Philippine Supreme Court Jurisprudence


Philippine Supreme Court Jurisprudence > Year 1998 > September 1998 Decisions > G.R. No. 118784 September 2, 1998 - CHRISTINA AYUSTE v. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL.:




PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

THIRD DIVISION

[G.R. No. 118784. September 2, 1999.]

HEIRS OF CHRISTINA AYUSTE, Petitioner, v. COURT OF APPEALS and VIENA MALABONGA, Respondents.


D E C I S I O N


GONZAGA-REYES, J.:


Before us is a petition for certiorari under Rule 45, asking this Court to review the decision of the Court of Appeals dated January 23, 1995 in CA-G.R. CV No. 38232, 1 which overturned the decision of the Regional Trial Court of Lucena City in Civil Case No. 90-33.chanrobles virtualawlibrary chanrobles.com:chanrobles.com.ph

At the outset, we note that Christina Ayuste, the plaintiff in the lower court and the original petitioner herein, died on November 21, 1995. 2 In his Comment dated January 14, 1998 to private respondent’s Manifestation informing the Court of Christina Ayuste’s death, petitioner’s counsel re-affirmed such fact of death and informed the Court of the names of Christina Ayuste’s legal representatives. 3 The claim not having been extinguished by the death of Christina Ayuste, we ordered the substitution of her heirs Marlon Ayuste and Arlaine Ayuste-Yu for Christina Ayuste in our Resolution dated August 11, 1999.

Christina Ayuste married Rafael Ayuste on September 24, 1961. Although the couple resided in Manila, they operated a machine shop in Barangay Iyam, Lucena City, which was managed by Rafael Ayuste. In order to serve as temporary residence for Rafael Ayuste while in Lucena, the couple purchased on August 26, 1982 a parcel of land with an area of 180 square meters on which a residential house was built situated at Yale Street, University Village, Barrio Ibabang Dupay, Lucena City from spouses Pedro and Aida David. A deed of sale 4 was executed and signed by the parties and filed with the Register of Deeds of Lucena City. On October 23, 1983, the Register of Deeds of Lucena City issued Transfer Certificate of Title No. T-42972 in the name of "RAFAEL T. AYUSTE, married to Christina Ayuste." 5

On February 27, 1987, a deed of absolute sale 6 was executed by Rafael Ayuste in favor of private respondent whereby the former sold the abovementioned parcel of land to the latter for P40,000, which amount Rafael Ayuste acknowledge having received in the deed. On page 2 of this deed appears the signature of Christina Ayuste below the phrase "With my conformity." The deed of sale was registered with the Register of deeds of Lucena City on March 5, 1987 and Transfer Certificate of Title No. T-50046 was issued in the name of private Respondent. 7

After Rafael Ayuste’s death on October 13, 1989, Christina Ayuste discovered, in the course of an inventory of their properties, that the title to the land in Lucena was missing. She searched for it in the office of her husband in Lucena City and it was then that she learned from her employees about the sale of the house and lot by her husband to private Respondent.

On March 2, 1990, Christina Ayuste filed a complaint with the Regional Trial Court of Lucena City for the annulment of the sale, cancellation of the title issued in the name of private respondent and for the payment of moral, exemplary and actual damages. In her complaint Christina Ayuste alleges that her signature on the deed of sale was forged and that her husband Rafael Ayuste sold the property without her knowledge and consent.chanrobles virtualawlibrary chanrobles.com:chanrobles.com.ph

The Regional Trial Court rendered its Decision on June 20, 1991, the dispositive portion of which provides as follows —

WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered as follows:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

(1) Declaring null and void the Deed of Absolute Sale of House and Lot (Exhibit "C") executed by defendant and plaintiff’s husband, the deceased Rafael Ayuste, on February 27, 1987;

(2) Ordering defendant Viena Malabonga to return to plaintiff Christina Ayuste the possession of the house and lot covered by Transfer Certificate of Title No. T-50045, now in the name of defendant Viena Malabonga, together with the improvements thereon;

(3) Directing the Register of Deeds of Lucena City to cancel Transfer Certificate of Title No. T-50046 and to issue in the name of plaintiff and her children by the late Rafael Ayuste new Transfer Certificate of Title in lieu thereof, subject to all/any liens and encumbrances annotated on the memorandum of the title to be cancelled;

(4) Ordering plaintiff Christina Ayuste to pay the defendant Vienna Malabonga the sum of P258,200.00 for the improvements introduced on the lot and house as well as for maintenance of the premises; and

(5) Ordering defendant to pay plaintiff the amount of rents received from the premises starting March, 1990 until such time that she finally turns-over (sic) the possession of the house and lot to plaintiff, at the rate of P2,700.00 per month.

With costs against defendant. 8

Both parties appealed the trial court’s decision. On January 23, 1995, the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s ruling by holding that Christina Ayuste’s right to bring an action for the annulment of the sale is barred by laches because of her failure to file it during the existence of the marriage in accordance with article 173 of the Civil Code. Also, it found private respondent to be entitled to the protection of a buyer in good faith and for value. The pertinent portion of the public respondent’s decision provides —

Record shows that plaintiff-appellant wife (sic) instituted on March 2, 1990 her action for annulment of the sale executed by her husband on February 27, 1987 — long after said vendor-husband died in 1989. It is thus clear that the action for annulment of the sale was not instituted "during the marriage" as required by Article 173, the very provision of law which grants the wife the privilege/right to have the sale executed by her husband annulled, in derogation of the suppose (sic) vested right of the buyer. The two periods provided for in said Article 173 — "during the marriage" and "within 10 years" should concur.

We find no merit in plaintiff-appellant’s claim that she discovered the sale, only after her husband’s death, when she made an inventory and found out that the pertinent titles to the land subject of the sale were missing. It is settled in this jurisdiction that registration with the Register of Deeds is notice to the whole world. The questioned deed of sale has long been registered with the Register of Deeds of Lucena City — on March 5, 1987 — and in fact the said property was registered in the name of defendant-appellant under Transfer Certificate of Title No. T-50046. Said TCT in the name of defendant-appellant is now indefeasible.

The peculiar circumstances that militates in favor of defendant-appellant buyer are as follows: The questioned deed of sale was not actually without the wife’s signature signifying marital consent, so to speak. Evidently, Defendant-Appellant was led to believe by the husband-vendor that plaintiff-appellant gave her marital consent to the sale, as said husband presented a deed of sale supposedly pre-signed by his wife, plaintiff-appellant. Defendant-appellant is therefore undoubtedly a buyer in good faith and for value, with vested rights equally entitled to the protection of the law. The questioned deed of sale was duly registered In the name of defendant-appellant who was issued a Transfer Certificate of Title.chanrobles virtual lawlibrary

x       x       x


Unlike the statute of limitations, laches is not a mere question of time but is principally a question of the inequity on unfairness of permitting a stale right to be enforced or asserted. (Marcelino v. CA, 210 SCRA 444). For failure of the plaintiff-appellant wife to institute her action for annulment of sale, while her husband-vendor was still alive as required by Article 173 of the New Civil Code, plaintiff-appellant wife’s right under Article 166 of the same Code has become stale and is now barred by laches.

In view of the foregoing findings, We rule that the trial court erred in giving due course to the action for annulment of sale. With the foregoing findings and resolution the other issues raised in this appeal are now moot and academic.

WHEREFORE, in view of all the foregoing, judgment is hereby rendered giving due course to the appeal of defendant-appellant, -and- dismissing the appeal of plaintiff-appellant.

The decision dated June 20, 1991 rendered by the Regional Trial Court is REVERSED and SET ASIDE.

The Deed of Absolute Sale executed on February 27, 1987 by and between defendant-appellant and plaintiff-appellant’s husband is declared VALID and BINDING upon the plaintiff-appellant. 9

Both the trial and the appellate court decisions have established that Rafael Ayuste sold conjugal property without the consent of Christina Ayuste, his wife. This factual finding shall not be disturbed because only questions of law are reviewed in an appeal under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court subject to certain well-defined exceptions none of which are present in the instant case. The only issue which remains to be resolved is whether petitioners are entitled to the annulment of the contract of sale entered into by Rafael Ayuste without the consent of Christina Ayuste.

Petitioners claim that since the law expressly prohibits the husband from alienating real property belonging to the conjugal partnership without his wife’s consent, the contract of sale in question is a nullity pursuant to article 1409 of the Civil Code which provides that contracts expressly prohibited by law are inexistent and void from the beginning. It is further averred by petitioners that the present action is not barred because the action to declare the nullity of a contract does not prescribe. Furthermore, Christina Ayuste cannot be faulted for having brought the action only after the death of her husband, despite the periods stated in article 173 of the Civil Code, since she had no knowledge of the sale during his lifetime as he concealed the same from her. Finally, it is contended that article 166 is the relevant provision, not article 173. 10

Under the Civil Code, although the husband is the administrator of the conjugal partnership, 11 he cannot alienate or encumber any real property of the conjugal partnership without his wife’s consent, 12 subject only to certain exceptions specified in the law. 13 The remedy available to the wife in case her husband should dispose of their conjugal property without her consent is laid down in Article 173 of the Civil Code which states that —

The wife may, during the marriage, and within ten years from the transaction questioned, ask the courts for the annulment of any contract of the husband entered into without her consent, when such consent is required, or any act or contract of the husband which tends to defraud her or impair her interest in the conjugal partnership property. Should the wife fail to exercise this right, she or her heirs, after the dissolution of the marriage, may demand the value of property fraudulently alienated by the husband. (Emphasis supplied)

There is no ambiguity in the wording of the law. A sale of real property of the conjugal partnership made by the husband without the consent of his wife is voidable 14 The action for annulment must be brought during the marriage and within ten years from the questioned transaction by the wife. 15 Where the law speaks in clear and categorical language, there is no room for interpretation — there is room only for application. 16

In the present case, the deed of sale was executed on February 27, 1987. Rafael Ayuste died on October 13, 1989. However, it was only on March 2, 1990 that Christina Ayuste filed her complaint with the lower court asking for the annulment of the sale. Although the action was filed within ten years from the questioned transaction, it was not brought during the existence of the marriage which was dissolved upon the death of Rafael Ayuste in 1989. 17 Clearly, the action for annulment filed by Christina Ayuste was barred for having been filed out of time.

The fact that Christina Ayuste only learned of the sale after the death of her husband is not material. We affirm public respondent’s ruling that registration of the sale with the Register of Deeds constitutes a notice to the whole world. 18 Precisely, the purpose of the legislature in providing a system of registration is to afford a means of publicity so that persons dealing with real property may search the records and thereby acquire security against instruments the execution of which have not been revealed to them. 19 Since the deed of sale was registered on March 5, 1987, Christina Ayuste is presumed to have constructive notice of the sale from such date.

WHEREFORE, the decision of the Court of Appeals is AFFIRMED. No pronouncement as to costs.

SO ORDERED.chanrobles virtual lawlibrary

Melo, Panganiban and Purisima, JJ., concur.

Separate Opinions


VITUG, J., concurring:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

The questioned sale was concluded on 27 February 1987, before the Family Code took effect; accordingly, the transaction could still be aptly governed by the then governing provisions of the Civil Code. Under this Code, the husband could not alienate or encumber any conjugal real property (acquired by the partnership after the effective date of the Civil Code) without the consent, express or implied, of the wife 1 (Art. 166, Civil Code; Bautista v. Lovina, 98 Phil. 1006, 1956); otherwise, said the Supreme Court in Garcia v. Court of Appeals (130 SCRA 433, 1984), reiterating Tolentino v. Cardenas (123 Phil. 517, 1966), the disposition would be void. I share the view of my colleagues that such a contract, absent the wife’s consent should be considered merely voidable consistently with Article 173 2 of the Civil Code under which provision, the wife could, during the marriage and within 10 years from the questioned transaction, seek its annulment (Felipe v. Heirs of Maximo Aldon, 120 SCRA 628 [1983]; Reyes v. De Leon, 20 SCRA 369 [1967]; see Roxas v. CA, 198 SCRA 541, 1991 which applied Art. 173 to a lease contract). Failing to do so, she or her heirs, after the dissolution of the marriage, could demand the value of the property alienated (Art. 173, Civil Code). It might not be amiss to say that an unauthorized sale by the husband of conjugal real property, not being the administrator thereof, or of the exclusive paraphernal of the wife, not having obtained her prior consent thereto, could be void under the provisions of Article 1874 3 of the Civil Code.

A sale of encumbrance of conjugal (or community) property concluded after the effectivity of the Family Code is governed by an entirely different rule that now treats such a disposition to be void if done without the conjoint consent of the spouses or, in case of a spouse’s inability, the authority of the court (see Art. 124, 4 Family Code). The declaration that the disposition by just one of the spouses is void settles the apparent conflict in some of the rulings during the regime of the 1950 Civil Code, in construing the provisions of said code found in Articles 161, 162, 166, 171 and 173, in relation to Articles 1390, 7403 and 1874, thereof.

The Family Code has also abandoned the 1950 Civil Code concept of having the husband, absent a contrary statement in a marriage settlement or in a public instrument executed by the husband or an order of a court (Arts. 168, 190 and 196, Civil Code), as the statutory administrator of the conjugal partnership of gains (Art. 165, Civil Code) that permitted suits to bind the conjugal partnership even where the wife was not named as a party defendant along with the husband (Stosa, Inc., v. Court of Appeals, 182 SCRA 862). Article 124 of the Family Code, like the rule established in the system of absolute community of property (see Arts. 96-98, Family Code), instead confers the administration and enjoyment 5 of the conjugal property on the spouses jointly. The marriage settlement, however, may provide for the administration of the property to by one of the spouses, the provisions of the Family Code on conjugal partnership of gain being merely suppletory thereto. In case of disagreement in the joint administration and enjoyment of the partnership property, the husband’s decision shall prevail but the wife may avail herself of the "proper remedy" in court "within five years from the date of the contract implementing the decision." chanrobles law library

Endnotes:



1. Penned by Assaali S. Isnani; Corona Ibay Somera and Celia Lipana Reyes, concurring.

2. Rollo, p. 50.

3. Ibid., pp. 48-49.

4. Exhibit I.

5. Exhibit B.

6. Exhibit C.

7. Exhibit D.

8. Rollo, pp. 18-19.

9. Ibid., pp. 24-25.

10. Ibid., pp. 10-13.

11. Civil Code, art. 165.

12. Id., art. 166 provides —

Unless the wife has been declared non compos mentis or a spendthrift, or is under civil interdiction or is confined in a leprosarium, the husband cannot alienate or encumber any real property of the conjugal partnership without the wife’s consent. If she refuses unreasonably to give her consent, the court may compel her to grant the same.

This article shall not apply to property acquired by the conjugal partnership before the effective date of this Code.

13. See id., arts. 171, 161 and 162.

14. Felipe v. Heirs of Maximo Aldon, 120 SCRA 628 (1983); Reyes v. De Leon, 20 SCRA 369 (1967). However, in Garcia v. Court of Appeal, 130 SCRA 433 (1984) and Tolentino v. Cardenas, 123 Phil 517 (1966), it was held that, pursuant to article 166 of the Civil Code, a sale made by the husband without the wife’s consent is void.

15. Felipe v. Heirs of Maximo Aldon, ibid.

16. Director of Lands v. Court of Appeals, 276 SCRA 276 (1997).

17. Family Code, art. 126.

18. Olizon v. Court of Appeals, 236 SCRA 148 (1994).

19. Pena, Pena, Pena, Registration of Land Titles and Deeds (1994), p. 9.

VITUG J., concurring:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

1. If she refuses unreasonably to give such consent, the court may compel her to grant the same. The consent of the wife would not be required if she has been declared a non-compos mentis or a spendthrift or is under civil interdiction or confined in a leprosarium (Art. 166, Civil Code), or if the conveyance is for the purpose of discharging any of the obligations of the conjugal partnership under Arts. 161 and 162, in relation to Art. 171 (see Tinitigan v. Tinitigan, 100 SCRA 619, 1980).

2. ART. 173. The wife may, during the marriage, and within ten years from the transaction questioned, ask the courts for the annulment of any contract of the husband entered into without her consent, when such consent is required, or any act or contract of the husband which tends to defraud her or impair her interest in the conjugal partnership property. Should the wife fail to exercise this right, she or her heirs, after the dissolution of the marriage, may demand the value of property fraudulently alienated by the husband. (n)

3. ART. 1874. When a sale of a piece of land or any interest therein is through an agent, the authority of the latter shall be in writing; otherwise, the sale shall be void. (n)

4. ART. 124. The administration and enjoyment of the conjugal partnership property shall belong to both spouses jointly. In case of disagreement, the husband’s decision shall prevail, subject to recourse to the court by the wife for proper remedy, which must be availed of within five years from the date of the contract implementing such decision.

In the event that one spouse is incapacitated or otherwise unable to participate in the administration of the conjugal properties, the other spouse may assume sole powers of administration. These powers do not include the powers of disposition or encumbrance which must have the authority of the court or the written consent of the other spouse. In the absence of such authority or consent, the disposition or encumbrance shall be void. However, the transaction shall be construed as a continuing offer on the part of the consenting spouse and the third person, and may be perfected as a binding contract upon the acceptance by the other spouse or authorization by the court before the offer is withdrawn by either or both offerors. (165a)

5. The terms "administration and enjoyment" do not encompass the sale or encumbrance of property per Article 124, 2nd par., supra.




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  • G.R. No. 118647 September 23, 1998 - CONSOLIDATED FOOD CORP., ET AL. v. NLRC, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 130460 September 23, 1998 - HERMINIO A. SIASOCO, ET AL. v. JANUARIO N. NARVAJA

  • G.R. No. 135042 September 23, 1998 - ROBERN DEVELOPMENT CORP. v. JESUS V. QUITAIN

  • G.R. No. 135716 September 23, 1998 - FERDINAND TRINIDAD v. COMELEC, ET AL.

  • G.R. Nos. 114299 & 118862 September 24, 1998 - TRADERS ROYAL BANK v. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 128874 September 24, 1998 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. SAMSON B. BRAGAS

  • G.R. No. 116599 September 27, 1998 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. DOMINGO PAGPAGUITAN, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 129304 September 27, 1998 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. AVA MA. VICTORIA CARIQUEZ

  • G.R. No. 135691 September 27, 1998 - EMMANUEL SINACA v. MIGUEL MULA, ET AL.

  • G.R. Nos. 105954-55 September 28, 1998 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. IRENEO FAJARDO

  • G.R. No. 114323 September 28, 1998 - OIL AND NATURAL GAS COMMISSION v. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 126152 September 28, 1998 - PNB v. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 128806 September 28, 1998 - KAMS INTERNATIONAL INC, ET AL.. v. NLRC, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 130632 September 28, 1998 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. NATY CHUA

  • G.R. No. 131621 September 28, 1998 - LOADSTAR SHIPPING CO. v. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 132324 September 28, 1998 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. NORLITO TAN, and JOSE TAN

  • G.R. No. 136294 September 28, 1998 - MARIA G. BALUYUT, ET AL. v. RODOLFO GUIAO, ET AL.

  • A.C. No. 4017 September 29, 1998 - GATCHALIAN PROMOTIONS TALENTS POOL v. PRIMO R. NALDOZA

  • A.C. No. 5141 September 29, 1998 - PRISCILA L. TOLEDO v. ERLINDA ABALOS

  • A.M. No. CA-99-30 September 29, 1998 - UNITED BF HOMEOWNERS v. ANGELINA SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ, ET AL.

  • A.M. No. MTJ-94-904 September 29, 1998 - JOSEPHINE C. MARTINEZ v. CESAR N. ZOLETA

  • G.R. No. 105374 September 29, 1998 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. MAXIMO (DAGIT) RABANG, JR.

  • G.R. No. 124736 September 29, 1998 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. ROMEO GALLO

  • G.R. No. 125330 September 29, 1998 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. GODOFREDO TAHOP

  • G.R. No. 128157 September 29, 1998 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. MANUEL MANAHAN

  • G.R. No. 132878 September 29, 1998 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. EDUARDO GUTIERREZ

  • G.R. No. 137793 September 29, 1998 - NILO H. RAYMUNDO v. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 139281 September 29, 1998 - ROMUALDO SUAREZ v. ARSENIO SALAZAR

  • A.M. No. MTJ-99-1209 September 30, 1998 - FLAVIANO G. ARQUERO v. TERTULO A. MENDOZA

  • G.R. No. 105327 September 30, 1998 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. JUANITO QUINAGORAN

  • G.R. No. 108135-36 September 30, 1998 - POTENCIANA M. EVANGELISTA v. PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 111915 September 30, 1998 - HEIRS OF FERNANDO VINZONS v. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 113070 September 30, 1998 - PAMPIO A. ABARINTOS, ET AL. v. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 113781 September 30, 1998 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL v. VERGILIO REYES

  • G.R. No. 120235 September 30, 1998 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. ALEX DE LOS SANTOS

  • G.R. No. 121324 September 30, 1998 - PEPSI-COLA PRODUCTS PHIL INC. v. NLRC, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 122269 September 30, 1998 - REPUBLIC OF THE PHIL. v. COURT OF APPEALS, Et. Al.

  • G.R. Nos. 127173-74 September 30, 1998 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. FRENETO CERVETO

  • G.R. No. 127608 September 30, 1998 - GUADALUPE S. REYES v. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 128129 September 30, 1998 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. TUNDAGUI GAYOMMA

  • G.R. No. 128862 September 30, 1998 - ESTRELLA REAL ESTATE CORP. v. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 130425 September 30, 1998 - ANTONIO C. CAÑETE JR. v. NLRC, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 131166 September 30, 1998 - CALTEX (PHIL.) v. SULPICIO LINES, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 132480 September 30, 1998 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. RANDY RAQUIÑO

  • G.R. No. 135451 September 30, 1998 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. DANILO F. SERRANO, SR.

  • G.R. No. 135996 September 30, 1998 - EMILIANO R. "BOY" CARUNCHO III v. COMELEC, ET AL.