G.R. No. 175994 - Jesus Campos and Rosemarie Campos-Bautista v. Nenita Buevinida Pastrana, et al.
[G.R. NO. 175994 : December 8, 2009]
JESUS CAMPOS and ROSEMARIE CAMPOS-BAUTISTA, Petitioners, v. NENITA BUENVENIDA PASTRANA, ROGER BUENVENIDA, SONIA BUENVENIDA,TEDDY BUENVENIDA, VICTOR BUENVENIDA, HARRY BUENVENIDA, MILDRED BUENVENIDA, MANOLITO BUENVENIDA and DAISY BUENVENIDA, represented by their Attorney-in-Fact CARLITO BUENVENIDA,***Respondents.
D E C I S I O N
DEL CASTILLO, J.:
It sometimes happens that a creditor, after securing a judgment against a debtor, finds that the debtor had transferred all his properties to another leaving nothing to satisfy the obligation to the creditor. In this Petition for Review on Certiorari, 1 petitioners ask us to set aside the November 23, 2005 Decision2 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CV No. 68731 declaring as null the sale of several parcels of land made by their parents in their favor, for being absolutely simulated transactions. Also assailed is the November 21, 2006 Resolution.3
This is the third case between essentially the same parties and the second among those cases to reach this Court on appeal, spanning a period of close to three decades.
The first case arose from the refusal of Carlito Campos (Carlito), the father of herein petitioners, to surrender the possession of a fishpond he leased from respondents' mother, Salvacion Buenvenida, despite the expiration of their contract of lease in 1980. Alleging that he was an agricultural lessee, Carlito filed an agrarian case docketed as CAR Case No. 1196 (Agrarian Case) against his lessor. After trial, the Regional Trial Court of Roxas City, Branch 14, found that Carlito was not an agricultural tenant. He then appealed to the CA and subsequently to this Court, but was unsuccessful.
While the appeal in the Agrarian Case was pending before the CA, herein respondents filed the second case, Civil Case No. V-5417, against Carlito for Recovery of Possession and Damages with Preliminary Mandatory Injunction (Possession Case) involving the same fishpond subject of the earlier agrarian case. On November 27, 1990, the Regional Trial Court of Roxas City, Branch 16, rendered a Decision4 finding Carlito to have retained possession of the fishpond notwithstanding the expiration of the contract of lease and ordering him to pay rentals, the value of the produce and damages to the herein respondents. The Decision became final and executory and a Writ of Execution5 was issued on February 7, 1995. Subsequently, on September 19, 1995, an Alias Writ of Execution6 was also issued. Both were returned unsatisfied as per Sheriff's Return of Service dated November 14, 1995.
During the pendency of the Agrarian Case, as well as prior to the filing of the Possession Case, Carlito was the registered owner of the following properties:
1. Residential Lots 3715-A and 3715-B-2 covered by Transfer Certificates of Title Nos. 182057 and 18417,8 respectively and
2. Agricultural Lots 850 and 852 covered by Original Certificates of Title
Nos. P-91999 and P-9200,10 respectively.
When the respondents were about to levy these properties to satisfy the judgment in the Possession Case, they discovered that spouses Carlito and Margarita Campos transferred these lots to their children Rosemarie and Jesus Campos, herein petitioners, by virtue of Deeds of Absolute Sale dated October 18, 198511 and November 2, 1988.12 Specifically, spouses Campos sold the residential lots (Lots 3715-A and 3715-B-2), with a total area of 1,393 square meters, to their daughter Rosemarie for
P7,000.00 and the agricultural lots (Lots 850 and 852) with a combined area of 7,972 square meters, to their son Jesus for P5,600.00.
Proceedings before the Regional Trial Court '
Civil Case No. V-7028
On February 18, 1997, respondents instituted the third case, Civil Case No.
V-7028 (Nullity of Sale Case),13 subject of this appeal, seeking to declare as null the aforesaid deeds of sale and the transfer certificates of title issued pursuant thereto. They alleged that the contracts of sale between spouses Campos and petitioners were simulated for the sole purpose of evading the levy of the abovementioned properties in satisfaction of a money judgment that might be rendered in the Possession Case.
In their Answer with Counterclaim,14 spouses Campos and petitioners averred that Rosemarie and Jesus Campos acquired the lots in question in good faith and for value because they were sold to them before they had any notice of the claims or interests of other persons thereover.
On August 21, 2000, the Regional Trial Court of Roxas City, Branch 14, dismissed the complaint.15 It held that -
In the Resolution of this case the issue is whether or not the spouses Carlito Campos and Margarita Arduo, sensing that an unfavorable judgment might be rendered against them in Civil Case No. V-5417 filed in Branch 16 on July 17, 1987 by the same plaintiffs for Recovery of Possession and Damages with Preliminary Mandatory Injunction, in evident bad faith and wanton disregard of the law, maliciously and fraudulently, executed a purely fictitious and simulated sale of their properties thereby ceding and transferring their ownership thereto to their children Rosemarie Campos-Bautista and Jesus Campos.
A close scrutiny of the defendants' documentary exhibits and testimonies showed that as early as 1981 defendant Jesus Campos was already leasing a fishpond in Brgy. Majanlud, Sapi-an, Capiz from Victorino Jumpay and defendant Rosemarie Campos was engaged in the sari-sari store business starting 1985 so that they were able to purchase the properties of their parents out of their profits derived therefrom.
The Deed of Absolute Sale (Exh. "6" & "10") executed by the spouses Carlito Campos and Margarita Arduo to Rosemarie Campos and Jesus Campos were dated October 17, 1985 and November 2, 1988, respectively.
It can readily [be] gleaned from the records that Civil Case No. V-5417 was filed on July 7, 1987 and was decided on November 27, 1990. Furthermore, the alias writ of execution was issued only on July 5, 1995 for which the Sheriff's Return of Service was returned unsatisfied on November 14, 1995.
WHEREFORE, the complaint of the plaintiffs against the defendants is DISMISSED. Their claim for damages is likewise DISMISSED. The counter-claim of the defendants must also be DISMISSED as the case was not filed in evident bad faith and with malicious intent.
Proceedings before the Court of Appeals
Upon review of the evidence presented, the CA found that the conveyances were made in 1990, and not in 1985 or 1988, or just before their actual registration with the Registry of Deeds, evidently to avoid the properties from being attached or levied upon by the respondents. The CA likewise noted that the zonal value of the subject properties were much higher than the value for which they were actually sold. The appellate court further observed that despite the sales, spouses Campos retained possession of the properties in question. Finally, the CA took note of the fact that the writ of execution and alias writ issued in the Possession Case remained unsatisfied as the lower court could not find any other property owned by the spouses Campos that could be levied upon to satisfy its judgment, except the parcels of land subject of the assailed transactions.
On these bases, the CA ruled that the assailed contracts of sale were indeed absolutely simulated transactions and declared the same to be void ab initio. The dispositive portion of the Decision of the CA reads:
WHEREFORE, the instant appeal is GRANTED. The decision of the Regional Trial Court of Roxas City, Branch 14, dated August 21, 2000 in Civil Case No. V-7028 is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Let a copy of this Decision be furnished to the Register of Deeds of the Province of Capiz who is hereby ordered to cancel Transfer Certificates of Title Nos. T-26092 and T-26093 in the name of Rosemarie Campos, and Transfer Certificates of Title Nos. T-23248 and 23249 in the name of Jesus Campos and restore said titles in the name of the previous owner, Carlito Campos.
Only petitioners moved for reconsideration17 but the CA denied the same.18
Hence, this Petition for Review on Certiorari raising the following errors:
THE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED AN ERROR OF LAW IN APPLYING ARTICLE 1409, CIVIL CODE, INSTEAD OF ARTIcLE 1381 (3), CIVIL CODE, AND IN SPECULATING THAT A CAUSE OF ACTION OF SUPPOSED SALE IN FRAUD OF CREDITORS EXISTS DESPITE NON-EXHAUSTION OF REMEDIES TO ENFORCE THE JUDGMENT IN CIVIL CASE NO. V-5417.
THE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED AN ERROR OF LAW OVERLOOKING THAT THE CAUSE OF ACTION HAD PRESCRIBED, THE COMPLAINT HAVING BEEN FILED AFTER SEVEN (7) YEARS OR ONLY ON 14 OCTOBER 1997, FROM THE TIME THE TITLES WERE ISSUED IN 1990.
THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRONEOUSLY ANCHORED ITS IMPUGNED JUDGMENT ON MISAPPREHENSION OF FACTS THAT THE SALE WERE ANTEDATED, HENCE SIMULATED DESPITE GLARING ABSENCE OF EVIDENCE IN SUPPORT THEREOF.
THE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION IN CASTING ASIDE OVERWHELMING EVIDENCE DULY APPRECIATED BY THE TRIAL COURT THAT PETITIONERS ARE BUYERS IN GOOD FAITH AND FOR VALUE, WHO EXERCISED DOMINION OVER THE SUBJECT LOTS, WHICH IF PROPERLY CONSIDERED, SHALL WARRANT THE SINGULAR CONCLUSION THAT THE SALE AND TRANSFER OF TITLES ARE VALID.19
Petitioners assail the application of Article 140920 of the Civil Code on void
contracts as against Article 1381(3)21 of the Civil Code on rescissible contracts in fraud of creditors, considering that the questioned conveyances executed by the spouses Campos to their children were allegedly done to evade the enforcement of the writ of execution in the Possession Case.22 In addition, petitioners allege that the CA misappreciated the facts of this case when it found that the questioned transactions were tainted with badges of fraud.23
Respondents argue that the application of Article 1409 on void contracts was a natural and logical consequence of the CA's finding that subject deeds of sale were absolutely simulated and fictitious, consistent with the nature of the respondents' cause of action which was for declaration of nullity of said contracts and the transfer certificates of titles issued pursuant thereto.24 Respondents also stressed that the CA's finding is conclusive upon us and that only questions of law may be raised in a Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court.25
The petition lacks merit.
Well-settled is the rule that this Court is not a trier of facts. When supported by substantial evidence, the findings of fact of the CA are conclusive and binding, and are not reviewable by this Court, unless the case falls under any of the following recognized exceptions:
(1) When the conclusion is a finding grounded entirely on speculation, surmises and conjectures;
(2) When the inference made is manifestly mistaken, absurd or impossible;
(3) Where there is a grave abuse of discretion;
(4) When the judgment is based on a misappreciation of facts;
(5) When the findings of fact are conflicting;
(6) When the CA in making its findings, went beyond the issues of the case and the same is contrary to the admissions of both appellant and appellee;
(7) When the findings are contrary to those of the trial court;
(8) When the findings of fact are conclusions without citation of specific evidence on which they are based;
(9) When the facts set forth in the petition as well as in the petitioners' main and reply briefs are not disputed by the respondents; andcralawlibrary
(10) When the findings of fact of the CA are premised on the supposed absence of evidence and contradicted by the evidence on record.
None of these exceptions is present in this case. We find that the Decision of the CA is supported by the required quantum of evidence.
The subject Deeds of Absolute Sale executed by the Spouses Campos to their children (herein petitioners) are absolutely simulated and fictitious.
The CA correctly held that the assailed Deeds of Absolute Sale were executed when the Possession Case was already pending, evidently to avoid the properties subject thereof from being attached or levied upon by the respondents. While the sales in question transpired on October 18, 1985 and November 2, 1988, as reflected on the Deeds of Absolute Sale, the same were registered with the Registry of Deeds only on October 25, 1990 and September 25, 1990.
We also agree with the findings of the CA that petitioners failed to explain the reasons for the delay in the registration of the sale, leading the appellate court to conclude that the conveyances were made only in 1990 or sometime just before their actual registration and that the corresponding Deeds of Absolute Sale were antedated. This conclusion is bolstered by the fact that the supposed notary public before whom the deeds of sale were acknowledged had no valid notarial commission at the time of the notarization of said documents.26
Indeed, the Deeds of Absolute Sale were executed for the purpose of putting the lots in question beyond the reach of creditors. First, the Deeds of Absolute Sale were registered exactly one month apart from each other and about another one month from the time of the promulgation of the judgment in the Possession Case. The Deeds of Absolute Sale were antedated and that the same were executed when the Possession Case was already pending.
Second, there was a wide disparity in the alleged consideration specified in the Deeds of Absolute Sale and the actual zonal valuation of the subject properties as per the BIR Certification, as follows: