article 26, according to Judge Alicia Sempio-Diy, a member of the Civil Code
Revision Committee, is to avoid the absurd situation where the Filipino spouse remains married
to the alien spouse who, after obtaining a divorce, is no longer married to the Filipino spouse.

Interestingly, Paragraph 2 of Article 26 traces its origin to the 1985 case of Van Dorn v. Romillo,
Jr. The Van Dorn case involved a marriage between a Filipino citizen and a foreigner. The Court
held therein that a divorce decree validly obtained by the alien spouse is valid in the
Philippines, and consequently, the Filipino spouse is capacitated to remarry under Philippine
law. 63 (Emphasis added)

As such, the Van Dorn case is sufficient basis in resolving a situation where a divorce is validly
obtained abroad by the alien spouse. With the enactment of the Family Code and paragraph 2,
Article 26 thereof, our lawmakers codified the law already established through judicial
precedent.1awphi1.net

Indeed, when the object of a marriage is defeated by rendering its continuance intolerable to
one of the parties and productive of no possible good to the community, relief in some way
should be obtainable. 64 Marriage, being a mutual and shared commitment between two
parties, cannot possibly be productive of any good to the society where one is considered
released from the marital bond while the other remains bound to it. Such is the state of affairs
where the alien spouse obtains a valid divorce abroad against the Filipino spouse, as in this
case.

Petitioners cite Articles 15 65 and 17 66 of the Civil Code in stating that the divorce is void
under Philippine law insofar as Filipinos are concerned. However, in light of this Court’s rulings
in the cases discussed above, the Filipino spouse should not be discriminated against in his own
country if the ends of justice are to be served. 67 In Alonzo v. Intermediate Appellate Court, 68
the Court stated:

But as has also been aptly observed, we test a law by its results; and likewise, we may add, by
its purposes. It is a cardinal rule that, in seeking the meaning of the law, the first concern of the
judge should be to discover in its provisions the intent of the lawmaker. Unquestionably, the
law should never be interpreted in such a way as to cause injustice as this is never within the
legislative intent. An indispensable part of that intent, in fact, for we presume the good motives
of the legislature, is to render justice.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 124

Thus, we interpret and apply the law not independently of but in consonance with justice. Law
and justice are inseparable, and we must keep them so. To be sure, there are some laws that,
while generally valid, may seem arbitrary when applied in a particular case because of its
peculiar circumstances. In such a situation, we are not bound, because only of our nature and
functions, to apply them just the same, in slavish obedience to their language. What we do
instead is find a balance between the word and the will, that justice may be done even as the
law is obeyed.

As judges, we are not automatons. We do not and must not unfeelingly apply the law as it is
worded, yielding like robots to the literal command without regard to its cause and
consequence. "Courts are apt to err by sticking too closely to the words of a law," so we are
warned, by Justice Holmes again, "where these words import a policy that goes beyond them."

xxxx

More than twenty centuries ago, Justinian defined justice "as the constant and perpetual wish
to render every one his due." That wish continues to motivate this Court when it assesses the
facts and the law in every case brought to it for decision. Justice is always an essential
ingredient of its decisions. Thus when the facts warrants, we interpret the law in a way that will
render justice, presuming that it was the intention of the lawmaker, to begin with, that the law
be dispensed with justice. 69

Applying the above doctrine in the instant case, the divorce decree allegedly obtained by Merry
Lee which absolutely allowed Felicisimo to remarry, would have vested Felicidad with the legal
personality to file the present petition as Felicisimo’s surviving spouse. However, the records
show that there is insufficient evidence to prove the validity of the divorce obtained by Merry
Lee as well as the marriage of respondent and Felicisimo under the laws of the U.S.A. In Garcia
v. Recio, 70 the Court laid down the specific guidelines for pleading and proving foreign law and
divorce judgments. It held that presentation solely of the divorce decree is insufficient and that
proof of its authenticity and due execution must be presented. Under Sections 24 and 25 of
Rule 132, a writing or document may be proven as a public or official record of a foreign
country by either (1) an official publication or (2) a copy thereof attested by the officer having
legal custody of the document. If the record is not kept in the Philippines, such copy must be (a)
accompanied by a certificate issued by the proper diplomatic or consular officer in the
Philippine foreign service stationed in the foreign country in which the record is kept and (b)
authenticated by the seal of his office. 71

With regard to respondent’s marriage to Felicisimo allegedly solemnized in California, U.S.A.,


she submitted photocopies of the Marriage Certificate and the annotated text 72 of the Family
Law Act of California which purportedly show that their marriage was done in accordance with
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 125

the said law. As stated in Garcia, however, the Court cannot take judicial notice of foreign laws
as they must be alleged and proved. 73

Therefore, this case should be remanded to the trial court for further reception of evidence on
the divorce decree obtained by Merry Lee and the marriage of respondent and Felicisimo.

Even assuming that Felicisimo was not capacitated to marry respondent in 1974, nevertheless,
we find that the latter has the legal personality to file the subject petition for letters of
administration, as she may be considered the co-owner of Felicisimo as regards the properties
that were acquired through their joint efforts during their cohabitation.

Section 6, 74 Rule 78 of the Rules of Court states that letters of administration may be granted
to the surviving spouse of the decedent. However, Section 2, Rule 79 thereof also provides in
part:

SEC. 2. Contents of petition for letters of administration. – A petition for letters of


administration must be filed by an interested person and must show, as far as known to the
petitioner: x x x.

An "interested person" has been defined as one who would be benefited by the estate, such as
an heir, or one who has a claim against the estate, such as a creditor. The interest must be
material and direct, and not merely indirect or contingent. 75

In the instant case, respondent would qualify as an interested person who has a direct interest
in the estate of Felicisimo by virtue of their cohabitation, the existence of which was not denied
by petitioners. If she proves the validity of the divorce and Felicisimo’s capacity to remarry, but
fails to prove that her marriage with him was validly performed under the laws of the U.S.A.,
then she may be considered as a co-owner under Article 144 76 of the Civil Code. This provision
governs the property relations between parties who live together as husband and wife without
the benefit of marriage, or their marriage is void from the beginning. It provides that the
property acquired by either or both of them through their work or industry or their wages and
salaries shall be governed by the rules on co-ownership. In a co-ownership, it is not necessary
that the property be acquired through their joint labor, efforts and industry. Any property
acquired during the union is prima facie presumed to have been obtained through their joint
efforts. Hence, the portions belonging to the co-owners shall be presumed equal, unless the
contrary is proven. 77

Meanwhile, if respondent fails to prove the validity of both the divorce and the marriage, the
applicable provision would be Article 148 of the Family Code which has filled the hiatus in
Article 144 of the Civil Code by expressly regulating the property relations of couples living
together as husband and wife but are incapacitated to marry. 78 In Saguid v. Court of Appeals,
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 126

79 we held that even if the cohabitation or the acquisition of property occurred before the
Family Code took effect, Article 148 governs. 80 The Court described the property regime under
this provision as follows:

The regime of limited co-ownership of property governing the union of parties who are not
legally capacitated to marry each other, but who nonetheless live together as husband and
wife, applies to properties acquired during said cohabitation in proportion to their respective
contributions. Co-ownership will only be up to the extent of the proven actual contribution of
money, property or industry. Absent proof of the extent thereof, their contributions and
corresponding shares shall be presumed to be equal.

xxxx

In the cases of Agapay v. Palang, and Tumlos v. Fernandez, which involved the issue of co-
ownership of properties acquired by the parties to a bigamous marriage and an adulterous
relationship, respectively, we ruled that proof of actual contribution in the acquisition of the
property is essential. x x x

As in other civil cases, the burden of proof rests upon the party who, as determined by the
pleadings or the nature of the case, asserts an affirmative issue. Contentions must be proved by
competent evidence and reliance must be had on the strength of the party’s own evidence and
not upon the weakness of the opponent’s defense. x x x 81

In view of the foregoing, we find that respondent’s legal capacity to file the subject petition for
letters of administration may arise from her status as the surviving wife of Felicisimo or as his
co-owner under Article 144 of the Civil Code or Article 148 of the Family Code.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The Decision of the Court of Appeals reinstating and
affirming the February 28, 1994 Order of the Regional Trial Court which denied petitioners’
motion to dismiss and its October 24, 1994 Order which dismissed petitioners’ motion for
reconsideration is AFFIRMED. Let this case be REMANDED to the trial court for further
proceedings.

SO ORDERED.

Footnotes

13 When a marriage between a Filipino citizen and a foreigner is validly celebrated and a
divorce is thereafter validly obtained abroad by the alien spouse capacitating him or her to
remarry, the Filipino spouse shall have capacity to remarry under Philippine law.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 127

16 This Code shall have retroactive effect insofar as it does not prejudice or impair vested rights
or acquired rights in accordance with the Civil Code or other laws.

32 Parenthetically, it appears that the Court of Appeals proceeded from a mistaken finding of
fact because the records clearly show that the divorce was obtained on December 14, 1973
(not December 14, 1992) and that the marriage of Gov. San Luis with respondent was
celebrated on June 20, 1974. These events both occurred before the effectivity of the Family
Code on August 3, 1988.

39 SECTION 1. Where estate of deceased persons be settled. — If the decedent is an inhabitant


of the Philippines at the time of his death, whether a citizen or an alien, his will shall be proved,
or letters of administration granted, and his estate settled, in the Court of First Instance in the
province in which he resides at the time of his death, x x x. (Underscoring supplied)

50 The Regional Trial Court and not the Municipal Trial Court had jurisdiction over this case
because the value of Gov. San Luis’ estate exceeded ₱200,000.00 as provided for under B.P. Blg
129, Section 19(4).

51 SC Administrative Order No. 3 dated January 19, 1983 states in part:

Pursuant to the provisions of Section 18 of B.P. Blg. 129, and Section 4 of the Executive Order
issued by the President of the Philippines on January 17, 1983, declaring the reorganization of
the Judiciary, the territorial jurisdiction of the Regional Trial Courts in the National Capital
Judicial Region are hereby defined as follows:

xxxx

5. Branches CXXXII to CL, inclusive, with seats at Makati – over the municipalities of Las Pinas,
Makati, Muntinlupa and Parañaque. x x x

65 ART. 15. Laws relating to family rights and duties, or to the status, condition and legal
capacity of persons are binding upon citizens of the Philippines, even though living abroad.

66 Art. 17. x x x Prohibitive laws concerning persons, their acts or property, and those which
have for their object public order, public policy and good customs shall not be rendered
ineffective by laws or judgments promulgated, or by determinations or conventions agreed
upon in a foreign country.

74 SEC. 6. When and to whom letters of administration granted. – If x x x a person dies


intestate, administration shall be granted:
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 128

(a) To the surviving husband or wife, as the case may be, or next of kin, or both, in the
discretion of the court, or to such person as such surviving husband or wife, or next of kin,
requests to have appointed, if competent and willing to serve; x x x.

75 Saguinsin v. Lindayag,116 Phil. 1193, 1195 (1962).

76 Article 144 of the Civil Code reads in full:

When a man and a woman live together as husband and wife, but they are not married, or their
marriage is void from the beginning, the property acquired by either or both of them through
their work or industry or their wages and salaries shall be governed by the rules on co-
ownership.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 129

G.R. No. 171914 July 23, 2014

SOLEDAD L. LAVADIA, Petitioner,


vs.
HEIRS OF JUAN LUCES LUNA, represented by GREGORIO Z. LUNA and EUGENIA ZABALLERO-
LUNA, Respondents.

DECISION

BERSAMIN, J.:

Divorce between Filipinos is void and ineffectual under the nationality rule adopted by
Philippine law. Hence, any settlement of property between the parties of the first marriage
involving Filipinos submitted as an incident of a divorce obtained in a foreign country lacks
competent judicial approval, and cannot be enforceable against the assets of the husband who
contracts a subsequent marriage.

The Case

The petitioner, the second wife of the late Atty. Juan Luces Luna, appeals the adverse decision
promulgated on November 11, 2005,1 whereby the Court of Appeals (CA) affirmed with
modification the decision rendered on August 27, 2001 by the Regional Trial Court (RTC),
Branch 138, in Makati City.2 The CA thereby denied her right in the 25/100 pro indiviso share of
the husband in a condominium unit, and in the law books of the husband acquired during the
second marriage.

Antecedents

The antecedent facts were summarized by the CA as follows:

ATTY. LUNA, a practicing lawyer, was at first a name partner in the prestigious law firm Sycip,
Salazar, Luna, Manalo, Hernandez & Feliciano Law Offices at that time when he was living with
his first wife, herein intervenor-appellant Eugenia Zaballero-Luna (EUGENIA), whom he initially
married ina civil ceremony conducted by the Justice of the Peace of Parañaque, Rizal on
September 10, 1947 and later solemnized in a church ceremony at the Pro-Cathedral in San
Miguel, Bulacan on September 12, 1948. In ATTY. LUNA’s marriage to EUGENIA, they begot
seven (7) children, namely: Regina Maria L. Nadal, Juan Luis Luna, Araceli Victoria L. Arellano,
Ana Maria L. Tabunda, Gregorio Macario Luna, Carolina Linda L. Tapia, and Cesar Antonio Luna.
After almost two (2) decades of marriage, ATTY. LUNA and EUGENIA eventually agreed to live
apart from each other in February 1966 and agreed to separation of property, to which end,
they entered into a written agreement entitled "AGREEMENT FOR SEPARATION AND PROPERTY
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 130

SETTLEMENT" dated November 12, 1975, whereby they agreed to live separately and to
dissolve and liquidate their conjugal partnership of property.

On January 12, 1976, ATTY. LUNA obtained a divorce decree of his marriage with EUGENIA from
the Civil and Commercial Chamber of the First Circumscription of the Court of First Instance of
Sto. Domingo, Dominican Republic. Also in Sto.Domingo, Dominican Republic, on the same
date, ATTY. LUNA contracted another marriage, this time with SOLEDAD. Thereafter, ATTY.
LUNA and SOLEDAD returned to the Philippines and lived together as husband and wife until
1987.

Sometime in 1977, ATTY. LUNA organized a new law firm named: Luna, Puruganan, Sison and
Ongkiko (LUPSICON) where ATTY. LUNA was the managing partner.

On February 14, 1978, LUPSICON through ATTY. LUNA purchased from Tandang Sora
Development Corporation the 6th Floor of Kalaw-Ledesma Condominium Project(condominium
unit) at Gamboa St., Makati City, consisting of 517.52 square meters, for ₱1,449,056.00, to be
paid on installment basis for 36months starting on April 15, 1978. Said condominium unit was
to be usedas law office of LUPSICON. After full payment, the Deed of Absolute Sale over the
condominium unit was executed on July 15, 1983, and CCT No. 4779 was issued on August 10,
1983, which was registered bearing the following names:

"JUAN LUCES LUNA, married to Soledad L. Luna (46/100); MARIO E. ONGKIKO, married to Sonia
P.G. Ongkiko (25/100); GREGORIO R. PURUGANAN, married to Paz A. Puruganan (17/100); and
TERESITA CRUZ SISON, married to Antonio J.M. Sison (12/100) x x x" Subsequently, 8/100 share
of ATTY. LUNA and 17/100 share of Atty. Gregorio R. Puruganan in the condominium unit was
sold to Atty. Mario E. Ongkiko, for which a new CCT No. 21761 was issued on February 7, 1992
in the following names:

"JUAN LUCES LUNA, married to Soledad L. Luna (38/100); MARIO E. ONGKIKO, married to Sonia
P.G. Ongkiko (50/100); TERESITA CRUZ SISON, married to Antonio J.M. Sison (12/100) x x x"

Sometime in 1992, LUPSICON was dissolved and the condominium unit was partitioned by the
partners but the same was still registered in common under CCT No. 21716. The parties
stipulated that the interest of ATTY. LUNA over the condominium unit would be 25/100 share.
ATTY. LUNA thereafter established and headed another law firm with Atty. Renato G. Dela
Cruzand used a portion of the office condominium unit as their office. The said law firm lasted
until the death of ATTY. JUAN on July 12, 1997.

After the death of ATTY. JUAN, his share in the condominium unit including the lawbooks, office
furniture and equipment found therein were taken over by Gregorio Z. Luna, ATTY. LUNA’s son
of the first marriage. Gregorio Z. Luna thenleased out the 25/100 portion of the condominium
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 131

unit belonging to his father to Atty. Renato G. De la Cruz who established his own law firm
named Renato G. De la Cruz & Associates.

The 25/100 pro-indiviso share of ATTY. Luna in the condominium unit as well as the law books,
office furniture and equipment became the subject of the complaint filed by SOLEDAD against
the heirs of ATTY. JUAN with the RTC of Makati City, Branch 138, on September 10, 1999,
docketed as Civil Case No. 99-1644. The complaint alleged that the subject properties were
acquired during the existence of the marriage between ATTY. LUNA and SOLEDAD through their
joint efforts that since they had no children, SOLEDAD became co-owner of the said properties
upon the death of ATTY. LUNA to the extent of ¾ pro-indiviso share consisting of her ½ share in
the said properties plus her ½ share in the net estate of ATTY. LUNA which was bequeathed to
her in the latter’s last will and testament; and thatthe heirs of ATTY. LUNA through Gregorio Z.
Luna excluded SOLEDAD from her share in the subject properties. The complaint prayed that
SOLEDAD be declared the owner of the ¾ portion of the subject properties;that the same be
partitioned; that an accounting of the rentals on the condominium unit pertaining to the share
of SOLEDAD be conducted; that a receiver be appointed to preserve ad administer the subject
properties;and that the heirs of ATTY. LUNA be ordered to pay attorney’s feesand costs of the
suit to SOLEDAD.3

Ruling of the RTC

On August 27, 2001, the RTC rendered its decision after trial upon the aforementioned facts,4
disposing thusly:

WHEREFORE, judgment is rendered as follows:

(a) The 24/100 pro-indiviso share in the condominium unit located at the SIXTH FLOOR of the
KALAW LEDESMA CONDOMINIUM PROJECT covered by Condominium Certificate of Title No.
21761 consisting of FIVE HUNDRED SEVENTEEN (517/100) SQUARE METERS is adjudged to have
been acquired by Juan Lucas Luna through his sole industry;

(b) Plaintiff has no right as owner or under any other concept over the condominium unit,
hence the entry in Condominium Certificate of Title No. 21761 of the Registry of Deeds of
Makati with respect to the civil status of Juan Luces Luna should be changed from "JUAN LUCES
LUNA married to Soledad L. Luna" to "JUAN LUCES LUNA married to Eugenia Zaballero Luna";

(c) Plaintiff is declared to be the owner of the books Corpus Juris, Fletcher on Corporation,
American Jurisprudence and Federal Supreme Court Reports found in the condominium unit
and defendants are ordered to deliver them to the plaintiff as soon as appropriate
arrangements have been madefor transport and storage.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 132

No pronouncement as to costs.

SO ORDERED.5

Decision of the CA

Both parties appealed to the CA.6

On her part, the petitioner assigned the following errors to the RTC, namely:

I. THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN RULING THAT THE CONDOMINIUM UNIT WAS ACQUIRED THRU
THE SOLE INDUSTRY OF ATTY. JUAN LUCES LUNA;

II. THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN RULING THAT PLAINTIFFAPPELLANT DID NOT CONTRIBUTE
MONEY FOR THE ACQUISITION OF THE CONDOMINIUM UNIT;

III. THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN GIVING CREDENCE TO PORTIONS OF THE TESTIMONY OF
GREGORIO LUNA, WHO HAS NO ACTUAL KNOWLEDGE OF THE ACQUISITION OF THE UNIT, BUT
IGNORED OTHER PORTIONS OF HIS TESTIMONY FAVORABLE TO THE PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT;

IV. THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN NOT GIVING SIGNIFICANCE TO THE FACT THAT THE CONJUGAL
PARTNERSHIP BETWEEN LUNA AND INTERVENOR-APPELLANT WAS ALREADY DISSOLVED AND
LIQUIDATED PRIOR TO THE UNION OF PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT AND LUNA;

V. THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN GIVING UNDUE SIGNIFICANCE TO THE ABSENCE OF THE
DISPOSITION OF THE CONDOMINIUM UNIT IN THE HOLOGRAPHIC WILL OF THE PLAINTIFF-
APPELLANT;

VI. THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN GIVING UNDUE SIGNIFICANCE TO THE FACTTHAT THE NAME
OF PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT DID NOT APPEAR IN THE DEED OF ABSOLUTE SALE EXECUTED BY
TANDANG SORA DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION OVER THE CONDOMINIUM UNIT;

VII. THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN RULING THAT NEITHER ARTICLE 148 OF THE FAMILYCODE
NOR ARTICLE 144 OF THE CIVIL CODE OF THE PHILIPPINES ARE APPLICABLE;

VIII. THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN NOT RULING THAT THE CAUSE OF ACTION OF THE
INTERVENOR-APPELLANT HAS BEEN BARRED BY PESCRIPTION AND LACHES; and

IX. THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN NOT EXPUNGING/DISMISSING THE INTERVENTION FOR
FAILURE OF INTERVENOR-APPELLANT TO PAY FILING FEE.7
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 133

In contrast, the respondents attributedthe following errors to the trial court, to wit:

I. THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN HOLDING THAT CERTAIN FOREIGN LAW BOOKS IN THE LAW
OFFICE OF ATTY. LUNA WERE BOUGHT WITH THE USE OF PLAINTIFF’S MONEY;

II. THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN HOLDING THAT PLAINTIFF PROVED BY PREPONDERANCE OF
EVIDENCE (HER CLAIM OVER) THE SPECIFIED FOREIGN LAW BOOKS FOUND IN ATTY. LUNA’S
LAW OFFICE; and

III. THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN NOT HOLDING THAT, ASSUMING PLAINTIFF PAID FOR THE
SAID FOREIGN LAW BOOKS, THE RIGHT TO RECOVER THEM HAD PRESCRIBED AND BARRED BY
LACHES AND ESTOPPEL.8

On November 11, 2005, the CA promulgated its assailed modified decision,9 holding and ruling:

EUGENIA, the first wife, was the legitimate wife of ATTY. LUNA until the latter’s death on July
12, 1997. The absolute divorce decree obtained by ATTY. LUNA inthe Dominican Republic did
not terminate his prior marriage with EUGENIA because foreign divorce between Filipino
citizens is not recognized in our jurisdiction. x x x10

xxxx

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the assailed August 27, 2001 Decision of the RTC of
MakatiCity, Branch 138, is hereby MODIFIEDas follows:

(a) The 25/100 pro-indiviso share in the condominium unit at the SIXTH FLOOR of the KALAW
LEDESMA CONDOMINIUM PROJECT covered by Condominium Certificate of Title No. 21761
consisting of FIVE HUNDRED SEVENTEEN (517/100) (sic) SQUARE METERS is hereby adjudged to
defendants-appellants, the heirs of Juan Luces Luna and Eugenia Zaballero-Luna (first
marriage), having been acquired from the sole funds and sole industry of Juan Luces Luna while
marriage of Juan Luces Luna and Eugenia Zaballero-Luna (first marriage) was still subsisting and
valid;

(b) Plaintiff-appellant Soledad Lavadia has no right as owner or under any other concept over
the condominium unit, hence the entry in Condominium Certificate of Title No. 21761 of the
Registry of Deeds ofMakati with respect to the civil status of Juan Luces Luna should be
changed from "JUAN LUCES LUNA married to Soledad L. Luna" to "JUAN LUCES LUNA married to
Eugenia Zaballero Luna";

(c) Defendants-appellants, the heirs of Juan Luces Luna and Eugenia Zaballero-Luna(first
marriage) are hereby declared to be the owner of the books Corpus Juris, Fletcher on
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 134

Corporation, American Jurisprudence and Federal Supreme Court Reports found in the
condominium unit.

No pronouncement as to costs.

SO ORDERED.11

On March 13, 2006,12 the CA denied the petitioner’s motion for reconsideration.13

Issues

In this appeal, the petitioner avers in her petition for review on certiorarithat:

A. The Honorable Court of Appeals erred in ruling that the Agreement for Separation and
Property Settlement executed by Luna and Respondent Eugenia was unenforceable; hence,
their conjugal partnership was not dissolved and liquidated;

B. The Honorable Court of Appeals erred in not recognizing the Dominican Republic court’s
approval of the Agreement;

C. The Honorable Court of Appeals erred in ruling that Petitioner failed to adduce sufficient
proof of actual contribution to the acquisition of purchase of the subjectcondominium unit; and

D. The Honorable Court of Appeals erred in ruling that Petitioner was not entitled to the subject
law books.14

The decisive question to be resolved is who among the contending parties should be entitled to
the 25/100 pro indivisoshare in the condominium unit; and to the law books (i.e., Corpus Juris,
Fletcher on Corporation, American Jurisprudence and Federal Supreme Court Reports).

The resolution of the decisive question requires the Court to ascertain the law that should
determine, firstly, whether the divorce between Atty. Luna and Eugenia Zaballero-Luna
(Eugenia) had validly dissolved the first marriage; and, secondly, whether the second marriage
entered into by the late Atty. Luna and the petitioner entitled the latter to any rights in
property. Ruling of the Court

We affirm the modified decision of the CA.

1. Atty. Luna’s first marriage with Eugenia


subsisted up to the time of his death
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 135

The first marriage between Atty. Luna and Eugenia, both Filipinos, was solemnized in the
Philippines on September 10, 1947. The law in force at the time of the solemnization was the
Spanish Civil Code, which adopted the nationality rule. The Civil Codecontinued to follow the
nationality rule, to the effect that Philippine laws relating to family rights and duties, or to the
status, condition and legal capacity of persons were binding upon citizens of the Philippines,
although living abroad.15 Pursuant to the nationality rule, Philippine laws governed thiscase by
virtue of bothAtty. Luna and Eugenio having remained Filipinos until the death of Atty. Luna on
July 12, 1997 terminated their marriage.

From the time of the celebration ofthe first marriage on September 10, 1947 until the present,
absolute divorce between Filipino spouses has not been recognized in the Philippines. The non-
recognition of absolute divorce between Filipinos has remained even under the Family Code,16
even if either or both of the spouses are residing abroad.17 Indeed, the only two types of
defective marital unions under our laws have beenthe void and the voidable marriages. As
such, the remedies against such defective marriages have been limited to the declaration of
nullity ofthe marriage and the annulment of the marriage.

It is true that on January 12, 1976, the Court of First Instance (CFI) of Sto. Domingo in the
Dominican Republic issued the Divorce Decree dissolving the first marriage of Atty. Luna and
Eugenia.18 Conformably with the nationality rule, however, the divorce, even if voluntarily
obtained abroad, did not dissolve the marriage between Atty. Luna and Eugenia, which
subsisted up to the time of his death on July 12, 1997. This finding conforms to the
Constitution, which characterizes marriage as an inviolable social institution,19 and regards it as
a special contract of permanent union between a man and a woman for the establishment of a
conjugal and family life.20 The non-recognition of absolute divorce in the Philippines is a
manifestation of the respect for the sanctity of the marital union especially among Filipino
citizens. It affirms that the extinguishment of a valid marriage must be grounded only upon the
death of either spouse, or upon a ground expressly provided bylaw. For as long as this public
policy on marriage between Filipinos exists, no divorce decree dissolving the marriage between
them can ever be given legal or judicial recognition and enforcement in this jurisdiction.

2. The Agreement for Separation and Property Settlement


was void for lack of court approval

The petitioner insists that the Agreement for Separation and Property Settlement (Agreement)
that the late Atty. Luna and Eugenia had entered into and executed in connection with the
divorce proceedings before the CFI of Sto. Domingo in the Dominican Republic to dissolve and
liquidate their conjugal partnership was enforceable against Eugenia. Hence, the CA committed
reversible error in decreeing otherwise.

The insistence of the petitioner was unwarranted.


P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 136

Considering that Atty. Luna and Eugenia had not entered into any marriage settlement prior to
their marriage on September 10, 1947, the system of relative community or conjugal
partnership of gains governed their property relations. This is because the Spanish Civil Code,
the law then in force at the time of their marriage, did not specify the property regime of the
spouses in the event that they had not entered into any marriage settlement before or at the
time of the marriage. Article 119 of the Civil Codeclearly so provides, to wit:

Article 119. The future spouses may in the marriage settlements agree upon absolute or
relative community of property, or upon complete separation of property, or upon any other
regime. In the absence of marriage settlements, or when the same are void, the system of
relative community or conjugal partnership of gains as established in this Code, shall govern the
property relations between husband and wife.

Article 142 of the Civil Codehas defined a conjugal partnership of gains thusly:

Article 142. By means of the conjugal partnership of gains the husband and wife place in a
common fund the fruits of their separate property and the income from their work or industry,
and divide equally, upon the dissolution of the marriage or of the partnership, the net gains or
benefits obtained indiscriminately by either spouse during the marriage.

The conjugal partnership of gains subsists until terminated for any of various causes of
termination enumerated in Article 175 of the Civil Code, viz:

Article 175. The conjugal partnership of gains terminates:

(1) Upon the death of either spouse;

(2) When there is a decree of legal separation;

(3) When the marriage is annulled;

(4) In case of judicial separation of property under Article 191.

The mere execution of the Agreement by Atty. Luna and Eugenia did not per sedissolve and
liquidate their conjugal partnership of gains. The approval of the Agreement by a competent
court was still required under Article 190 and Article 191 of the Civil Code, as follows:

Article 190. In the absence of an express declaration in the marriage settlements, the
separation of property between spouses during the marriage shall not take place save in virtue
of a judicial order. (1432a)
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 137

Article 191. The husband or the wife may ask for the separation of property, and it shall be
decreed when the spouse of the petitioner has been sentenced to a penalty which carries with
it civil interdiction, or has been declared absent, or when legal separation has been granted.

xxxx

The husband and the wife may agree upon the dissolution of the conjugal partnership during
the marriage, subject to judicial approval. All the creditors of the husband and of the wife, as
well as of the conjugal partnership shall be notified of any petition for judicialapproval or the
voluntary dissolution of the conjugal partnership, so that any such creditors may appear atthe
hearing to safeguard his interests. Upon approval of the petition for dissolution of the conjugal
partnership, the court shall take such measures as may protect the creditors and other third
persons.

After dissolution of the conjugal partnership, the provisions of articles 214 and 215 shall apply.
The provisions of this Code concerning the effect of partition stated in articles 498 to 501 shall
be applicable. (1433a)

But was not the approval of the Agreement by the CFI of Sto. Domingo in the Dominican
Republic sufficient in dissolving and liquidating the conjugal partnership of gains between the
late Atty. Luna and Eugenia?

The query is answered in the negative. There is no question that the approval took place only as
an incident ofthe action for divorce instituted by Atty. Luna and Eugenia, for, indeed, the
justifications for their execution of the Agreement were identical to the grounds raised in the
action for divorce.21 With the divorce not being itself valid and enforceable under Philippine
law for being contrary to Philippine public policy and public law, the approval of the Agreement
was not also legally valid and enforceable under Philippine law. Consequently, the conjugal
partnership of gains of Atty. Luna and Eugenia subsisted in the lifetime of their marriage.

3. Atty. Luna’s marriage with Soledad, being bigamous,


was void; properties acquired during their marriage
were governed by the rules on co-ownership

What law governed the property relations of the second marriage between Atty. Luna and
Soledad?

The CA expressly declared that Atty. Luna’s subsequent marriage to Soledad on January 12,
1976 was void for being bigamous,22 on the ground that the marriage between Atty. Luna and
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 138

Eugenia had not been dissolved by the Divorce Decree rendered by the CFI of Sto. Domingo in
the Dominican Republic but had subsisted until the death of Atty. Luna on July 12, 1997.

The Court concurs with the CA.

In the Philippines, marriages that are bigamous, polygamous, or incestuous are void. Article 71
of the Civil Codeclearly states:

Article 71. All marriages performed outside the Philippines in accordance with the laws in force
in the country where they were performed, and valid there as such, shall also be valid in this
country, except bigamous, polygamous, or incestuous marriages as determined by Philippine
law.

Bigamy is an illegal marriage committed by contracting a second or subsequent marriage before


the first marriage has been legally dissolved, or before the absent spouse has been declared
presumptively dead by means of a judgment rendered in the proper proceedings.23 A
bigamous marriage is considered void ab initio.24

Due to the second marriage between Atty. Luna and the petitioner being void ab initioby virtue
of its being bigamous, the properties acquired during the bigamous marriage were governed by
the rules on co-ownership, conformably with Article 144 of the Civil Code, viz:

Article 144. When a man and a woman live together as husband and wife, but they are not
married, ortheir marriage is void from the beginning, the property acquired by eitheror both of
them through their work or industry or their wages and salaries shall be governed by the rules
on co-ownership.(n)

In such a situation, whoever alleges co-ownership carried the burden of proof to confirm such
fact.1âwphi1 To establish co-ownership, therefore, it became imperative for the petitioner to
offer proof of her actual contributions in the acquisition of property. Her mere allegation of co-
ownership, without sufficient and competent evidence, would warrant no relief in her favor. As
the Court explained in Saguid v. Court of Appeals:25

In the cases of Agapay v. Palang, and Tumlos v. Fernandez, which involved the issue of co-
ownership ofproperties acquired by the parties to a bigamous marriage and an adulterous
relationship, respectively, we ruled that proof of actual contribution in the acquisition of the
property is essential. The claim of co-ownership of the petitioners therein who were parties to
the bigamous and adulterousunion is without basis because they failed to substantiate their
allegation that they contributed money in the purchase of the disputed properties. Also in
Adriano v. Court of Appeals, we ruled that the fact that the controverted property was titled in
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 139

the name of the parties to an adulterous relationship is not sufficient proof of coownership
absent evidence of actual contribution in the acquisition of the property.

As in other civil cases, the burden of proof rests upon the party who, as determined by the
pleadings or the nature of the case, asserts an affirmative issue. Contentions must be proved by
competent evidence and reliance must be had on the strength of the party’s own evidence and
not upon the weakness of the opponent’s defense. This applies with more vigor where, as in
the instant case, the plaintiff was allowed to present evidence ex parte.1âwphi1 The plaintiff is
not automatically entitled to the relief prayed for. The law gives the defendantsome measure of
protection as the plaintiff must still prove the allegations in the complaint. Favorable relief can
be granted only after the court isconvinced that the facts proven by the plaintiff warrant such
relief. Indeed, the party alleging a fact has the burden of proving it and a mereallegation is not
evidence.26

The petitioner asserts herein that she sufficiently proved her actual contributions in the
purchase of the condominium unit in the aggregate amount of at least ₱306,572.00, consisting
in direct contributions of ₱159,072.00, and in repaying the loans Atty. Luna had obtained from
Premex Financing and Banco Filipino totaling ₱146,825.30;27 and that such aggregate
contributions of ₱306,572.00 corresponded to almost the entire share of Atty. Luna in the
purchase of the condominium unit amounting to ₱362,264.00 of the unit’s purchase price of
₱1,449,056.00.28 The petitioner further asserts that the lawbooks were paid for solely out of
her personal funds, proof of which Atty. Luna had even sent her a "thank you" note;29 that she
had the financial capacity to make the contributions and purchases; and that Atty. Luna could
not acquire the properties on his own due to the meagerness of the income derived from his
law practice.

Did the petitioner discharge her burden of proof on the co-ownership?

In resolving the question, the CA entirely debunked the petitioner’s assertions on her actual
contributions through the following findings and conclusions, namely:

SOLEDAD was not able to prove by preponderance of evidence that her own independent funds
were used to buy the law office condominium and the law books subject matter in contentionin
this case – proof that was required for Article 144 of the New Civil Code and Article 148 of the
Family Code to apply – as to cases where properties were acquired by a man and a woman
living together as husband and wife but not married, or under a marriage which was void ab
initio. Under Article 144 of the New Civil Code, the rules on co-ownership would govern. But
this was not readily applicable to many situations and thus it created a void at first because it
applied only if the parties were not in any way incapacitated or were without impediment to
marry each other (for it would be absurd to create a co-ownership where there still exists a
prior conjugal partnership or absolute community between the man and his lawful wife). This
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 140

void was filled upon adoption of the Family Code. Article 148 provided that: only the property
acquired by both of the parties through their actual joint contribution of money, property or
industry shall be owned in common and in proportion to their respective contributions. Such
contributions and corresponding shares were prima faciepresumed to be equal. However, for
this presumption to arise, proof of actual contribution was required. The same rule and
presumption was to apply to joint deposits of money and evidence of credit. If one of the
parties was validly married to another, his or her share in the co-ownership accrued to the
absolute community or conjugal partnership existing in such valid marriage. If the party who
acted in bad faith was not validly married to another, his or her share shall be forfeited in the
manner provided in the last paragraph of the Article 147. The rules on forfeiture applied even if
both parties were in bad faith. Co-ownership was the exception while conjugal partnership of
gains was the strict rule whereby marriage was an inviolable social institution and divorce
decrees are not recognized in the Philippines, as was held by the Supreme Court in the case of
Tenchavez vs. Escaño, G.R. No. L-19671, November 29, 1965, 15 SCRA 355, thus:

xxxx

As to the 25/100pro-indivisoshare of ATTY. LUNA in the condominium unit, SOLEDAD failed to


prove that she made an actual contribution to purchase the said property. She failed to
establish that the four (4) checks that she presented were indeed used for the acquisition of the
share of ATTY. LUNA in the condominium unit. This was aptly explained in the Decision of the
trial court, viz.:

"x x x The first check, Exhibit "M" for ₱55,000.00 payable to Atty. Teresita Cruz Sison was issued
on January 27, 1977, which was thirteen (13) months before the Memorandum of Agreement,
Exhibit "7" was signed. Another check issued on April 29, 1978 in the amount of ₱97,588.89,
Exhibit "P" was payable to Banco Filipino. According to the plaintiff, thiswas in payment of the
loan of Atty. Luna. The third check which was for ₱49,236.00 payable to PREMEX was dated
May 19, 1979, also for payment of the loan of Atty. Luna. The fourth check, Exhibit "M", for
₱4,072.00 was dated December 17, 1980. None of the foregoing prove that the amounts
delivered by plaintiff to the payees were for the acquisition of the subject condominium unit.
The connection was simply not established. x x x"

SOLEDAD’s claim that she made a cash contribution of ₱100,000.00 is unsubstantiated. Clearly,
there is no basis for SOLEDAD’s claim of co-ownership over the 25/100 portion of the
condominium unit and the trial court correctly found that the same was acquired through the
sole industry of ATTY. LUNA, thus:

"The Deed of Absolute Sale, Exhibit "9", covering the condominium unit was in the name of
Atty. Luna, together with his partners in the law firm. The name of the plaintiff does not appear
as vendee or as the spouse of Atty. Luna. The same was acquired for the use of the Law firm of
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 141

Atty. Luna. The loans from Allied Banking Corporation and Far East Bank and Trust Company
were loans of Atty. Luna and his partners and plaintiff does not have evidence to show that she
paid for them fully or partially. x x x"

The fact that CCT No. 4779 and subsequently, CCT No. 21761 were in the name of "JUAN LUCES
LUNA, married to Soledad L. Luna" was no proof that SOLEDAD was a co-owner of the
condominium unit. Acquisition of title and registration thereof are two different acts. It is well
settled that registration does not confer title but merely confirms one already existing. The
phrase "married to" preceding "Soledad L. Luna" is merely descriptive of the civil status of ATTY.
LUNA.

SOLEDAD, the second wife, was not even a lawyer. So it is but logical that SOLEDAD had no
participation in the law firm or in the purchase of books for the law firm. SOLEDAD failed to
prove that she had anything to contribute and that she actually purchased or paid for the law
office amortization and for the law books. It is more logical to presume that it was ATTY. LUNA
who bought the law office space and the law books from his earnings from his practice of law
rather than embarrassingly beg or ask from SOLEDAD money for use of the law firm that he
headed.30

The Court upholds the foregoing findings and conclusions by the CA both because they were
substantiated by the records and because we have not been shown any reason to revisit and
undo them. Indeed, the petitioner, as the party claiming the co-ownership, did not discharge
her burden of proof. Her mere allegations on her contributions, not being evidence,31 did not
serve the purpose. In contrast, given the subsistence of the first marriage between Atty. Luna
and Eugenia, the presumption that Atty. Luna acquired the properties out of his own personal
funds and effort remained. It should then be justly concluded that the properties in litislegally
pertained to their conjugal partnership of gains as of the time of his death. Consequently, the
sole ownership of the 25/100 pro indivisoshare of Atty. Luna in the condominium unit, and of
the lawbooks pertained to the respondents as the lawful heirs of Atty. Luna.

WHEREFORE, the Court AFFIRMS the decision promulgated on November 11, 2005; and
ORDERS the petitioner to pay the costs of suit.

SO ORDERED.

Footnotes

16 In Corpuz v. Sto. Tomas(G.R. No. 186571, August 11, 2010, 628 SCRA 266, 277), the Court
declares:
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 142

The Family Code recognizes only two types of defective marriages – void and voidable
marriages. In both cases, the basis for the judicial declaration of absolute nullity or annulment
of the marriage exists before or at the time of the marriage. Divorce, on the other hand,
contemplates the dissolution of the lawful union for cause arising after the marriage. Our family
laws do not recognize absolute divorce between Filipino citizens.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 143

G.R. No. 188289 August 20, 2014

DAVID A. NOVERAS, Petitioner,


vs.
LETICIA T. NOVERAS, Respondent.

DECISION

PEREZ, J.:

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

The factual antecedents are as follow:

David A. Noveras (David) and Leticia T. Noveras (Leticia) were married on 3 December 1988 in
Quezon City, Philippines. They resided in California, United States of America (USA) where they
eventually acquired American citizenship. They then begot two children, namely: Jerome T.

Noveras, who was born on 4 November 1990 and JenaT. Noveras, born on 2 May 1993. David
was engaged in courier service business while Leticia worked as a nurse in San Francisco,
California.

During the marriage, they acquired the following properties in the Philippines and in the USA:

PHILIPPINES
PROPERTY FAIR MARKET VALUE
House and Lot with an area of 150 sq. m. located at 1085 Norma Street, Sampaloc, Manila
(Sampaloc property)

₱1,693,125.00
Agricultural land with an area of 20,742 sq. m. located at Laboy, Dipaculao, Aurora

₱400,000.00
A parcel of land with an area of 2.5 hectares located at Maria Aurora, Aurora

₱490,000.00
A parcel of land with an area of 175 sq.m. located at Sabang Baler, Aurora

₱175,000.00 3
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 144

3-has. coconut plantation in San Joaquin Maria Aurora, Aurora

₱750,000.00
USA
PROPERTY FAIR MARKET VALUE
House and Lot at 1155 Hanover Street, Daly City, California

$550,000.00
(unpaid debt of $285,000.00)
Furniture and furnishings

$3,000
Jewelries (ring and watch)

$9,000
2000 Nissan Frontier 4x4 pickup truck

$13,770.00
Bank of America Checking Account

$8,000
Bank of America Cash Deposit

Life Insurance (Cash Value)

$100,000.00
Retirement, pension, profit-sharing, annuities

$56,228.00 4
The Sampaloc property used to beowned by David’s parents. The parties herein secured a loan
from a bank and mortgaged the property. When said property was about to be foreclosed, the
couple paid a total of ₱1.5 Million for the redemption of the same.

Due to business reverses, David left the USA and returned to the Philippines in 2001. In
December 2002,Leticia executed a Special Power of Attorney (SPA) authorizing David to sell the
Sampaloc property for ₱2.2 Million. According to Leticia, sometime in September 2003, David
abandoned his family and lived with Estrellita Martinez in Aurora province. Leticia claimed that
David agreed toand executed a Joint Affidavit with Leticia in the presence of David’s father,
Atty. Isaias Noveras, on 3 December 2003 stating that: 1) the ₱1.1Million proceeds from the
sale of the Sampaloc property shall be paid to and collected by Leticia; 2) that David shall return
and pay to Leticia ₱750,000.00, which is equivalent to half of the amount of the redemption
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 145

price of the Sampaloc property; and 3) that David shall renounce and forfeit all his rights and
interest in the conjugal and real properties situated in the Philippines.5 David was able to
collect ₱1,790,000.00 from the sale of the Sampaloc property, leaving an unpaid balance of
₱410,000.00.

Upon learning that David had an extra-marital affair, Leticia filed a petition for divorce with the
Superior Court of California, County of San Mateo, USA. The California court granted the
divorce on 24 June 2005 and judgment was duly entered on 29 June 2005.6 The California court
granted to Leticia the custody of her two children, as well as all the couple’s properties in the
USA.7

On 8 August 2005, Leticia filed a petition for Judicial Separation of Conjugal Property before the
RTC of Baler, Aurora. She relied on the 3 December 2003 Joint Affidavit and David’s failure to
comply with his obligation under the same. She prayed for: 1) the power to administer all
conjugal properties in the Philippines; 2) David and his partner to cease and desist from selling
the subject conjugal properties; 3) the declaration that all conjugal properties be forfeited in
favor of her children; 4) David to remit half of the purchase price as share of Leticia from the
sale of the Sampaloc property; and 5) the payment of₱50,000.00 and ₱100,000.00 litigation
expenses.8

In his Answer, David stated that a judgment for the dissolution of their marriage was entered
on 29 June 2005 by the Superior Court of California, County of San Mateo. He demanded that
the conjugal partnership properties, which also include the USA properties, be liquidated and
that all expenses of liquidation, including attorney’s fees of both parties be charged against the
conjugal partnership.9

The RTC of Baler, Aurora simplified the issues as follow:

1. Whether or not respondent David A. Noveras committed acts of abandonment and marital
infidelity which can result intothe forfeiture of the parties’ properties in favor of the petitioner
and their two (2) children.

2. Whether or not the Court has jurisdiction over the properties in California, U.S.A. and the
same can be included in the judicial separation prayed for.

3. Whether or not the "Joint Affidavit" x x x executed by petitioner Leticia T. Noveras and
respondent David A. Noveras will amount to a waiver or forfeiture of the latter’s property rights
over their conjugal properties.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 146

4. Whether or not Leticia T. Noveras isentitled to reimbursement of onehalf of the ₱2.2


[M]illion sales proceeds of their property in Sampaloc, Manila and one-half of the ₱1.5 [M]illion
used to redeem the property of Atty. Isaias Noveras, including interests and charges.

5. How the absolute community properties should be distributed.

6. Whether or not the attorney’s feesand litigation expenses of the parties were chargeable
against their conjugal properties.

Corollary to the aboveis the issue of:

Whether or not the two common children of the parties are entitled to support and
presumptive legitimes.10

On 8 December 2006, the RTC rendered judgment as follows:

1. The absolute community of property of the parties is hereby declared DISSOLVED;

2. The net assets of the absolute community of property ofthe parties in the Philippines are
hereby ordered to be awarded to respondent David A. Noveras only, with the properties in the
United States of America remaining in the sole ownership of petitioner Leticia Noveras a.k.a.
Leticia Tacbiana pursuant to the divorce decree issuedby the Superior Court of California,
County of San Mateo, United States of America, dissolving the marriage of the parties as of June
24, 2005. The titles presently covering said properties shall be cancelled and new titles be
issued in the name of the party to whom said properties are awarded;

3. One-half of the properties awarded to respondent David A. Noveras in the preceding


paragraph are hereby given to Jerome and Jena, his two minor children with petitioner
LeticiaNoveras a.k.a. Leticia Tacbiana as their presumptive legitimes and said legitimes must be
annotated on the titles covering the said properties.Their share in the income from these
properties shall be remitted to them annually by the respondent within the first half of January
of each year, starting January 2008;

4. One-half of the properties in the United States of America awarded to petitioner Leticia
Noveras a.k.a. Leticia Tacbiana in paragraph 2 are hereby given to Jerome and Jena, her two
minor children with respondent David A. Noveras as their presumptive legitimes and said
legitimes must be annotated on the titles/documents covering the said properties. Their share
in the income from these properties, if any, shall be remitted to them annually by the petitioner
within the first half of January of each year, starting January 2008;
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 147

5. For the support of their two (2) minor children, Jerome and Jena, respondent David A.
Noveras shall give them US$100.00 as monthly allowance in addition to their income from their
presumptive legitimes, while petitioner Leticia Tacbiana shall take care of their food, clothing,
education and other needs while they are in her custody in the USA. The monthly allowance
due from the respondent shall be increased in the future as the needs of the children require
and his financial capacity can afford;

6. Of the unpaid amount of ₱410,000.00 on the purchase price of the Sampaloc property, the
Paringit Spouses are hereby ordered to pay ₱5,000.00 to respondent David A. Noveras and
₱405,000.00 to the two children. The share of the respondent may be paid to him directly but
the share of the two children shall be deposited with a local bank in Baler, Aurora, in a joint
account tobe taken out in their names, withdrawal from which shall only be made by them or
by their representative duly authorized with a Special Power of Attorney. Such
payment/deposit shall be made withinthe period of thirty (30) days after receipt of a copy of
this Decision, with the passbook of the joint account to be submitted to the custody of the Clerk
of Court of this Court within the same period. Said passbook can be withdrawn from the Clerk
of Court only by the children or their attorney-in-fact; and

7. The litigation expenses and attorney’s fees incurred by the parties shall be shouldered by
them individually.11

The trial court recognized that since the parties are US citizens, the laws that cover their legal
and personalstatus are those of the USA. With respect to their marriage, the parties are
divorced by virtue of the decree of dissolution of their marriage issued by the Superior Court of
California, County of San Mateo on 24June 2005. Under their law, the parties’ marriage had
already been dissolved. Thus, the trial court considered the petition filed by Leticia as one for
liquidation of the absolute community of property regime with the determination of the
legitimes, support and custody of the children, instead of an action for judicial separation of
conjugal property.

With respect to their property relations, the trial court first classified their property regime as
absolute community of property because they did not execute any marriage settlement before
the solemnization of their marriage pursuant to Article 75 of the Family Code. Then, the trial
court ruled that in accordance with the doctrine of processual presumption, Philippine law
should apply because the court cannot take judicial notice of the US law since the parties did
not submit any proof of their national law. The trial court held that as the instant petition does
not fall under the provisions of the law for the grant of judicial separation of properties, the
absolute community properties cannot beforfeited in favor of Leticia and her children.
Moreover, the trial court observed that Leticia failed to prove abandonment and infidelity with
preponderant evidence.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 148

The trial court however ruled that Leticia is not entitled to the reimbursements she is praying
for considering that she already acquired all of the properties in the USA. Relying still on the
principle of equity, the Court also adjudicated the Philippine properties to David, subject to the
payment of the children’s presumptive legitimes. The trial court held that under Article 89 of
the Family Code, the waiver or renunciation made by David of his property rights in the Joint
Affidavit is void.

On appeal, the Court of Appeals modified the trial court’s Decision by directing the equal
division of the Philippine properties between the spouses. Moreover with respect to the
common children’s presumptive legitime, the appellate court ordered both spouses to each pay
their children the amount of ₱520,000.00, thus:

WHEREFORE, the instant appeal is PARTLY GRANTED. Numbers 2, 4 and 6 of the


assailedDecision dated December 8, 2006 of Branch 96, RTC of Baler, Aurora Province, in Civil
Case No. 828 are hereby MODIFIED to read as follows:

2. The net assets of the absolute community of property of the parties in the Philippines are
hereby divided equally between petitioner Leticia Noveras a.k.a. Leticia Tacbiana (sic) and
respondent David A. Noveras;

xxx

4. One-half of the properties awarded to petitioner Leticia Tacbiana (sic) in paragraph 2 shall
pertain to her minor children, Jerome and Jena, as their presumptive legitimes which shall be
annotated on the titles/documents covering the said properties. Their share in the income
therefrom, if any, shall be remitted to them by petitioner annually within the first half of
January, starting 2008;

xxx

6. Respondent David A. Noveras and petitioner Leticia Tacbiana (sic) are each ordered to pay
the amount of₱520,000.00 to their two children, Jerome and Jena, as their presumptive
legitimes from the sale of the Sampaloc property inclusive of the receivables therefrom, which
shall be deposited to a local bank of Baler, Aurora, under a joint account in the latter’s names.
The payment/deposit shall be made within a period of thirty (30) days from receipt ofa copy of
this Decision and the corresponding passbook entrusted to the custody ofthe Clerk of Court a
quowithin the same period, withdrawable only by the children or their attorney-in-fact.

A number 8 is hereby added, which shall read as follows:


P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 149

8. Respondent David A. Noveras is hereby ordered to pay petitioner Leticia Tacbiana (sic) the
amount of ₱1,040,000.00 representing her share in the proceeds from the sale of the Sampaloc
property.

The last paragraph shall read as follows:

Send a copy of this Decision to the local civil registry of Baler, Aurora; the local civil registry of
Quezon City; the Civil RegistrarGeneral, National Statistics Office, Vibal Building, Times Street
corner EDSA, Quezon City; the Office of the Registry of Deeds for the Province of Aurora; and to
the children, Jerome Noveras and Jena Noveras.

The rest of the Decision is AFFIRMED.12

In the present petition, David insists that the Court of Appeals should have recognized the
California Judgment which awarded the Philippine properties to him because said judgment
was part of the pleading presented and offered in evidence before the trial court. David argues
that allowing Leticia to share in the Philippine properties is tantamount to unjust enrichment in
favor of Leticia considering that the latter was already granted all US properties by the
California court.

In summary and review, the basic facts are: David and Leticia are US citizens who own
properties in the USA and in the Philippines. Leticia obtained a decree of divorce from the
Superior Court of California in June 2005 wherein the court awarded all the properties in the
USA to Leticia. With respect to their properties in the Philippines, Leticiafiled a petition for
judicial separation ofconjugal properties.

At the outset, the trial court erred in recognizing the divorce decree which severed the bond of
marriage between the parties. In Corpuz v. Sto. Tomas,13 we stated that:

The starting point in any recognition of a foreign divorce judgment is the acknowledgment that
our courts do not take judicial notice of foreign judgments and laws. Justice Herrera explained
that, as a rule, "no sovereign is bound to give effect within its dominion to a judgment rendered
by a tribunal of another country." This means that the foreign judgment and its authenticity
must beproven as facts under our rules on evidence, together with the alien’s applicable
national law to show the effect of the judgment on the alien himself or herself. The recognition
may be made in an action instituted specifically for the purpose or in another action where a
party invokes the foreign decree as an integral aspect of his claim or defense.14

The requirements of presenting the foreign divorce decree and the national law of the
foreigner must comply with our Rules of Evidence. Specifically, for Philippine courts to
recognize a foreign judgment relating to the status of a marriage, a copy of the foreign
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 150

judgment may be admitted in evidence and proven as a fact under Rule 132, Sections 24 and
25, in relation to Rule 39, Section 48(b) of the Rules of Court.15

Under Section 24 of Rule 132, the record of public documents of a sovereign authority or
tribunal may be proved by: (1) an official publication thereof or (2) a copy attested by the
officer having the legal custody thereof. Such official publication or copy must beaccompanied,
if the record is not kept in the Philippines, with a certificate that the attesting officer has the
legal custody thereof. The certificate may be issued by any of the authorized Philippine
embassy or consular officials stationed in the foreign country in which the record is kept, and
authenticated by the seal of his office. The attestation must state, in substance, that the copy is
a correct copy of the original, or a specific part thereof, asthe case may be, and must be under
the official seal of the attesting officer.

Section 25 of the same Rule states that whenever a copy of a document or record is attested
for the purpose of evidence, the attestation must state, in substance, that the copy is a correct
copy of the original, or a specific part thereof, as the case may be. The attestation must be
under the official seal of the attesting officer, if there be any, or if hebe the clerk of a court
having a seal, under the seal of such court.

Based on the records, only the divorce decree was presented in evidence. The required
certificates to prove its authenticity, as well as the pertinent California law on divorce were not
presented.

It may be noted that in Bayot v. Court of Appeals,16 we relaxed the requirement on


certification where we held that "[petitioner therein] was clearly an American citizenwhen she
secured the divorce and that divorce is recognized and allowed in any of the States of the
Union, the presentation of a copy of foreign divorce decree duly authenticatedby the foreign
court issuing said decree is, as here, sufficient." In this case however, it appears that there is no
seal from the office where the divorce decree was obtained.

Even if we apply the doctrine of processual presumption17 as the lower courts did with respect
to the property regime of the parties, the recognition of divorce is entirely a different matter
because, to begin with, divorce is not recognized between Filipino citizens in the Philippines.
Absent a valid recognition of the divorce decree, it follows that the parties are still legally
married in the Philippines. The trial court thus erred in proceeding directly to liquidation.

As a general rule, any modification in the marriage settlements must be made before the
celebration of marriage. An exception to this rule is allowed provided that the modification
isjudicially approved and refers only to the instances provided in Articles 66,67, 128, 135 and
136 of the Family Code.18
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 151

Leticia anchored the filing of the instant petition for judicial separation of property on
paragraphs 4 and 6 of Article 135 of the Family Code, to wit:

Art. 135. Any of the following shall be considered sufficient cause for judicial separation of
property:

(1) That the spouse of the petitioner has been sentenced to a penalty which carries with it civil
interdiction;

(2) That the spouse of the petitioner has been judicially declared an absentee;

(3) That loss of parental authority ofthe spouse of petitioner has been decreed by the court;

(4) That the spouse of the petitioner has abandoned the latter or failed to comply with his or
her obligations to the family as provided for in Article 101;

(5) That the spouse granted the power of administration in the marriage settlements has
abused that power; and

(6) That at the time of the petition, the spouses have been separated in fact for at least one
year and reconciliation is highly improbable.

In the cases provided for in Numbers (1), (2), and (3), the presentation of the final judgment
against the guiltyor absent spouse shall be enough basis for the grant of the decree ofjudicial
separation of property. (Emphasis supplied).

The trial court had categorically ruled that there was no abandonment in this case to
necessitate judicial separation of properties under paragraph 4 of Article 135 of the Family
Code. The trial court ratiocinated:

Moreover, abandonment, under Article 101 of the Family Code quoted above, must be for a
valid cause and the spouse is deemed to have abandoned the other when he/she has left the
conjugal dwelling without intention of returning. The intention of not returning is prima facie
presumed if the allegedly [sic] abandoning spouse failed to give any information as to his or her
whereabouts within the period of three months from such abandonment.

In the instant case, the petitioner knows that the respondent has returned to and stayed at his
hometown in Maria Aurora, Philippines, as she even went several times to visit him there after
the alleged abandonment. Also, the respondent has been going back to the USA to visit her and
their children until the relations between them worsened. The last visit of said respondent was
in October 2004 when he and the petitioner discussed the filing by the latter of a petition for
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 152

dissolution of marriage with the California court. Such turn for the worse of their relationship
and the filing of the saidpetition can also be considered as valid causes for the respondent to
stay in the Philippines.19

Separation in fact for one year as a ground to grant a judicial separation of property was not
tackled in the trial court’s decision because, the trial court erroneously treated the petition as
liquidation of the absolute community of properties.

The records of this case are replete with evidence that Leticia and David had indeed separated
for more than a year and that reconciliation is highly improbable. First, while actual
abandonment had not been proven, it is undisputed that the spouses had been living
separately since 2003 when David decided to go back to the Philippines to set up his own
business. Second, Leticia heard from her friends that David has been cohabiting with Estrellita
Martinez, who represented herself as Estrellita Noveras. Editha Apolonio, who worked in the
hospital where David was once confined, testified that she saw the name of Estrellita listed as
the wife of David in the Consent for Operation form.20 Third and more significantly, they had
filed for divorce and it was granted by the California court in June 2005.

Having established that Leticia and David had actually separated for at least one year, the
petition for judicial separation of absolute community of property should be granted.

The grant of the judicial separation of the absolute community property automatically dissolves
the absolute community regime, as stated in the 4th paragraph of Article 99 ofthe Family Code,
thus:

Art. 99. The absolute community terminates:

(1) Upon the death of either spouse;

(2) When there is a decree of legal separation;

(3) When the marriage is annulled or declared void; or

(4) In case of judicial separation of property during the marriage under Articles 134 to 138.
(Emphasis supplied).

Under Article 102 of the same Code, liquidation follows the dissolution of the absolute
community regime and the following procedure should apply:

Art. 102. Upon dissolution of the absolute community regime, the following procedure shall
apply:
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 153

(1) An inventory shall be prepared, listing separately all the properties of the absolute
community and the exclusive properties of each spouse.

(2) The debts and obligations of the absolute community shall be paid out of its assets. In case
of insufficiency of said assets, the spouses shall be solidarily liable for the unpaid balance with
their separate properties in accordance with the provisions of the second paragraph of Article
94.

(3) Whatever remains of the exclusive properties of the spouses shall thereafter be delivered to
each of them.

(4) The net remainder of the properties of the absolute community shall constitute its net
assets, which shall be divided equally between husband and wife, unless a different proportion
or division was agreed upon in the marriage settlements, or unless there has been a voluntary
waiver of such share provided in this Code. For purposes of computing the net profits subject to
forfeiture in accordance with Articles 43, No. (2) and 63, No. (2),the said profits shall be the
increase in value between the market value of the community property at the time of the
celebration of the marriage and the market value at the time of its dissolution.

(5) The presumptive legitimes of the common children shall be delivered upon partition, in
accordance with Article 51.

(6) Unless otherwise agreed upon by the parties, in the partition of the properties, the conjugal
dwelling and the lot on which it is situated shall be adjudicated tothe spouse with whom the
majority of the common children choose to remain. Children below the age of seven years are
deemed to have chosen the mother, unless the court has decided otherwise. In case there is no
such majority, the court shall decide, taking into consideration the best interests of said
children. At the risk of being repetitious, we will not remand the case to the trial court. Instead,
we shall adopt the modifications made by the Court of Appeals on the trial court’s Decision
with respect to liquidation.

We agree with the appellate court that the Philippine courts did not acquire jurisdiction over
the California properties of David and Leticia. Indeed, Article 16 of the Civil Code clearly states
that real property as well as personal property is subject to the law of the country where it is
situated. Thus, liquidation shall only be limited to the Philippine properties.

We affirm the modification madeby the Court of Appeals with respect to the share of the
spouses in the absolutecommunity properties in the Philippines, as well as the payment of their
children’s presumptive legitimes, which the appellate court explained in this wise:
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 154

Leticia and David shall likewise have an equal share in the proceeds of the Sampaloc
property.1âwphi1 While both claimed to have contributed to the redemption of the Noveras
property, absent a clear showing where their contributions came from, the same is presumed
to have come from the community property. Thus, Leticia is not entitled to reimbursement of
half of the redemption money.

David's allegation that he used part of the proceeds from the sale of the Sampaloc property for
the benefit of the absolute community cannot be given full credence. Only the amount of
₱120,000.00 incurred in going to and from the U.S.A. may be charged thereto. Election
expenses in the amount of ₱300,000.00 when he ran as municipal councilor cannot be allowed
in the absence of receipts or at least the Statement of Contributions and Expenditures required
under Section 14 of Republic Act No. 7166 duly received by the Commission on Elections.
Likewise, expenses incurred to settle the criminal case of his personal driver is not deductible as
the same had not benefited the family. In sum, Leticia and David shall share equally in the
proceeds of the sale net of the amount of ₱120,000.00 or in the respective amounts of
₱1,040,000.00.

xxxx

Under the first paragraph of Article 888 of the Civil Code, "(t)he legitime of legitimate children
and descendants consists of one-half or the hereditary estate of the father and of the mother."
The children arc therefore entitled to half of the share of each spouse in the net assets of the
absolute community, which shall be annotated on the titles/documents covering the same, as
well as to their respective shares in the net proceeds from the sale of the Sampaloc property
including the receivables from Sps. Paringit in the amount of ₱410,000.00. Consequently, David
and Leticia should each pay them the amount of ₱520,000.00 as their presumptive legitimes
therefrom.21

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The assailed Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA G.R. CV
No. 88686 is AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 155

G.R. No. 205487 November 12, 2014

ORION SAVINGS BANK, Petitioner,


vs.
SHIGEKANE SUZUKI, Respondent.

DECISION

BRION, J.:

Before us is the Petition for Review on Certiorari1 filed by petitioner Orion Savings Bank (Orion)
under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, assailing the decision2 dated August 23, 2012 and the
resolution3 dated January 25, 2013 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CV No. 94104.

The Factual Antecedents

In the first week of August 2003, respondent Shigekane Suzuki (Suzuki), a Japanese national,
met with Ms. Helen Soneja (Soneja) to inquire about a condominium unit and a parking slot at
Cityland Pioneer, Mandaluyong City, allegedly owned by Yung Sam Kang (Kang), a Korean
national and a Special Resident Retiree's Visa (SRRV) holder.

At the meeting, Soneja informed Suzuki that Unit No. 536 [covered by Condominium Certificate
of Title (CCT) No. 18186]4 and Parking Slot No. 42 [covered by CCT No. 9118]5 were for sale for
₱3,000,000.00. Soneja likewise assured Suzuki that the titles to the unit and the parking slot
were clean. After a brief negotiation, the parties agreed to reduce the price to ₱2,800,000.00.
On August 5, 2003, Suzuki issued Kang a Bank of the Philippine Island (BPI) Check No. 833496
for One Hundred Thousand Pesos (₱100,000.00) as reservation fee.7 On August 21, 2003,
Suzuki issued Kang another check, BPI Check No. 83350,8 this time for ₱2,700,000.00
representing the remaining balance of the purchase price. Suzuki and Kang then executed a
Deed of Absolute Sale dated August 26, 20039 covering Unit No. 536 and Parking Slot No. 42.
Soon after, Suzuki took possession of the condominium unit and parking lot, and commenced
the renovation of the interior of the condominium unit.

Kang thereafter made several representations with Suzuki to deliver the titles to the properties,
which were then allegedly in possession of Alexander Perez (Perez, Orion’s Loans Officer) for
safekeeping. Despite several verbal demands, Kang failed to deliver the documents. Suzuki later
on learned that Kang had left the country, prompting Suzuki to verify the status of the
properties with the Mandaluyong City Registry of Deeds.

Before long, Suzuki learned that CCT No. 9118 representing the title to the Parking Slot No. 42
contained no annotations although it remained under the name of Cityland Pioneer. This
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 156

notwithstanding, Cityland Pioneer, through Assistant Vice President Rosario D. Perez, certified
that Kang had fully paid the purchase price of Unit. No. 53610 and Parking Slot No. 42.11 CCT
No. 18186 representing the title to the condominium unit had no existing encumbrance, except
for anannotation under Entry No. 73321/C-10186 which provided that any conveyance or
encumbrance of CCT No. 18186 shall be subject to approval by the Philippine Retirement
Authority (PRA). Although CCT No. 18186 contained Entry No. 66432/C-10186 dated February 2,
1999 representing a mortgage in favor of Orion for a ₱1,000,000.00 loan, that annotation was
subsequently cancelled on June 16, 2000 by Entry No. 73232/T. No. 10186. Despite the
cancellation of the mortgage to Orion, the titles to the properties remained in possession of
Perez.

To protect his interests, Suzuki thenexecuted an Affidavit of Adverse Claim12 dated September
8, 2003, withthe Registry of Deeds of Mandaluyong City, annotated as Entry No. 3292/C-No.
18186 in CCT No. 18186. Suzuki then demanded the delivery of the titles.13 Orion, (through
Perez), however, refused to surrender the titles, and cited the need to consult Orion’s legal
counsel as its reason.

On October 14, 2003, Suzuki received a letter from Orion’s counsel dated October 9, 2003,
stating that Kang obtained another loan in the amount of ₱1,800,000.00. When Kang failed to
pay, he executed a Dacion en Pagodated February 2, 2003, in favorof Orion covering Unit No.
536. Orion, however, did not register the Dacion en Pago, until October 15, 2003.

On October 28, 2003, Suzuki executed an Affidavit of Adverse Claim over Parking Slot No. 42
(covered by CCT No. 9118) and this was annotated as Entry No. 4712/C-No. 9118 in the parking
lot’s title.

On January 27, 2004, Suzuki filed a complaint for specific performance and damages against
Kang and Orion. At the pre-trial, the parties made the following admissions and stipulations:

1. That as of August 26, 2003, Kang was the registered owner of Unit No. 536 and Parking Slot
No. 42;

2. That the mortgage in favor ofOrion supposedly executed by Kang, with Entry No. 66432/C-
10186 dated February 2, 1999, was subsequently cancelled by Entry No. 73232/T No. 10186
dated June 16, 2000;

3. That the alleged Dacion en Pagowas never annotated in CCT Nos. 18186 and 9118;

4. That Orion only paid the appropriate capital gains tax and the documentary stamp tax for the
alleged Dacion en Pago on October 15, 2003;
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 157

5. That Parking Slot No. 42, covered by CCT No. 9118, was never mortgaged to Orion; and

6. That when Suzuki bought the properties, he went to Orion to obtain possession of the titles.

The RTC Ruling

In its decision14 dated June 29, 2009, the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 213, Mandaluyong
City ruled infavor of Suzuki and ordered Orion to deliver the CCT Nos. 18186 and 9118 to
Suzuki.

The court found that Suzuki was an innocent purchaser for value whose rights over the
properties prevailed over Orion’s. The RTC further noted that Suzuki exerted efforts to verify
the status of the properties but he did not find any existing encumbrance inthe titles. Although
Orion claims to have purchased the property by way of a Dacion en Pago, Suzuki only learned
about it two (2) months after he bought the properties because Orion never bothered to
register or annotate the Dacion en Pagoin CCT Nos. 18186 and 9116.

The RTC further ordered Orion and Kang to jointly and severally pay Suzuki moral damages,
exemplary damages, attorney’s fees, appearance fees, expenses for litigation and cost ofsuit.
Orion timely appealed the RTC decision with the CA.

The CA Ruling

On August 23, 2012, the CA partially granted Orion’s appeal and sustained the RTC insofar as it
upheld Suzuki’s right over the properties. The CA further noted that Entry No. 73321/C-10186
pertaining to the withdrawal of investment of an SRRV only serves as a warning to an SRRV
holder about the implications of a conveyance of a property investment. It deviated from the
RTC ruling, however, by deleting the award for moral damages, exemplary damages, attorney’s
fees, expenses for litigation and cost of suit.

Orion sought a reconsideration of the CA decision but the CA denied the motion in its January
25, 2013 resolution. Orion then filed a petition for review on certiorariunder Rule 45 with this
Court.

The Petition and Comment

Orion’s petition is based on the following grounds/arguments:15

1. The Deed of Sale executed by Kang in favor of Suzuki is null and void. Under Korean law, any
conveyance of a conjugal property should be made with the consent of both spouses;
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 158

2. Suzuki is not a buyer in good faith for he failed to check the owner’s duplicate copies of the
CCTs;

3. Knowledge of the PRA restriction under Entry No. 73321/C-10186, which prohibits any
conveyance or encumbrance of the property investment, defeats the alleged claim of good
faith by Suzuki; and

4. Orion should not be faulted for exercising due diligence.

In his Comment,16 Suzuki asserts that the issue on spousal consent was belatedly raised on
appeal. Moreover, proof of acquisition during the marital coverture is a condition sine qua
nonfor the operation of the presumption of conjugal ownership.17 Suzuki additionally
maintains that he is a purchaser in good faith, and is thus entitled to the protection of the law.

The Court’s Ruling

We deny the petition for lack of merit.

The Court may inquire into conclusions of fact when the inference made is manifestly mistaken

In a Rule 45 petition, the latitude of judicial review generally excludes a factual and evidentiary
re-evaluation, and the Court ordinarily abides by the uniform factual conclusions of the trial
court and the appellate court.18 In the present case, while the courts below both arrived at the
same conclusion, there appears tobe an incongruence in their factual findings and the legal
principle they applied to the attendant factual circumstances. Thus, we are compelled to
examine certain factual issues in the exercise of our sound discretion to correct any mistaken
inference that may have been made.19

Philippine Law governs the transfer of real property

Orion believes that the CA erred in not ruling on the issue of spousal consent. We cannot
uphold this position, however, because the issue of spousal consent was only raised on appeal
to the CA. It is a well-settled principle that points of law, theories, issues, and arguments not
brought to the attention of the trial court cannot be raised for the first time on appeal and
considered by a reviewing court.20 To consider these belated arguments would violate basic
principles of fairplay, justice, and due process.

Having said these, we shall nonetheless discuss the issues Orion belatedly raised, if only to put
an end to lingering doubts on the correctness of the denial of the present petition.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 159

It is a universal principle thatreal or immovable property is exclusively subject to the laws of the
country or state where it is located.21 The reason is found in the very nature of immovable
property — its immobility. Immovables are part of the country and so closely connected to it
that all rights over them have their natural center of gravity there.22

Thus, all matters concerning the titleand disposition ofreal property are determined by what is
known as the lex loci rei sitae, which can alone prescribe the mode by which a title canpass
from one person to another, or by which an interest therein can be gained or lost.23 This
general principle includes all rules governing the descent, alienation and transfer of immovable
property and the validity, effect and construction of wills and other conveyances.24

This principle even governs the capacity of the person making a deed relating to immovable
property, no matter what its nature may be. Thus, an instrument will be ineffective to transfer
title to land if the person making it is incapacitated by the lex loci rei sitae, even though under
the law of his domicile and by the law of the place where the instrument is actually made, his
capacity is undoubted.25

On the other hand, property relations between spouses are governed principally by the
national law of the spouses.26 However, the party invoking the application of a foreign law has
the burden of proving the foreign law. The foreign law is a question of fact to be properly
pleaded and proved as the judge cannot take judicial notice of a foreign law.27 He is presumed
to know only domestic or the law of the forum.28

To prove a foreign law, the party invoking it must present a copy thereof and comply with
Sections 24 and 25 of Rule 132 of the Revised Rules of Court which reads:

SEC. 24. Proof of official record. — The record of public documents referred to in paragraph (a)
of Section 19, when admissible for any purpose, may be evidenced by an official publication
thereof or by a copy attested by the officer having the legal custody of the record, or by his
deputy, and accompanied, if the record is not kept in the Philippines, with a certificate that
such officer has the custody. If the office in which the record is kept is in a foreign country, the
certificate may be made by a secretary of the embassy or legation, consul general, consul, vice
consul, or consular agent or by any officer in the foreign service of the Philippines stationed in
the foreign country inwhich the record is kept, and authenticated by the seal of his office.
(Emphasis supplied)

SEC. 25. What attestation ofcopy must state. — Whenever a copy of a document or record is
attested for the purpose of the evidence, the attestation must state, in substance, that the copy
is a correct copy of the original, or a specific part thereof, as the case may be. The attestation
must be under the official seal of the attesting officer, if there be any, or if he be the clerk of a
court having a seal, under the seal of such court.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 160

Accordingly, matters concerning the title and disposition of real property shall be governed by
Philippine law while issues pertaining to the conjugal natureof the property shall be governed
by South Korean law, provided it is proven as a fact.

In the present case, Orion, unfortunately failed to prove the South Korean law on the conjugal
ownership ofproperty. It merely attached a "Certification from the Embassy of the Republic of
Korea"29 to prove the existence of Korean Law. This certification, does not qualify as sufficient
proof of the conjugal nature of the property for there is no showing that it was properly
authenticated bythe seal of his office, as required under Section 24 of Rule 132.30

Accordingly, the International Law doctrine of presumed-identity approachor processual


presumption comes into play, i.e., where a foreign law is not pleaded or, evenif pleaded, is not
proven, the presumption is that foreign law is the same as Philippine Law.31

Under Philippine Law, the phrase "Yung Sam Kang ‘married to' Hyun Sook Jung" is merely
descriptive of the civil status of Kang.32 In other words, the import from the certificates of title
is that Kang is the owner of the properties as they are registered in his name alone, and that he
is married to Hyun Sook Jung.

We are not unmindful that in numerous cases we have held that registration of the property in
the name of only one spouse does not negate the possibility of it being conjugal or community
property.33 In those cases, however, there was proof that the properties, though registered in
the name of only one spouse, were indeed either conjugal or community properties.34
Accordingly, we see no reason to declare as invalid Kang’s conveyance in favor of Suzuki for the
supposed lack of spousal consent.

The petitioner failed to adduce sufficient evidence to prove the due execution of the Dacion en
Pago

Article 1544 of the New Civil Codeof the Philippines provides that:

ART. 1544. If the same thing should have been sold to different vendees, the ownership shall be
transferred to the person who may have first taken possession thereof in good faith, if it should
be movable property.

Should it be immovable property, the ownership shall belong to the person acquiring it who in
good faith first recorded it in the Registry of Property.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 161

Should there be no inscription, the ownership shall pertain to the person who in good faith was
first in the possession; and, in the absence thereof, to the person who presents the oldest title,
provided there is good faith.

The application of Article 1544 of the New Civil Code presupposes the existence of two or more
duly executed contracts of sale. In the present case, the Deed of Sale dated August 26, 200335
between Suzuki and Kang was admitted by Orion36 and was properly identified by Suzuki’s
witness Ms. Mary Jane Samin (Samin).37

It is not disputed, too, that the Deed of Sale dated August 26, 2003 was consummated. In a
contract of sale, the seller obligates himself to transfer the ownership of the determinate thing
sold, and to deliver the same to the buyer, who obligates himself to pay a price certain to the
seller.38 The execution of the notarized deed of saleand the actual transfer of possession
amounted to delivery that produced the legal effect of transferring ownership to Suzuki.39

On the other hand, although Orion claims priority in right under the principle of prius tempore,
potior jure (i.e.,first in time, stronger in right), it failedto prove the existence and due execution
of the Dacion en Pagoin its favor.

At the outset, Orion offered the Dacion en Pagoas Exhibit "5"with submarkings "5-a" to "5-c" to
prove the existence of the February 6, 2003 transaction in its Formal Offer dated July 20, 2008.
Orion likewise offered in evidence the supposed promissory note dated September 4, 2002 as
Exhibit "12"to prove the existence of the additional ₱800,000.00 loan. The RTC, however,
denied the admission of Exhibits "5" and "12,"among others, in its order dated August 19, 2008
"since the same [were] not identified in court by any witness."40

Despite the exclusion of its most critical documentary evidence, Orion failed to make a tender
ofexcluded evidence, as provided under Section 40, Rule 132 of the Rules of Court. For this
reason alone, we are prevented from seriously considering Exhibit "5" and its submarkings and
Exhibit "12" in the present petition.

Moreover, even if we consider Exhibit "5" and its submarkings and Exhibit "12" in the present
petition, the copious inconsistencies and contradictions in the testimonial and documentary
evidence of Orion, militate against the conclusion that the Dacion en Pagowas duly executed.
First, there appears to be no due and demandable obligation when the Dacion en Pago was
executed, contrary to the allegations of Orion. Orion’s witness Perez tried to impress upon the
RTC that Kang was in default in his ₱1,800,000.00 loan. During his direct examination, he
stated:

ATTY. CRUZAT:
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 162

Q: Okay, so this loan of ₱1.8 million, what happened to this loan, Mr. Witness?

A: Well it became past due, there has been delayed interest payment by Mr. Kangand...

Q: So what did you do after there were defaults[?]

A: We have to secure the money or the investment of the bank through loans and we have
executed a dacion en pagobecause Mr. Kang said he has no money. So we just execute[d] the
dacion en pago rather than going through the Foreclosure proceedings.

xxxx

Q: Can you tell the court when was this executed?

A: February 6, 2003, your Honor.41

A reading of the supposed promissory note, however, shows that there was nodefault to speak
of when the supposed Dacion en Pagowas executed.

Based on the promissory note, Kang’s loan obligation wouldmature only on August 27, 2003.
Neither can Orion claim that Kang had been in default in his installment payments because the
wordings of the promissory note provide that "[t]he principal of this loanand its interest and
other charges shall be paid by me/us in accordance hereunder: SINGLE PAYMENT LOANS.42
"There was thus no due and demandable loan obligation when the alleged Dacion en Pago was
executed.

Second, Perez, the supposed person who prepared the Dacion en Pago,appears to only have a
vague idea of the transaction he supposedly prepared. During his cross-examination, he
testified:

ATTY. DE CASTRO:

Q: And were you the one who prepared this [dacion en pago] Mr. witness?

A: Yes, sir. I personally prepared this.

xxxx

Q: So this 1.8 million pesos is already inclusive of all the penalties, interest and surcharge due
from Mr. Yung Sam Kang?
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 163

A: It’s just the principal, sir.

Q: So you did not state the interest [and] penalties?

A: In the [dacion en pago], we do not include interest, sir. We may actually includethat but....

Q: Can you read the Second Whereas Clause, Mr. Witness?

A: Whereas the first party failed to pay the said loan to the second party and as of February 10,
2003, the outstanding obligation which is due and demandable principal and interest and other
charges included amounts to ₱1,800,000.00 pesos, sir.

xxxx

Q: You are now changing your answer[.] [I]t now includes interest and other charges, based on
this document?

A: Yes, based on that document, sir.43

Third, the Dacion en Pago,mentioned that the ₱1,800,000.00 loan was secured by a real estate
mortgage. However, no document was ever presented to prove this real estate mortgage aside
from it being mentioned in the Dacion en Pago itself.

ATTY. DE CASTRO:

Q: Would you know if there is any other document like a supplement to that Credit Line
Agreement referring to this 1.8 million peso loan by Mr. Yung Sam Kang which says that there
was a subsequent collateralization or security given by Mr. Yung [Sam]

Kang for the loan?

xxxx

A: The [dacion en pago], sir.44

Fourth,the Dacion en Pago was first mentioned only two (2) months after Suzuki and Samin
demanded the delivery of the titles sometime in August 2003,and after Suzuki caused the
annotation of his affidavit of adverse claim. Records show that it was only on October 9, 2003,
when Orion, through its counsel, Cristobal Balbin Mapile & Associates first spoke of the Dacion
en Pago.45 Not even Perez mentioned any Dacion en Pago on October 1, 2003, when he
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 164

personally received a letter demanding the delivery of the titles.Instead, Perez refused to
accept the letter and opted to first consult with his lawyer.46

Notably, even the October 9, 2003 letter contained material inconsistencies in its recital of facts
surrounding the execution of the Dacion en Pago. In particular, it mentioned that "on
[September 4, 2002], after paying the original loan, [Kang] applied and was granted a new
Credit Line Facility by [Orion] x x x for ONE MILLION EIGHT HUNDRED THOUSAND PESOS
(₱1,800,000.00)." Perez, however, testified that there was "no cash movement" in the original
₱1,000,000.00 loan. In his testimony, he said:

COURT:

xxxx

Q: Would you remember what was the subject matter of that real estate mortgage for that first
₱1,000,000.00 loan?

A: It’s a condominium Unit in Cityland, sir.

xxxx

Q: Would you recall if there was any payment by Mr. Yung Sam Kang of this ₱1,000,000.00
loan?

A: None sir.

Q: No payments?

A: None sir.

Q: And from 1999 to 2002, there was no payment, either by way of payment to the principal, by
way ofpayment of interest, there was no payment by Mr. Yung Sam Kang of this loan?

A: Literally, there was no actual cash movement, sir.

Q: There was no actual cash?

A: Yes, sir.

Q: And yet despite no payment, the bank Orion Savings Bank still extended an ₱800,000.00
additional right?
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 165

A: Yes, sir.47

Fifth, it is undisputed that notwithstanding the supposed execution of theDacion en Pago on


February 2, 2003, Kang remained in possession of the condominium unit. In fact, nothing in the
records shows that Orion even bothered to take possession of the property even six (6) months
after the supposed date of execution of the Dacion en Pago. Kang was even able to transfer
possession of the condominium unit to Suzuki, who then made immediate improvements
thereon. If Orion really purchased the condominium unit on February 2, 2003 and claimed to be
its true owner, why did it not assert its ownership immediately after the alleged sale took
place? Why did it have to assert its ownership only after Suzuki demanded the delivery of the
titles? These gaps have remained unanswered and unfilled.

In Suntay v. CA,48 we held that the most prominent index of simulation is the complete
absence of anattempt on the part of the vendee to assert his rights of ownership over the
property in question. After the sale, the vendee should have entered the land and occupied the
premises. The absence of any attempt on the part of Orion to assert its right of dominion over
the property allegedly soldto it is a clear badge of fraud. That notwithstanding the execution of
the Dacion en Pago, Kang remained in possession of the disputed condominium unit – from the
time of the execution of the Dacion en Pagountil the property’s subsequent transfer to Suzuki –
unmistakably strengthens the fictitious nature of the Dacion en Pago.

These circumstances, aside from the glaring inconsistencies in the documents and testimony of
Orion’s witness, indubitably prove the spurious nature of the Dacion en Pago.

The fact that the Dacion en Pago


is a notarized document does not
support the conclusion that the
sale it embodies is a true
conveyance

Public instruments are evidence of the facts that gave rise to their execution and are to be
considered as containing all the terms of the agreement.49 While a notarized document enjoys
this presumption, "the fact that a deed is notarized is not a guarantee of the validity of its
contents."50 The presumption of regularity of notarized documents is not absolute and may be
rebutted by clear and convincing evidence to the contrary.51

In the present case, the presumption cannot apply because the regularity in the execution of
the Dacion en Pago and the loan documents was challenged in the proceedings below where
their prima facievalidity was overthrown by the highly questionable circumstances surrounding
their execution.52
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 166

Effect of the PRA restriction on


the validity of Suzuki’s title to the
property

Orion argues that the PRA restriction in CCT No. 18186 affects the conveyance to Suzuki. In
particular, Orion assails the status of Suzuki as a purchaser in good faith in view of the express
PRA restriction contained in CCT No. 18186.53

We reject this suggested approachoutright because, to our mind, the PRA restriction cannot
affect the conveyance in favor of Suzuki. On this particular point, we concur withthe following
findings of the CA:

x x x the annotation merely servesas a warning to the owner who holds a Special Resident
Retiree’s Visa(SRRV) that he shall lose his visa if he disposes his property which serves as his
investment in order to qualify for such status. Section 14 of the Implementing Investment
Guidelines under Rule VIII-A of the Rules and Regulations Implementing Executive Order No.
1037, Creating the Philippine Retirement Park System Providing Funds Therefor and For Other
Purpose ( otherwise known as the Philippine Retirement Authority) states:

Section 14. Should the retiree-investor withdraw his investment from the Philippines, or
transfer the same to another domestic enterprise, orsell, convey or transfer his condominium
unit or units to another person, natural or juridical without the prior approval of the Authority,
the Special Resident Retiree’s Visa issued to him, and/or unmarried minor child or children[,]
may be cancelled or revoked by the Philippine Government, through the appropriate
government department or agency, upon recommendation of the Authority.54

Moreover, Orion should not be allowed to successfully assail the good faith of Suzuki on the
basis of the PRA restriction. Orion knew of the PRA restriction when it transacted with Kang.
Incidentally, Orion admitted accommodating Kang’s request to cancel the mortgage annotation
despite the lack of payment to circumvent the PRA restriction. Orion, thus, is estopped from
impugning the validity of the conveyance in favor of Suzuki on the basis of the PRA restriction
that Orion itself ignored and "attempted" to circumvent.
With the conclusion that Orion failed to prove the authenticity of the Dacion en Pago, we see
no reason for the application of the rules on double sale under Article 1544 of the New Civil
Code. Suzuki, moreover, successfully adduced sufficient evidence to establish the validity of
conveyance in his favor.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, we DENY the petition for lack of merit. Costs against
petitioner Orion Savings Bank.

SO ORDERED.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 167

Footnotes

26 Family Code of the Philippines, Art. 80. In the absence of a contrary stipulation in a marriage
settlement, the property relations of the spouses shall be governed by Philippine laws,
regardless of the place of the celebration of the marriage and their residence.

This rule shall not apply:

(1) Where both spouses are aliens;

(2) With respect to the extrinsic validity of contracts affecting property not situated in the
Philippines and executed in the country where the property is located; and

(3) With respect to the extrinsic validity of contracts entered into in the Philippines but
affecting property situated in a foreign country whose laws require different formalities for its
extrinsic validity.

53 Entry No. 73321/C-10186-RESTRICTIONS: IN an instrument duly subscribed and sworn to,


VERNETTE UMALI-PACO, CESO II, Phil. Retirement Authority, states that the property described
herein is subject to the following restriction: "The sale, transfer, or encumbrance of this
property is subject to the approval of the Philippine Retirement Authority, the owner-named
herein being a holder of Special Resident Retiree’s Visa (SRRV), and is therefore, subject to the
provision of Executive Order No. 1037 and it0`s implementing Rules and Regulations." (Doc. No.
68, p. 14, Bk.XIV, s. of 2000 of Not. Pub. For Mand. *City, Eddie Fernandez, dated June 23,
2000.) Date of Inscription-June 23, 2000-1:33 p.m.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 168

[G.R. NO. 157314 July 29, 2005]

FAR EAST BANK AND TRUST COMPANY, NOW BANK OF THE PHILIPPINE ISLANDS, Petitioners,
v. THEMISTOCLES PACILAN, JR., Respondent.
DECISION
CALLEJO, SR., J.:

Before the Court is the Petition for Review on Certiorari filed by Far East Bank and Trust
Company (now Bank of the Philippines Islands) seeking the reversal of the Decision1 dated
August 30, 2002 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CV No. 36627 which ordered it,
together with its branch accountant, Roger Villadelgado, to pay respondent Themistocles
Pacilan, Jr.2 the total sum of P100,000.00 as moral and exemplary damages. The assailed
decision affirmed with modification that of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Negros Occidental,
Bacolod City, Branch 54, in Civil Case No. 4908. Likewise sought to be reversed and set aside is
the Resolution dated January 17, 2003 of the appellate court, denying petitioner bank's motion
for reconsideration.

The case stemmed from the following undisputed facts:

Respondent Pacilan opened a current account with petitioner bank's Bacolod Branch on May
23, 1980. His account was denominated as Current Account No. 53208 (0052-00407-4). The
respondent had since then issued several postdated checks to different payees drawn against
the said account. Sometime in March 1988, the respondent issued Check No. 2434886 in the
amount of P680.00 and the same was presented for payment to petitioner bank on April 4,
1988.

Upon its presentment on the said date, Check No. 2434886 was dishonored by petitioner bank.
The next day, or on April 5, 1988, the respondent deposited to his current account the amount
of P800.00. The said amount was accepted by petitioner bank; hence, increasing the balance of
the respondent's deposit to P1,051.43.

Subsequently, when the respondent verified with petitioner bank about the dishonor of Check
No. 2434866, he discovered that his current account was closed on the ground that it was
"improperly handled." The records of petitioner bank disclosed that between the period of
March 30,
1988 and April 5, 1988, the respondent issued four checks, to wit: Check No. 2480416 for
P6,000.00; Check No. 2480419 for P50.00; Check No. 2434880 for P680.00 and; Check No.
2434886 for P680.00, or a total amount of P7,410.00. At the time, however, the respondent's
current account with petitioner bank only had a deposit of P6,981.43. Thus, the total amount of
the checks presented for payment on April 4, 1988 exceeded the balance of the respondent's
deposit in his account. For this reason, petitioner bank, through its branch accountant,
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 169

Villadelgado, closed the respondent's current account effective the evening of April 4, 1988 as it
then had an overdraft of P428.57. As a consequence of the overdraft, Check No. 2434886 was
dishonored.

On April 18, 1988, the respondent wrote to petitioner bank complaining that the closure of his
account was unjustified. When he did not receive a reply from petitioner bank, the respondent
filed with the RTC of Negros Occidental, Bacolod City, Branch 54, a complaint for damages
against petitioner bank and Villadelgado. The case was docketed as Civil Case No. 4908. The
respondent, as complainant therein, alleged that the closure of his current account by
petitioner bank was unjustified because on the first banking hour of April 5, 1988, he already
deposited an amount sufficient to fund his checks. The respondent pointed out that Check No.
2434886, in particular, was delivered to petitioner bank at the close of banking hours on April 4,
1988 and, following normal banking procedure, it
(petitioner bank) had until the last clearing hour of the following day, or on April 5, 1988, to
honor the check or return it, if not funded. In disregard of this banking procedure and practice,
however, petitioner bank hastily closed the respondent's current account and dishonored his
Check No. 2434886.

The respondent further alleged that prior to the closure of his current account, he had issued
several other postdated checks. The petitioner bank's act of closing his current account
allegedly preempted the deposits that he intended to make to fund those checks. Further, the
petitioner bank's act exposed him to criminal prosecution for violation of Batas Pambansa Blg.
22.

According to the respondent, the indecent haste that attended the closure of his account was
patently malicious and intended to embarrass him. He claimed that he is a Cashier of Prudential
Bank and Trust Company, whose branch office is located just across that of petitioner bank, and
a prominent and respected leader both in the civic and banking communities. The alleged
malicious acts of petitioner bank besmirched the respondent's reputation and caused him
"social humiliation, wounded feelings, insurmountable worries and sleepless nights" entitling
him to an award of damages.

In their answer, petitioner bank and Villadelgado maintained that the respondent's current
account was subject to petitioner bank's Rules and Regulations Governing the Establishment
and Operation of Regular Demand
Deposits which provide that "the Bank reserves the right to close an account if the depositor
frequently draws checks against insufficient funds and/or uncollected deposits" and that "the
Bank reserves the right at any time to return checks of the depositor which are drawn against
insufficient funds or for any reason."3
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 170

They showed that the respondent had improperly and irregularly handled his current account.
For example, in 1986, the respondent's account was overdrawn 156 times, in 1987, 117 times
and in 1988, 26 times. In all these instances, the account was overdrawn due to the issuance of
checks against insufficient funds. The respondent had also signed several checks with a
different signature from the specimen on file for dubious reasons.

When the respondent made the deposit on April 5, 1988, it was obviously to cover for issuances
made the previous day against an insufficiently funded account. When his Check No. 2434886
was presented for payment on April 4, 1988, he had already incurred an overdraft; hence,
petitioner bank rightfully dishonored the same for insufficiency of funds.

After due proceedings, the court a quo rendered judgment in favor of the respondent as it
ordered the petitioner bank and Villadelgado, jointly and severally, to pay the respondent the
amounts of P100,000.00 as moral damages and P50,000.00 as exemplary damages and costs of
suit. In so ruling, the court a quo also cited petitioner bank's rules and regulations which state
that "a charge of P10.00 shall be levied against the depositor for any check that is taken up as a
returned item due to 'insufficiency of funds' on the date of receipt from the clearing office even
if said check is honored and/or covered by sufficient deposit the following banking day." The
same rules and regulations also provide that "a check returned for insufficiency of funds for any
reason of similar import may be subsequently recleared for one more time only, subject to the
same charges."

According to the court a quo, following these rules and regulations, the respondent, as
depositor, had the right to put up sufficient funds for a check that was taken as a returned item
for insufficient funds the day following the receipt of said check from the clearing office. In fact,
the said check could still be recleared for one more time. In previous instances, petitioner bank
notified the respondent when he incurred an overdraft and he would then deposit sufficient
funds the following day to cover the overdraft. Petitioner bank thus acted unjustifiably when it
immediately closed the respondent's account on April 4, 1988 and deprived him of the
opportunity to reclear his check or deposit sufficient funds therefor the following day.

As a result of the closure of his current account, several of the respondent's checks were
subsequently dishonored and because of this, the respondent was humiliated, embarrassed
and lost his credit standing in the business community. The court a quo further ratiocinated
that even granting arguendo that petitioner bank had the right to close the respondent's
account, the manner which attended the closure constituted an abuse of the
said right. Citing Article 19 of the Civil Code of the Philippines which states that "[e]very person
must, in the exercise of his rights and in the performance of his duties, act with justice, give
everyone his due, and observe honesty and good faith" and Article 20 thereof which states that
"[e]very person who, contrary to law, wilfully or negligently causes damage to another, shall
indemnify the latter for the same," the court a quo adjudged petitioner bank of acting in bad
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 171

faith. It held that, under the foregoing circumstances, the respondent is entitled to an award of
moral and exemplary damages.

The decretal portion of the court a quo's decision reads:

WHEREFORE, PREMISES CONSIDERED, judgment is hereby rendered:

1. Ordering the defendants [petitioner bank and Villadelgado], jointly and severally, to pay
plaintiff [the respondent] the sum of P100,000.00 as moral damages;

2. Ordering the defendants, jointly and severally, to pay plaintiff the sum of P50,000.00 as
exemplary damages plus costs and expenses of the suit; andcralawlibrary

3. Dismissing [the] defendants' counterclaim for lack of merit.

SO ORDERED.4

On appeal, the CA rendered the Decision dated August 30, 2002, affirming with modification
the decision of the court a quo.

The appellate court substantially affirmed the factual findings of the court a quo as it held that
petitioner bank unjustifiably closed the respondent's account notwithstanding that its own
rules and regulations

allow that a check returned for insufficiency of funds or any reason of similar import, may be
subsequently recleared for one more time, subject to standard charges. Like the court a quo,
the appellate court observed that in several instances in previous years, petitioner bank would
inform the respondent when he incurred an overdraft and allowed him to make a timely
deposit to fund the checks that were initially dishonored for insufficiency of funds. However, on
April 4, 1988, petitioner bank immediately closed the respondent's account without even
notifying him that he had incurred an overdraft. Even when they had already closed his account
on April 4, 1988, petitioner bank still accepted the deposit that the respondent made on April 5,
1988, supposedly to cover his checks.

Echoing the reasoning of the court a quo, the CA declared that even as it may be conceded that
petitioner bank had reserved the right to close an account for repeated overdrafts by the
respondent, the exercise of that right must never be despotic or arbitrary. That petitioner bank
chose to close the account outright and return the check, even after accepting a deposit
sufficient to cover the said check, is contrary to its duty to handle the respondent's account
with utmost fidelity. The exercise of the right is not absolute and good faith, at least, is
required. The manner by which petitioner bank closed the account of the respondent runs afoul
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 172

of Article 19 of the Civil Code which enjoins every person, in the exercise of his rights, "to give
every one his due, and observe honesty and good faith."

The CA concluded that petitioner bank's precipitate and imprudent closure of the respondent's
account had caused him, a respected officer of several civic and banking associations, serious
anxiety and humiliation. It had, likewise, tainted his credit standing. Consequently, the award of
damages is warranted. The CA, however, reduced the amount of damages awarded by the
court a quo as it found the same to be excessive:

We, however, find excessive the amount of damages awarded by the RTC. In our view the
reduced amount of P75,000.00 as moral damages and P25,000.00 as exemplary damages are in
order. Awards for damages are not meant to enrich the plaintiff-appellee [the respondent] at
the expense of defendants-appellants [the petitioners], but to obviate the moral suffering he
has undergone. The award is aimed at the restoration, within limits possible, of the status quo
ante, and should be proportionate to the suffering inflicted.5

The dispositive portion of the assailed CA decision reads:

WHEREFORE, the decision appealed from is hereby AFFIRMED, subject to the MODIFICATION
that the award of moral damages is reduced to P75,000.00 and the award of exemplary
damages reduced to P25,000.00.

SO ORDERED.6

Petitioner bank sought the reconsideration of the said decision but in the assailed Resolution
dated January 17, 2003, the appellate court denied its motion. Hence, the recourse to this
Court.

Petitioner bank maintains that, in closing the account of the respondent in the evening of April
4, 1988, it acted in good faith and in accordance with the rules and regulations governing the
operation of a

regular demand deposit which reserves to the bank "the right to close an account if the
depositor frequently draws checks against insufficient funds and/or uncollected deposits." The
same rules and regulations also provide that "the depositor is not entitled, as a matter of right,
to overdraw on this deposit and the bank reserves the right at any time to return checks of the
depositor which are drawn against insufficient funds or for any reason."

It cites the numerous instances that the respondent had overdrawn his account and those
instances where he deliberately signed checks using a signature different from the specimen on
file. Based on these facts, petitioner bank was constrained to close the respondent's account
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 173

for improper and irregular handling and returned his Check No. 2434886 which was presented
to the bank for payment on April 4, 1988.

Petitioner bank further posits that there is no law or rule which gives the respondent a legal
right to make good his check or to deposit the corresponding amount to cover said check within
24 hours after the same is dishonored or returned by the bank for having been drawn against
insufficient funds. It vigorously denies having violated Article 19 of the Civil Code as it insists
that it acted in good faith and in accordance with the pertinent banking rules and regulations.

The petition is impressed with merit.

A perusal of the respective decisions of the court a quo and the appellate court show that the
award of damages in the respondent's favor was anchored mainly on Article 19 of the Civil Code
which, quoted anew below, reads:

Art. 19. Every person must, in the exercise of his rights and in the performance of his duties, act
with justice, give everyone his due, and observe honesty and good faith.

The elements of abuse of rights are the following: (a) the existence of a legal right or duty; (b)
which is exercised in bad faith; and (c) for the sole intent of prejudicing or injuring another.7
Malice or bad faith is at the core of the said provision.8 The law always presumes good faith
and any person who seeks to be awarded damages due to acts of another has the burden of
proving that the latter acted in bad faith or with ill-motive.9 Good faith refers to the state of
the mind which is manifested by the acts of the individual concerned. It consists of the
intention to abstain from taking an unconscionable and unscrupulous advantage of another.10
Bad faith does not simply connote bad judgment or simple negligence, dishonest purpose or
some moral obliquity and conscious doing of a wrong, a breach of known duty due to some
motives or interest or ill-will that partakes of the nature of fraud.11 Malice connotes ill-will or
spite and speaks not in response to duty. It implies an intention to do ulterior and unjustifiable
harm. Malice is bad faith or bad motive.12

Undoubtedly, petitioner bank has the right to close the account of the respondent based on the
following provisions of its Rules and Regulations Governing the Establishment and Operation of
Regular Demand Deposits:

10) The Bank reserves the right to close an account if the depositor frequently draws checks
against insufficient funds and/or uncollected deposits.

12)’
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 174

However, it is clearly understood that the depositor is not entitled, as a matter of right, to
overdraw on this deposit and the bank reserves the right at any time to return checks of the
depositor which are drawn against insufficient funds or for any other reason.

The facts, as found by the court a quo and the appellate court, do not establish that, in the
exercise of this right, petitioner bank committed an abuse thereof. Specifically, the second and
third elements for abuse of rights are not attendant in the present case. The evidence
presented by petitioner bank negates the existence of bad faith or malice on its part in closing
the respondent's account on April 4, 1988 because on the said date the same was already
overdrawn. The respondent issued four checks, all due on April 4, 1988, amounting to
P7,410.00 when the balance of his current account deposit was only P6,981.43. Thus, he
incurred an overdraft of P428.57 which resulted in the dishonor of his Check No. 2434886.
Further, petitioner bank showed that in 1986, the current account of the respondent was
overdrawn 156 times due to his issuance of checks against insufficient funds.13 In 1987, the
said account was overdrawn 117 times for the same

reason.14 Again, in 1988, 26 times.15 There were also several instances when the respondent
issued checks deliberately using a signature different from his specimen signature on file with
petitioner bank.16 All these circumstances taken together justified the petitioner bank's closure
of the respondent's account on April 4, 1988 for "improper handling."

It is observed that nowhere under its rules and regulations is petitioner bank required to notify
the respondent, or any depositor for that matter, of the closure of the account for frequently
drawing checks against insufficient funds. No malice or bad faith could be imputed on
petitioner bank for so acting since the records bear out that the respondent had indeed been
improperly and irregularly handling his account not just a few times but hundreds of times.
Under the circumstances, petitioner bank could not be faulted for exercising its right in
accordance with the express rules and regulations governing the current accounts of its
depositors. Upon the opening of his account, the respondent had agreed to be bound by these
terms and conditions.

Neither the fact that petitioner bank accepted the deposit made by the respondent the day
following the closure of his account constitutes bad faith or malice on the part of petitioner
bank. The same could be characterized as simple negligence by its personnel. Said act, by itself,
is not constitutive of bad faith.

The respondent had thus failed to discharge his burden of proving bad faith on the part of
petitioner bank or that it was motivated by ill-will or spite in closing his account on April 4, 1988
and in inadvertently accepting his deposit on April 5, 1988.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 175

Further, it has not been shown that these acts were done by petitioner bank with the sole
intention of prejudicing and injuring the respondent. It is conceded that the respondent may
have suffered damages as a result of the closure of his current account. However, there is a
material distinction between damages and injury. The Court had the occasion to explain the
distinction between damages and injury in this wise:

'Injury is the illegal invasion of a legal right; damage is the loss, hurt or harm which results from
the injury; and damages are the recompense or compensation awarded for the damage
suffered. Thus, there can be damage without injury in those instances in which the loss or harm
was not the result of a violation of a legal duty. In such cases, the consequences must be borne
by the injured person alone, the law affords no remedy for damages resulting from an act
which does not amount to a legal injury or wrong. These situations are often called damnum
absque injuria.

In other words, in order that a plaintiff may maintain an action for the injuries of which he
complains, he must establish that such injuries resulted from a breach of duty which the
defendant owed to the plaintiff - a concurrence of injury to the plaintiff and legal responsibility
by the person causing it. The underlying basis for the award of tort damages is the premise that
the individual was injured in contemplation of law. Thus, there must first be a breach of some
duty and the imposition of liability for that breach before damages may be awarded; and the
breach of such duty should be the proximate cause of the injury.17

Whatever damages the respondent may have suffered as a consequence, e.g., dishonor of his
other insufficiently funded checks, would have to be borne by him alone. It was the
respondent's repeated improper

and irregular handling of his account which constrained petitioner bank to close the same in
accordance with the rules and regulations governing its depositors' current accounts. The
respondent's case is clearly one of damnum absque injuria.

WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The Decision dated August 30, 2002 and Resolution
dated January 17, 2003 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 36627 are REVERSED AND SET
ASIDE.

SO ORDERED.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 176

[G.R. NO. 146322 : December 6, 2006]

ERNESTO RAMAS UYPITCHING and RAMAS UYPITCHING SONS, INC., Petitioners, v.


ERNESTO QUIAMCO, Respondent.
CORONA, J.:

Honeste vivere, non alterum laedere et jus suum cuique tribuere. To live virtuously, not to
injure others and to give everyone his due. These supreme norms of justice are the underlying
principles of law and order in society. We reaffirm them in this Petition for Review on Certiorari
assailing the July 26, 2000 decision1 and October 18, 2000 resolution of the Court of Appeals
(CA) in CA-G.R. CV No. 47571.

In 1982, respondent Ernesto C. Quiamco was approached by Juan Davalan,2 Josefino Gabutero
and Raul Generoso to amicably settle the civil aspect of a criminal case for robbery3 filed by
Quiamco against them. They surrendered to him a red Honda XL-100 motorcycle and a
photocopy of its certificate of registration. Respondent asked for the original certificate of
registration but the three accused never came to see him again. Meanwhile, the motorcycle
was parked in an open space inside respondent's business establishment, Avesco-AVNE
Enterprises, where it was visible and accessible to the public.

It turned out that, in October 1981, the motorcycle had been sold on installment basis to
Gabutero by petitioner Ramas Uypitching Sons, Inc., a family-owned corporation managed by
petitioner Atty. Ernesto Ramas Uypitching. To secure its payment, the motorcycle was
mortgaged to petitioner corporation.4

When Gabutero could no longer pay the installments, Davalan assumed the obligation and
continued the payments. In September 1982, however, Davalan stopped paying the remaining
installments and told petitioner corporation's collector, Wilfredo Veraño, that the motorcycle
had allegedly been "taken by respondent's men."

Nine years later, on January 26, 1991, petitioner Uypitching, accompanied by policemen,5 went
to Avesco-AVNE Enterprises to recover the motorcycle. The leader of the police team, P/Lt.
Arturo Vendiola, talked to the clerk in charge and asked for respondent. While P/Lt. Vendiola
and the clerk were talking, petitioner Uypitching paced back and forth inside the establishment
uttering "Quiamco is a thief of a motorcycle."

On learning that respondent was not in Avesco-AVNE Enterprises, the policemen left to look for
respondent in his residence while petitioner Uypitching stayed in the establishment to take
photographs of the motorcycle. Unable to find respondent, the policemen went back to
Avesco-AVNE Enterprises and, on petitioner Uypitching's instruction and over the clerk's
objection, took the motorcycle.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 177

On February 18, 1991, petitioner Uypitching filed a criminal complaint for qualified theft and/or
violation of the Anti-Fencing Law6 against respondent in the Office of the City Prosecutor of
Dumaguete City.7 Respondent moved for dismissal because the complaint did not charge an
offense as he had neither stolen nor bought the motorcycle. The Office of the City Prosecutor
dismissed the complaint8 and denied petitioner Uypitching's subsequent motion for
reconsideration.

Respondent filed an action for damages against petitioners in the RTC of Dumaguete City,
Negros Oriental, Branch 37.9 He sought to hold the petitioners liable for the following: (1)
unlawful taking of the motorcycle; (2) utterance of a defamatory remark (that respondent was
a thief) and (3) precipitate filing of a baseless and malicious complaint. These acts humiliated
and embarrassed the respondent and injured his reputation and integrity.

On July 30, 1994, the trial court rendered a decision10 finding that petitioner Uypitching was
motivated with malice and ill will when he called respondent a thief, took the motorcycle in an
abusive manner and filed a baseless complaint for qualified theft and/or violation of the Anti-
Fencing Law. Petitioners' acts were found to be contrary to Articles 1911 and 2012 of the Civil
Code. Hence, the trial court held petitioners liable to respondent for P500,000 moral damages,
P200,000 exemplary damages and P50,000 attorney's fees plus costs.

Petitioners appealed the RTC decision but the CA affirmed the trial court's decision with
modification, reducing the award of moral and exemplary damages to P300,000 and P100,000,
respectively.13 Petitioners sought reconsideration but it was denied. Thus, this petition.

In their petition and memorandum, petitioners submit that the sole (allegedly) issue to be
resolved here is whether the filing of a complaint for qualified theft and/or violation of the Anti-
Fencing Law in the Office of the City Prosecutor warranted the award of moral damages,
exemplary damages, attorney's fees and costs in favor of respondent.

Petitioners' suggestion is misleading. They were held liable for damages not only for instituting
a groundless complaint against respondent but also for making a slanderous remark and for
taking the motorcycle from respondent's establishment in an abusive manner.

Correctness of the Findings of the RTC and CA

As they never questioned the findings of the RTC and CA that malice and ill will attended not
only the public imputation of a crime to respondent14 but also the taking of the motorcycle,
petitioners were deemed to have accepted the correctness of such findings. This alone was
sufficient to hold petitioners liable for damages to respondent.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 178

Nevertheless, to address petitioners' concern, we also find that the trial and appellate courts
correctly ruled that the filing of the complaint was tainted with malice and bad faith. Petitioners
themselves in fact described their action as a "precipitate act."15 Petitioners were bent on
portraying respondent as a thief. In this connection, we quote with approval the following
findings of the RTC, as adopted by the CA:

x x x There was malice or ill-will [in filing the complaint before the City Prosecutor's Office]
because Atty. Ernesto Ramas Uypitching knew or ought to have known as he is a lawyer, that
there was no probable cause at all for filing a criminal complaint for qualified theft and fencing
activity against [respondent]. Atty. Uypitching had no personal knowledge that [respondent]
stole the motorcycle in question. He was merely told by his bill collector ([i.e.] the bill collector
of Ramas Uypitching Sons, Inc.)[,] Wilfredo Veraño[,] that Juan Dabalan will [no longer] pay the
remaining installment(s) for the motorcycle because the motorcycle was taken by the men of
[respondent]. It must be noted that the term used by Wilfredo Veraño in informing Atty.
Ernesto Ramas Uypitching of the refusal of Juan Dabalan to pay for the remaining installment
was [']taken['], not [']unlawfully taken['] or 'stolen.' Yet, despite the double hearsay, Atty.
Ernesto Ramas Uypitching not only executed the [complaint-affidavit] wherein he named
[respondent] as 'the suspect' of the stolen motorcycle but also charged [respondent] of
'qualified theft and fencing activity' before the City [Prosecutor's] Office of Dumaguete. The
absence of probable cause necessarily signifies the presence of malice. What is deplorable in all
these is that Juan Dabalan, the owner of the motorcycle, did not accuse [respondent] or the
latter's men of stealing the motorcycle[,] much less bother[ed] to file a case for qualified theft
before the authorities. That Atty. Uypitching's act in charging [respondent] with qualified theft
and fencing activity is tainted with malice is also shown by his answer to the question of Cupid
Gonzaga16 [during one of their conversations] - "why should you still file a complaint? You have
already recovered the motorcycle' "[:] "Aron motagam ang kawatan ug motor." ("To teach a
lesson to the thief of motorcycle.")17

Moreover, the existence of malice, ill will or bad faith is a factual matter. As a rule, findings of
fact of the trial court, when affirmed by the appellate court, are conclusive on this Court. We
see no compelling reason to reverse the findings of the RTC and the CA.

Petitioners Abused Their Right of Recovery as Mortgagee(s)

Petitioners claim that they should not be held liable for petitioner corporation's exercise of its
right as seller-mortgagee to recover the mortgaged vehicle preliminary to the enforcement of
its right to foreclose on the mortgage in case of default. They are clearly mistaken.

True, a mortgagee may take steps to recover the mortgaged property to enable it to enforce or
protect its foreclosure right thereon. There is, however, a well-defined procedure for the
recovery of possession of mortgaged property: if a mortgagee is unable to obtain possession of
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 179

a mortgaged property for its sale on foreclosure, he must bring a civil action either to recover
such possession as a preliminary step to the sale, or to obtain judicial foreclosure.18

Petitioner corporation failed to bring the proper civil action necessary to acquire legal
possession of the motorcycle. Instead, petitioner Uypitching descended on respondent's
establishment with his policemen and ordered the seizure of the motorcycle without a search
warrant or court order. Worse, in the course of the illegal seizure of the motorcycle, petitioner
Uypitching even mouthed a slanderous statement.

No doubt, petitioner corporation, acting through its co-petitioner Uypitching, blatantly


disregarded the lawful procedure for the enforcement of its right, to the prejudice of
respondent. Petitioners' acts violated the law as well as public morals, and transgressed the
proper norms of human relations.

The basic principle of human relations, embodied in Article 19 of the Civil Code, provides:

Art. 19. Every person must in the exercise of his rights and in the performance of his duties, act
with justice, give every one his due, and observe honesty and good faith.

Article 19, also known as the "principle of abuse of right," prescribes that a person should not
use his right unjustly or contrary to honesty and good faith, otherwise he opens himself to
liability.19 It seeks to preclude the use of, or the tendency to use, a legal right (or duty) as a
means to unjust ends.

There is an abuse of right when it is exercised solely to prejudice or injure another.20 The
exercise of a right must be in accordance with the purpose for which it was established and
must not be excessive or unduly harsh; there must be no intention to harm another.21
Otherwise, liability for damages to the injured party will attach.

In this case, the manner by which the motorcycle was taken at petitioners' instance was not
only attended by bad faith but also contrary to the procedure laid down by law. Considered in
conjunction with the defamatory statement, petitioners' exercise of the right to recover the
mortgaged vehicle was utterly prejudicial and injurious to respondent. On the other hand, the
precipitate act of filing an unfounded complaint could not in any way be considered to be in
accordance with the purpose for which the right to prosecute a crime was established. Thus,
the totality of petitioners' actions showed a calculated design to embarrass, humiliate and
publicly ridicule respondent. Petitioners acted in an excessively harsh fashion to the prejudice
of respondent. Contrary to law, petitioners willfully caused damage to respondent. Hence, they
should indemnify him.22
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 180

WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby DENIED. The July 26, 2000 decision and October 18, 2000
resolution of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 47571 are AFFIRMED.

Triple costs against petitioners, considering that petitioner Ernesto Ramas Uypitching is a
lawyer and an officer of the court, for his improper behavior.

SO ORDERED.

Puno, J., Chairperson, Sandoval-Gutierrez, Azcuna and Garcia, JJ., concur.

11 Art. 19. Every person must in the exercise of his rights and in the performance of his duties,
act with justice, give every one his due, and observe honesty and good faith.

12 Art. 20. Every person who, contrary to law, willfully or negligently causes damage to
another, shall indemnify the latter for the same.

13 The modification was based on the principle that moral and exemplary damages are not
imposed to enrich a party.

14 In fact, malice is presumed from a defamatory imputation.


[G.R. NO. 160273 - January 18, 2008]
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 181

CEBU COUNTRY CLUB, INC., SABINO R. DAPAT, RUBEN D. ALMENDRAS, JULIUS Z. NERI,
DOUGLAS L. LUYM, CESAR T. LIBI, RAMONTITO* E. GARCIA and JOSE B. SALA, Petitioners, v.
RICARDO F. ELIZAGAQUE, Respondent.

DECISION

SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ, J.:

For our resolution is the instant Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 of the 1997
Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended, assailing the Decision1 dated January 31, 2003 and
Resolution dated October 2, 2003 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 71506.

The facts are:

Cebu Country Club, Inc. (CCCI), petitioner, is a domestic corporation operating as a non-profit
and non-stock private membership club, having its principal place of business in Banilad, Cebu
City. Petitioners herein are members of its Board of Directors.

Sometime in 1987, San Miguel Corporation, a special company proprietary member of CCCI,
designated respondent Ricardo F. Elizagaque, its Senior Vice President and Operations Manager
for the Visayas and Mindanao, as a special non-proprietary member. The designation was
thereafter approved by the CCCI's Board of Directors.

In 1996, respondent filed with CCCI an application for proprietary membership. The application
was indorsed by CCCI's two (2) proprietary members, namely: Edmundo T. Misa and Silvano
Ludo.

As the price of a proprietary share was around the P5 million range, Benito Unchuan, then
president of CCCI, offered to sell respondent a share for only P3.5 million. Respondent,
however, purchased the share of a certain Dr. Butalid for only P3 million. Consequently, on
September 6, 1996, CCCI issued Proprietary Ownership Certificate No. 1446 to respondent.

During the meetings dated April 4, 1997 and May 30, 1997 of the CCCI Board of Directors,
action on respondent's application for proprietary membership was deferred. In another Board
meeting held on July 30, 1997, respondent's application was voted upon. Subsequently, or on
August 1, 1997, respondent received a letter from Julius Z. Neri, CCCI's corporate secretary,
informing him that the Board disapproved his application for proprietary membership.

On August 6, 1997, Edmundo T. Misa, on behalf of respondent, wrote CCCI a letter of


reconsideration. As CCCI did not answer, respondent, on October 7, 1997, wrote another letter
of reconsideration. Still, CCCI kept silent. On November 5, 1997, respondent again sent CCCI a
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 182

letter inquiring whether any member of the Board objected to his application. Again, CCCI did
not reply.

Consequently, on December 23, 1998, respondent filed with the Regional Trial Court (RTC),
Branch 71, Pasig City a complaint for damages against petitioners, docketed as Civil Case No.
67190.

After trial, the RTC rendered its Decision dated February 14, 2001 in favor of respondent, thus:

WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered in favor of plaintiff:

1. Ordering defendants to pay, jointly and severally, plaintiff the amount of P2,340,000.00 as
actual or compensatory damages.

2. Ordering defendants to pay, jointly and severally, plaintiff the amount of P5,000,000.00 as
moral damages.

3. Ordering defendants to pay, jointly and severally, plaintiff the amount of P1,000,000.00 as
exemplary damages.

4. Ordering defendants to pay, jointly and severally, plaintiff the amount of P1,000,000.00 as
and by way of attorney's fees and P80,000.00 as litigation expenses.

5. Costs of suit.

Counterclaims are hereby DISMISSED for lack of merit.

SO ORDERED.2

On appeal by petitioners, the Court of Appeals, in its Decision dated January 31, 2003, affirmed
the trial court's Decision with modification, thus:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the assailed Decision dated February 14, 2001 of the
Regional Trial Court, Branch 71, Pasig City in Civil Case No. 67190 is hereby AFFIRMED with
MODIFICATION as follows:

1. Ordering defendants-appellants to pay, jointly and severally, plaintiff-appellee the amount of


P2,000,000.00 as moral damages;

2. Ordering defendants-appellants to pay, jointly and severally, plaintiff-appellee the amount of


P1,000,000.00 as exemplary damages;
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 183

3. Ordering defendants-appellants to pay, jointly and severally, plaintiff-appellee the mount of


P500,000.00 as attorney's fees and P50,000.00 as litigation expenses; andcralawlibrary

4. Costs of the suit.

The counterclaims are DISMISSED for lack of merit.

SO ORDERED.3

On March 3, 2003, petitioners filed a motion for reconsideration and motion for leave to set the
motion for oral arguments. In its Resolution4 dated October 2, 2003, the appellate court denied
the motions for lack of merit.

Hence, the present petition.

The issue for our resolution is whether in disapproving respondent's application for proprietary
membership with CCCI, petitioners are liable to respondent for damages, and if so, whether
their liability is joint and several.

Petitioners contend, inter alia, that the Court of Appeals erred in awarding exorbitant damages
to respondent despite the lack of evidence that they acted in bad faith in disapproving the
latter's application; and in disregarding their defense of damnum absque injuria.

For his part, respondent maintains that the petition lacks merit, hence, should be denied.

CCCI's Articles of Incorporation provide in part:

SEVENTH: That this is a non-stock corporation and membership therein as well as the right of
participation in its assets shall be limited to qualified persons who are duly accredited owners
of Proprietary Ownership Certificates issued by the corporation in accordance with its By-Laws.

Corollary, Section 3, Article 1 of CCCI's Amended By-Laws provides:

SECTION 3. HOW MEMBERS ARE ELECTED - The procedure for the admission of new members
of the Club shall be as follows:

(a) Any proprietary member, seconded by another voting proprietary member, shall submit to
the Secretary a written proposal for the admission of a candidate to the "Eligible-for-
Membership List";
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 184

(b) Such proposal shall be posted by the Secretary for a period of thirty (30) days on the Club
bulletin board during which time any member may interpose objections to the admission of the
applicant by communicating the same to the Board of Directors;

(c) After the expiration of the aforesaid thirty (30) days, if no objections have been filed or if
there are, the Board considers the objections unmeritorious, the candidate shall be qualified for
inclusion in the "Eligible-for-Membership List";

(d) Once included in the "Eligible-for-Membership List" and after the candidate shall have
acquired in his name a valid POC duly recorded in the books of the corporation as his own, he
shall become a Proprietary Member, upon a non-refundable admission fee of P1,000.00,
provided that admission fees will only be collected once from any person.

On March 1, 1978, Section 3(c) was amended to read as follows:

(c) After the expiration of the aforesaid thirty (30) days, the Board may, by unanimous vote of
all directors present at a regular or special meeting, approve the inclusion of the candidate in
the "Eligible-for-Membership List".

As shown by the records, the Board adopted a secret balloting known as the "black ball system"
of voting wherein each member will drop a ball in the ballot box. A white ball represents
conformity to the admission of an applicant, while a black ball means disapproval. Pursuant to
Section 3(c), as amended, cited above, a unanimous vote of the directors is required. When
respondent's application for proprietary membership was voted upon during the Board
meeting on July 30, 1997, the ballot box contained one (1) black ball. Thus, for lack of
unanimity, his application was disapproved.

Obviously, the CCCI Board of Directors, under its Articles of Incorporation, has the right to
approve or disapprove an application for proprietary membership. But such right should not be
exercised arbitrarily. Articles 19 and 21 of the Civil Code on the Chapter on Human Relations
provide restrictions, thus:

Article 19. Every person must, in the exercise of his rights and in the performance of his duties,
act with justice, give everyone his due, and observe honesty and good faith.

Article 21. Any person who willfully causes loss or injury to another in a manner that is contrary
to morals, good customs or public policy shall compensate the latter for the damage.

In GF Equity, Inc. v. Valenzona,5 we expounded Article 19 and correlated it with Article 21, thus:
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 185

This article, known to contain what is commonly referred to as the principle of abuse of rights,
sets certain standards which must be observed not only in the exercise of one's rights but also
in the performance of one's duties. These standards are the following: to act with justice; to
give everyone his due; and to observe honesty and good faith. The law, therefore, recognizes a
primordial limitation on all rights; that in their exercise, the norms of human conduct set forth
in Article 19 must be observed. A right, though by itself legal because recognized or granted by
law as such, may nevertheless become the source of some illegality. When a right is exercised
in a manner which does not conform with the norms enshrined in Article 19 and results in
damage to another, a legal wrong is thereby committed for which the wrongdoer must be held
responsible. But while Article 19 lays down a rule of conduct for the government of human
relations and for the maintenance of social order, it does not provide a remedy for its violation.
Generally, an action for damages under either Article 20 or Article 21 would be proper.
(Emphasis in the original)

In rejecting respondent's application for proprietary membership, we find that petitioners


violated the rules governing human relations, the basic principles to be observed for the rightful
relationship between human beings and for the stability of social order. The trial court and the
Court of Appeals aptly held that petitioners committed fraud and evident bad faith in
disapproving respondent's applications. This is contrary to morals, good custom or public
policy. Hence, petitioners are liable for damages pursuant to Article 19 in relation to Article 21
of the same Code.

It bears stressing that the amendment to Section 3(c) of CCCI's Amended By-Laws requiring the
unanimous vote of the directors present at a special or regular meeting was not printed on the
application form respondent filled and submitted to CCCI. What was printed thereon was the
original provision of Section 3(c) which was silent on the required number of votes needed for
admission of an applicant as a proprietary member.

Petitioners explained that the amendment was not printed on the application form due to
economic reasons. We find this excuse flimsy and unconvincing. Such amendment, aside from
being extremely significant, was introduced way back in 1978 or almost twenty (20) years
before respondent filed his application. We cannot fathom why such a prestigious and exclusive
golf country club, like the CCCI, whose members are all affluent, did not have enough money to
cause the printing of an updated application form.

It is thus clear that respondent was left groping in the dark wondering why his application was
disapproved. He was not even informed that a unanimous vote of the Board members was
required. When he sent a letter for reconsideration and an inquiry whether there was an
objection to his application, petitioners apparently ignored him. Certainly, respondent did not
deserve this kind of treatment. Having been designated by San Miguel Corporation as a special
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 186

non-proprietary member of CCCI, he should have been treated by petitioners with courtesy and
civility. At the very least, they should have informed him why his application was disapproved.

The exercise of a right, though legal by itself, must nonetheless be in accordance with the
proper norm. When the right is exercised arbitrarily, unjustly or excessively and results in
damage to another, a legal wrong is committed for which the wrongdoer must be held
responsible.6 It bears reiterating that the trial court and the Court of Appeals held that
petitioners' disapproval of respondent's application is characterized by bad faith.

As to petitioners' reliance on the principle of damnum absque injuria or damage without injury,
suffice it to state that the same is misplaced. In Amonoy v. Gutierrez,7 we held that this
principle does not apply when there is an abuse of a person's right, as in this case.

As to the appellate court's award to respondent of moral damages, we find the same in order.
Under Article 2219 of the New Civil Code, moral damages may be recovered, among others, in
acts and actions referred to in Article 21. We believe respondent's testimony that he suffered
mental anguish, social humiliation and wounded feelings as a result of the arbitrary denial of his
application. However, the amount of P2,000,000.00 is excessive. While there is no hard-and-
fast rule in determining what would be a fair and reasonable amount of moral damages, the
same should not be palpably and scandalously excessive. Moral damages are not intended to
impose a penalty to the wrongdoer, neither to enrich the claimant at the expense of the
defendant.8 Taking into consideration the attending circumstances here, we hold that an award
to respondent of P50,000.00, instead of P2,000,000.00, as moral damages is reasonable.

Anent the award of exemplary damages, Article 2229 allows it by way of example or correction
for the public good. Nonetheless, since exemplary damages are imposed not to enrich one
party or impoverish another but to serve as a deterrent against or as a negative incentive to
curb socially deleterious actions,9 we reduce the amount from P1,000,000.00 to P25,000.00
only.

On the matter of attorney's fees and litigation expenses, Article 2208 of the same Code
provides, among others, that attorney's fees and expenses of litigation may be recovered in
cases when exemplary damages are awarded and where the court deems it just and equitable
that attorney's fees and expenses of litigation should be recovered, as in this case. In any event,
however, such award must be reasonable, just and equitable. Thus, we reduce the amount of
attorney's fees (P500,000.00) and litigation expenses (P50,000.00) to P50,000.00 and
P25,000.00, respectively.

Lastly, petitioners' argument that they could not be held jointly and severally liable for damages
because only one (1) voted for the disapproval of respondent's application lacks merit.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 187

Section 31 of the Corporation Code provides:

SEC. 31. Liability of directors, trustees or officers. - Directors or trustees who willfully and
knowingly vote for or assent to patently unlawful acts of the corporation or who are guilty of
gross negligence or bad faith in directing the affairs of the corporation or acquire any personal
or pecuniary interest in conflict with their duty as such directors, or trustees shall be liable
jointly and severally for all damages resulting therefrom suffered by the corporation, its
stockholders or members and other persons. (Emphasis ours)

WHEREFORE, we DENY the petition. The challenged Decision and Resolution of the Court of
Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 71506 are AFFIRMED with modification in the sense that (a) the
award of moral damages is reduced from P2,000,000.00 to P50,000.00; (b) the award of
exemplary damages is reduced from P1,000,000.00 to P25,000.00; and (c) the award of
attorney's fees and litigation expenses is reduced from P500,000.00 and P50,000.00 to
P50,000.00 and P25,000.00, respectively.

Costs against petitioners.

SO ORDERED.

Puno, C.J., Chairperson, Corona, Azcuna, Leonardo-de Castro, JJ., concur.


P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 188

G.R. NO. 165443 : April 16, 2009


CALATAGAN GOLF CLUB, INC. Petitioner, v.
SIXTO CLEMENTE, JR., Respondent.

TINGA, J.:

Seeking the reversal of the Decision1 dated 1 June 2004 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP
No. 62331 and the reinstatement of the Decision dated 15 November 2000 of the Securities
and Exchange Commission (SEC) in SEC Case No. 04-98-5954, petitioner Calatagan Golf Club,
Inc. (Calatagan) filed this Rule 45 petition against respondent Sixto Clemente, Jr. (Clemente).

The key facts are undisputed.

Clemente applied to purchase one share of stock of Calatagan, indicating in his application for
membership his mailing address at "Phimco Industries, Inc. - P.O. Box 240, MCC," complete
residential address, office and residence telephone numbers, as well as the company (Phimco)
with which he was connected, Calatagan issued to him Certificate of Stock No. A-01295 on 2
May 1990 after paying P120,000.00 for the share.2

Calatagan charges monthly dues on its members to meet expenses for general operations, as
well as costs for upkeep and improvement of the grounds and facilities. The provision on
monthly dues is incorporated in Calatagan's Articles of Incorporation and By-Laws. It is also
reproduced at the back of each certificate of stock.3 As reproduced in the dorsal side of
Certificate of Stock No. A-01295, the provision reads:

5. The owners of shares of stock shall be subject to the payment of monthly dues in an amount
as may be prescribed in the by-laws or by the Board of Directors which shall in no case be less
that [sic] P50.00 to meet the expenses for the general operations of the club, and the
maintenance and improvement of its premises and facilities, in addition to such fees as may be
charged for the actual use of the facilities x x x

When Clemente became a member the monthly charge stood at P400.00. He paid P3,000.00 for
his monthly dues on 21 March 1991 and another P5,400.00 on 9 December 1991. Then he
ceased paying the dues. At that point, his balance amounted to P400.00.4

Ten (10) months later, Calatagan made the initial step to collect Clemente's back accounts by
sending a demand letter dated 21 September 1992. It was followed by a second letter dated 22
October 1992. Both letters were sent to Clemente's mailing address as indicated in his
membership application but were sent back to sender with the postal note that the address
had been closed.5
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 189

Calatagan declared Clemente delinquent for having failed to pay his monthly dues for more
than sixty (60) days, specifically P5,600.00 as of 31 October 1992. Calatagan also included
Clemente's name in the list of delinquent members posted on the club's bulletin board. On 1
December 1992, Calatagan's board of directors adopted a resolution authorizing the
foreclosure of shares of delinquent members, including Clemente's; and the public auction of
these shares.

On 7 December 1992, Calatagan sent a third and final letter to Clemente, this time signed by its
Corporate Secretary, Atty. Benjamin Tanedo, Jr. The letter contains a warning that unless
Clemente settles his outstanding dues, his share would be included among the delinquent
shares to be sold at public auction on 15 January 1993. Again, this letter was sent to Clemente's
mailing address that had already been closed.6

On 5 January 1993, a notice of auction sale was posted on the Club's bulletin board, as well as
on the club's premises. The auction sale took place as scheduled on 15 January 1993, and
Clemente's share sold for P64,000.7 According to the Certificate of Sale issued by Calatagan
after the sale, Clemente's share was purchased by a Nestor A. Virata.8 At the time of the sale,
Clemente's accrued monthly dues amounted to P5,200.00.9 A notice of foreclosure of
Clemente's share was published in the 26 May 1993 issue of the Business World.10

Clemente learned of the sale of his share only in November of 1997.11 He filed a claim with the
Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) seeking the restoration of his shareholding in
Calatagan with damages.

On 15 November 2000, the SEC rendered a decision dismissing Clemente's complaint. Citing
Section 69 of the Corporation Code which provides that the sale of shares at an auction sale can
only be questioned within six (6) months from the date of sale, the SEC concluded that
Clemente's claim, filed four (4) years after the sale, had already prescribed. The SEC further
held that Calatagan had complied with all the requirements for a valid sale of the subject share,
Clemente having failed to inform Calatagan that the address he had earlier supplied was no
longer his address. Clemente, the SEC ruled, had acted in bad faith in assuming as he claimed
that his non-payment of monthly dues would merely render his share "inactive."

Clemente filed a Petition for Review with the Court of Appeals. On 1 June 2004, the Court of
Appeals promulgated a decision reversing the SEC. The appellate court restored Clemente's one
share with a directive to Calatagan to issue in his a new share, and awarded to Clemente a total
of P400,000.00 in damages, less the unpaid monthly dues of P5,200.00.

In rejecting the SEC's finding that the action had prescribed, the Court of Appeals cited the
SEC's own ruling in SEC Case No. 4160, Caram v. Valley Golf Country Club, Inc., that Section 69
of the Corporation Code specifically refers to unpaid subscriptions to capital stock, and not to
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 190

any other debt of stockholders. With the insinuation that Section 69 does not apply to unpaid
membership dues in non-stock corporations, the appellate court employed Article 1140 of the
Civil Code as the proper rule of prescription. The provision sets the prescription period of
actions to recover movables at eight (8) years.

The Court of Appeals also pointed out that since that Calatagan's first two demand letters had
been returned to it as sender with the notation about the closure of the mailing address, it very
well knew that its third and final demand letter also sent to the same mailing address would not
be received by Clemente. It noted the by-law requirement that within ten (10) days after the
Board has ordered the sale at auction of a member's share of stock for indebtedness, the
Corporate Secretary shall notify the owner thereof and advise the Membership Committee of
such fact. Finally, the Court of Appeals ratiocinated that "a person who is in danger of the
imminent loss of his property has the right to be notified and be given the chance to prevent
the loss."12

Hence, the present appeal.

Calatagan maintains that the action of Clemente had prescribed pursuant to Section 69 of the
Corporation Code, and that the requisite notices under both the law and the by-laws had been
rendered to Clemente.

Section 69 of the Code provides that an action to recover delinquent stock sold must be
commenced by the filing of a complaint within six (6) months from the date of sale. As correctly
pointed out by the Court of Appeals, Section 69 is part of Title VIII of the Code entitled "Stocks
and Stockholders" and refers specifically to unpaid subscriptions to capital stock, the sale of
which is governed by the immediately preceding Section 68.

The Court of Appeals debunked both Calatagan's and the SEC's reliance on Section 69 by citing
another SEC ruling in the case of Caram v. Valley Golf. In connection with Section 69, Calatagan
raises a peripheral point made in the SEC's Caram ruling. In Caram, the SEC, using as take-off
Section 6 of the Corporation Code which refers to "such rights, privileges or restrictions as may
be stated in the articles of incorporation," pointed out that the Articles of Incorporation of
Valley Golf does not "impose any lien, liability or restriction on the Golf Share [of Caram]," but
only its (Valley Golf's) By-Laws does. Here, Calatagan stresses that its own Articles of
Incorporation does provide that the monthly dues assessed on owners of shares of the
corporation, along with all other obligations of the shareholders to the club, "shall constitute a
first lien on the shares' and in the event of delinquency such shares may be ordered sold by the
Board of Directors in the manner provided in the By-Laws to satisfy said dues or other
obligations of the shareholders."13 With its illative but incomprehensible logic, Calatagan
concludes that the prescriptive period under Section 69 should also apply to the sale of
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 191

Clemente's share as the lien that Calatagan perceives to be a restriction is stated in the articles
of incorporation and not only in the by-laws.

We remain unconvinced.

There are fundamental differences that defy equivalence or even analogy between the sale of
delinquent stock under Section 68 and the sale that occurred in this case. At the root of the sale
of delinquent stock is the non-payment of the subscription price for the share of stock itself.
The stockholder or subscriber has yet to fully pay for the value of the share or shares
subscribed. In this case, Clemente had already fully paid for the share in Calatagan and no
longer had any outstanding obligation to deprive him of full title to his share. Perhaps the
analogy could have been made if Clemente had not yet fully paid for his share and the non-
stock corporation, pursuant to an article or by-law provision designed to address that situation,
decided to sell such share as a consequence. But that is not the case here, and there is no
purpose for us to apply Section 69 to the case at bar.

Calatagan argues in the alternative that Clemente's suit is barred by Article 1146 of the Civil
Code which establishes four (4) years as the prescriptive period for actions based upon injury to
the rights of the plaintiff on the hypothesis that the suit is purely for damages. As a second
alternative still, Calatagan posits that Clemente's action is governed by Article 1149 of the Civil
Code which sets five (5) years as the period of prescription for all other actions whose
prescriptive periods are not fixed in the Civil Code or in any other law. Neither article is
applicable but Article 1140 of the Civil Code which provides that an action to recover movables
shall prescribe in eight (8) years. Calatagan's action is for the recovery of a share of stock, plus
damages.

Calatagan's advertence to the fact that the constitution of a lien on the member's share by
virtue of the explicit provisions in its Articles of Incorporation and By-Laws is relevant but
ultimately of no help to its cause. Calatagan's Articles of Incorporation states that the "dues,
together with all other obligations of members to the club, shall constitute a first lien on the
shares, second only to any lien in favor of the national or local government, and in the event of
delinquency such shares may be ordered sold by the Board of Directors in the manner provided
in the By-Laws to satisfy said dues or other obligations of the stockholders."14 In turn, there are
several provisions in the By-laws that govern the payment of dues, the lapse into delinquency
of the member, and the constitution and execution on the lien. We quote these provisions:

ARTICLE XII - MEMBER'S ACCOUNT

SEC. 31. (a) Billing Members, Posting of Delinquent Members - The Treasurer shall bill al
members monthly. As soon as possible after the end of every month, a statement showing the
account of bill of a member for said month will be prepared and sent to him. If the bill of any
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 192

member remains unpaid by the 20th of the month following that in which the bill was incurred,
the Treasurer shall notify him that if his bill is not paid in full by the end of the succeeding
month his name will be posted as delinquent the following day at the Clubhouse bulletin board.
While posted, a member, the immediate members of his family, and his guests, may not avail of
the facilities of the Club.

(b) Members on the delinquent list for more than 60 days shall be reported to the Board and
their shares or the shares of the juridical entities they represent shall thereafter be ordered
sold by the Board at auction to satisfy the claims of the Club as provided for in Section 32
hereon. A member may pay his overdue account at any time before the auction sale.

Sec. 32. Lien on Shares; Sale of Share at Auction - The club shall have a first lien on every share
of stock to secure debts of the members to the Club. This lien shall be annotated on the
certificates of stock and may be enforced by the Club in the following manner:

(a) Within ten (10) days after the Board has ordered the sale at auction of a member's share of
stock for indebtedness under Section 31(b) hereof, the Secretary shall notify the owner thereof,
and shall advise the Membership Committee of such fact.

(b) The Membership Committee shall then notify all applicants on the Waiting List and all
registered stockholders of the availability of a share of stock for sale at auction at a specified
date, time and place, and shall post a notice to that effect in the Club bulletin board for at least
ten (10) days prior to the auction sale.

(c) On the date and hour fixed, the Membership Committee shall proceed with the auction by
viva voce bidding and award the sale of the share of stock to the highest bidder.

(d) The purchase price shall be paid by the winning bidder to the Club within twenty-four (24)
hours after the bidding. The winning bidder or the representative in the case of a juridical entity
shall become a Regular Member upon payment of the purchase price and issuance of a new
stock certificate in his name or in the name of the juridical entity he represents. The proceeds
of the sale shall be paid by the Club to the selling stockholder after deducting his obligations to
the Club.

(e) If no bids be received or if the winning bidder fails to pay the amount of this bid within
twenty-four (24) hours after the bidding, the auction procedures may be repeated from time to
time at the discretion of the Membership Committee until the share of stock be sold.

(f) If the proceeds from the sale of the share of stock are not sufficient to pay in full the
indebtedness of the member, the member shall continue to be obligated to the Club for the
unpaid balance. If the member whose share of stock is sold fails or refuse to surrender the
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 193

stock certificate for cancellation, cancellation shall be effected in the books of the Club based
on a record of the proceedings. Such cancellation shall render the unsurrendered stock
certificate null and void and notice to this effect shall be duly published.

It is plain that Calatagan had endeavored to install a clear and comprehensive procedure to
govern the payment of monthly dues, the declaration of a member as delinquent, and the
constitution of a lien on the shares and its eventual public sale to answer for the member's
debts. Under Section 91 of the Corporation Code, membership in a non-stock corporation "shall
be terminated in the manner and for the causes provided in the articles of incorporation or the
by-laws." The By-law provisions are elaborate in explaining the manner and the causes for the
termination of membership in Calatagan, through the execution on the lien of the share. The
Court is satisfied that the By-Laws, as written, affords due protection to the member by
assuring that the member should be notified by the Secretary of the looming execution sale
that would terminate membership in the club. In addition, the By-Laws guarantees that after
the execution sale, the proceeds of the sale would be returned to the former member after
deducting the outstanding obligations. If followed to the letter, the termination of membership
under this procedure outlined in the By-Laws would accord with substantial justice.

Yet, did Calatagan actually comply with the by-law provisions when it sold Clemente's share?
The appellate court's finding on this point warrants our approving citation, thus:

In accordance with this provision, Calatagan sent the third and final demand letter to Clemente
on December 7, 1992. The letter states that if the amount of delinquency is not paid, the share
will be included among the delinquent shares to be sold at public auction. This letter was signed
by Atty. Benjamin Tanedo, Jr., Calatagan Golf's Corporate Secretary. It was again sent to
Clemente's mailing address - Phimco Industries Inc., P.O. Box 240, MCC Makati. As expected, it
was returned because the post office box had been closed.

Under the By-Laws, the Corporate Secretary is tasked to "give or cause to be given, all notices
required by law or by these By-Laws. .. and - keep a record of the addresses of all stockholders.
As quoted above, Sec. 32 (a) of the By-Laws further provides that "within ten (10) days after the
Board has ordered the sale at auction of a member's share of stock for indebtedness under
Section 31 (b) hereof, the Secretary shall notify the owner thereof and shall advise the
Membership Committee of such fact.," The records do not disclose what report the Corporate
Secretary transmitted to the Membership Committee to comply with Section 32(a). Obviously,
the reason for this mandatory requirement is to give the Membership Committee the
opportunity to find out, before the share is sold, if proper notice has been made to the
shareholder member.

We presume that the Corporate Secretary, as a lawyer is knowledgeable on the law and on the
standards of good faith and fairness that the law requires. As custodian of corporate records,
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 194

he should also have known that the first two letters sent to Clemente were returned because
the P.O. Box had been closed. Thus, we are surprised - given his knowledge of the law and of
corporate records - that he would send the third and final letter - Clemente's last chance before
his share is sold and his membership lost - to the same P.O. Box that had been closed.

Calatagan argues that it "exercised due diligence before the foreclosure sale" and "sent several
notices to Clemente's specified mailing address." We do not agree; we cannot label as due
diligence Calatagan's act of sending the December 7, 1992 letter to Clemente's mailing address
knowing fully well that the P.O. Box had been closed. Due diligence or good faith imposes upon
the Corporate Secretary - the chief repository of all corporate records - the obligation to check
Clemente's other address which, under the By-Laws, have to be kept on file and are in fact on
file. One obvious purpose of giving the Corporate Secretary the duty to keep the addresses of
members on file is specifically for matters of this kind, when the member cannot be reached
through his or her mailing address. Significantly, the Corporate Secretary does not have to do
the actual verification of other addressees on record; a mere clerk can do the very simple task
of checking the files as in fact clerks actually undertake these tasks. In fact, one telephone call
to Clemente's phone numbers on file would have alerted him of his impending loss.

Ultimately, the petition must fail because Calatagan had failed to duly observe both the spirit
and letter of its own by-laws. The by-law provisions was clearly conceived to afford due notice
to the delinquent member of the impending sale, and not just to provide an intricate façade
that would facilitate Calatagan's sale of the share. But then, the bad faith on Calatagan's part is
palpable. As found by the Court of Appeals, Calatagan very well knew that Clemente's postal
box to which it sent its previous letters had already been closed, yet it persisted in sending that
final letter to the same postal box. What for? Just for the exercise, it appears, as it had known
very well that the letter would never actually reach Clemente.chanrobles virtual law library

It is noteworthy that Clemente in his membership application had provided his residential
address along with his residence and office telephone numbers. Nothing in Section 32 of
Calatagan's By-Laws requires that the final notice prior to the sale be made solely through the
member's mailing address. Clemente cites our aphorism-like pronouncement in Rizal
Commercial Banking Corporation v. Court of Appeals15 that "[a] simple telephone call and an
ounce of good faith x x x could have prevented this present controversy." That memorable
observation is quite apt in this case.

Calatagan's bad faith and failure to observe its own By-Laws had resulted not merely in the loss
of Clemente's privilege to play golf at its golf course and avail of its amenities, but also in
significant pecuniary damage to him. For that loss, the only blame that could be thrown
Clemente's way was his failure to notify Calatagan of the closure of the P.O. Box. That lapse, if
we uphold Calatagan would cost Clemente a lot. But, in the first place, does he deserve
answerability for failing to notify the club of the closure of the postal box? Indeed, knowing as
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 195

he did that Calatagan was in possession of his home address as well as residence and office
telephone numbers, he had every reason to assume that the club would not be at a loss should
it need to contact him. In addition, according to Clemente, he was not even aware of the
closure of the postal box, the maintenance of which was not his responsibility but his employer
Phimco's.

The utter bad faith exhibited by Calatagan brings into operation Articles 19, 20 and 21 of the
Civil Code,16 under the Chapter on Human Relations. These provisions, which the Court of
Appeals did apply, enunciate a general obligation under law for every person to act fairly and in
good faith towards one another. A non-stock corporation like Calatagan is not exempt from
that obligation in its treatment of its members. The obligation of a corporation to treat every
person honestly and in good faith extends even to its shareholders or members, even if the
latter find themselves contractually bound to perform certain obligations to the corporation. A
certificate of stock cannot be a charter of dehumanization.

We turn to the matter of damages. The award of actual damages is of course warranted since
Clemente has sustained pecuniary injury by reason of Calatagan's wrongful violation of its own
By-Laws. It would not be feasible to deliver Clemente's original Certificate of Stock because it
had already been cancelled and a new one issued in its place in the name of the purchases at
the auction who was not impleaded in this case. However, the Court of Appeals instead
directed that Calatagan to issue to Clemente a new certificate of stock. That sufficiently
redresses the actual damages sustained by Clemente. After all, the certificate of stock is simply
the evidence of the share.

The Court of Appeals also awarded Clemente P200,000.00 as moral damages, P100,000.00 as
exemplary damages, and P100,000.00 as attorney's fees. We agree that the award of such
damages is warranted.

The Court of Appeals cited Calatagan for violation of Article 32 of the Civil Code, which allows
recovery of damages from any private individual "who directly or indirectly obstructs, defeats,
violates or in any manner impedes or impairs" the right "against deprivation of property
without due process of laws." The plain letter of the provision squarely entitles Clemente to
damages from Calatagan. Even without Article 32 itself, Calatagan will still be bound to pay
moral and exemplary damages to Clemente. The latter was able to duly prove that he had
sustained mental anguish, serious anxiety and wounded feelings by reason of Calatagan's acts,
thereby entitling him to moral damages under Article 2217 of the Civil Code. Moreover, it is
evident that Calatagan's bad faith as exhibited in the

course of its corporate actions warrants correction for the public good, thereby justifying
exemplary damages under Article 2229 of the Civil Code.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 196

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The Decision of the Court of Appeals is AFFIRMED. Costs
against petitioner.

SO ORDERED.

Footnotes

16 Art. 19. Every person must in the exercise of his rights and in the performance of his duties,
act with justice, give everyone his due, and observe honesty and good faith.

Art. 20. Every person who, contrary to law, willfully or negligently causes damage to another,
shall indemnify the latter for the same.

Art. 21. Any person who willfully causes loss or injury to another in a manner that is contrary to
morals, good customs or public policy shall compensate the latter for the damage.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 197

G.R. No. 161921, July 17, 2013

JOYCE V. ARDIENTE, Petitioner, v.


SPOUSES JAVIER AND MA. THERESA PASTORFIDE, CAGAYAN DE ORO WATER DISTRICT AND
GASPAR GONZALEZ,* JR., Respondents.

DECISION

PERALTA, J.:

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 and Resolution2 of the Court of Appeals (CA),
dated August 28, 2003 and December 17, 2003, respectively, in CA-G.R. CV No. 73000. The CA
Decision affirmed with modification the August 15, 2001 Decision3 of the Regional Trial Court
(RTC) of Cagayan de Oro City, Branch 24, while the CA Resolution denied petitioner's Motion for
Reconsideration.

The facts, as summarized by the CA, are as

[Herein petitioner] Joyce V. Ardiente and her husband Dr. Roberto S. Ardiente are owners of a
housing unit at Emily Homes, Balulang, Cagayan de Oro City with a lot area of one hundred fifty-
three (153) square meters and covered by Transfer Certificate of Title No. 69905.

On June 2, 1994, Joyce Ardiente entered into a Memorandum of Agreement (Exh. “B”, pp. 470-
473, Records) selling, transferring and conveying in favor of [respondent] Ma. Theresa
Pastorfide all their rights and interests in the housing unit at Emily Homes in consideration of
P70,000.00. The Memorandum of Agreement carries a stipulation:

“4. That the water and power bill of the subject property shall be for the account of the Second
Party (Ma. Theresa Pastorfide) effective June 1, 1994.” (Records, p. 47)

vis-a-vis Ma. Theresa Pastorfide's assumption of the payment of the mortgage loan secured by
Joyce Ardiente from the National Home Mortgage (Records, Exh. “A”, pp. 468-469)

For four (4) years, Ma. Theresa's use of the water connection in the name of Joyce Ardiente was
never questioned nor perturbed (T.S.N., October 31, 2000, pp. 7-8) until on March 12, 1999,
without notice, the water connection of Ma. Theresa was cut off. Proceeding to the office of
the Cagayan de Oro Water District (COWD) to complain, a certain Mrs. Madjos told Ma. Theresa
that she was delinquent for three (3) months corresponding to the months of December 1998,
January 1999, and February 1999. Ma. Theresa argued that the due date of her payment was
March 18, 1999 yet (T.S.N., October 31, 2000, pp. 11-12). Mrs. Madjos later told her that it was
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 198

at the instance of Joyce Ardiente that the water line was cut off (T.S.N., February 5, 2001, p.
31).

On March 15, 1999, Ma. Theresa paid the delinquent bills (T.S.N., October 31, 2000, p. 12). On
the same date, through her lawyer, Ma. Theresa wrote a letter to the COWD to explain who
authorized the cutting of the water line (Records, p. 160).

On March 18, 1999, COWD, through the general manager, [respondent] Gaspar Gonzalez, Jr.,
answered the letter dated March 15, 1999 and reiterated that it was at the instance of Joyce
Ardiente that the water line was cut off (Records, p. 161).

Aggrieved, on April 14, 1999, Ma. Theresa Pastorfide [and her husband] filed [a] complaint for
damages [against petitioner, COWD and its manager Gaspar Gonzalez] (Records, pp. 2-6).

In the meantime, Ma. Theresa Pastorfide's water line was only restored and reconnected when
the [trial] court issued a writ of preliminary mandatory injunction on December 14, 1999
(Records, p. 237).4

After trial, the RTC rendered judgment holding as follows:cralavvonlinelawlibrary

xxxx

In the exercise of their rights and performance of their duties, defendants did not act with
justice, gave plaintiffs their due and observe honesty and good faith. Before disconnecting the
water supply, defendants COWD and Engr. Gaspar Gonzales did not even send a disconnection
notice to plaintiffs as testified to by Engr. Bienvenido Batar, in-charge of the Commercial
Department of defendant COWD. There was one though, but only three (3) days after the
actual disconnection on March 12, 1999. The due date for payment was yet on March 15.
Clearly, they did not act with justice. Neither did they observe honesty.

They should not have been swayed by the prodding of Joyce V. Ardiente. They should have
investigated first as to the present ownership of the house. For doing the act because Ardiente
told them, they were negligent. Defendant Joyce Ardiente should have requested before the
cutting off of the water supply, plaintiffs to pay. While she attempted to tell plaintiffs but she
did not have the patience of seeing them. She knew that it was plaintiffs who had been using
the water four (4) years ago and not hers. She should have been very careful. x x x5

The dispositive portion of the trial court's Decision reads, thus:cralavvonlinelawlibrary

WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered ordering defendants


[Ardiente, COWD and Gonzalez] to pay jointly and severally plaintiffs, the following sums:
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 199

(a) P200,000.00 for moral damages;


(b) 200,000.00 for exemplary damages; and
(c) 50,000.00 for attorney's fee.
The cross-claim of Cagayan de Oro Water District and Engr. Gaspar Gonzales is hereby
dismissed. The Court is not swayed that the cutting off of the water supply of plaintiffs was
because they were influenced by defendant Joyce Ardiente. They were negligent too for which
they should be liable.

SO ORDERED.6

Petitioner, COWD and Gonzalez filed an appeal with the CA.

On August 28, 2003, the CA promulgated its assailed Decision disposing as


follows:cralavvonlinelawlibrary

IN VIEW OF ALL THE FOREGOING, the appealed decision is AFFIRMED, with the modification
that the awarded damages is reduced to P100,000.00 each for moral and exemplary damages,
while attorney's fees is lowered to P25,000.00. Costs against appellants.

SO ORDERED.7

The CA ruled, with respect to petitioner, that she has a “legal duty to honor the possession and
use of water line by Ma. Theresa Pastorfide pursuant to their Memorandum of Agreement” and
“that when [petitioner] applied for its disconnection, she acted in bad faith causing prejudice
and [injury to] Ma. Theresa Pastorfide.”8

As to COWD and Gonzalez, the CA held that they “failed to give a notice of disconnection and
derelicted in reconnecting the water line despite payment of the unpaid bills by the
[respondent spouses Pastorfide].”9

Petitioner, COWD and Gonzalez filed their respective Motions for Reconsideration, but these
were denied by the CA in its Resolution dated December 17, 2003.

COWD and Gonzalez filed a petition for review on certiorari with this Court, which was
docketed as G.R. No. 161802. However, based on technical grounds and on the finding that the
CA did not commit any reversible error in its assailed Decision, the petition was denied via a
Resolution10 issued by this Court on March 24, 2004. COWD and Gonzalez filed a motion for
reconsideration, but the same was denied with finality through this Court's Resolution11 dated
June 28, 2004.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 200

Petitioner, on the other hand, timely filed the instant petition with the following Assignment of
Errors:cralavvonlinelawlibrary

7.1 HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS (ALTHOUGH IT HAS REDUCED THE LIABILITY INTO HALF)
HAS STILL COMMITTED GRAVE AND SERIOUS ERROR WHEN IT UPHELD THE JOINT AND
SOLIDARY LIABILITY OF PETITIONER JOYCE V. ARDIENTE WITH CAGAYAN DE ORO WATER
DISTRICT (COWD) AND ENGR. GASPAR D. GONZALES FOR THE LATTER'S FAILURE TO SERVE
NOTICE UPON RESPONDENTS SPOUSES PASTORFIDE PRIOR TO THE ACTUAL DISCONNECTION
DESPITE EVIDENCE ADDUCED DURING TRIAL THAT EVEN WITHOUT PETITIONER'S REQUEST,
COWD WAS ALREADY SET TO EFFECT DISCONNECTION OF RESPONDENTS' WATER SUPPLY DUE
TO NON-PAYMENT OF ACCOUNT FOR THREE (3) MONTHS.

7.2 THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED GRAVE AND SERIOUS ERROR WHEN IT
RULED TOTALLY AGAINST PETITIONER AND FAILED TO FIND THAT RESPONDENTS ARE GUILTY
OF CONTRIBUTORY NEGLIGENCE WHEN THEY FAILED TO PAY THEIR WATER BILLS FOR THREE
MONTHS AND TO MOVE FOR THE TRANSFER OF THE COWD ACCOUNT IN THEIR NAME, WHICH
WAS A VIOLATION OF THEIR MEMORANDUM OF AGREEMENT WITH PETITIONER JOYCE V.
ARDIENTE. RESPONDENTS LIKEWISE DELIBERATELY FAILED TO EXERCISE DILIGENCE OF A GOOD
FATHER OF THE FAMILY TO MINIMIZE THE DAMAGE UNDER ART. 2203 OF THE NEW CIVIL
CODE.

7.3 THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS SERIOUSLY ERRED WHEN IT DISREGARDED THE FACT
THAT RESPONDENT SPOUSES PASTORFIDE ARE LIKEWISE BOUND TO OBSERVE ARTICLE 19 OF
THE NEW CIVIL CODE, i.e., IN THE EXERCISE OF THEIR RIGHTS AND IN THE PERFORMANCE OF
THEIR DUTIES TO ACT WITH JUSTICE, GIVE EVERYONE HIS DUE AND OBSERVE HONESTY AND
GOOD FAITH.

7.4 THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED WHEN IT GRANTED AN AWARD OF
MORAL AND EXEMPLARY DAMAGES AND ATTORNEY'S FEES AS AGAINST PETITIONER
ARDIENTE.12

At the outset, the Court noticed that COWD and Gonzalez, who were petitioner's co-defendants
before the RTC and her co-appellants in the CA, were impleaded as respondents in the instant
petition. This cannot be done. Being her co-parties before the RTC and the CA, petitioner
cannot, in the instant petition for review on certiorari, make COWD and Gonzalez, adversary
parties. It is a grave mistake on the part of petitioner's counsel to treat COWD and Gonzalez as
respondents. There is no basis to do so, considering that, in the first place, there is no showing
that petitioner filed a cross-claim against COWD and Gonzalez. Under Section 2, Rule 9 of the
Rules of Court, a cross-claim which is not set up shall be barred. Thus, for failing to set up a
cross-claim against COWD and Gonzalez before the RTC, petitioner is already barred from doing
so in the present petition.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 201

More importantly, as shown above, COWD and Gonzalez's petition for review on certiorari filed
with this Court was already denied with finality on June 28, 2004, making the presently assailed
CA Decision final and executory insofar as COWD and Gonzalez are concerned. Thus, COWD and
Gonzalez are already precluded from participating in the present petition. They cannot
resurrect their lost cause by filing pleadings this time as respondents but, nonetheless,
reiterating the same prayer in their previous pleadings filed with the RTC and the CA.

As to the merits of the instant petition, the Court likewise noticed that the main issues raised by
petitioner are factual and it is settled that the resolution of factual issues is the function of
lower courts, whose findings on these matters are received with respect and considered
binding by the Supreme Court subject only to certain exceptions, none of which is present in
this instant petition.13 This is especially true when the findings of the RTC have been affirmed
by the CA as in this case.14

In any case, a perusal of the records at hand would readily show that the instant petition lacks
merit.

Petitioner insists that she should not be held liable for the disconnection of respondent
spouses' water supply, because she had no participation in the actual disconnection. However,
she admitted in the present petition that it was she who requested COWD to disconnect the
Spouses Pastorfide's water supply. This was confirmed by COWD and Gonzalez in their cross-
claim against petitioner. While it was COWD which actually discontinued respondent spouses'
water supply, it cannot be denied that it was through the instance of petitioner that the
Spouses Pastorfide's water supply was disconnected in the first place.

It is true that it is within petitioner's right to ask and even require the Spouses Pastorfide to
cause the transfer of the former's account with COWD to the latter's name pursuant to their
Memorandum of Agreement. However, the remedy to enforce such right is not to cause the
disconnection of the respondent spouses' water supply. The exercise of a right must be in
accordance with the purpose for which it was established and must not be excessive or unduly
harsh; there must be no intention to harm another.15 Otherwise, liability for damages to the
injured party will attach.16 In the present case, intention to harm was evident on the part of
petitioner when she requested for the disconnection of respondent spouses’ water supply
without warning or informing the latter of such request. Petitioner claims that her request for
disconnection was based on the advise of COWD personnel and that her intention was just to
compel the Spouses Pastorfide to comply with their agreement that petitioner's account with
COWD be transferred in respondent spouses' name. If such was petitioner's only intention,
then she should have advised respondent spouses before or immediately after submitting her
request for disconnection, telling them that her request was simply to force them to comply
with their obligation under their Memorandum of Agreement. But she did not. What made
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 202

matters worse is the fact that COWD undertook the disconnection also without prior notice and
even failed to reconnect the Spouses Pastorfide’s water supply despite payment of their
arrears. There was clearly an abuse of right on the part of petitioner, COWD and Gonzalez. They
are guilty of bad faith.

The principle of abuse of rights as enshrined in Article 19 of the Civil Code provides that every
person must, in the exercise of his rights and in the performance of his duties, act with justice,
give everyone his due, and observe honesty and good faith.

In this regard, the Court's ruling in Yuchengco v. The Manila Chronicle Publishing Corporation17
is instructive, to wit:cralavvonlinelawlibrary

xxxx

This provision of law sets standards which must be observed in the exercise of one’s rights as
well as in the performance of its duties, to wit: to act with justice; give everyone his due; and
observe honesty and good faith.

In Globe Mackay Cable and Radio Corporation v. Court of Appeals, it was elucidated that while
Article 19 “lays down a rule of conduct for the government of human relations and for the
maintenance of social order, it does not provide a remedy for its violation. Generally, an action
for damages under either Article 20 or Article 21 would be proper.” The Court
said:cralavvonlinelawlibrary

One of the more notable innovations of the New Civil Code is the codification of "some basic
principles that are to be observed for the rightful relationship between human beings and for
the stability of the social order." [REPORT ON THE CODE COMMISSION ON THE PROPOSED CIVIL
CODE OF THE PHILIPPINES, p. 39]. The framers of the Code, seeking to remedy the defect of the
old Code which merely stated the effects of the law, but failed to draw out its spirit,
incorporated certain fundamental precepts which were "designed to indicate certain norms
that spring from the fountain of good conscience" and which were also meant to serve as
"guides for human conduct [that] should run as golden threads through society, to the end that
law may approach its supreme ideal, which is the sway and dominance of justice." (Id.)
Foremost among these principles is that pronounced in Article 19 x x x.

xxxx

This article, known to contain what is commonly referred to as the principle of abuse of rights,
sets certain standards which must be observed not only in the exercise of one's rights, but also
in the performance of one's duties. These standards are the following: to act with justice; to
give everyone his due; and to observe honesty and good faith. The law, therefore, recognizes a
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 203

primordial limitation on all rights; that in their exercise, the norms of human conduct set forth
in Article 19 must be observed. A right, though by itself legal because recognized or granted by
law as such, may nevertheless become the source of some illegality. When a right is exercised
in a manner which does not conform with the norms enshrined in Article 19 and results in
damage to another, a legal wrong is thereby committed for which the wrongdoer must be held
responsible. But while Article 19 lays down a rule of conduct for the government of human
relations and for the maintenance of social order, it does not provide a remedy for its violation.
Generally, an action for damages under either Article 20 or Article 21 would be proper.
Corollarilly, Article 20 provides that “every person who, contrary to law, willfully or negligently
causes damage to another shall indemnify the latter for the same.” It speaks of the general
sanctions of all other provisions of law which do not especially provide for its own sanction.
When a right is exercised in a manner which does not conform to the standards set forth in the
said provision and results in damage to another, a legal wrong is thereby committed for which
the wrongdoer must be responsible. Thus, if the provision does not provide a remedy for its
violation, an action for damages under either Article 20 or Article 21 of the Civil Code would be
proper.

The question of whether or not the principle of abuse of rights has been violated resulting in
damages under Article 20 or other applicable provision of law, depends on the circumstances of
each case. x x x18

To recapitulate, petitioner's acts which violated the abovementioned provisions of law is her
unjustifiable act of having the respondent spouses' water supply disconnected, coupled with
her failure to warn or at least notify respondent spouses of such intention. On the part of
COWD and Gonzalez, it is their failure to give prior notice of the impending disconnection and
their subsequent neglect to reconnect respondent spouses' water supply despite the latter's
settlement of their delinquent account.

On the basis of the foregoing, the Court finds no cogent reason to depart from the ruling of
both the RTC and the CA that petitioner, COWD and Gonzalez are solidarily liable.

The Spouses Pastorfide are entitled to moral damages based on the provisions of Article
2219,19 in connection with Articles 2020 and 2121 of the Civil Code.

As for exemplary damages, Article 2229 provides that exemplary damages may be imposed by
way of example or correction for the public good. Nonetheless, exemplary damages are
imposed not to enrich one party or impoverish another, but to serve as a deterrent against or
as a negative incentive to curb socially deleterious actions.22 In the instant case, the Court
agrees with the CA in sustaining the award of exemplary damages, although it reduced the
amount granted, considering that respondent spouses were deprived of their water supply for
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 204

more than nine (9) months, and such deprivation would have continued were it not for the
relief granted by the RTC.

With respect to the award of attorney's fees, Article 2208 of the Civil Code provides, among
others, that such fees may be recovered when exemplary damages are awarded, when the
defendant's act or omission has compelled the plaintiff to litigate with third persons or to incur
expenses to protect his interest, and where the defendant acted in gross and evident bad faith
in refusing to satisfy the plaintiffs’ plainly valid, just and demandable claim.

WHEREFORE, instant petition for review on certiorari is DENIED. The Decision and Resolution of
the Court of Appeals, dated August 28, 2003 and December 17, 2003, respectively, in CA-G.R.
CV No. 73000 are AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.

Velasco, Jr., (Chairperson), Abad, Mendoza, and Leonen, JJ., concur.

Footnotes

19 Art. 2219. Moral damages may be recovered in the following and analogous cases:

xxxx

(10) Acts and actions referred to in Articles 21, 26, 27, 28. 29, 30, 32, 34 and 35.

xxxx

20 Every person who, contrary to law, willfully or negligently causes damage to another, shall
indemnify the latter for the same.

21 Any person who willfully causes loss or injury to another in a manner that is contrary to
morals, good customs or public policy shall compensate the latter for the damage.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 205

G.R. No. 160689, March 26, 2014

RAUL H. SESBREÑO, Petitioner, v.


HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS, JUAN I. COROMINA (SUBSTITUTED BY ANITA COROMINA,
ELIZABETH COROMINA AND ROSIEMARIE COROMINA), VICENTE E. GARCIA (SUBSTITUTED BY
EDGAR JOHN GARCIA), FELIPE CONSTANTINO, RONALD ARCILLA, NORBETO ABELLANA,
DEMETRIO BALICHA, ANGELITA LHUILLIER, JOSE E. GARCIA, AND VISAYAN ELECTRIC
COMPANY (VECO), Respondents.

DECISION

BERSAMIN, J.:

This case concerns the claim for damages of petitioner Raul H. Sesbreño founded on abuse of
rights. Sesbreño accused the violation of contract (VOC) inspection team dispatched by the
Visayan Electric Company (VECO) to check his electric meter with conducting an unreasonable
search in his residential premises. But the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 13, in Cebu City
rendered judgment on August 19, 1994 dismissing the claim;1 and the Court of Appeals (CA)
affirmed the dismissal on March 10, 2003.2

Hence, this appeal by Sesbreño.

Antecedents

At the time material to the petition, VECO was a public utility corporation organized and
existing under the laws of the Philippines. VECO engaged in the sale and distribution of
electricity within Metropolitan Cebu. Sesbreño was one of VECO’s customers under the
metered service contract they had entered into on March 2, 1982.3 Respondent Vicente E.
Garcia was VECO’s President, General Manager and Chairman of its Board of Directors.
Respondent Jose E. Garcia was VECO’s Vice–President, Treasurer and a Member of its Board of
Directors. Respondent Angelita Lhuillier was another Member of VECO’s Board of Directors.
Respondent Juan Coromina was VECO’s Assistant Treasurer, while respondent Norberto
Abellana was the Head of VECO’s Billing Section whose main function was to compute back
billings of customers found to have violated their contracts.

To ensure that its electric meters were properly functioning, and that none of it meters had
been tampered with, VECO employed respondents Engr. Felipe Constantino and Ronald Arcilla
as violation of contract (VOC) inspectors.4 Respondent Sgt. Demetrio Balicha, who belonged to
the 341st Constabulary Company, Cebu Metropolitan Command, Camp Sotero Cabahug, Cebu
City, accompanied and escorted the VOC inspectors during their inspection of the households
of its customers on May 11, 1989 pursuant to a mission order issued to him.5
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 206

The CA summarized the antecedent facts as follows:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

x x x. Reduced to its essentials, however, the facts of this case are actually simple enough,
although the voluminous records might indicate otherwise. It all has to do with an incident that
occurred at around 4:00 o’clock in the afternoon of May 11, 1989. On that day, the Violation of
Contracts (VOC) Team of defendants–appellees Constantino and Arcilla and their PC escort,
Balicha, conducted a routine inspection of the houses at La Paloma Village, Labangon, Cebu
City, including that of plaintiff–appellant Sesbreño, for illegal connections, meter tampering,
seals, conduit pipes, jumpers, wiring connections, and meter installations. After Bebe Baledio,
plaintiff–appellant Sesbreño’s maid, unlocked the gate, they inspected the electric meter and
found that it had been turned upside down. Defendant–appellant Arcilla took photographs of
the upturned electric meter. With Chuchie Garcia, Peter Sesbreño and one of the maids
present, they removed said meter and replaced it with a new one. At that time, plaintiff–
appellant Sesbreño was in his office and no one called to inform him of the inspection. The VOC
Team then asked for and received Chuchie Garcia’s permission to enter the house itself to
examine the kind and number of appliances and light fixtures in the household and determine
its electrical load. Afterwards, Chuchie Garcia signed the Inspection Division Report, which
showed the condition of the electric meter on May 11, 1989 when the VOC Team inspected it,
with notice that it would be subjected to a laboratory test. She also signed a Load Survey Sheet
that showed the electrical load of plaintiff–appellant Sesbreño.

But according to plaintiff–appellant Sesbreño there was nothing routine or proper at all with
what the VOC Team did on May 11, 1989 in his house. Their entry to his house and the
surrounding premises was effected without his permission and over the objections of his maids.
They threatened, forced or coerced their way into his house. They unscrewed the electric
meter, turned it upside down and took photographs thereof. They then replaced it with a new
electric meter. They searched the house and its rooms without his permission or a search
warrant. They forced a visitor to sign two documents, making her appear to be his
representative or agent. Afterwards, he found that some of his personal effects were missing,
apparently stolen by the VOC Team when they searched the house.6

Judgment of the RTC

On August 19, 1994, the RTC rendered judgment dismissing the complaint.7 It did not accord
credence to the testimonies of Sesbreño’s witnesses, Bebe Baledio, his housemaid, and Roberto
Lopez, a part–time salesman, due to inconsistencies on material points in their respective
testimonies. It observed that Baledio could not make up her mind as to whether Sesbreño’s
children were in the house when the VOC inspection team detached and replaced the electric
meter. Likewise, it considered unbelievable that Lopez should hear the exchanges between
Constantino, Arcilla and Balicha, on one hand, and Baledio, on the other, considering that Lopez
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 207

could not even hear the conversation between two persons six feet away from where he was
seated during the simulation done in court, the same distance he supposedly had from the gate
of Sesbreño’s house during the incident. It pointed out that Lopez’s presence at the gate during
the incident was even contradicted by his own testimony indicating that an elderly woman had
opened the gate for the VECO personnel, because it was Baledio, a lady in her 20s, who had
repeatedly stated on her direct and cross examinations that she had let the VECO personnel in.
It concluded that for Lopez to do nothing at all upon seeing a person being threatened by
another in the manner he described was simply contrary to human experience.

In contrast, the RTC believed the evidence of the respondents showing that the VOC inspection
team had found the electric meter in Sesbreño’s residence turned upside down to prevent the
accurate registering of the electricity consumption of the household, causing them to detach
and replace the meter. It held as unbelievable that the team forcibly entered the house through
threats and intimidation; that they themselves turned the electric meter upside down in order
to incriminate him for theft of electricity, because the fact that the team and Sesbreño had not
known each other before then rendered it unlikely for the team to fabricate charges against
him; and that Sesbreño’s non–presentation of Chuchie Garcia left her allegation of her being
forced to sign the two documents by the team unsubstantiated.

Decision of the CA

Sesbreño appealed, but the CA affirmed the RTC on March 10, 2003,8 holding
thusly:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

x x x. plaintiff–appellant Sesbreño’s account is simply too implausible or far–fetched to be


believed. For one thing, the inspection on his household was just one of many others that the
VOC Team had conducted in that subdivision. Yet, none but plaintiff–appellant Sesbreño
complained of the alleged acts of the VOC Team. Considering that there is no proof that they
also perpetrated the same illegal acts on other customers in the guise of conducting a Violation
of Contracts inspection, plaintiff–appellant Sesbreño likewise failed to show why he alone was
singled out. It is also difficult to believe that the VOC Team would be brazen enough to want to
antagonize a person such as plaintiff–appellant Sesbreño. There is no evidence that the VOC
Team harbored any evil motive or grudge against plaintiff–appellant Sesbreño, who is a total
stranger to them. Until he came along, they did not have any prior criminal records to speak of,
or at least, no evidence thereof was presented. It is equally difficult to believe that their
superiors would authorize or condone their alleged illegal acts. Especially so since there is no
indication that prior to the incident on May 11, 1989, there was already bad blood or animosity
between plaintiff–appellant Sesbreño and defendant appellees to warrant such a malevolent
response. In fact, since availing of defendant–appellee VECO’s power services, the relationship
between them appears to have been uneventful.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 208

It becomes all the more apparent that the charges stemming from the May 11, 1989 incident
were fabricated when taken together with the lower court’s evaluation of the alleged theft of
plaintiff–appellant Sesbreño’s personal effects. It stated that on August 8, 1989, plaintiff–
appellant Sesbreño wrote the barangay captain of Punta Princesa and accused Chuchie Garcia
and Victoria Villarta alias Victoria Rocamora of theft of some of his things that earlier he
claimed had been stolen by members of the VOC Team. When he was confronted with these
facts, plaintiff–appellant Sesbreño further claimed that the items allegedly stolen by Chuchie
Garcia were part of the loot taken by defendants–appellees Constantino and Arcilla. Yet not
once did plaintiff–appellant Sesbreño or any of his witnesses mention that a conspiracy existed
between these people. Clearly, much like his other allegations, it is nothing more than an
afterthought by plaintiff–appellant Sesbreño.

All in all, the allegations against defendants–appellees appear to be nothing more than a put–
on to save face. For the simple truth is that the inspection exposed plaintiff–appellant Sesbreño
as a likely cheat and thief.

xxxx

Neither is this Court swayed by the testimonies of Baledio and Lopez. The lower court rightly
described their testimonies as fraught by discrepancies and inconsistencies on material points
and even called Lopez a perjured witness. On the other hand, it is odd that plaintiff–appellant
Sesbreño chose not to present the witness whose testimony was very crucial. But even though
Chuchie Garcia never testified, her absence speaks volumes. Whereas plaintiff–appellant
Sesbreño claimed that the VOC Team forced her to sign two documents that made her appear
to be his authorized agent or representative, the latter claimed otherwise and that she also
gave them permission to enter and search the house. The person most qualified to refute the
VOC Team’s claim is Chuchie Garcia herself. It is axiomatic that he who asserts a fact or claim
must prove it. He cannot transfer that burden to the person against whom he asserts such fact
or claim. When certain evidence is suppressed, the presumption is that it will adversely affect
the cause of the party suppressing it, should it come to light. x x x9

Upon denial of his motion for reconsideration,10 Sesbreño appealed.

Issue

Was Sesbreño entitled to recover damages for abuse of rights?

Ruling

The appeal has no merit.


P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 209

Sesbreño’s main contention is that the inspection of his residence by the VOC team was an
unreasonable search for being carried out without a warrant and for being allegedly done with
malice or bad faith.

Before dealing with the contention, we have to note that two distinct portions of Sesbreño’s
residence were inspected by the VOS team – the garage where the electric meter was installed,
and the main premises where the four bedrooms, living rooms, dining room and kitchen were
located.

Anent the inspection of the garage where the meter was installed, the respondents assert that
the VOC team had the continuing authority from Sesbreño as the consumer to enter his
premises at all reasonable hours to conduct an inspection of the meter without being liable for
trespass to dwelling. The authority emanated from paragraph 9 of the metered service contract
entered into between VECO and each of its consumers, which provided as
follows:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

9. The CONSUMER agrees to allow properly authorized employees or representatives of the


COMPANY to enter his premises at all reasonable hours without being liable to trespass to
dwelling for the purpose of inspecting, installing, reading, removing, testing, replacing or
otherwise disposing of its property, and/or removing the COMPANY’S property in the event of
the termination of the contract for any cause.11

Sesbreño contends, however, that paragraph 9 did not give Constantino, Arcilla and Balicha the
blanket authority to enter at will because the only property VECO owned in his premises was
the meter; hence, Constantino and Arcilla should enter only the garage. He denies that they
had the right to enter the main portion of the house and inspect the various rooms and the
appliances therein because those were not the properties of VECO. He posits that Balicha, who
was not an employee of VECO, had no authority whatsoever to enter his house and conduct a
search. He concludes that their search was unreasonable, and entitled him to damages in light
of their admission that they had entered and inspected his premises without a search
warrant.12

We do not accept Sesbreño’s conclusion. Paragraph 9 clothed the entire VOC team with
unquestioned authority to enter the garage to inspect the meter. The members of the team
obviously met the conditions imposed by paragraph 9 for an authorized entry. Firstly, their
entry had the objective of conducting the routine inspection of the meter.13 Secondly, the
entry and inspection were confined to the garage where the meter was installed.14 Thirdly, the
entry was effected at around 4 o’clock p.m., a reasonable hour.15 And, fourthly, the persons
who inspected the meter were duly authorized for the purpose by VECO.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 210

Although Balicha was not himself an employee of VECO,16 his participation was to render
police assistance to ensure the personal security of Constantino and Arcilla during the
inspection, rendering him a necessary part of the team as an authorized representative. Under
the circumstances, he was authorized to enter considering that paragraph 9 expressly extended
such authority to “properly authorized employees or representatives” of VECO.

It is true, as Sesbreño urges, that paragraph 9 did not cover the entry into the main premises of
the residence. Did this necessarily mean that any entry by the VOS team into the main premises
required a search warrant to be first secured?

Sesbreño insists so, citing Section 2, Article III of the 1987 Constitution, the clause guaranteeing
the right of every individual against unreasonable searches and seizures,
viz:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

Section 2. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects
against unreasonable searches and seizures of whatever nature and for any purpose shall be
inviolable, and no search warrant or warrant of arrest shall issue except upon probable cause to
be determined personally by the judge after examination under oath or affirmation of the
complainant and the witnesses he may produce, and particularly describing the place to be
searched and the persons or things to be seized.

He states that a violation of this constitutional guaranty rendered VECO and its VOS team liable
to him for damages by virtue of Article 32 (9) of the Civil Code, which pertinently
provides:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

Article 32. Any public officer or employee, or any private individual, who directly or indirectly
obstructs, defeats, violates or in any manner impedes or impairs any of the following rights and
liberties of another person shall be liable to the latter for damages:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

xxxx

(9) The right to be secured in one’s person, house, papers, and effects against unreasonable
searches and seizures;

x x x x.

Sesbreño’s insistence has no legal and factual basis.

The constitutional guaranty against unlawful searches and seizures is intended as a restraint
against the Government and its agents tasked with law enforcement. It is to be invoked only to
ensure freedom from arbitrary and unreasonable exercise of State power. The Court has made
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 211

this clear in its pronouncements, including that made in People v.


Marti,17viz:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

If the search is made upon the request of law enforcers, a warrant must generally be first
secured if it is to pass the test of constitutionality. However, if the search is made at the behest
or initiative of the proprietor of a private establishment for its own and private purposes, as in
the case at bar, and without the intervention of police authorities, the right against
unreasonable search and seizure cannot be invoked for only the act of private individual, not
the law enforcers, is involved. In sum, the protection against unreasonable searches and
seizures cannot be extended to acts committed by private individuals so as to bring it within the
ambit of alleged unlawful intrusion by the government.18

It is worth noting that the VOC inspectors decided to enter the main premises only after finding
the meter of Sesbreño turned upside down, hanging and its disc not rotating. Their doing so
would enable them to determine the unbilled electricity consumed by his household. The
circumstances justified their decision, and their inspection of the main premises was a
continuation of the authorized entry. There was no question then that their ability to determine
the unbilled electricity called for them to see for themselves the usage of electricity inside. Not
being agents of the State, they did not have to first obtain a search warrant to do so.

Balicha’s presence participation in the entry did not make the inspection a search by an agent
of the State within the ambit of the guaranty. As already mentioned, Balicha was part of the
team by virtue of his mission order authorizing him to assist and escort the team during its
routine inspection.19 Consequently, the entry into the main premises of the house by the VOC
team did not constitute a violation of the guaranty.

Our holding could be different had Sesbreño persuasively demonstrated the intervention of
malice or bad faith on the part of Constantino and Arcilla during their inspection of the main
premises, or any excessiveness committed by them in the course of the inspection. But
Sesbreño did not. On the other hand, the CA correctly observed that the inspection did not zero
in on Sesbreño’s residence because the other houses within the area were similarly subjected
to the routine inspection.20 This, we think, eliminated any notion of malice or bad faith.

Clearly, Sesbreño did not establish his claim for damages if the respondents were not guilty of
abuse of rights. To stress, the concept of abuse of rights prescribes that a person should not use
his right unjustly or in bad faith; otherwise, he may be liable to another who suffers injury. The
rationale for the concept is to present some basic principles to be followed for the rightful
relationship between human beings and the stability of social order.21 Moreover, according to
a commentator, 22 “the exercise of right ends when the right disappears, and it disappears
when it is abused, especially to the prejudice of others[;] [i]t cannot be said that a person
exercises a right when he unnecessarily prejudices another.” Article 19 of the Civil Code23 sets
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 212

the standards to be observed in the exercise of one’s rights and in the performance of one’s
duties, namely: (a) to act with justice; (b) to give everyone his due; and (c) to observe honesty
and good faith. The law thereby recognizes the primordial limitation on all rights – that in the
exercise of the rights, the standards under Article 19 must be observed.24

Although the act is not illegal, liability for damages may arise should there be an abuse of rights,
like when the act is performed without prudence or in bad faith. In order that liability may
attach under the concept of abuse of rights, the following elements must be present, to wit: (a)
the existence of a legal right or duty, (b) which is exercised in bad faith, and (c) for the sole
intent of prejudicing or injuring another.25 There is no hard and fast rule that can be applied to
ascertain whether or not the principle of abuse of rights is to be invoked. The resolution of the
issue depends on the circumstances of each case.

Sesbreño asserts that he did not authorize Baledio or Chuchie Garcia to let anyone enter his
residence in his absence; and that Baledio herself confirmed that the members of the VOC team
had intimidated her into letting them in.

The assertion of Sesbreño is improper for consideration in this appeal. The RTC and the CA
unanimously found the testimonies of Sesbreño’s witnesses implausible because of
inconsistencies on material points; and even declared that the non–presentation of Garcia as a
witness was odd if not suspect. Considering that such findings related to the credibility of the
witnesses and their testimonies, the Court cannot review and undo them now because it is not
a trier of facts, and is not also tasked to analyze or weigh evidence all over again.26 Verily, a
review that may tend to supplant the findings of the trial court that had the first–hand
opportunity to observe the demeanor of the witnesses themselves should be undertaken by
the Court with prudent hesitation. Only when Sesbreño could make a clear showing of abuse in
their appreciation of the evidence and records by the trial and the appellate courts should the
Court do the unusual review of the factual findings of the trial and appellate courts.27 Alas, that
showing was not made here.

Nor should the Court hold that Sesbreño was denied due process by the refusal of the trial
judge to inhibit from the case. Although the trial judge had issued an order for his voluntary
inhibition, he still rendered the judgment in the end in compliance with the instruction of the
Executive Judge, whose exercise of her administrative authority on the matter of the inhibition
should be respected.28 In this connection, we find to be apt the following observation of the
CA, to wit:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

x x x. Both Judge Paredes and Judge Priscila Agana serve the Regional Trial Court and are
therefore of co–equal rank. The latter has no authority to reverse or modify the orders of Judge
Paredes. But in ordering Judge Paredes to continue hearing the case, Judge Agana did not
violate their co–equal status or unilaterally increased her jurisdiction. It is merely part of her
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 213

administrative responsibilities as Executive Judge of the Regional Trial Court of Cebu City, of
which Judge Paredes is also a member.29

Lastly, the Court finds nothing wrong if the writer of the decision in the CA refused to inhibit
from participating in the resolution of the motion for reconsideration filed by Sesbreño. The
motion for her inhibition was grounded on suspicion of her bias and prejudice,30 but suspicion
of bias and prejudice were not enough grounds for inhibition.31 Suffice it to say that the
records are bereft of any indication that even suggested that the Associate Justices of the CA
who participated in the promulgation of the decision were tainted with bias against him.

WHEREFORE, the Court DENIES the petition for review on certiorari; AFFIRMS the decision
promulgated on March 10, 2003; and DIRECTS the petitioner to pay the costs of suit.

SO ORDERED.

Footnotes

24 According to Albenson Enterprises Corp. v. Court of Appeals (G.R. No. 88694, January 11,
1993, 217 SCRA 16, 25), Article 20 of the Civil Code, which prescribes that every person who,
contrary to law, wilfully or negligently causes damage to another shall indemnify the latter for
the same, speaks of a general sanction for violation of all other provisions of law that do not
provide their own sanction. Article 21 of the Civil Code deals with acts contra bonus mores, and
has the following elements, to wit; (1) there is an act that is legal; (2) but is contrary to morals,
good custom, public order, or public policy; and (3) it is done with intent to injure. The common
element under Article 19 and Article 21 is that the act is intentional. But Article 20 does not
distinguish whether the act is willful or negligent. Under any of the three provisions of law, an
act that causes injury to another may be made the basis for an award of damages.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 214

[ AC. No. 4697, Nov 25, 2014 ]


FLORENCIO A. SALADAGA, petitioner v.
ATTY. ARTURO B. ASTORGA +, respondent;

DECISION LEONARDO-DE CASTRO, J.:

Membership in the legal profession is a high personal privilege burdened with conditions,[1]
including continuing fidelity to the law and constant possession of moral fitness. Lawyers, as
guardians of the law, play a vital role in the preservation of society, and a consequent
obligation of lawyers is to maintain the highest standards of ethical conduct.[2] Failure to live
by the standards of the legal profession and to discharge the burden of the privilege conferred
on one as a member of the bar warrant the suspension or revocation of that privilege.

The Factual Antecedents

Complainant Florencio A. Saladaga and respondent Atty. Arturo B. Astorga entered into a "Deed
of Sale with Right to Repurchase" on December 2, 1981 where respondent sold (with right of
repurchase) to complainant a parcel of coconut land located at Barangay Bunga, Baybay, Leyte
covered by Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. T-662 for P15,000.00. Under the said deed,
respondent represented that he has "the perfect right to dispose as owner in fee simple" the
subject property and that the said property is "free from all liens and encumbrances."[3] The
deed also provided that respondent, as vendor a retro, had two years within which to
repurchase the property, and if not repurchased within the said period, "the parties shall renew
[the] instrument/agreement."[4]

Respondent failed to exercise his right of repurchase within the period provided in the deed,
and no renewal of the contract was made even after complainant sent respondent a final
demand dated May 10, 1984 for the latter to repurchase the property. Complainant remained
in peaceful possession of the property until December 1989 when he received letters from the
Rural Bank of Albuera (Leyte), Inc. (RBAI) informing him that the property was mortgaged by
respondent to RBAI, that the bank had subsequently foreclosed on the property, and that
complainant should therefore vacate the property.[5]

Complainant was alarmed and made an investigation. He learned the following:

(1) TCT No. T-662 was already cancelled by TCT No. T-3211 in the name of Philippine National
Bank (PNB) as early as November 17, 1972 after foreclosure proceedings;

(2) TCT No. T-3211 was cancelled by TCT No. T-7235 in the names of respondent and his wife on
January 4, 1982 pursuant to a deed of sale dated March 27, 1979 between PNB and
respondent;
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 215

(3) Respondent mortgaged the subject property to RBAI on March 14, 1984, RBAI foreclosed on
the property, and subsequently obtained TCT No. TP-10635 on March 27, 1991.[6]

Complainant was subsequently dispossessed of the property by RBAI.[7]

Aggrieved, complainant instituted a criminal complaint for estafa against respondent with the
Office of the Provincial Prosecutor of Leyte, docketed as I.S. No. 95-144. The Provincial
Prosecutor of Leyte approved the Resolution[8] dated April 21, 1995 in I.S. No. 95-144 finding
that "[t]he facts of [the] case are sufficient to engender a well-founded belief that Estafa x x x
has been committed and that respondent herein is probably guilty thereof."[9] Accordingly, an
Information[10] dated January 8, 1996 was filed before the Municipal Trial Court (MTC) of
Baybay, Leyte, formally charging respondent with the crime of estafa under Article 316,
paragraphs 1 and 2 of the Revised Penal Code,[11] committed as follows:

On March 14, 1984, accused representing himself as the owner of a parcel of land known as Lot
No. 7661 of the Baybay Cadastre, mortgaged the same to the Rural Bank of Albuera, Albuera,
Leyte, within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, knowing fully well that the possessor and
owner at that time was private complainant Florencio Saladaga by virtue of a Pacto de Retro
Sale which accused executed in favor of private complainant on 2nd December, 1981, without
first redeeming/repurchasing the same. [P]rivate complainant knowing of accused['s] unlawful
act only on or about the last week of February, 1991 when the rural bank dispossessed him of
the property, the mortgage having been foreclosed, private complainant thereby suffered
damages and was prejudiced by accused['s] unlawful transaction and misrepresentation.

The aforementioned estafa case against respondent was docketed as Criminal Case No. 3112-A.

Complainant likewise instituted the instant administrative cases against respondent by filing
before this Court an Affidavit-Complaint[12] dated January 28, 1997 and Supplemental
Complaint[13] dated February 27, 1997, which were docketed as A.C. No. 4697 and A.C. No.
4728, respectively. In both complaints, complainant sought the disbarment of respondent.

The administrative cases were referred to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for
investigation, report and recommendation.[14]

In his Consolidated Answer[15] dated August 16, 2003 filed before the IBP, respondent denied
that his agreement with complainant was a pacto de retro sale. He claimed that it was an
equitable mortgage and that, if only complainant rendered an accounting of his benefits from
the produce of the land, the total amount would have exceeded P15,000.00.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 216

Report and Recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner and Resolution of the IBP
Board of Governors

In a Report and Recommendation[16] dated April 29, 2005, the Investigating Commissioner of
the IBP's Commission on Bar Discipline found that respondent was in bad faith when he dealt
with complainant and executed the "Deed of Sale with Right to Repurchase" but later on
claimed that the agreement was one of equitable mortgage. Respondent was also guilty of
deceit or fraud when he represented in the "Deed of Sale with Right to Repurchase" dated
December 2, 1981 that the property was covered by TCT No. T-662, even giving complainant
the owner's copy of the said certificate of title, when the said TCT had already been cancelled
on November 17, 1972 by TCT No. T-3211 in the name of Philippine National Bank (PNB).
Respondent made matters even worse, when he had TCT No. T-3211 cancelled with the
issuance of TCT No. T-7235 under his and his wife's name on January 4, 1982 without informing
complainant. This was compounded by respondent's subsequent mortgage of the property to
RBAI, which led to the acquisition of the property by RBAI and the dispossession thereof of
complainant. Thus, the Investigating Commissioner recommended that respondent be (1)
suspended from the practice of law for one year, with warning that a similar misdeed in the
future shall be dealt with more severity, and (2) ordered to return the sum of P15,000.00, the
amount he received as consideration for the pacto de retro sale, with interest at the legal rate.

Considering respondent's "commission of unlawful acts, especially crimes involving moral


turpitude, acts of dishonesty, grossly immoral conduct and deceit," the IBP Board of Governors
adopted and approved the Investigating Commissioner's Report and Recommendation with
modification as follows: respondent is (1) suspended from the practice of law for two years,
with warning that a similar misdeed in the future shall be dealt with more severity, and (2)
ordered to return the sum of P15,000.00 received in consideration of the pacto de retro sale,
with legal interest.[17]

The Court's Ruling

The Court agrees with the recommendation of the IBP Board of Governors to suspend
respondent from the practice of law for two years, but it refrains from ordering respondent to
return the P15,000.00 consideration, plus interest.

Respondent does not deny executing the "Deed of Sale with Right to Repurchase" dated
December 2, 1981 in favor of complainant. However, respondent insists that the deed is not
one of sale with pacto de retro, but one of equitable mortgage. Thus, respondent argues that
he still had the legal right to mortgage the subject property to other persons. Respondent
additionally asserts that complainant should render an accounting of the produce the latter had
collected from the said property, which would already exceed the P15,000.00 consideration
stated in the deed.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 217

There is no merit in respondent's defense.

Regardless of whether the written contract between respondent and complainant is actually
one of sale with pacto de retro or of equitable mortgage, respondent's actuations in his
transaction with complainant, as well as in the present administrative cases, clearly show a
disregard for the highest standards of legal proficiency, morality, honesty, integrity, and fair
dealing required from lawyers, for which respondent should be held administratively liable.

When respondent was admitted to the legal profession, he took an oath where he undertook to
"obey the laws," "do no falsehood," and "conduct [him]self as a lawyer according to the best of
[his] knowledge and discretion."[18] He gravely violated his oath.

The Investigating Commissioner correctly found, and the IBP Board of Governors rightly agreed,
that respondent caused the ambiguity or vagueness in the "Deed of Sale with Right to
Repurchase" as he was the one who prepared or drafted the said instrument. Respondent
could have simply denominated the instrument as a deed of mortgage and referred to himself
and complainant as "mortgagor" and "mortgagee," respectively, rather than as "vendor a retro"
and "vendee a retro." If only respondent had been more circumspect and careful in the
drafting and preparation of the deed, then the controversy between him and complainant
could have been avoided or, at the very least, easily resolved. His imprecise and misleading
wording of the said deed on its face betrayed lack of legal competence on his part. He thereby
fell short of his oath to "conduct [him]self as a lawyer according to the best of [his] knowledge
and discretion."

More significantly, respondent transgressed the laws and the fundamental tenet of human
relations as embodied in Article 19 of the Civil Code:

Art. 19. Every person must, in the exercise of his rights and in the performance of his duties, act
with justice, give everyone his due, and observe honesty and good faith.

Respondent, as owner of the property, had the right to mortgage it to complainant but, as a
lawyer, he should have seen to it that his agreement with complainant is embodied in an
instrument that clearly expresses the intent of the contracting parties. A lawyer who drafts a
contract must see to it that the agreement faithfully and clearly reflects the intention of the
contracting parties. Otherwise, the respective rights and obligations of the contracting parties
will be uncertain, which opens the door to legal disputes between the said parties. Indeed, the
uncertainty caused by respondent's poor formulation of the "Deed of Sale with Right to
Repurchase" was a significant factor in the legal controversy between respondent and
complainant. Such poor formulation reflects at the very least negatively on the legal
competence of respondent.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 218

Under Section 63 of the Land Registration Act,[19] the law in effect at the time the PNB
acquired the subject property and obtained TCT No. T-3211 in its name in 1972, where a decree
in favor of a purchaser who acquires mortgaged property in foreclosure proceedings becomes
final, such purchaser becomes entitled to the issuance of a new certificate of title in his name
and a memorandum thereof shall be "indorsed upon the mortgagor's original certificate."[20]
TCT No. T-662, which respondent gave complainant when they entered into the "Deed of Sale
with Right to Repurchase" dated December 2, 1981, does not bear such memorandum but only
a memorandum on the mortgage of the property to PNB in 1963 and the subsequent
amendment of the mortgage.

Respondent dealt with complainant with bad faith, falsehood, and deceit when he entered into
the "Deed of Sale with Right to Repurchase" dated December 2, 1981 with the latter. He made
it appear that the property was covered by TCT No. T-662 under his name, even giving
complainant the owner's copy of the said certificate of title, when the truth is that the said TCT
had already been cancelled some nine years earlier by TCT No. T-3211 in the name of PNB. He
did not even care to correct the wrong statement in the deed when he was subsequently issued
a new copy of TCT No. T-7235 on January 4, 1982,[21] or barely a month after the execution of
the said deed. All told, respondent clearly committed an act of gross dishonesty and deceit
against complainant.

Canon 1 and Rule 1.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility provide:

CANON 1 A lawyer shall uphold the constitution, obey the laws of the land and promote respect
for law and legal processes.

Rule 1.01 A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct.

Under Canon 1, a lawyer is not only mandated to personally obey the laws and the legal
processes, he is moreover expected to inspire respect and obedience thereto. On the other
hand, Rule 1.01 states the norm of conduct that is expected of all lawyers.[22]

Any act or omission that is contrary to, prohibited or unauthorized by, in defiance of,
disobedient to, or disregards the law is "unlawful." "Unlawful" conduct does not necessarily
imply the element of criminality although the concept is broad enough to include such
element.[23]

To be "dishonest" means the disposition to lie, cheat, deceive, defraud or betray; be


untrustworthy; lacking in integrity, honesty, probity, integrity in principle, fairness and
straightforwardness. On the other hand, conduct that is "deceitful" means as follows:
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 219

[Having] the proclivity for fraudulent and deceptive misrepresentation, artifice or device that is
used upon another who is ignorant of the true facts, to the prejudice and damage of the party
imposed upon. In order to be deceitful, the person must either have knowledge of the falsity or
acted in reckless and conscious ignorance thereof, especially if the parties are not on equal
terms, and was done with the intent that the aggrieved party act thereon, and the latter indeed
acted in reliance of the false statement or deed in the manner contemplated to his injury.[24]

The actions of respondent in connection with the execution of the "Deed of Sale with Right to
Repurchase" clearly fall within the concept of unlawful, dishonest, and deceitful conduct. They
violate Article 19 of the Civil Code. They show a disregard for Section 63 of the Land
Registration Act. They also reflect bad faith, dishonesty, and deceit on respondent's part. Thus,
respondent deserves to be sanctioned.

Respondent's breach of his oath, violation of the laws, lack of good faith, and dishonesty are
compounded by his gross disregard of this Court's directives, as well as the orders of the IBP's
Investigating Commissioner (who was acting as an agent of this Court pursuant to the Court's
referral of these cases to the IBP for investigation, report and recommendation), which caused
delay in the resolution of these administrative cases.

In particular, the Court required respondent to comment on complainant's Affidavit-Complaint


in A.C. No. 4697 and Supplemental Complaint in A.C. No. 4728 on March 12, 1997 and June 25,
1997, respectively.[25] While he requested for several extensions of time within which to
submit his comment, no such comment was submitted prompting the Court to require him in a
Resolution dated February 4, 1998 to (1) show cause why he should not be disciplinarily dealt
with or held in contempt for such failure, and (2) submit the consolidated comment.[26]
Respondent neither showed cause why he should not be disciplinarily dealt with or held in
contempt for such failure, nor submitted the consolidated comment.

When these cases were referred to the IBP and during the proceedings before the IBP's
Investigating Commissioner, respondent was again required several times to submit his
consolidated answer. He only complied on August 28, 2003, or more than six years after this
Court originally required him to do so. The Investigating Commissioner also directed the parties
to submit their respective position papers. Despite having been given several opportunities to
submit the same, respondent did not file any position paper.[27]

Respondent's disregard of the directives of this Court and of the Investigating Commissioner,
which caused undue delay in these administrative cases, contravenes the following provisions
of the Code of Professional Responsibility:

CANON 11 A lawyer shall observe and maintain the respect due to the courts and to judicial
officers and should insist on similar conduct by others.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 220

xxxx

CANON 12 A lawyer shall exert every effort and consider it his duty to assist in the speedy and
efficient administration of justice.

xxxx

Rule 12.03 A lawyer shall not, after obtaining extensions of time to file pleadings, memoranda
or briefs, let the period lapse without submitting the same or offering an explanation for his
failure to do so.

Rule 12.04 A lawyer shall not unduly delay a case, impede the execution of a judgment or
misuse court processes.

Respondent's infractions are aggravated by the fact that he has already been imposed a
disciplinary sanction before. In Nuñez v. Atty. Astorga,[28] respondent was held liable for
conduct unbecoming an attorney for which he was fined P2,000.00.

Given the foregoing, the suspension of respondent from the practice of law for two years, as
recommended by the IBP Board of Governors, is proper.

The Court, however, will not adopt the recommendation of the IBP to order respondent to
return the sum of P15,000.00 he received from complainant under the "Deed of Sale with Right
to Repurchase." This is a civil liability best determined and awarded in a civil case rather than
the present administrative cases.

In Roa v. Moreno,[29] the Court pronounced that "[i]n disciplinary proceedings against lawyers,
the only issue is whether the officer of the court is still fit to be allowed to continue as a
member of the Bar. Our only concern is the determination of respondent's administrative
liability. Our findings have no material bearing on other judicial action which the parties may
choose to file against each other." While the respondent lawyer's wrongful actuations may give
rise at the same time to criminal, civil, and administrative liabilities, each must be determined
in the appropriate case; and every case must be resolved in accordance with the facts and the
law applicable and the quantum of proof required in each. Section 5,[30] in relation to Sections
1[31] and 2,[32] Rule 133 of the Rules of Court states that in administrative cases, such as the
ones at bar, only substantial evidence is required, not proof beyond reasonable doubt as in
criminal cases, or preponderance of evidence as in civil cases. Substantial evidence is that
amount of relevant evidence which a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to justify a
conclusion.[33]
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 221

The Court notes that based on the same factual antecedents as the present administrative
cases, complainant instituted a criminal case for estafa against respondent, docketed as
Criminal Case No. 3112-A, before the MTC. When a criminal action is instituted, the civil action
for the recovery of civil liability arising from the offense charged shall be deemed instituted
with the criminal action unless the offended party waives the civil action, reserves the right to
institute it separately or institutes the civil action prior to the criminal action.[34] Unless the
complainant waived the civil action, reserved the right to institute it separately, or instituted
the civil action prior to the criminal action, then his civil action for the recovery of civil liability
arising from the estafa committed by respondent is deemed instituted with Criminal Case No.
3112-A. The civil liability that complainant may recover in Criminal Case No. 3112-A includes
restitution; reparation of the damage caused him; and/or indemnification for consequential
damages,[35] which may already cover the P15,000.00 consideration complainant had paid for
the subject property.

WHEREFORE, respondent is hereby found GUILTY of the following: breach of the Lawyer's Oath;
unlawful, dishonest, and deceitful conduct; and disrespect for the Court and causing undue
delay of these cases, for which he is SUSPENDED from the practice of law for a period of two (2)
years, reckoned from receipt of this Decision, with WARNING that a similar misconduct in the
future shall be dealt with more severely.

Let a copy of this Decision be furnished the Office of the Bar Confidant and the Integrated Bar
of the Philippines for their information and guidance. The Court Administrator is directed to
circulate this Decision to all courts in the country.

SO ORDERED.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 222

[ G.R. No. 190667, November 07, 2016 ]


COCA-COLA BOTTLERS PHILIPPINES, INC., PETITIONER, VS.
SPOUSES JOSE R. BERNARDO AND LILIBETH R. BERNARDO, DOING BUSINESS UNDER THE
NAME AND STYLE "JOLLY BEVERAGE ENTERPRISES," RESPONDENTS.

DECISION
SERENO, C.J.:

This is a Petition for Review[1] filed by Coca-Cola Bottlers Philippines, Inc. (petitioner), from the
Court of Appeals (CA) Decision[2] and Resolution[3] in CA-GR. CV No. 91096. The CA affirmed in
toto the Decision[4] of Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 88 in Quezon City in Civil Case No. Q-
00-42320.

This case originated from the claim for damages filed by respondent spouses Jose and Lilibeth
Bernardo (respondents) against petitioner for violation of Articles 19, 20, 21, and 28 of the Civil
Code. The RTC found petitioner liable to pay respondents temperate damages in the amount of
P500,000 for loss of goodwill, to be offset against the latter's outstanding balance for deliveries
in the amount of P449,154. The trial court ordered petitioner to pay P50,000 as moral damages,
P20,000 as exemplary damages, and P100,000 as attorney's fees.

Petitioner asserts that the Complaint had no basis, and that the trial court had no jurisdiction to
award temperate damages in an amount equivalent to the outstanding obligation of
respondents. It prays not only for the reversal of the assailed judgments, but also for an award
of moral and exemplary damages, as well as attorney's fees and litigation expenses. It also asks
that respondents be ordered to pay P449,154 plus legal interest from the date of demand until
full payment.[5]

We deny the Petition.

FACTS

Petitioner is a domestic corporation engaged in the large-scale manufacture, sale, and


distribution of beverages around the country.[6] On the other hand, respondents, doing
business under the name "Jolly Beverage Enterprises," are wholesalers of softdrinks in Quezon
City, particularly in the vicinities of Bulacan Street, V. Luna Road, Katipunan Avenue, and Timog
Avenue.[7]

The business relationship between the parties commenced in 1987 when petitioner designated
respondents as its distributor.[8] On 22 March 1994, the parties formally entered into an
exclusive dealership contract for three years.[9] Under the Agreement,[10] petitioner would
extend developmental assistance to respondents in the form of cash assistance and trade
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 223

discount incentives. For their part, respondents undertook to sell petitioner's products
exclusively, meet the sales quota of 7,000 cases per month, and assist petitioner in its
marketing efforts.[11]

On 1 March 1997, the parties executed a similar agreement tor another two years, or until 28
February 1999.[12] This time, petitioner gave respondents complimentary cases of its products
instead of cash assistance, and increased the latter's sales quota to 8,000 cases per month.

For 13 years, the parties enjoyed a good and harmonious business partnership.[13] While the
contracts contained a clause for breach, it was never enforced.[14]

Sometime in late 1998 or early 1999, before the contract expired, petitioner required
respondents to submit a list of their customers on the pretext that it would formulate a policy
defining its territorial dealership in Quezon City.[15] It assured respondents that their contract
would be renewed for a longer period, provided that they would submit the list.[16] However,
despite their compliance, the promise did not materialize.[17]

Respondents discovered that in February 1999, petitioner started to reach out to the persons
whose names were on the list.[18] Respondents also received reports that their delivery trucks
were being trailed by petitioner's agents; and that as soon as the trucks left, the latter would
approach the former's customers.[19] Further, respondents found out that petitioner had
employed a different pricing scheme, such that the price given to distributors was significantly
higher than that given to supermarkets.[20] It also enticed direct buyers and sari-sari store
owners in the area with its "Coke Alok" promo, in which it gave away one free bottle for every
case purchased.[21] It further engaged a store adjacent to respondents' warehouse to sell the
former's products at a substantially lower price.[22]

Respondents claimed that because of these schemes, they lost not only their major customers -
such as Peach Blossoms, May Flower Restaurant, Saisaki Restaurant, and Kim Hong Restaurant
but also small stores, such as the canteen in the hospital where respondent Jose Bernardo
worked.[23] They admitted that they were unable to pay deliveries worth P449,154.[24]

Respondents filed a Complaint[25] for damages, alleging that the acts of petitioner constituted
dishonesty, bad faith, gross negligence, fraud, and unfair competition in commercial
enterprise.[26] The Complaint was later amended[27] to implead petitioner's officers and
personnel, include additional factual allegations, and increase the amount of damages prayed
for.

Petitioner denied the allegations.[28] It maintained that it had obtained a list of clients through
surveys, and that promotional activities or developmental strategies were implemented only
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 224

after the expiration of the Agreements.[29] It opined that the filing of the complaint was a mere
ploy resorted to by respondents to evade the payment of the deliveries.[30]

The RTC held petitioner liable for damages for abuse of rights in violation of Articles 19, 20, and
21 of the Civil Code and for unfair competition under Article 28. It found that petitioner's
agents solicited the list of clients in order to penetrate the market and directly supply
customers with its products.[31] Moreover, the trial court found that petitioner had recklessly
ignored the rights of respondents to have a fair chance to engage in business or earn a living
when it deliberately used oppressive methods to deprive them of their business.[32] Its officers
were, however, absolved of liability, as there was no showing that they had acted in their
individual and personal capacities.[33]

In the body of its Decision, the RTC stated that petitioner should pay respondents P500,000 as
temperate damages, and that it was only just and fair that the latter offset this amount against
their outstanding obligation to petitioner in the amount of P449,154.[34] In the fallo, the trial
court awarded P50,000 as moral damages, P20,000 as exemplary damages, and P100,000 as
attorney's fees.[35] It denied petitioner's counterclaim for damages for lack of factual and legal
basis.[36] Petitioner moved for reconsideration, but the motion was denied.[37]

Petitioner then elevated the case to the CA, which affirmed the RTC Decision in toto. According
to the appellate court's ruling, petitioner had used its sizable resources to railroad the business
of respondents:[38]
[Petitioner] infiltrated certain areas in Quezon City at the expense of and later, in derogation of
its wholesalers, particularly [respondents]. As admitted by Allan Mercado, the Integrated Selling
and Marketing Manager of appellant, it was previously dependent on wholesalers to circulate
its products around the country. x x x.

xxxx

[T]owards the end of the partnership, appellant employed a different marketing scheme
purportedly to obviate the poor dealership management from wholesalers in major areas. But
as may be shown by the incidents leading to the filing of this case, this method was designed
strategically to overrun [respondents'] business and take over the customers of its wholesalers.

xxxx

One such method was "different pricing schemes" wherein the prices given to supermarkets
and grocery stores were considerably lower than those imposed on wholesalers. No prior
advice thereof was given to [respondents] or any of the wholesalers. In fact, they only knew of
it when their customers began complaining about the variation in prices of softdrinks sold in
supermarkets and those that were sold by them. When in fact [respondent] Bernardo
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 225

personally inspected the products in grocery stores, he discovered that a box of Coke-in-can is
sold at P40.00, lower than those offered by them as wholesalers.

About the same time, [petitioner] also implemented the "Area Market Cooperatives" (AMC)
and the "Coke-Alok" promo. Under the AMC, customers of wholesalers can purchase
[petitioner's] products from prominent stores in heavily crowded areas for P76.00 per case, as
opposed to [respondent's] offering of P112.00. In "Coke-Alok," [petitioner] directly sold Coke
products to wholesale customers with incentives as free bottle of Coke for every case of
softdrinks purchased. Being of limited resources, [respondents had no] means to equal the
lucrative incentives given by [petitioner] to their customers.

xxxx

Apart from direct selling and other promotions, [petitioner] also employed high-handed means
that further shrunk [respondents'] market coverage. In one instance, [petitioner's sales
representative] advised [respondents] and other wholesalers to keep away from major
thoroughfares. Apparently, [petitioner] was going to supply their products to these stores
themselves. x x x.

xxxx

x x x Furthermore, one of [petitioner's] representatives, Nelson Pabulayan, admitted that he


sold products at the canteen in V. Luna Hospital [which was then being serviced by
respondents].

As if that was not enough, petitioner engaged other stores, such as Freezel's Bakeshop that was
located adjacent to [respondent's] warehouse, to sell Coke products at a price substantially
lower than [that offered by respondents].
ISSUES

Petitioner argues that the trial court had no jurisdiction to award temperate damages that were
not prayed for in the Complaint. It further asserts that it did not violate Articles 19, 20, 21 or 28;
hence, the award of damages and attorney's fees was improper.

OUR RULING

The CA did not err in affirming the finding that petitioner was liable for temperate, moral and
exemplary damages, as well as attorney's fees, tor abuse of rights and unfair competition.

The Petition raises questions of fact.


P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 226

Petitioner ignores the nature of a petition for review as a remedy against errors of law. Instead,
it raises factual matters that have already been passed upon by the RTC and the CA.

It insists on the following facts: 1) the "promotional activities" were implemented after the
dealership agreements expired;[39] 2) the "developmental strategies" were implemented
nationwide and were not meant to destroy the business of respondents;[40] 3) its agents did
not follow the trucks of Jolly Beverages;[41] 4) the price difference resulted because
respondents could no longer avail of trade discounts and incentives under the expired
Agreement;[42] and 5) there is no causal connection between the promotional activities and
the claimed losses of respondents.[43]

Petitioner contends that since it did not assign any exclusive territory to respondents, the latter
had no exclusive right to any customer.[44] It supposedly decided to rely on its own sales
personnel to push the sale of its products, because the distributors had violated the terms of
their agreements by selling competing products, failing to meet the required sales volume, or
failing to pay on time.[45] Petitioner, however, did not allege that respondents committed any
of these actions during the existence of the agreement.

We have repeatedly held that factual findings of the trial court, especially when affirmed by the
appellate court, are given great weight, even finality, by this Court.[46] Petitioner fails to make
a convincing argument that this case falls under any of the exceptions to the rule. On the
contrary, the Decisions of the RTC and theCA appear to be supported by the records.

Petitioner bewails the fact that the RTC and the CA, in establishing the facts, relied heavily on
the testimony of respondent Jose Bernardo.[47]

Petitioner, however, forgets that trial courts are in an ideal position to observe the demeanor
of the witnesses and can therefore discern if the latter are telling the truth or not.[48] In this
case, both the trial and the appellate courts found the testimonies of respondent Jose Bernardo
and his witnesses more credible than those of the witnesses presented by petitioners. We shall
not substitute our judgment for that of the trial court, absent any compelling reason.

Petitioner is liable for damages for abuse of rights and unfair competition under the Civil Code.

Both the RTC and the CA found that petitioner had employed oppressive and high-handed
schemes to unjustly limit the market coverage and diminish the investment returns of
respondents.[49] The CA summarized its findings as follows:[50]
This [cut-throat competition] is precisely what appellant did in order to take over the market:
directly sell its products to or deal them off to competing stores at a price substantially lower
than those imposed on its wholesalers. As a result, the wholesalers suffered losses, and in
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 227

[respondents'] case, laid ofT a number of employees and alienated the patronage of its major
customers including small-scale stores.
It must be emphasized that petitioner is not only a beverage giant, but also the manufacturer of
the products; hence, it sets the price. In addition, it took advantage of the infonnation provided
by respondents to facilitate its takeover of the latter's usual business area. Distributors like
respondents, who had assisted petitioner in its marketing efforts, suddenly found themselves
with fewer customers. Other distributors were left with no choice but to fold.[51]

Articles 19, 20, and 21 of the Civil Code provide the legal bedrock for the award of damages to a
party who suffers damage whenever another person commits an act in violation of some legal
provision; or an act which, though not con'itituting a transgression of positive law, nevertheless
violates certain rudimentary rights of the party aggrieved.[52] The provisions read:
Art. 19. Every person must, in the exercise of his rights and in the performance of his duties, act
with justice, give everyone his due, and observe honesty and good faith.

Art. 20. Every person who, contrary to law, wilfully or negligently causes damage to another,
shall indemnify the latter for the same.

Art. 21. Any person who wilfully causes loss or injury to another in a manner that is contrary to
morals, good customs or public policy shall compensate the latter for the damage.
In Albenson Enterprises Corp. v. CA,[53] this Court held that under any of the above provisions
of law, an act that causes injury to another may be made the basis for an award of damages. As
explained by this Court in GF Equity, Inc. v. Valenzona:[54]
The exercise of a right ends when the right disappears; and it disappears when it is abused,
especially to the prejudice of others. The mask of a right without the spirit of justice which gives
it life is repugnant to the modern concept of social law. It cannot be said that a person exercises
a right when he unnecessarily prejudices another or offends morals or good customs. Over and
above the specific precepts of positive law are the supreme norms of justice which the law
develops and which are expressed in three principles: honeste vivere, alterum non laedere and
jus suum quique tribuere; and he who violates them violates the law. For this reason, it is not
permissible to abuse our rights to prejudice others.
Meanwhile, the use of unjust, oppressive, or high-handed business methods resulting in unfair
competition also gives a right of action to the injured party. Article 28 of the Civil Code
provides:
Art. 28. Unfair competition in agricultural, commercial or industrial enterprises or in labor
through the use of force, intimidation, deceit, machination or any other unjust, oppressive or
highhanded method shall give rise to a right of action by the person who thereby sutlers
damage.
Petitioner cites Tolentino, who in turn cited Colin and Capitant. According to the latter, the act
of "a merchant [who] puts up a store near the store of another and in this way attracts some of
the latter's patrons" is not an abuse of a right.[55] The scenario in the present case is vastly
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 228

different: the merchant was also the producer who, with the use of a list provided by its
distributor, knocked on the doors of the latter's customers and offered the products at a
substantially lower price. Unsatisfied, the merchant even sold its products at a preferential rate
to another store within the vicinity. Jurisprudence holds that when a person starts an opposing
place of business, not for the sake of profit, but regardless of Joss and for the sole purpose of
driving a competitor out of business, in order to take advantage of the effects of a malevolent
purpose, that person is guilty of a wanton wrong.[56]

Temperate, moral, and exemplary damages, as well as attorney's fees, were properly awarded.

Petitioner argues that the trial court did not have jurisdiction to grant an award of temperate
damages, because respondents did not specifically pray for it in their Amended Complaint:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, it is most respectfully prayed that the Honorable Court
render a judgment directing defendants to:
Pay plaintiffs the amount of P1,000,000.00 representing loss of goodwill nurtured over the past
13 years as actual damages.

Pay plaintiffs the amount of P200,000 representing moral damages.

Pay plaintiffs the amount of P100,000 representing exemplary damages.

Pay plaintiffs the amount of P100,000 representing attorney's fees.


Other reliefs which are just and equitable under the premises are also prayed for.
Petitioner's argument is flimsy and unsupported even by the cases it has cited.[57] The CA
correctly ruled that the award of temperate damages was justified, even if it was not
specifically prayed for, because 1) respondents did pray for the grant of "other reliefs," and 2)
the award was clearly warranted under the circumstances. Indeed, the law permits judges to
award a different kind of damages as an alternative to actual damages:
Civil Code, Art. 2224. Temperate or moderate damages, which are more than nominal but less
than compensatory damages, may be recovered when the court finds that some pecuniary loss
has been suffered but its amount can not, from the nature of the case, be provided with
certainty. (Emphasis supplied)
Compensatory damages may be awarded in the concept of temperate damages for injury to
business reputation or business standing, loss of goodwill, and loss of customers who shifted
their patronage to competitors.[58]

It is not extraordinary for courts to award temperate damages in lieu of actual damages. In
Canada v. All Commodities Marketing Corporation,[59] this Court awarded temperate damages
in recognition of the pecuniary loss suffered, after finding that actual damages could not be
awarded for lack of proof. In Public Estates Authority v. Chu,[60] this Court held that temperate
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 229

damages should have been awarded by the trial court considering that the plaintiff therein had
suffered some pecuniary loss.

In this case, both the RTC and the CA found that respondents had similarly suffered pecuniary
loss by reason of petitioner's high-handed machinations to eliminate competition in the
market.[61]

We see no grave error on the part of the RTC when it ruled that the unpaid obligation of
respondents shall be offset against the temperate damages due them from petitioner.[62]
However, the trial court was not accurate in considering the P500,000 temperate damages as
adequate to completely extinguish the obligation of respondents to petitioner.[63] We note
that while the principal was P449,154, this amount earned legal interest from the time of
demand. Nonetheless, in view of the established fact that respondents incurred the losses after
their business was systematically crippled by petitioner, it is only proper and just that the
obligation, as well as the legal interest that has accrued, be deemed totally compensated by the
temperate damages. Therefore, respondents do not need to tender the amount of P449,154
plus legal interest to petitioner, while the latter does not have to tender any amount as
temperate damages to the former.

With regard to moral damages, petitioner argues that respondents failed to provide satisfactory
proof that the latter had undergone any suffering or injury.[64] This is a factual question that
has been resolved by the trial court in a Decision affirmed by the CA. The award finds legal basis
under Article 2219(10) of the Civil Code, which states that moral damages may be recovered in
acts and actions referred to in Articles 21 and 28.[65]

Petitioner likewise questions the award of exemplary damages without "competent proof."[66]
It cites Spouses Villafuerte v. CA[67] as basis for arguing that the CA should have based its
Decision regarding the fact and the amount of exemplary damages upon competent proof that
respondents have suffered injury and upon evidence of the actual amount thereof. We enjoin
petitioner's counsel to fully and carefully read the text of our decisions before citing them as
authority.[68] The excerpt lifted pertains to compensatory damages, not exemplary damages.
We remind counsel that exemplary damages are awarded under Article 2229 of the Civil Code
by way of example or correction for the public good. The determination of the amount is left to
the discretion of the judge; its proof is not incumbent upon the claimant.

There being no meritorious argument raised by petitioner, the award of exemplary damages
must be sustained to caution powerful business owners against the use of oppressive and high-
handed commercial strategies to target and trample on the rights of small business owners,
who are striving to make a decent living.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 230

Exemplary damages having been awarded, the grant of attorney's fees was therefore
warranted.[69]

Petitioner's counterclaims for moral and exemplary damages, as well as attorney's fees and
litigation expenses, were properly denied.

The counterclaim for the payment of P449,154 plus legal interet was effectively granted when
the trial court offset the temperate damages awarded to respondents against the outstanding
obligation of the latter to petitioner.

The counterclaims for moral and exemplary damages, as well as attorney's fees and litigation
expenses, had no basis and were properly denied. The fact that petitioner was compelled to
engage the services of counsel in order to defend itself against the suit of respondents did not
entitle it to attorney's fees.

According to petitioner, it is entitled to moral damages, because "respondents clearly acted in a


vexatious manner when they instituted this suit."[70] We see nothing in the record to sustain
this argument.

With respect to the prayer for exemplary damages, neither do we find any act of respondents
that has to be deterred.

WHEREFORE, the Petition is DENIED. The Decision dated 23 July 2009 and Resolution dated 19
November 2009 rendered by the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 91096, which affirmed in
toto the Decision dated 28 September 2007 issued by Regional Trial Court Branch 88 Quezon
City in Civil Case No. Q-00-42320, are hereby AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION in that the
damages awarded shall earn legal interest of 6% per annum from the date of finality of this
Decision until its full satisfaction. The total compensation of respondents' unpaid obligation,
including legal interest that has accrued, and the temperate damages awarded to them, is
hereby upheld.

SO ORDERED.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 231

G.R. No. 217426, December 04, 2017

ST. MARTIN POLYCLINIC, INC., Petitioner, v.


LWV CONSTRUCTION CORPORATION, Respondent.

DECISION

PERLAS-BERNABE, J.:

Assailed in this petition for review on certiorari1 are the Decision2 dated July 11, 2014 and the
Resolution3 dated February 27, 2015 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. SP No. 125451,
which affirmed with modification the Decision4 dated December 15, 2011 and the Order dated
May 25, 2012 of the Regional Trial Court of Mandaluyong City, Branch 211 (RTC) in SCA Case
No. MC11-879 (Civil Case No. 21881), and thereby ordered herein petitioner St. Martin
Polyclinic, Inc. (petitioner) to pay respondent LWV Construction Corporation (respondent)
temperate damages in the amount of P50,000.00.

The Facts

Respondent is engaged in the business of recruiting Filipino workers for deployment to Saudi
Arabia.5 On the other hand, petitioner is an accredited member of the Gulf Cooperative Council
Approved Medical Centers Association (GAMCA) and as such, authorized to conduct medical
examinations of prospective applicants for overseas employment.6

On January 10, 2008, respondent referred prospective applicant Jonathan V. Raguindin


(Raguindin) to petitioner for a pre-deployment medical examination in accordance with the
instructions from GAMCA.7 After undergoing the required examinations, petitioner cleared
Raguindin and found him "fit for employment," as evidenced by a Medical Report8 dated
January 11, 2008 (Medical Report).9

Based on the foregoing, respondent deployed Raguindin to Saudi Arabia, allegedly incurring
expenses in the amount of P84,373.41.10 Unfortunately, when Raguindin underwent another
medical examination with the General Care Dispensary of Saudi Arabia (General Care
Dispensary) on March 24, 2008, he purportedly tested positive for HCV or the hepatitis C virus.
The Ministry of Health of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (Ministry of Health) required a re-
examination of Raguindin, which the General Care Dispensary conducted on April 28, 2008.11
However, the results of the re-examination remained the same, i.e., Raguindin was positive for
HCV, which results were reflected in a Certification12 dated April 28, 2008 (Certification). An
undated HCV Confirmatory Test Report13 likewise conducted by the Ministry of Health
affirmed such finding, thereby leading to Raguindin's repatriation to the Philippines.14
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 232

Claiming that petitioner was reckless in issuing its Medical Report stating that Raguindin is "fit
for employment" when a subsequent finding in Saudi Arabia revealed that he was positive for
HCV, respondent filed a Complaint15 for sum of money and damages against petitioner before
the Metropolitan Trial Court of Mandaluyong City, Branch 60 (MeTC). Respondent essentially
averred that it relied on petitioner's declaration and incurred expenses as a consequence. Thus,
respondent prayed for the award of damages in the amount of P84,373.41 representing the
expenses it incurred in deploying Raguindin abroad.16

In its Answer with compulsory counterclaim,17 petitioner denied liability and claimed that: first,
respondent was not a proper party in interest for lack of privity of contract between them;
second, the MeTC had no jurisdiction over the case as it involves the interpretation and
implementation of a contract of employment; third, the action is premature as Raguindin has
yet to undergo a post-employment medical examination following his repatriation; and fourth,
the complaint failed to state a cause of action as the Medical Report issued by petitioner had
already expired on April 11, 2008, or three (3) months after its issuance on January 11, 2008.18

The MeTC Ruling

In a Decision19 dated December 17, 2010, the MeTC rendered judgment in favor of respondent
and ordered petitioner to pay the amount of P84,373.41 as actual damages, P20,000.00 as
attorney's fees, and the costs of suit.20

At the onset, the MeTC held that it had jurisdiction over the case, since respondent was
claiming actual damages incurred in the deployment of Raguindin in the amount of
P84,373.41.21 It further ruled that respondent was a real party in interest, as it would not have
incurred expenses had petitioner not issued the Medical Report certifying that Raguindin was
fit to work.

On the merits, the MeTC found that respondent was entitled to be informed accurately of the
precise condition of Raguindin before deploying the latter abroad and consequently, had
sustained damage as a result of the erroneous certification.22 In this relation, it rejected
petitioner's contention that Raguindin may have contracted the disease after his medical
examination in the Philippines up to the time of his deployment, there being no evidence
offered to corroborate the same.23

Aggrieved, petitioner appealed to the RTC, contending,24 among others, that respondent failed
to comply with the requirements on the authentication and proof of documents under Section
24,25 Rule 132 of the Rules of Court, considering that respondent's evidence, particularly the
April 28, 2008 Certification issued by the General Care Dispensary and the HCV Confirmatory
Test Report issued by the Ministry of Health, are foreign documents issued in Saudi Arabia.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 233

The RTC Ruling

In a Decision26 dated December 15, 2011, the RTC dismissed petitioner's appeal and affirmed
the MeTC Decision in its entirety.27 Additionally, the RTC pointed out that petitioner can no
longer change the theory of the case or raise new issues on appeal, referring to the latter's
argument on the authentication of respondent's documentary evidence.28

Petitioner's motion for reconsideration29 was denied in an Order30 dated May 25, 2012.
Dissatisfied, petitioner elevated the case to the CA.31

The CA Ruling

In a Decision32 dated July 11, 2014, the CA affirmed the RTC Decision, with the modification
deleting the award of actual damages and instead, awarding temperate damages in the amount
of P50,000.00.33

The CA held that petitioner failed to perform its duty to accurately diagnose Raguindin when it
issued its Medical Report declaring the latter "fit for employment", considering that he was
subsequently found positive for HCV in Saudi Arabia.34 Further, the CA opined that the
Certification issued by the General Care Dispensary is not a public document and in such regard,
rejected petitioner's argument that the same is inadmissible in evidence for not having been
authenticated. Moreover, it remarked that petitioner's own Medical Report does not enjoy the
presumption of regularity as petitioner is merely an accredited clinic.35 Finally, the CA ruled
that petitioner could not disclaim liability on the ground that Raguindin tested positive for HCV
in Saudi Arabia after the expiration of the Medical Report on April 11, 2008, noting that the
General Care Dispensary issued its Certification on April 28, 2008, or a mere seventeen (17)
days from the expiration of petitioner's Medical Report.36 Hence, the CA concluded that "it is
contrary to human experience that a newly-deployed overseas worker, such as Raguindin,
would immediately contract a serious virus at the very beginning of a deployment."37

However, as the records are bereft of evidence to show that respondent actually incurred the
amount of P84,373.41 as expenses for Raguindin's deployment, the CA deleted the award of
actual damages and instead, awarded temperate damages in the amount of P50,000.00.38

Aggrieved, petitioner filed a motion for partial reconsideration,39 which the CA denied in a
Resolution40 dated February 27, 2015; hence, this petition.

The Issue Before the Court


P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 234

The essential issue advanced for the Court's resolution is whether or not petitioner was
negligent in issuing the Medical Report declaring Raguindin "fit for employment" and hence,
should be held liable for damages.

The Court's Ruling

The petition is granted.

I.

At the outset, it should be pointed out that a re-examination of factual findings cannot be done
acting on a petition for review on certiorari because the Court is not a trier of facts but reviews
only questions of law.41 Thus, in petitions for review on certiorari, only questions of law may
generally be put into issue. This rule, however, admits of certain exceptions, such as "when the
inference made is manifestly mistaken, absurd or impossible"; or "when the findings are
conclusions without citation of specific evidence on which they are based."42 Finding a
confluence of certain exceptions in this case, the general rule that only legal issues may be
raised in a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court would not apply,
and the Court retains the authority to pass upon the evidence presented and draw conclusions
therefrom.43

II.

An action for damages due to the negligence of another may be instituted on the basis of
Article 2176 of the Civil Code, which defines a quasi-delict:

Article 2176. Whoever by act or omission causes damage to another, there being fault or
negligence, is obliged to pay for the damage done. Such fault or negligence, if there is no pre-
existing contractual relation between the parties, is called a quasi-delict and is governed by the
provisions of this Chapter.

The elements of a quasi-delict are: (1) an act or omission; (2) the presence of fault or negligence
in the performance or non-performance of the act; (3) injury; (4) a causal connection between
the negligent act and the injury; and (5) no pre-existing contractual relation.44

As a general rule, any act or omission coming under the purview of Article 2176 gives rise to a
cause of action under quasi-delict. This, in turn, gives the basis for a claim of damages.45
Notably, quasi-delict is one among several sources of obligation. Article 1157 of the Civil Code
states:

Article 1157. Obligations arise from:


P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 235

(1) Law;
(2) Contracts;
(3) Quasi-contracts;
(4) Acts or omissions punished by law; and
(5) Quasi-delicts.

However, as explained by Associate Justice Marvic M.V.F. Leonen (Justice Leonen) in his opinion
in Alano v. Magud-Logmao46 (Alano), "Article 2176 is not an all-encompassing enumeration of
all actionable wrongs which can give rise to the liability for damages. Under the Civil Code, acts
done in violation of Articles 19, 20, and 21 will also give rise to damages."47 These provisions -
which were cited as bases by the MTC, RTC and CA in their respective rulings in this case - read
as follows:

Article 19. Every person must, in the exercise of his rights and in the performance of his duties,
act with justice, give everyone his due, and observe honesty and good faith.

Article 20. Every person who, contrary to law, willfully or negligently causes damage to another,
shall indemnify the latter for the same.

Article 21. Any person who willfully causes loss or injury to another in a manner that is contrary
to morals, good customs, or public policy shall compensate the latter for the damage.

"[Article 19], known to contain what is commonly referred to as the principle of abuse of rights,
sets certain standards which must be observed not only in the exercise of one's rights, but also
in the performance of one's duties."48 Case law states that "[w]hen a right is exercised in a
manner which does not conform with the norms enshrined in Article 19 and results in damage
to another, a legal wrong is thereby committed for which the wrongdoer must be held
responsible. But while Article 19 lays down a rule of conduct for the government of human
relations and for the maintenance of social order, it does not provide a remedy for its violation.
Generally, an action for damages under either Article 20 or Article 21 would [then] be
proper."49 Between these two provisions as worded, it is Article 20 which applies to both
willful and negligent acts that are done contrary to law. On the other hand, Article 21 applies
only to willful acts done contra bonos mores.50

In the Alano case, Justice Leonen aptly elaborated on the distinctive applications of Articles 19,
20 and 21, which are general provisions on human relations, vis-a-vis Article 2176, which
particularly governs quasi-delicts:
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 236

Article 19 is the general rule which governs the conduct of human relations. By itself, it is not
the basis of an actionable tort. Article 19 describes the degree of care required so that an
actionable tort may arise when it is alleged together with Article 20 or Article 21.

Article 20 concerns violations of existing law as basis for an injury. It allows recovery should the
act have been willful or negligent. Willful may refer to the intention to do the act and the desire
to achieve the outcome which is considered by the plaintiff in tort action as injurious.
Negligence may refer to a situation where the act was consciously done but without intending
the result which the plaintiff considers as injurious.

Article 21, on the other hand, concerns injuries that may be caused by acts which are not
necessarily proscribed by law. This article requires that the act be willful, that is, that there was
an intention to do the act and a desire to achieve the outcome. In cases under Article 21, the
legal issues revolve around whether such outcome should be considered a legal injury on the
part of the plaintiff or whether the commission of the act was done in violation of the standards
of care required in Article 19.

Article 2176 covers situations where an injury happens through an act or omission of the
defendant. When it involves a positive act, the intention to commit the outcome is irrelevant.
The act itself must not be a breach of an existing law or a pre-existing contractual obligation.
What will be considered is whether there is "fault or negligence” attending the commission of
the act which necessarily leads to the outcome considered as injurious by the plaintiff. The
required degree of diligence will then be assessed in relation to the circumstances of each and
every case.51 (Emphases and underscoring supplied)

Thus, with respect to negligent acts or omissions, it should therefore be discerned that Article
20 of the Civil Code concerns "violations of existing law as basis for an injury", whereas Article
2176 applies when the negligent act causing damage to another does not constitute "a breach
of an existing law or a pre-existing contractual obligation."

In this case, the courts a quo erroneously anchored their respective rulings on the provisions of
Articles 19, 20, and 21 of the Civil Code. This is because respondent did not proffer (nor have
these courts mentioned) any law as basis for which damages may be recovered due to
petitioner's alleged negligent act. In its amended complaint, respondent mainly avers that had
petitioner not issue a "fit for employment" Medical Report to Raguindin, respondent would not
have processed his documents, deployed him to Saudi Arabia, and later on - in view of the
subsequent findings that Raguindin was positive for HCV and hence, unfit to work - suffered
actual damages in the amount of P84,373.41.52 Thus, as the claimed negligent act of petitioner
was not premised on the breach of any law, and not to mention the incontestable fact that no
pre-existing contractual relation was averred to exist between the parties, Article 2176 - instead
of Articles 19, 20 and 21 - of the Civil Code should govern.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 237

III.

Negligence is defined as the failure to observe for the protection of the interests of another
person, that degree of care, precaution and vigilance which the circumstances justly demand,
whereby such other person suffers injury.53

As early as the case of Picart v. Smith,54 the Court elucidated that "the test by which to
determine the existence of negligence in a particular case is: Did the defendant in doing the
alleged negligent act use that reasonable care and caution which an ordinarily prudent person
would have used in the same situation? If not, then he is guilty of negligence."55 Corollary
thereto, the Court stated that "[t]he question as to what would constitute the conduct of a
prudent man in a given situation must of course be always determined in the light of human
experience and in view of the facts involved in the particular case. Abstract speculation cannot
here be of much value x x x: Reasonable men govern their conduct by the circumstances which
are before them or known to them. They are not, and are not supposed to be, omniscient of
the future. Hence[,] they can be expected to take care only when there is something before
them to suggest or warn of danger."56

Under our Rules of Evidence, it is disputably presumed that a person takes ordinary care of his
concerns and that private transactions have been fair and regular.57 In effect, negligence
cannot be presumed, and thus, must be proven by him who alleges it.58 In Huang v. Philippine
Hoteliers, Inc.:59

[T]he negligence or fault should be clearly established as it is the basis of her action. The burden
of proof is upon [the plaintiff]. Section 1, Rule 131 of the Rules of Court provides that "burden
of proof is the duty of a party to present evidence on the facts in issue necessary to establish
his claim or defense by the amount of evidence required by law." It is then up for the plaintiff to
establish his cause of action or the defendant to establish his defense. Therefore, if the plaintiff
alleged in his complaint that he was damaged because of the negligent acts of the defendant,
he has the burden of proving such negligence. It is even presumed that a person takes ordinary
care of his concerns. The quantum of proof required is preponderance of evidence.60
(Emphasis and underscoring supplied)

The records of this case show that the pieces of evidence mainly relied upon by respondent to
establish petitioner's negligence are: (a) the Certification61 dated April 28, 2008; and (b) the
HCV Confirmatory Test Report.62 However, these issuances only indicate the results of the
General Care Dispensary and Ministry of Health's own medical examination of Raguindin finding
him to be positive for HCV. Notably, the examination conducted by the General Care
Dispensary, which was later affirmed by the Ministry of Health, was conducted only on March
24, 2008, or at least two (2) months after petitioner issued its Medical Report on January 11,
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 238

2008. Hence, even assuming that Raguindin's diagnosis for HCV was correct, the fact that he
later tested positive for the same does not convincingly prove that he was already under the
same medical state at the time petitioner issued the Medical Report on January 11, 2008. In
this regard, it was therefore incumbent upon respondent to show that there was already
negligence at the time the Medical Report was issued, may it be through evidence that show
that standard medical procedures were not carefully observed or that there were already
palpable signs that exhibited Raguindin's unfitness for deployment at that time. This is hardly
the case when respondent only proffered evidence which demonstrate that months after
petitioner's Medical Report was issued, Raguindin, who had already been deployed to Saudi
Arabia, tested positive for HCV and as such, was no longer "fit for employment".

In fact, there is a reasonable possibility that Raguindin became exposed to the HCV only after
his medical examination with petitioner on January 11, 2008. Based on published reports from
the World Health Organization, HCV or the hepatitis C virus causes both acute and chronic
infection. Acute HCV infection is usually asymptomatic,63 and is only very rarely associated
with life-threatening diseases. The incubation period64 for HCV is two (2) weeks to six (6)
months, and following initial infection, approximately 80% of people do not exhibit any
symptoms.65 Indisputably, Raguindin was not deployed to Saudi Arabia immediately after
petitioner's medical examination and hence, could have possibly contracted the same only
when he arrived thereat. In light of the foregoing, the CA therefore erred in holding that "[h]ad
petitioner more thoroughly and diligently examined Raguindin, it would likely have discovered
the existence of the HCV because it was contrary to human experience that a newly-deployed
overseas worker, such as Raguindin, would immediately have contracted the disease at the
beginning of his deployment"66

While petitioner's Medical Report indicates an expiration of April 11, 2008, the Court finds it
fitting to clarify that the same could not be construed as a certified guarantee coming from
petitioner that Raguindin's medical status at the time the report was issued on January 11,
2008 (i.e., that he was fit for employment) would remain the same up until that date (i.e., April
11, 2008). As earlier intimated, the intervening period could very well account for a number of
variables that could have led to a change in Raguindin's condition, such as his deployment to a
different environment in Saudi Arabia. If at all, the expiration date only means that the Medical
Report is valid - and as such, could be submitted - as a formal requirement for overseas
employment up until April 11, 2008; it does not, by any means, create legal basis to hold the
issuer accountable for any intervening change of condition from the time of issuance up until
expiration. Truly, petitioner could not be reasonably expected to predict, much less assure, that
Raguindin's medical status of being fit for employment would remain unchanged. Thus, the fact
that the Medical Report's expiration date of April 11, 2008 was only seventeen (17) days away
from the issuance of the General Care Dispensary's April 28, 2008 Certification finding
Raguindin positive for HCV should not - as it does not - establish petitioner's negligence.
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 239

IV.

At any rate, the fact that Raguindin tested positive for HCV could not have been properly
established since the courts a quo, in the first place, erred in admitting and giving probative
weight to the Certification of the General Care Dispensary, which was written in an unofficial
language. Section 33, Rule 132 ofthe Rules of Court states that:

Section 33. Documentary evidence in an unofficial language. - Documents written in an


unofficial language shall not be admitted as evidence, unless accompanied with a translation
into English or Filipino. To avoid interruption of proceedings, parties or their attorneys are
directed to have such translation prepared before trial.67

A cursory examination of the subject document would reveal that while it contains English
words, the majority of it is in an unofficial language. Sans any translation in English or Filipino
provided by respondent, the same should not have been admitted in evidence; thus their
contents could not be given probative value, and deemed to constitute proof of the facts stated
therein.

Moreover, the due execution and authenticity of the said certification were not proven in
accordance with Section 20, Rule 132 of the Rules of Court:

Section 20. Proof of private document. - Before any private document offered as authentic is
received in evidence, its due execution and authenticity must be proved either:

(a)
By anyone who saw the document executed or written; or
(b)
By evidence of the genuineness of the signature or handwriting of the maker.
(c)
Any other private document need only be identified as that which it is claimed to be.
Notably, the foregoing provision applies since the Certification does not fall within the classes
of public documents under Section 19, Rule 132 of the Rules of Court68 - and hence, must be
considered as private. It has been settled that an unverified and unidentified private document
cannot be accorded probative value.69 In addition, case law states that "since a medical
certificate involves an opinion of one who must first be established as an expert witness, it
cannot be given weight or credit unless the doctor who issued it is presented in court to show
his qualifications. It is precluded because the party against whom it is presented is deprived of
the right and opportunity to cross-examine the person to whom the statements or writings are
attributed. Its executor or author should be presented as a witness to provide the other party
to the litigation the opportunity to question its contents. Being mere hearsay evidence, failure
P E R S O N S & F A M I L Y R E L A T I O N S | 240

to present the author of the medical certificate renders its contents suspect and of no
probative value,"70 as in this case.

Similarly, the HCV Confirmatory Test Report issued by the Ministry of Health of Saudi Arabia
should have also been excluded as evidence. Although the same may be considered a public
document, being an alleged written official act of an official body of a foreign country,71 the
same was not duly authenticated in accordance with Section 24,72 Rule 132 of the Rules of
Court. While respondent provided a translation73 thereof from the National Commission on
Muslim Filipinos, Bureau of External Relations, Office of the President, the same was not
accompanied by a certificate of the secretary of the embassy or legation, consul-general,
consul, vice-consul, or consular agent or any officer in the foreign service of the Philippines
stationed in Saudi Arabia, where the record is kept, and authenticated by the seal of his
office.74

To be sure, petitioner - contrary to respondent's contention75 - has not changed its theory of
the case by questioning the foregoing documents. As petitioner correctly argued, it merely
amplified its defense76 that it is not liable for negligence when it further questioned the validity
of the issuances of the General Care Dispensary and Ministry of Health. In Limpangco Sons v.
Yangco77, the Court explained that "[t]here is a difference x x x between a change in the theory
of the case and a shifting of the incidence of the emphasis placed during the trial or in the
briefs." "Where x x x the theory of the case as set out in the pleadings remains the theory
throughout the progress of the cause, the change of emphasis from one phase of the case as
presented by one set of facts to another phase made prominent by another set of facts x x x
does not result in a change of theory x x x".78 In any case, petitioner had already questioned
the validity of these documents in its Position Paper79 before the MeTC.80 Hence, there is no
change of theory that would preclude petitioner's arguments on this score.

All told, there being no negligence proven by respondent through credible and admissible
evidence, petitioner cannot be held liable for damages under Article 2176 of the Civil Code as
above-discussed.
WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. Accordingly, the Decision dated July 11, 2014 and the
Resolution dated February 27, 2015 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 125451 are
REVERSED and SET ASIDE, and a NEW ONE is entered, DISMISSING the complaint of respondent
LWV Construction Corporation for lack of merit.

SO ORDERED.

Footnotes
50 "Article 21 refers to acts contra bonos mores and has the following elements: (1) an act
which is legal; (2) but which is contrary to morals, good custom, public order or public policy;
and (3) is done with intent to injure." (Mata v. Agravante, 583 Phil. 64, 70 [2008])