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PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

FIRST DIVISION

[G.R. No. 121200. September 26, 1996.]

GLORIA A. SAMEDRA LACANILAO and PLUTARCO CADURNIGARA, Petitioners, v. COURT OF APPEALS, EUSEBIO C. ENCARNACION and Sps. RAMON and TERESITA A. ACEBO, Respondents.


SYLLABUS


1. REMEDIAL LAW; EVIDENCE; FINDINGS OF FACT OF THE LOWER COURTS; RULE; EXCEPTIONS; CASE AT BAR. — It is readily apparent that petitioners are raising issues of fact in their petition. In a petition for review under Rule 45 only questions of law may be raised and they must be distinctly set forth. The general rule is that findings of fact of the lower courts (including the Court of Appeals) are final and conclusive and will not be reviewed on appeal except (1) when the conclusion is a finding grounded entirely on speculation, surmises or conjectures; (2) when the inference made is manifestly mistaken, absurd or impossible; (3) when there is grave abuse of discretion; (1) when the judgment is based on a misapprehension of facts; and (5) when the Court of Appeals, in making its finding went beyond the issues of the case and the same are contrary to the admission of both appellant and appellee. In the case at bar, the question of law is whether or not. petitioners, on the basis of a verbal contract to sell by Encarnacion, obtained an enforceable rights to buy Encarnacion’s property superior to that of the Acebos who claim the same property by virtue of a deed of absolute sale in their favor executed by Encarnacion.

2. CIVIL LAW; CONTRACTS; SALES; CONTRACT TO SELL; CHARACTERISTICS. — It is well established that where the seller promised to execute a deed of absolute sale upon completion of payment of the purchase price by the buyer, the agreement is a contract to sell. In contracts to sell, where ownership is retained by the seller until payment of the price in full, such payment is a positive suspensive condition, failure of which is not really a breach but an event that prevents the obligation of the vendor to convey title in accordance with Article 1184 of the Civil Code.

3. ID.; EQUITY JURISDICTION OF COURTS OF LAW; CANNOT BE ENFORCED SO AS TO OVERRULE A POSITIVE PROVISION OF LAW. — The Court upholds the findings of the Court of Appeals that private respondent Encarnacion verbally agreed to sell the lot to petitioners for P120,000.00 to be paid on 15 June 1988 and that petitioners failed to pay on said date through no fault of Encarnacion who thereupon proceeded to extrajudicially terminate the oral contract. The Court also notes that while the contract between petitioners and Encarnacion was unenforceable under Article 1403 2(e) of the Civil Code, petitioners were allowed to prove its existence and to demand specific performance because private respondents did not invoke said law in their pleadings and even cross-examined petitioners on the existence of the verbal contract. But assuming arguendo that private respondents waived the operation of the statute of frauds, petitioners still failed to discharge the burden of presenting evidence to prove that they were ready to fulfill the condition (of full payment) imposed on the obligation to sell. This factual matter has been amply resolved by the CA in favor of private respondents and can no longer be disturbed on appeal. The Court is not unmindful of the fact that petitioners have been occupying the lot as lessees for almost three (3) decades. They could have obtained a right of first refusal in their contracts of lease with Encarnacion or could have consigned the purchase price in court when Encarnacion allegedly refused to execute the deed of sale in their favor. This Court, while aware of its equity jurisdiction, is first and foremost, a court of law. Hence, while equity might tilt on the side of the petitioners, the same cannot be enforced so as to overrule a positive provision of law in favor of private respondents.


D E C I S I O N


PADILLA, J.:


This is a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court of the decision * of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 22952 dated 24 July 1995 which affirmed, with modifications, the decision of the trial court dismissing petitioners’ (then plaintiffs) complaint for lack of merit.

The facts are not in dispute:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

Private respondent Eusebio C. Encarnacion (hereinafter, Encarnacion) owned a parcel of residential land in Iriga St., La Loma, Quezon City with an area of 160 square meters. In the 1950s, a house was constructed on a 100 square meter portion of said lot by Deogracia la Torre, with the consent of Encarnacion. The house was eventually bought by Gloria A. S. Lacanilao and her common-law husband, Pablo, where they established their residence. On 12 September 1963, Pablo Lacanilao and Encarnacion entered into a contract of lease over the 100 sq. meter portion occupied by Pablo’s house stipulating a monthly rental of P24.00. Earlier, Encarnacion had also leased the 60 square meter portion of his lot to petitioner Plutarco Cadurnigara.

Since then petitioners Lacanilao and Cadurnigara have been in possession of the lot under contracts of lease with owner Encarnacion and had religiously paid rentals thereon up to November 1988.

In November 1987, Encarnacion offered to sell the lot to Lacanilao and Cadurnigara. After months of negotiation, Encarnacion agreed, by mid-May 1988, to sell the property to petitioners for P120,000.00. Since petitioners were not ready to pay the whole amount, they requested for an extension of one (1) month, or up to 15 June 1988 to pay the contract price and for Encarnacion to execute a Deed of Absolute Sale in their favor. Encarnacion agreed.

Meanwhile, on 11 June 1988, fire hit the Quezon City hall and one of the offices badly burned was that of the Register of Deeds. Consequently, thousands of original copies of certificates of title, Encarnacion’s title included, went into ashes.

Petitioners failed to pay the purchase price of P120,000.00 on 15 June 1988. Thereafter, representatives of Encarnacion offered to sell the property to private respondents Ramon and Teresita Acebo. The latter agreed to buy the property for P145,000.00. The Acebos paid P20,000.00 as earnest money to Encarnacion on 18 August 1988, and paid the balance in full on 15 November 1988. Consequently, Encarnacion executed a Deed of Absolute Sale of the property in their favor. The deed was provisionally recorded in the Entry Book of the Register of Deeds as P.E. Nos. 526-527 dated 25 November 1988 and duly inscribed on the dorsal part of the owners duplicate of Transfer Certificate of Title No. 204536.

On 19 November 1988, the Acebos, through counsel, sent petitioners a notice to vacate informing them about the sale by Encarnacion of the entire property (lot) in their favor.

Aggrieved, petitioners filed a complaint with the barangay for alleged violation of tenant’s right to purchase the lot under Sec. 6, P.D. 1517. After failing to secure any settlement of the controversy, petitioners stopped paying rentals on the lot and filed a complaint before the Regional Trial Court, Branch 66, Quezon City to annul the deed of sale executed by Encarnacion in favor of the Acebos and to compel Encarnacion to execute a deed of sale in their (petitioners) favor.

After trial, the trial court rendered judgment dismissing the complaint, the dispositive part of which reads:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered dismissing the complaint.

On the counterclaim, plaintiffs are hereby ordered jointly and severally:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

a. to pay Eusebio C. Encarnacion the sum of P10,000.00 as moral damages and P5,000.00 as exemplary damages;

b. to pay the spouses Ramon and Teresita Acebo the sum of P10,000.00 as moral damages, and P5,000.00 as exemplary damages;

c. to pay the spouses Acebos the sum of P5,000.00 as and for attorney’s fees." (RTC Branch 86, Q.C. Decision, p. 7; Rollo, p. 16)

The evidence before the trial court show that Encarnacion denied having agreed to sell his property to petitioners. On the other hand, petitioners offered only parole evidence to establish that Encarnacion "verbally agreed to sell the lot in question."cralaw virtua1aw library

Applying Articles 1358 and 1403 No. 2(e) of the Civil Code, the trial court ruled that even assuming arguendo that the parties (Encarnacion and petitioners) entered into a verbal contract to sell, the contract is, however, unenforceable. Hence, there is no basis to annul the deed of sale between Encarnacion and the Acebos.

On appeal, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s decision but deleted the award of damages and attorney’s fees in favor of private respondents.

In their petition at bar, petitioners allege that the Court of Appeals erred:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

I


". . . WHEN IT FAILED TO HOLD THE DEFENDANTS SPOUSES ACEBO WERE NOT IN GOOD FAITH WHEN THEY BOUGHT THE PROPERTY BEING FULLY AWARE PLAINTIFFS HAVE SUBSTANTIAL INTEREST AND WERE IRREPARABLY PREJUDICE(D) BY THE SALE IN THEIR FAVOR."cralaw virtua1aw library

II


‘. . . WHEN IT HELD, THE APPELLANT FAILED TO PAY THE PURCHASE PRICE TO APPELLEE ENCARNACION; HENCE, THE SAID APPELLEE DID NOT AGREE TO THE SALE." 1

The petition is not impressed with merit.

It is readily apparent that petitioners are raising issues of fact in their petition. In a petition for review under Rule 45 only questions of law may be raised and they must be distinctly set forth. The general rule is that findings of fact of the lower courts (including the Court of Appeals) are final and conclusive and will not be reviewed on appeal except (1) when the conclusion is a finding grounded entirely on speculation, surmises or conjectures; (2) when the inference made is manifestly mistaken, absurd or impossible; (3) when there is grave abuse of discretion; (4) when the judgment is based on a misapprehension of facts; and (5) when the Court of Appeals, in making its findings went beyond the issues of the case and the same are contrary to the admission of both appellant and appellee. 2

In the case at bar, the question of law is whether or not petitioners, on the basis of a verbal contract to sell by Encarnacion, obtained an enforceable right to buy Encarnacion’s property superior to that of the Acebos who claim the same property by virtue of a deed of absolute sale in their favor executed by Encarnacion.

It is well established that where the seller promised to execute a deed of absolute sale upon completion of payment of the purchase price by the buyer, the agreement is a contract to sell. 3 In contracts to sell, where ownership is retained by the seller until payment of the price in full, such payment is a positive suspensive condition, failure of which is not really a breach but an event that prevents the obligation of the vendor to convey title in accordance with Article 1184 of the Civil Code. 4

Article 1545 of the Civil Code also provides that "where the obligation of either party to a contract of sale is subject to any condition which is not performed, such party may refuse to proceed with the contract or he may waive performance of the condition."cralaw virtua1aw library

The Court upholds the findings of the Court of Appeals that private respondent Encarnacion verbally agreed to sell the lot to petitioners for P120,000.00 to be paid on 15 June 9188 and that petitioners failed to pay on said date through no fault of Encarnacion who thereupon proceeded to extrajudicially terminate the oral contract.

The Court also notes that while the contract between petitioners and Encarnacion was unenforceable under Article 1403 2(e) of the Civil Code, petitioners were allowed to prove its existence and to demand specific performance because private respondents did not invoke said law in their pleadings and even cross-examined petitioners on the existence of the verbal contract.

But assuming arguendo that private respondents waived the operation of the statute of frauds, petitioners still failed to discharge the burden of presenting evidence to prove that they were ready to fulfill the condition (of full payment) imposed on the obligation to sell. This factual matter has been amply resolved by the CA in favor of private respondents and can no longer be disturbed on appeal.

The Court is not unmindful of the fact that petitioners have been occupying the lot as lessees for almost three (3) decades. They could have obtained a right of first refusal in their contracts of lease with Encarnacion or could have consigned the purchase price in court when Encarnacion allegedly refused to execute the deed of sale in their favor.

This Court, while aware of its equity jurisdiction, is first and foremost, a court of law. Hence, while equity might tilt on the side of the petitioners, the same cannot be enforced so as to overrule a positive provision of law in favor of private respondents.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the petition is hereby DENIED and the decision of the Court of Appeals, for lack of any reversible error, is AFFIRMED in toto.

SO ORDERED.

Bellosillo, Vitug, Kapunan and Hermosisima, Jr., JJ., concur.

Endnotes:



* Penned by Justice Romero J. Gallejo, Sr. with the concurrence of Justices Jorge S. Imperial and Pacita Cañizares-Nye.

1. Rollo, p. 32.

2. Ramos v. CA, 63 SCRA 331.

3. Dichocos v. Roxas, 5 SCRA 78.

4. Luzon Brokerage v. Maritime Building Co., 43 SCRA 93; Ang Yu Asuncion v. CA, 238 SCRA 602.

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