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G.R. No. L-16570 March 9, 1922

SMITH, BELL & CO., LTD., Plaintiff-Appellant, vs. VICENTE SOTELO MATTI, Defendant-Appellant.

Ross and Lawrence and Ewald E. Selph for plaintiff-appellant.
Ramon Sotelo for defendant-appellant.


In August, 1918, the plaintiff corporation and the defendant, Mr. Vicente Sotelo, entered into contracts whereby the former obligated itself to sell, and the latter to purchase from it, two steel tanks, for the total price of twenty-one thousand pesos (P21,000), the same to be shipped from New York and delivered at Manila "within three or four months;" two expellers at the price of twenty five thousand pesos (P25,000) each, which were to be shipped from San Francisco in the month of September, 1918, or as soon as possible; and two electric motors at the price of two thousand pesos (P2,000) each, as to the delivery of which stipulation was made, couched in these words: "Approximate delivery within ninety days. - This is not guaranteed."chanrobles virtual law library

The tanks arrived at Manila on the 27th of April, 1919: the expellers on the 26th of October, 1918; and the motors on the 27th of February, 1919.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library

The plaintiff corporation notified the defendant, Mr. Sotelo, of the arrival of these goods, but Mr. Sotelo refused to receive them and to pay the prices stipulated.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library

The plaintiff brought suit against the defendant, based on four separate causes of action, alleging, among other facts, that it immediately notified the defendant of the arrival of the goods, and asked instructions from him as to the delivery thereof, and that the defendant refused to receive any of them and to pay their price. The plaintiff, further, alleged that the expellers and the motors were in good condition. (Amended complaint, pages 16-30, Bill of Exceptions.)chanrobles virtual law library

In their answer, the defendant, Mr. Sotelo, and the intervenor, the Manila Oil Refining and By-Products Co., Inc., denied the plaintiff's allegations as to the shipment of these goods and their arrival at Manila, the notification to the defendant, Mr. Sotelo, the latter's refusal to receive them and pay their price, and the good condition of the expellers and the motors, alleging as special defense that Mr. Sotelo had made the contracts in question as manager of the intervenor, the Manila Oil Refining and By-Products Co., Inc which fact was known to the plaintiff, and that "it was only in May, 1919, that it notified the intervenor that said tanks had arrived, the motors and the expellers having arrived incomplete and long after the date stipulated." As a counterclaim or set-off, they also allege that, as a consequence of the plaintiff's delay in making delivery of the goods, which the intervenor intended to use in the manufacture of cocoanut oil, the intervenor suffered damages in the sums of one hundred sixteen thousand seven hundred eighty-three pesos and ninety-one centavos (P116,783.91) for the nondelivery of the tanks, and twenty-one thousand two hundred and fifty pesos (P21,250) on account of the expellers and the motors not having arrived in due time.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library

The case having been tried, the court below absolved the defendants from the complaint insofar as the tanks and the electric motors were concerned, but rendered judgment against them, ordering them to "receive the aforesaid expellers and pay the plaintiff the sum of fifty thousand pesos (P50,00), the price of the said goods, with legal interest thereon from July 26, 1919, and costs."chanrobles virtual law library

Both parties appeal from this judgment, each assigning several errors in the findings of the lower court.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library

The principal point at issue in this case is whether or not, under the contracts entered into and the circumstances established in the record, the plaintiff has fulfilled, in due time, its obligation to bring the goods in question to Manila. If it has, then it is entitled to the relief prayed for; otherwise, it must be held guilty of delay and liable for the consequences thereof.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library

To solve this question, it is necessary to determine what period was fixed for the delivery of the goods.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library

As regards the tanks, the contracts A and B (pages 61 and 62 of the record) are similar, and in both of them we find this clause:

To be delivered within 3 or 4 months - The promise or indication of shipment carries with it absolutely no obligation on our part - Government regulations, railroad embargoes, lack of vessel space, the exigencies of the requirement of the United States Government, or a number of causes may act to entirely vitiate the indication of shipment as stated. In other words, the order is accepted on the basis of shipment at Mill's convenience, time of shipment being merely an indication of what we hope to accomplish.

In the contract Exhibit C (page 63 of the record), with reference to the expellers, the following stipulation appears:

The following articles, hereinbelow more particularly described, to be shipped at San Francisco within the month of September /18, or as soon as possible. - Two Anderson oil expellers . . . .

And in the contract relative to the motors (Exhibit D, page 64, rec.) the following appears:

Approximate delivery within ninety days. - This is not guaranteed. - This sale is subject to our being able to obtain Priority Certificate, subject to the United States Government requirements and also subject to confirmation of manufactures.

In all these contracts, there is a final clause as follows:

The sellers are not responsible for delays caused by fires, riots on land or on the sea, strikes or other causes known as "Force Majeure" entirely beyond the control of the sellers or their representatives.

Under these stipulations, it cannot be said that any definite date was fixed for the delivery of the goods. As to the tanks, the agreement was that the delivery was to be made "within 3 or 4 months," but that period was subject to the contingencies referred to in a subsequent clause. With regard to the expellers, the contract says "within the month of September, 1918," but to this is added "or as soon as possible." And with reference to the motors, the contract contains this expression, "Approximate delivery within ninety days," but right after this, it is noted that "this is not guaranteed." chanrobles virtual law library

The oral evidence falls short of fixing such period.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library

From the record it appears that these contracts were executed at the time of the world war when there existed rigid restrictions on the export from the United States of articles like the machinery in question, and maritime, as well as railroad, transportation was difficult, which fact was known to the parties; hence clauses were inserted in the contracts, regarding "Government regulations, railroad embargoes, lack of vessel space, the exigencies of the requirements of the United States Government," in connection with the tanks and "Priority Certificate, subject to the United State Government requirements," with respect to the motors. At the time of the execution of the contracts, the parties were not unmindful of the contingency of the United States Government not allowing the export of the goods, nor of the fact that the other foreseen circumstances therein stated might prevent it.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library

Considering these contracts in the light of the civil law, we cannot but conclude that the term which the parties attempted to fix is so uncertain that one cannot tell just whether, as a matter of fact, those articles could be brought to Manila or not. If that is the case, as we think it is, the obligations must be regarded as conditional.

Obligations for the performance of which a day certain has been fixed shall be demandable only when the day arrives.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library

A day certain is understood to be one which must necessarily arrive, even though its date be unknown.

If the uncertainty should consist in the arrival or non-arrival of the day, the obligation is conditional and shall be governed by the rules of the next preceding section. (referring to pure and conditional obligations). (Art. 1125, Civ. Code.)

And as the export of the machinery in question was, as stated in the contract, contingent upon the sellers obtaining certificate of priority and permission of the United States Government, subject to the rules and regulations, as well as to railroad embargoes, then the delivery was subject to a condition the fulfillment of which depended not only upon the effort of the herein plaintiff, but upon the will of third persons who could in no way be compelled to fulfill the condition. In cases like this, which are not expressly provided for, but impliedly covered, by the Civil Code, the obligor will be deemed to have sufficiently performed his part of the obligation, if he has done all that was in his power, even if the condition has not been fulfilled in reality.

In such cases, the decisions prior to the Civil Code have held that the obligee having done all that was in his power, was entitled to enforce performance of the obligation. This performance, which is fictitious - not real - is not expressly authorized by the Code, which limits itself only to declare valid those conditions and the obligation thereby affected; but it is neither disallowed, and the Code being thus silent, the old view can be maintained as a doctrine. (Manresa's commentaries on the Civil Code [1907], vol. 8, page 132.)

The decisions referred to by Mr. Manresa are those rendered by the supreme court of Spain on November 19, 1896, and February 23, 1871.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library

In the former it is held:

First. That when the fulfillment of the conditions does not depend on the will of the obligor, but on that of a third person who can in no way be compelled to carry it out, and it is found by the lower court that the obligor has done all in his power to comply with the obligation, the judgment of the said court, ordering the other party to comply with his part of the contract, is not contrary to the law of contracts, or to Law 1, Tit. I, Book 10, of the "Novísima Recopilación," or Law 12, Tit. 11, of Partida 5, when in the said finding of the lower court, no law or precedent is alleged to have been violated. ( Jurisprudencia Civil published by the directors of the Revista General de Legislacion y Jurisprudencia [1866], vol. 14, page 656.)

In the second decision, the following doctrine is laid down:

Second. That when the fulfillment of the condition does not depend on the will of the obligor, but on that of a third person, who can in no way be compelled to carry it out, the obligor's part of the contract is complied withalf Belisario not having exercised his right of repurchase reserved in the sale of Basilio Borja mentioned in paragraph (13) hereof, the affidavit of Basilio Borja for the consolidacion de dominio was presented for record in the registry of deeds and recorded in the registry on the same date.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library

(32) The Maximo Belisario left a widow, the opponent Adelina Ferrer and three minor children, Vitaliana, Eugenio, and Aureno Belisario as his only heirs.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library

(33) That in the execution and sales thereunder, in which C. H. McClure appears as the judgment creditor, he was represented by the opponent Peter W. Addison, who prepared and had charge of publication of the notices of the various sales and that in none of the sales was the notice published more than twice in a newspaper.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library

The claims of the opponent-appellant Addison have been very fully and ably argued by his counsel but may, we think, be disposed of in comparatively few words. As will be seen from the foregoing statement of facts, he rest his title (1) on the sales under the executions issued in cases Nos. 435, 450, 454, and 499 of the court of the justice of the peace of Dagupan with the priority of inscription of the last two sales in the registry of deeds, and (2) on a purchase from the Director of Lands after the land in question had been forfeited to the Government for non-payment of taxes under Act No. 1791.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library

The sheriff's sales under the execution mentioned are fatally defective for what of sufficient publication of the notice of sale. Section 454 of the Code of civil Procedure reads in part as follows: chanrobles virtual law library

SEC. 454. Before the sale of property on execution, notice thereof must be given, as follows: chanrobles virtual law library

1. In case of perishable property, by posing written notice of the time and place of the sale in three public places of the municipality or city where the sale is to take place, for such time as may be reasonable, considering the character and condition of the property; chanrobles virtual law library

2. * * * * * * * chanrobles virtual law library

3. In cases of real property, by posting a similar notice particularly describing the property, for twenty days in three public places of the municipality or city where the property is situated, and also where the property is to be sold, and publishing a copy thereof once a week, for the same period, in some newspaper published or having general circulation in the province, if there be one. If there are newspaper published in the province in both the Spanish and English languages, then a like publication for a like period shall be made in one newspaper published in the Spanish language, and in one published in the English language: Provided, however, That such publication in a newspaper will not be required when the assessed valuation of the property does not exceed four hundred pesos; chanrobles virtual law library

4. * * * * * * *

Examining the record, we find that in cases Nos. 435 and 450 the sales took place on October 14, 1916; the notice first published gave the date of the sale as October 15th, but upon discovering that October 15th was a Sunday, the date was changed to October 14th. The correct notice was published twice in a local newspaper, the first publication was made on October 7th and the second and last on October 14th, the date of the sale itself. The newspaper is a weekly periodical published every Saturday afternoon.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library

In case No. 454 there were only two publications of the notice in a newspaper, the first publication being made only fourteen days before the date of the sale. In case No. 499, there were also only two publications, the first of which was made thirteen days before the sale. In the last case the sale was advertised for the hours of from 8:30 in the morning until 4:30 in the afternoon, in violation of section 457 of the Code of Civil Procedure. In cases Nos. 435 and 450 the hours advertised were from 9:00 in the morning until 4.30 in the afternoon. In all of the cases the notices of the sale were prepared by the judgment creditor or his agent, who also took charged of the publication of such notices.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library

In the case of Campomanes vs. Bartolome and Germann & Co. (38 Phil., 808), this court held that if a sheriff sells without the notice prescribe by the Code of Civil Procedure induced thereto by the judgment creditor and the purchaser at the sale is the judgment creditor, the sale is absolutely void and not title passes. This must now be regarded as the settled doctrine in this jurisdiction whatever the rule may be elsewhere.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library

It appears affirmatively from the evidence in the present case that there is a newspaper published in the province where the sale in question took place and that the assessed valuation of the property disposed of at each sale exceeded P400. Comparing the requirements of section 454, supra, with what was actually done, it is self-evident that notices of the sales mentioned were not given as prescribed by the statute and taking into consideration that in connection with these sales the appellant Addison was either the judgment creditor or else occupied a position analogous to that of a judgment creditor, the sales must be held invalid.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library

The conveyance or reconveyance of the land from the Director of Lands is equally invalid. The provisions of Act No. 1791 pertinent to the purchase or repurchase of land confiscated for non-payment of taxes are found in section 19 of the Act and read:

. . . In case such redemption be not made within the time above specified the Government of the Philippine Islands shall have an absolute, indefeasible title to said real property. Upon the expiration of the said ninety days, if redemption be not made, the provincial treasurer shall immediately notify the Director of Lands of the forfeiture and furnish him with a description of the property, and said Director of Lands shall have full control and custody thereof to lease or sell the same or any portion thereof in the same manner as other public lands are leased or sold: Provided, That the original owner, or his legal representative, shall have the right to repurchase the entire amount of his said real property, at any time before a sale or contract of sale has been made by the director of Lands to a third party, by paying therefore the whole sum due thereon at the time of ejectment together with a penalty of ten per centum . . . .

The appellant Addison repurchased under the final proviso of the section quoted and was allowed to do so as the successor in interest of the original owner under the execution sale above discussed. As we have seen, he acquired no rights under these sales, was therefore not the successor of the original owner and could only have obtained a valid conveyance of such titles as the Government might have by following the procedure prescribed by the Public Land Act for the sale of public lands. he is entitled to reimbursement for the money paid for the redemption of the land, with interest, but has acquired no title through the redemption.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library

The question of the priority of the record of the sheriff's sales over that of the sale from Belisario to Borja is extensively argued in the briefs, but from our point of view is of no importance; void sheriff's or execution sales cannot be validated through inscription in the Mortgage Law registry.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library

The opposition of Adelina Ferrer must also be overruled. She maintained that the land in question was community property of the marriage of Eulalio Belisario and Paula Ira: that upon the death of Paula Ira inealed from is modified, and the defendant Mr. Vicente Sotelo Matti, sentenced to accept and receive from the plaintiff the tanks, the expellers and the motors in question, and to pay the plaintiff the sum of ninety-six thousand pesos (P96,000), with legal interest thereon from July 17, 1919, the date of the filing of the complaint, until fully paid, and the costs of both instances. So ordered.

Araullo, C.J., Johnson, Street, Malcolm, Avanceña, Villamor, Ostrand, and Johns, JJ., concur.


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