Sps Tan v. Mandap : 150925 : May 27, 2004 : J. Quisumbing : Second
Division : Decision
[G.R. NO. 150925 : May 27, 2004]
SPOUSES JAMES TAN and
FLORENCETAN, Petitioners, v. CARMINA,
REYNALDO, YOLANDA and ELISA, all surnamed MANDAP, Respondents.
D E C I S I O N
For review on certiorari is the decision1 dated August 10, 2001, of the Court of Appeals, in CA-G.R.
CV No. 59694, which affirmed in toto the decision,2 dated March 25,
1998, of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Manila, Branch 34, in Civil Case No.
89-50263.The trial court declared the
sale of properties between Dionisio Mandap, Sr., and
the spouses Crispulo and Elenita
Vasquez simulated and thus void, and hence, the subsequent sale between the
Vasquez spouses and petitioners herein, the spouses James and Florence Tan,
similarly void.Likewise assailed by the
petitioners is the resolution3 dated November 23, 2001 of the appellate
court, denying their motion for reconsideration.
The pertinent facts, as found by the trial court, are as follows:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
The respondents are the legitimate children of the marriage of
Dionisio Mandap, Sr., and Maria Contreras Mandap.When the Mandap spouses parted ways, their children opted to stay
with Maria.To help support the
children, Maria filed Civil Case No. E-02380 in the former Juvenile and
Domestic Relations Court of Manila for the dissolution and separation of the
Two separate lots, each with an area of 88 square meters covered
by TCT Nos. 44730 and 55847, respectively, located in Felix Huertas
Street, Sta. Cruz, Manila, with improvements thereon, were adjudicated by the
Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court in favor of Dionisio Mandap,
Meanwhile, Dionisio Mandap, Sr., until
his death on October 2, 1991
at age 64, lived with Diorita Dojoles,
with whom he had two children.He
suffered from diabetes since 1931, became totally blind in 1940, and was
crippled for about 10 years until his death.However, before his death on May
25, 1989, he conveyed the subject properties to his common-law
wifes sister, Elenita Dojoles
Vasquez; and her husband, Crispulo Vasquez.As a result of this sale, TCT Nos. 44730 and
55847 were cancelled and TCT Nos. 186748 and 186749 covering the subject
properties were issued in the name of Elenita Vasquez
married to Crispulo Vasquez.
On September 11, 1989,
the Vasquez spouses conveyed the parcel of land covered by TCT No. 186748 in
favor of petitioners.TCT No. 188862
covering the subject lot was then issued in favor of the latter.
On September 5, 1989,
prior to the sale to Petitioners, the respondents filed an action for
cancellation of title with damages, before the RTC of Manila against Diorita Dojoles and the Vasquez
spouses, alleging that the sale of subject properties by their father was
fictitious, and without any consideration.Further, the consent of their father was vitiated due to his physical
infirmities.The action was docketed as
Civil Case No. 89-50263.
On February 15, 1991,
respondents filed a supplemental complaint, this time against the spouses Tan,
for the nullification of the sale to the latter of subject lot.
On March 25, 1998, the trial court decided Civil Case No.
89-50263 in favor of the herein respondents.The decretal part of its judgment reads as follows:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
WHEREFORE, premises considered judgment is hereby rendered as
IN CIVIL CASE NO. 89-50263
1.Declaring the Deeds of Sale
(Exh. A and A-1; B and B-1) both dated May 25, 1989 executed in favor
of Elenita Vasquez married to Crispulo
Vasquez as null and void and of no legal force and effect whatsoever;chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
2.Ordering the Register of Deeds of Manila
to cancel TCT No. 186748 (Exh. K to K-2) and TCT No. 186749 (Exh. L and
L-1) registered in the name of Elenita Vasquez
married to Crispulo Vasquez having been issued thru a
void and inexistent contract; further ordering the reconveyance of said title
to the Estate of Dionisio Mandap, Sr.;chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
3.Ordering the plaintiffs or the Estate of
Dionisio Mandap, Sr., to reimburse or return the sum
P570,000.00 representing the purchase price of the subject lot, plus
legal rate of interest starting from the rendition of this decision until fully
4.Ordering the defendants Spouses Crispulo and Elenita Vasquez and Diorita Dojoles to jointly and
severally reimburse or return the fruits or earnings in the mentioned lots in
the form of rentals which is hereby fixed at
P10,000.00 per month from
the date this complaint was filed until defendants restore and/or surrender the
subject premises to the Estate of Dionisio Mandap,
5.Ordering the defendants Spouses Crispulo and Elenita Vasquez and Diorita Dojoles to pay attorneys
fees in the amount of
P50,000.00 and to pay the costs of this suit.
IN THE SUPPLEMENTAL
COMPLAINT AGAINST SPOUSES JAMES AND FLORENCE
1.Declaring the Deed of Sale dated September 11, 1989 (Exh. Q and 7,
Tan) executed by Elenita Vasquez married to Crispulo Vasquez as null and void and of no force and
effect whatsoever, the vendor having no valid title to dispose of the same;chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
2.Ordering the Register of Deeds of Manila
to cancel TCT No. 188862 issued in the name of James Tan, the source of which
having been declared null and void;chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
3.Ordering Spouses Crispulo
and Elenita Vasquez to return the sum of
representing the purchase price of the lot covered by TCT No. 188862 with legal
rate of interest from the date of this decision;chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
4.Ordering defendants James and Florence
Tan to jointly and severally pay the sum of
P15,000.00 as and for
IN BOTH CASES THE COUNTERCLAIMS INTERPOSED BY THE DEFENDANTS ARE
DISMISSED FOR LACK OF MERIT.
SO ORDERED.4 cralawred
From the above judgment, petitioners appealed to the Court of
Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 59694 on the ground that
the trial court erred in not declaring them to be buyers in good faith and in
not sustaining the validity of their title, TCT No. 188862.
In its decision dated August
10, 2001, the Court of Appeals found the appeal bereft of merit and
affirmed in toto the lower court decision, thus:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
WHEREFORE, the appeals interposed by appellants Dojoles,
Sps. Vasquez and Sps. James
and Florence Tan is without merit; the Decision of the lower court dated March
25, 1998 is AFFIRMED in toto
Costs against Appellants.
SO ORDERED.5 cralawred
Petitioners seasonably moved for reconsideration, but it was
denied by the appellate court.
Hence, this Petition for Review , submitting the following issues
for our resolution:
WHETHER OR NOT PETITIONERS HAVE THE LEGAL
PERSONALITY TO BRING THE INSTANT PETITION.
WHETHER OR NOT THE SALE
BETWEEN MANDAP SR. AND THE VASQUEZES
WHETHER OR NOT THE SALE
BETWEEN THE VASQUEZES AND PETITIONERS IS VALID.
WHETHER OR NOT THE AWARD OF ATTORNEYS
[FEES] HAS LEGAL BASIS.6 cralawred
Anent the first issue, the petitioners submit that having
been made parties-defendants by respondents via the supplemental complaint in
Civil Case No. 89-50263, they have the right to appeal to this Court the
adverse ruling of the appellate court against them, even if their co-defendants
did not appeal the said ruling of the Court of Appeals.
Respondents counter that petitioners have no legal personality to
appeal the decision of the appellate court voiding the sale between Dionisio Mandap, Sr., and the Vasquez spouses.They contend that inasmuch as the latter did
not appeal the questioned decision, it had become final and executory.Respondents contend that Petitioners, not
being privy to said sale, cannot invoke its validity.
We find for petitioners on this issue.The trial court voided the petitioners sale
of subject lot, and on appeal that decision was affirmed by the Court of
Appeals.Hence, as aggrieved parties, petitioners
may elevate to the Supreme Court the controversy within the prescriptive period
for appeal.7 They possess locus standi, or legal personality, to seek a review by
this Court of the decision by the appellate court which they assail.Note that while petitioners elevated the
trial courts decision to the appellate court, their co-defendants in Civil
Case No. 89-50263 did not do so.Thus,
the trial courts decision became final and executory only as to petitioners
co-defendants in the trial court who did not appeal, namely Diorita
Dojoles and the Vasquez spouses.
With regard to the second issue, the petitioners insist
the essential requisites of a contract of sale have been satisfied, namely, (1)
consent of the contracting parties, (2) object certain, and (3) cause or
consideration therefor.They have been
satisfied first in the sale by Mandap, Sr., of the
lots to the Vasquez spouses and subsequently, in the sale by the Vasquezes to petitioners.Hence, petitioners contend that it was error for the appellate court to
declare the sale to them of the subject lot null and void.
After careful consideration of the submission of the parties, we
find in favor of respondents.Petitioners contentions lack merit.
At the time Dionisio Mandap, Sr.,
purportedly sold the lots in question to the Vasquez spouses, he was already
totally blind and paralyzed.He could
not possibly have read the contents of the deeds of sale.He could not have consented to a contract
whose terms he never knew nor understood.It cannot be presumed Mandap, Sr., knew the
contents of the deeds of sale disposing of his properties.Article 1332 of the Civil Code is applicable
in these circumstances, to wit:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
ART. 1332.When one of the
parties is unable to read, or if the contract is in a language not understood
by him, and mistake or fraud is alleged, the person enforcing the contract must
show that the terms thereof have been fully explained to the former.
As the party seeking to enforce the contract, the petitioners
should have presented evidence showing that the terms of the deeds of sale to
the Vasquez spouses were fully explained to Mandap,
Sr.But petitioners failed to comply
with the strict requirements of Article 1332, thereby casting doubt on the
alleged consent of the vendor.Since the
vendor in this case was totally blind and crippled at the time of the sale,
entirely dependent on outside support, every care to protect his interest
conformably with Article 24 of the Civil Code must be taken.Article 24 is clear on this.
ART. 24. In all contractual, property or other relations, when one
of the parties is at a disadvantage on account of his moral dependence,
ignorance, indigence, mental weakness, tender age or other handicap, the courts
must be vigilant for his protection.
Petitioners presented no evidence disproving that (1) Mandap, Sr. was totally blind and suffering from acute
diabetes such that he could no longer discern the legal consequences of his
acts, and (2) that undue influence was exerted upon him, which vitiated his consent.
It is true that he who alleges a fact bears the burden of proving
it.However, since fraud and undue
influence are alleged by respondents, the burden shifts8 to petitioners to
prove that the contents of the contract were fully explained to Mandap, Sr.Nothing,
however, appears on record to show that this requirement was complied
with.Thus, the presumption of fraud and
undue influence was not rebutted.
More important, evidence on record, in our view, prove the
existence of fraud.On August 1, 1990, commissioners
appointed by the lower court conducted an ocular inspection concerning the
physical condition of Mandap, Sr.He stated on that occasion that he received
as first payment, another P550,000 as second payment, and P1,550,000
the remaining balance of the total selling price of what was loaned to the
vendees.However, in the deeds of sale
covering the subject properties, the prices indicated were P250,000 and P320,000,
respectively or a total of only P570,000.This inconsistency in the amount of the
consideration is unexplained.They point
to fraud in the sale of the subject properties, to the prejudice of Mandap, Sr.
Petitioners do not dispute the fact that the notary public who
notarized the deeds of sale was not duly commissioned.But they contend the deeds validity were not
affected.However, it bears stressing
that even an apparently valid notarization of a document does not guarantee its
validity.9 The crucial point here is that while Mandap, Sr.,
testified that he executed the deeds of sale in Las Pias, the said documents
were actually notarized in Manila.Mandap, Sr., did
not personally appear before a notary public.Yet the documents stated the contrary.Such falsity raises doubt regarding the genuineness of the vendors
alleged consent to the deeds of sale.
Petitioners also claim the purchase price was not grossly
inadequate so as to invalidate the sale of subject properties. True, mere
inadequacy of the price does not necessarily void a contract of sale.However, said inadequacy may indicate that
there was a defect in the vendors consent.10 More important, it
must be pointed out that the trial court and the Court of Appeals voided the
sale of the subject properties not because the price was grossly inadequate,
but because the presumptions of fraud and undue influence exerted upon the
vendor had not been overcome by Petitioners, the parties interested in
enforcing the contract.
On the third issue, petitioners argue that since the sale
of subject properties by Mandap, Sr. to the Vasquez
spouses is valid, it follows that the subsequent sale of the property by the
latter to petitioners is also valid.But
this contention cannot be sustained, since we find that based on the evidence
on record, the sale in favor of the Vasquez spouses is void.Hence, it follows that the sale to
petitioners is also void, because petitioners merely stepped into the shoes of
the Vasquez spouses.Since the Vasquezes as sellers had no valid title over the parcel of
land they sold, petitioners as buyers thereof could not claim that the contract
of sale is valid.
On the last issue, petitioners contest the award of
attorneys fees. Indeed, no premium should be placed on the right to litigate, and not every winning party is entitled to an automatic grant of attorneys
fees.11 The party must show that he falls under one of the instances enumerated in
Article 2208 of the Civil Code, to wit:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
ART. 2208. In the absence of stipulation, attorneys fees and
expenses of litigation, other than judicial costs, cannot be recovered, except:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
(11) In any other case where the court deems it just and equitable
that attorneys fees and expenses of litigation should be recovered.
In this particular case, the award of attorneys fees is just and
equitable, considering the circumstances herein.The court a quos order to pay
as attorneys fees does not appear to us unreasonable but just and equitable.
WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby DENIED.The decision of the
Court of Appeals dated August 10, 2001
in CA-G.R. CV No. 59694, which sustained the decision
dated March 25, 1998 of the
Regional Trial Court of Manila, Branch 34, is AFFIRMED.Costs against
Austria-Martinez, Callejo, Sr., and
TINGA, JJ., concur.
Puno, (Chairman), J., on official leave.
1 CA Rollo, pp. 192-200. Penned by
Associate Justice Eugenio S. Labitoria, with Associate Justices Eloy R. Bello, Jr. and Perlita J. Tria
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