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G.R. No. 202932, October 23, 2013 - EDILBERTO U. VENTURA, JR., Petitioner, v. SPOUSES PAULINO AND EVANGELINE ABUDA, Respondents.

G.R. No. 202932, October 23, 2013 - EDILBERTO U. VENTURA, JR., Petitioner, v. SPOUSES PAULINO AND EVANGELINE ABUDA, Respondents.

PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

SECOND DIVISION

G.R. No. 202932, October 23, 2013

EDILBERTO U. VENTURA, JR., Petitioner, v. SPOUSES PAULINO AND EVANGELINE ABUDA, Respondents.

D E C I S I O N

CARPIO, J.:

The Case

This petition for review on certiorari seeks to annul the Decision1 dated 9 March 2012 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CV No. 92330 and the Resolution2 dated 3 August 2012 denying the motion for reconsideration. The Decision and Resolution dismissed the Appeal dated 23 October 2009 and affirmed with modification the Decision3 dated 24 November 2008 of the Regional Trial Court of Manila, Branch 32 (RTC­ Manila).

The Facts

The RTC-Manila and the CA found the facts to be as follows:chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Socorro Torres (Socorro) and Esteban Abletes (Esteban) were married on 9 June 1980. Although Socorro and Esteban never had common children, both of them had children from prior marriages: Esteban had a daughter named Evangeline Abuda (Evangeline), and Socorro had a son, who was the father of Edilberto U. Ventura, Jr. (Edilberto), the petitioner in this case.

Evidence shows that Socorro had a prior subsisting marriage to Crispin Roxas (Crispin) when she married Esteban. Socorro married Crispin on 18 April 1952. This marriage was not annulled, and Crispin was alive at the time of Socorro’s marriage to Esteban.

Esteban’s prior marriage, on the other hand, was dissolved by virtue of his wife’s death in 1960.

According to Edilberto, sometime in 1968, Esteban purchased a portion of a lot situated at 2492 State Alley, Bonifacio Street, Vitas, Tondo, Manila (Vitas property). The remaining portion was thereafter purchased by Evangeline on her father’s behalf sometime in 1970.4 The Vitas property was covered by Transfer Certificate of Title No. 141782, dated 11 December 1980, issued to “Esteban Abletes, of legal age, Filipino, married to Socorro Torres.”5cralawlibrary

Edilberto also claimed that starting 1978, Evangeline and Esteban operated small business establishments located at 903 and 905 Delpan Street, Tondo, Manila (Delpan property).6cralawlibrary

On 6 September 1997, Esteban sold the Vitas and Delpan properties to Evangeline and her husband, Paulino Abuda (Paulino).7 According to Edilberto:chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

[w]hen Esteban was diagnosed with colon cancer sometime in 1993, he decided to sell the Delpan and Vitas properties to Evangeline. Evangeline continued paying the amortizations on the two (2) properties situated in Delpan Street. The amortizations, together with the amount of Two Hundred Thousand Pesos (Php 200,000.00), which Esteban requested as advance payment, were considered part of the purchase price of the Delpan properties. Evangeline likewise gave her father Fifty Thousand Pesos (Php 50,000.00) for the purchase of the Vitas properties and [she] shouldered his medical expenses.8

Esteban passed away on 11 September 1997, while Socorro passed away on 31 July 1999.

Sometime in 2000, Leonora Urquila (Leonora), the mother of Edilberto, discovered the sale. Thus, Edilberto, represented by Leonora, filed a Petition for Annulment of Deeds of Sale before the RTC-Manila. Edilberto alleged that the sale of the properties was fraudulent because Esteban’s signature on the deeds of sale was forged. Respondents, on the other hand, argued that because of Socorro’s prior marriage to Crispin, her subsequent marriage to Esteban was null and void. Thus, neither Socorro nor her heirs can claim any right or interest over the properties purchased by Esteban and respondents.9cralawlibrary

The Ruling of the RTC-Manila

The RTC-Manila dismissed the petition for lack of merit.

The RTC-Manila ruled that the marriage between Socorro and Esteban was void from the beginning.10 Article 83 of the Civil Code, which was the governing law at the time Esteban and Socorro were married, provides:chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Art. 83. Any marriage subsequently contracted by any person during the lifetime of the first spouse of such person shall be illegal and void from its performance unless:chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

1. The first marriage was annulled or dissolved; or

2. The first spouse had been absent for seven consecutive years at the time of the second marriage without the spouse present having news of the absentee being alive, or if the absentee, though he has been absent for less than seven years, is generally considered as dead and believed to be so by the spouse present at the time of contracting such subsequent marriage, or if the absentee is presumed dead according to articles 390 and 391. The marriage so contracted shall be valid in any of the three cases until declared null and void.

During trial, Edilberto offered the testimony of Socorro’s daughter- in-law Conchita Ventura (Conchita). In her first affidavit, Conchita claimed that Crispin, who was a seaman, had been missing and unheard from for 35 years. However, Conchita recanted her earlier testimony and executed an Affidavit of Retraction.11cralawlibrary

The RTC-Manila ruled that the lack of a judicial decree of nullity does not affect the status of the union. It applied our ruling in Niñal v. Badayog:12cralawlibrary

Jurisprudence under the Civil Code states that no judicial decree is necessary in order to establish the nullity of a marriage. x x x

Under ordinary circumstances, the effect of a void marriage, so far as concerns the conferring of legal rights upon the parties, is as though no marriage had ever taken place. And therefore, being good for no legal purpose, its invalidity can be maintained in any proceeding in which [the] fact of marriage may be material, either direct or collateral, in any civil court between any parties at any time, whether before or after the death of either or both the husband and the wife, and upon mere proof of the facts rendering such marriage void, it will be disregarded or treated as non- existent by the courts.13

According to the RTC-Manila, the Vitas and Delpan properties are not conjugal, and are governed by Articles 144 and 485 of the Civil Code, to wit:chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Art. 144. When a man and a woman live together as husband and wife, but they are not married, or their marriage is void from the beginning, the property acquired by either or both of them through their work or industry or their wages and salaries shall be governed by the rules on co-ownership.

Art. 485. The share of the co-owners, in the benefits as well as in the charges, shall be proportional to their respective interests. Any stipulation in a contract to the contrary shall be void.

The portions belonging to the co-owners in the co-ownership shall be presumed equal, unless the contrary is proved.

The RTC-Manila then determined the respective shares of Socorro and Esteban in the properties. It found that:chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

[w]ith respect to the property located at 2492 State Alley, Bonifacio St. Vitas, Tondo, Manila covered by TCT No. 141782, formerly Marcos Road, Magsaysay Village, Tondo, Manila, [Evangeline] declared that part of it was first acquired by [her] father Esteban Abletes sometime in 1968 when he purchased the right of Ampiano Caballegan. Then, in 1970, she x x x bought the right to one-half of the remaining property occupied by Ampiano Caballegan. However, during the survey of the National Housing Authority, she allowed the whole lot [to be] registered in her father’s name. As proof thereof, she presented Exhibits “8” to “11” x x x. [These documents prove that] that she has been an occupant of the said property in Vitas, Tondo even before her father and Socorro Torres got married in June, 1980.14cralawlibrary

Anent the parcels of land and improvements thereon 903 and 905 Del Pan Street, Tondo, Manila, x x x Evangeline professed that in 1978, before [her] father met Socorro Torres and before the construction of the BLISS Project thereat, [her] father [already had] a bodega of canvas (lona) and a sewing machine to sew the canvas being sold at 903 Del Pan Street, Tondo Manila. In 1978, she was also operating Vangie’s Canvas Store at 905 Del Pan [Street], Tondo, Manila, which was evidenced by Certificate of Registration of Business Name issued in her favor on 09 November 1998 x x x. When the BLISS project was constructed in 1980, [the property] became known as Unit[s] D-9 and D-10. At first, [her] father [paid] for the amortizations [for] these two (2) parcels of land but when he got sick [with] colon cancer in 1993, he asked [respondents] to continue paying for the amortizations x x x. [Evangeline] paid a total of P195,259.52 for Unit D-9 as shown by the 37 pieces of receipts x x x and the aggregate amount of P188,596.09 for Unit D-10, [as evidenced by] 36 receipts x x x.15

The RTC-Manila concluded that Socorro did not contribute any funds for the acquisition of the properties. Hence, she cannot be considered a co- owner, and her heirs cannot claim any rights over the Vitas and Delpan properties.16cralawlibrary

Aggrieved, Edilberto filed an appeal before the CA.

The Ruling of the CA

In its Decision17 dated 9 March 2012, the CA sustained the decision of the RTC-Manila. The dispositive portion of the CA Decision reads:chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

WHEREFORE, the Appeal is hereby DENIED and the challenged Decision of the court a quo STANDS.

SO ORDERED.18

The CA ruled, however, that the RTC-Manila should have applied Article 148 of the Family Code, and not Articles 144 and 485 of the Civil Code. Article 148 of the Family Code states that in unions between a man and a woman who are incapacitated to marry each other:chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

x x x only the properties acquired by both of the parties through their actual joint contribution of money, property, or industry shall be owned by them in common in proportion to their respective contributions. In the absence of proof to the contrary, their contributions and corresponding shares are presumed to be equal. The same rule and presumption shall apply to joint deposits of money and evidences of credit.

If one of the parties is validly married to another, his or her share in the co-ownership shall accrue to the absolute community or conjugal partnership existing in such valid marriage. If the party who acted in bad faith is not validly married to another, his or her share shall be forfeited in the manner provided in the last paragraph of the preceding Article.

The foregoing rules on forfeiture shall likewise apply even if both parties are in bad faith.

The CA applied our ruling in Saguid v. Court of Appeals,19 and held that the foregoing provision applies “even if the cohabitation or the acquisition of the property occurred before the [effectivity] of the Family Code.”20 The CA found that Edilberto failed to prove that Socorro contributed to the purchase of the Vitas and Delpan properties. Edilberto was unable to provide any documentation evidencing Socorro’s alleged contribution.21cralawlibrary

On 2 April 2012, Edilberto filed a Motion for Reconsideration,22 which was denied by the CA in its Resolution dated 3 August 2012.23cralawlibrary

Hence, this petition.

The Ruling of this Court

We deny the petition.

Edilberto admitted that in unions between a man and a woman who are incapacitated to marry each other, the ownership over the properties acquired during the subsistence of that relationship shall be based on the actual contribution of the parties. He even quoted our ruling in Borromeo v. Descallar24 in his petition:chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

It is necessary for each of the partners to prove his or her actual contribution to the acquisition of property in order to be able to lay claim to any portion of it. Presumptions of co-ownership and equal contribution do not apply.25

This is a reiteration of Article 148 of the Family Code, which the CA applied in the assailed decision:chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Art 148. In cases of cohabitation [wherein the parties are incapacitated to marry each other], only the properties acquired by both of the parties through their actual joint contribution of money, property, or industry shall be owned by them in common in proportion to their respective contributions. In the absence of proof to the contrary, their contributions and corresponding shares are presumed to be equal. The same rule and presumption shall apply to joint deposits of money and evidences of credit.

If one of the parties is validly married to another, his or her share in the co-ownership shall accrue to the absolute community or conjugal partnership existing in such valid marriage. If the party who acted in bad faith is not validly married to another, his or her share shall be forfeited in the manner provided in the last paragraph of the preceding Article.

The foregoing rules on forfeiture shall likewise apply even if both parties are in bad faith.

Applying the foregoing provision, the Vitas and Delpan properties can be considered common property if: (1) these were acquired during the cohabitation of Esteban and Socorro; and (2) there is evidence that the properties were acquired through the parties’ actual joint contribution of money, property, or industry.

Edilberto argues that the certificate of title covering the Vitas property shows that the parcel of land is co-owned by Esteban and Socorro because: (1) the Transfer Certificate of Title was issued on 11 December 1980, or several months after the parties were married; and (2) title to the land was issued to “Esteban Abletes, of legal age, married to Socorro Torres.”26cralawlibrary

We disagree. The title itself shows that the Vitas property is owned by Esteban alone. The phrase “married to Socorro Torres” is merely descriptive of his civil status, and does not show that Socorro co-owned the property.27 The evidence on record also shows that Esteban acquired ownership over the Vitas property prior to his marriage to Socorro, even if the certificate of title was issued after the celebration of the marriage. Registration under the Torrens title system merely confirms, and does not vest title. This was admitted by Edilberto on page 9 of his petition wherein he quotes an excerpt of our ruling in Borromeo:chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

[R]egistration is not a mode of acquiring ownership. It is only a means of confirming the fact of its existence with notice to the world at large. Certificates of title are not a source of right. The mere possession of a title does not make one the true owner of the property. Thus, the mere fact that respondent has the titles of the disputed properties in her name does not necessarily, conclusively and absolutely make her the owner. The rule on indefeasibility of title likewise does not apply to respondent. A certificate of title implies that the title is quiet, and that it is perfect, absolute and indefeasible. However, there are well-defined exceptions to this rule, as when the transferee is not a holder in good faith and did not acquire the subject properties for a valuable consideration.

Edilberto claims that Esteban's actual contribution to the purchase of the Delpan property was not sufficiently proven since Evangeline shouldered some of the amortizations.28  Thus, the law presumes that Esteban and Socorro jointly contributed to the acquisition of the Del pan property.

We cannot sustain Edilberto's claim. Both the RTC-Manila and the CA found that the Delpan property was acquired prior to the marriage of Esteban and Socorro.29 Furthermore, even if payment of the purchase price of the Delpan property was made by Evangeline, such payment was made on behalf of her father. Article 1238 of the Civil Code provides:chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Art. 1238. Payment made by a third person who does not intend to be reimbursed by the debtor is deemed to be a donation, which requires the debtor's consent. But the payment is in any case valid as to the creditor who has accepted it.

Thus, it is clear that Evangeline paid on behalf of her father, and the parties intended that the Delpan property would be owned by and registered under the name of Esteban.

During trial, the Abuda spouses  presented receipts evidencing payments of the amortizations for the Delpan property. On the other hand, Edilberto failed to show any evidence showing Socorro's alleged monetary contributions. As correctly pointed out by the CA:chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

[s]ettled is the rule that in civil cases x x x the burden of proof rests upon the party who, as determined by the pleadings or the nature of the case, asserts the affirmative of an issue. x x x. Here it is Appellant who is duty bound to prove the allegations in the complaint which undoubtedly, he miserably failed to do so.30

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The Decision dated 9 March 2012 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 92330 is AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.

Velasco, Jr.,. Brion, Reyes, and Perlas-Bernabe, JJ., concur.


Endnotes:


* Designated Acting Member per Special Order No. 1567 dated 11 October 2013.cranad

** Designated Acting Member per Special Order No. 1564 dated 11 October 2013.cranad

1Rollo, pp. 69-81. Penned by Associate Justice Jane Aurora C. Lantion, with Associate Justices Isaias P. Dicdican and Amy C. Lazaro-Javier, concurring.cranad

2 Id. at 89-90.cranad

3 Id. at 36-48. Penned by Presiding Judge Thelma Bunyi-Medina.cranad

4 Id. at 11.cranad

5 Id. at 15.cranad

6 Id. at 11.cranad

7 Id. at 10.cranad

8 Id. at 12.cranad

9 Id. at 42.cranad

10 Id. at 44.cranad

11 Id. at 45.cranad

12 384 Phil. 661 (2000).cranad

13Rollo, p. 44, citing Niñal v. Badayog, 384 Phil. 661 (2000).cranad

15 Id. at 47-48.cranad

16 Id. at 48.cranad

17 Id. at 69-81.cranad

19 Id. at 77, citing Saguid v. Court of Appeals, 451 Phil. 825 (2003).cranad

20 Id. at 77.cranad

21 Id. at 78.cranad

22 Id. at 82-87.cranad

23 Id. at 89-90.cranad

24 G.R. No. 159310, 24 February 2009, 580 SCRA 175.cranad

25Rollo, p. 15, citing Borromeo v. Descallar, supra.cranad

26 Id.cranad

27Go-Bangayan v. Bangayan, G.R. No. 201061, 3 July 2013, citing Acre v. Yuttikki, 560 Phil. 495 (2007).cranad

28Rollo, p. 16.cranad

29 Id. at 79.cranad

30 Id. at 80.chanrob1esvirtualawlibrary
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