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chanrobles.com - PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS - ON-LINE

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THIRD DIVISION



SHOPPER’S PARADISE REALTY
& DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION,
                  Petitioner,

G.R. No. 148775
January 13, 2004

-versus-




EFREN P. ROQUE,
          Respondent.
 
 
 
D E C I S I O N

VITUG, J.:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

On 23 December 1993, petitioner Shopper’s Paradise Realty & Development Corporation, represented by its president, Veredigno Atienza, entered into a twenty-five year lease with Dr. Felipe C. Roque, now deceased, over a parcel of land, with an area of two thousand and thirty six (2,036) square meters, situated at Plaza Novaliches, Quezon City, covered by Transfer of Certificate of Title (TCT) No. 30591 of the Register of Deeds of Quezon City in the name of Dr. Roque. Petitioner issued to Dr. Roque a check for P250,000.00 by way of "reservation payment." Simultaneously, petitioner and Dr. Roque likewise entered into a memorandum of agreement for the construction, development and operation of a commercial building complex on the property. Conformably with the agreement, petitioner issued a check for another P250,000.00 "downpayment" to Dr. Roque.

The contract of lease and the memorandum of agreement, both notarized, were to be annotated on TCT No. 30591 within sixty (60) days from 23 December 1993 or until 23 February 1994. The annotations, however, were never made because of the untimely demise of Dr. Felipe C. Roque. The death of Dr. Roque on 10 February 1994 constrained petitioner to deal with respondent Efren P. Roque, one of the surviving children of the late Dr. Roque, but the negotiations broke down due to some disagreements. In a letter, dated 3 November 1994, respondent advised petitioner "to desist from any attempt to enforce the aforementioned contract of lease and memorandum of agreement". On 15 February 1995, respondent filed a case for annulment of the contract of lease and the memorandum of agreement, with a prayer for the issuance of a preliminary injunction, before Branch 222 of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City. Efren P. Roque alleged that he had long been the absolute owner of the subject property by virtue of a deed of donation inter vivos executed in his favor by his parents, Dr. Felipe Roque and Elisa Roque, on 26 December 1978, and that the late Dr. Felipe Roque had no authority to enter into the assailed agreements with petitioner. The donation was made in a public instrument duly acknowledged by the donor-spouses before a notary public and duly accepted on the same day by respondent before the notary public in the same instrument of donation. The title to the property, however, remained in the name of Dr. Felipe C. Roque, and it was only transferred to and in the name of respondent sixteen years later, or on 11 May 1994, under TCT No. 109754 of the Register of Deeds of Quezon City. Respondent, while he resided in the United States of America, delegated to his father the mere administration of the property. Respondent came to know of the assailed contracts with petitioner only after retiring to the Philippines upon the death of his father.cralaw

On 9 August 1996, the trial court dismissed the complaint of respondent; it explained: chan robles virtual law library

"Ordinarily, a deed of donation need not be registered in order to be valid between the parties. Registration, however, is important in binding third persons. Thus, when Felipe Roque entered into a leased contract with defendant corporation, plaintiff Efren Roque (could) no longer assert the unregistered deed of donation and say that his father, Felipe, was no longer the owner of the subject property at the time the lease on the subject property was agreed upon.cralaw

"The registration of the Deed of Donation after the execution of the lease contract did not affect the latter unless he had knowledge thereof at the time of the registration which plaintiff had not been able to establish. Plaintiff knew very well of the existence of the lease. He, in fact, met with the officers of the defendant corporation at least once before he caused the registration of the deed of donation in his favor and although the lease itself was not registered, it remains valid considering that no third person is involved. Plaintiff cannot be the third person because he is the successor-in-interest of his father, Felipe Roque, the lessor, and it is a rule that contracts take effect not only between the parties themselves but also between their assigns and heirs (Article 1311, Civil Code) and therefore, the lease contract together with the memorandum of agreement would be conclusive on plaintiff Efren Roque. He is bound by the contract even if he did not participate therein. Moreover, the agreements have been perfected and partially executed by the receipt of his father of the downpayment and deposit totaling to P500,000.00." [1]

The Trial court ordered respondent to surrender TCT No. 109754 to the Register of Deeds of Quezon City for the annotation of the questioned Contract of Lease and Memorandum of Agreement.cralaw

On appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed the decision of the trial court and held to be invalid the Contract of Lease and Memorandum of Agreement. While it shared the view expressed by the trial court that a deed of donation would have to be registered in order to bind third persons, the appellate court, however, concluded that petitioner was not a lessee in good faith having had prior knowledge of the donation in favor of respondent, and that such actual knowledge had the effect of registration insofar as petitioner was concerned. The appellate court based its findings largely on the testimony of Veredigno Atienza during cross-examination, viz;

"Q. Aside from these two lots, the first in the name of Ruben Roque and the second, the subject of the construction involved in this case, you said there is another lot which was part of development project?

"A. Yes, this was the main concept of Dr. Roque so that the adjoining properties of his two sons, Ruben and Cesar, will comprise one whole. The other whole property belongs to Cesar. chan robles virtual law library

"Q. You were informed by Dr. Roque that this property was given to his three (3) sons; one to Ruben Roque, the other to Efren, and the other to Cesar Roque?

"A. Yes.cralaw

"Q. You did the inquiry from him, how was this property given to them?

"A. By inheritance.cralaw

"Q. Inheritance in the form of donation?

"A. I mean inheritance.cralaw

"Q. What I am only asking you is, were you told by Dr. Felipe C. Roque at the time of your transaction with him that all these three properties were given to his children by way of donation?

"A. What Architect Biglang-awa told us in his exact word: "Yang mga yan pupunta sa mga anak. Yong kay Ruben pupunta kay Ruben. Yong kay Efren palibhasa nasa America sya, nasa pangalan pa ni Dr. Felipe C. Roque." chan robles virtual law library

"x x x           x x x           x x x

"Q. When was the information supplied to you by Biglang-awa? Before the execution of the Contract of Lease and Memorandum of Agreement?

"A. Yes.cralaw

"Q. That being the case, at the time of the execution of the agreement or soon before, did you have such information confirmed by Dr. Felipe C. Roque himself?

"A. Biglang-awa did it for us.cralaw

"Q. But you yourself did not?

"A. No, because I was doing certain things. We were a team and so Biglang-awa did it for us.cralaw

"Q. So in effect, any information gathered by Biglang-awa was of the same effect as if received by you because you were members of the same team?

"A. Yes." [2]

In the instant petition for review, petitioner seeks a reversal of the decision of the Court of Appeals and the reinstatement of the ruling of the Regional Trial Court; it argues that the presumption of good faith it so enjoys as a party dealing in registered land has not been overturned by the aforequoted testimonial evidence, and that, in any event, respondent is barred by laches and estoppel from denying the contracts.cralaw

The existence, albeit unregistered, of the donation in favor of respondent is undisputed. The trial court and the appellate court have not erred in holding that the non-registration of a deed of donation does not affect its validity. As being itself a mode of acquiring ownership, donation results in an effective transfer of title over the property from the donor to the donee. [3] In donations of immovable property, the law requires for its validity that it should be contained in a public document, specifying therein the property donated and the value of the charges which the donee must satisfy. [4] The Civil Code provides, however, that "titles of ownership, or other rights over immovable property, which are not duly inscribed or annotated in the Registry of Property (now Registry of Land Titles and Deeds) shall not prejudice third persons." [5] It is enough, between the parties to a donation of an immovable property, that the donation be made in a public document but, in order to bind third persons, the donation must be registered in the registry of Property (Registry of Land Titles and Deeds). [6] Consistently, Section 50 of Act No. 496 (Land Registration Act), as so amended by Section 51 of P.D. No. 1529 (Property Registration Decree), states: chan robles virtual law library

"SECTION 51. Conveyance and other dealings by registered owner.- An owner of registered land may convey, mortgage, lease, charge or otherwise deal with the same in accordance with existing laws. He may use such forms of deeds, mortgages, leases or other voluntary instruments as are sufficient in law. But no deed, mortgage, lease, or other voluntary instrument, except a will purporting to convey or affect registered land shall take effect as a conveyance or bind the land, but shall operate only as a contract between the parties and as evidence of authority to the Register of Deeds to make registration.cralaw

"The act of registration shall be the operative act to convey or affect the land insofar as third persons are concerned, and in all cases under this Decree, the registration shall be made in the office of the Register of Deeds for the province or city where the land lies." (Emphasis supplied)

A person dealing with registered land may thus safely rely on the correctness of the certificate of title issued therefore, and he is not required to go beyond the certificate to determine the condition of the property [7] but, where such party has knowledge of a prior existing interest which is unregistered at the time he acquired a right thereto, his knowledge of that prior unregistered interest would have the effect of registration as regards to him. [8]

The appellate court was not without substantial basis when it found petitioner to have had knowledge of the donation at the time it entered into the two agreements with Dr. Roque. During their negotiation, petitioner, through its representatives, was apprised of the fact that the subject property actually belonged to respondent.cralaw

It was not shown that Dr. Felipe C. Roque had been an authorized agent of respondent.cralaw

In a contract of agency, the agent acts in representation or in behalf of another with the consent of the latter. [9] Article 1878 of the Civil Code expresses that a special power of attorney is necessary to lease any real property to another person for more than one year. The lease of real property for more than one year is considered not merely an act of administration but an act of strict dominion or of ownership. A special power of attorney is thus necessary for its execution through an agent.cralaw

The Court cannot accept petitioner’s argument that respondent is guilty of laches. Laches, in its real sense, is the failure or neglect, for an unreasonable and unexplained length of time, to do that which, by exercising due diligence, could or should have been done earlier; it is negligence or omission to assert a right within a reasonable time, warranting a presumption that the party entitled to assert it either has abandoned or declined to assert it. [10] chan robles virtual law library

Respondent learned of the contracts only in February 1994 after the death of his father, and in the same year, during November, he assailed the validity of the agreements. Hardly, could respondent then be said to have neglected to assert his case for unreasonable length of time. chan robles virtual law library

Neither is respondent estopped from repudiating the contracts. The essential elements of estoppel in pais, in relation to the party sought to be estopped, are: 1) a clear conduct amounting to false representation or concealment of material facts or, at least, calculated to convey the impression that the facts are otherwise than, and inconsistent with, those which the party subsequently attempts to assert; 2) an intent or, at least, an expectation, that this conduct shall influence, or be acted upon by, the other party; and 3) the knowledge, actual or constructive, by him of the real facts. [11] With respect to the party claiming the estoppel, the conditions he must satisfy are: 1) lack of knowledge or of the means of knowledge of the truth as to the facts in question; 2) reliance, in good faith, upon the conduct or statements of the party to be estopped; and 3) action or inaction based thereon of such character as to change his position or status calculated to cause him injury or prejudice. It has not been shown that respondent intended to conceal the actual facts concerning the property; more importantly, petitioner has been shown not to be totally unaware of the real ownership of the subject property. chan robles virtual law library

Altogether, there is no cogent reason to reverse the Court of Appeals in its assailed decision. chan robles virtual law library

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED, and the decision of the Court of Appeals declaring the contract of lease and memorandum of agreement entered into between Dr. Felipe C. Roque and Shopper’s Paradise Realty & Development Corporation not to be binding on respondent is AFFIRMED. No costs.cralaw

SO ORDERED.cralaw

Sandoval-Gutierrez, Corona, and Carpio-Morales, JJ., concur.
 


____________________________

Endnotes:
 

[1] Rollo, p. 37. chan robles virtual law library
[2] Rollo, pp. 40-41. chan robles virtual law library
[3] Article 712, New Civil Code.
[4] Article 749, New Civil Code. chan robles virtual law library
[5] Article 709, New Civil Code. chan robles virtual law library
[6] See Gonzales v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 110335, 18 June 2001, 358 SCRA 598.
[7] Santos v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 90380, 13 September 1990, 189 SCRA 550. chan robles virtual law library
[8] Lagandaon v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 102526-31, 21 May 1998, 290 SCRA 330; Fernandez v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 83141, 21 September 1990, 189 SCRA 780.
[9] Article 1868, New Civil Code. chan robles virtual law library
[10] Tolentino, Civil Code of the Philippines, vol. IV, 1990-1991, p. 661.
[11] Kalalo v. Luz, G.R. No. L-27782, 31 July 1970, 34 SCRA 337.