G.R. No. 187987, November 26, 2014
VICENTE TORRES, JR., CARLOS VELEZ, AND THE HEIRS OF MARIANO VELEZ, NAMELY: ANITA CHIONG VELEZ, ROBERT OSCAR CHIONG VELEZ, SARAH JEAN CHIONG VELEZ AND TED CHIONG VELEZ, Petitioners, v. LORENZO LAPINID AND JESUS VELEZ, Respondents.
D E C I S I O N
Therefore, the Court DISMISSES the Complaint. At the same time, the Court NULLIFIES the site assignment made by Jesus Velez in the Deed of Sale, dated November 9, 1997, of Lorenzo Lapinid’s portion, the exact location of which still has to be determined either by agreement of the co-owners or by the Court in proper proceedings.13Aggrieved, petitioners filed their partial motion for reconsideration which was denied through a 26 November 2007 Order of the court.14 Thereafter, they filed a notice of appeal on 10 December 2007.15
Art. 493. Each co-owner shall have the full ownership of his part and of the fruits and benefits pertaining thereto, and he may therefore alienate, assign or mortgage it, and even substitute another person in its enjoyment, except when personal rights are involved. But the effect of the alienation or the mortgage, with respect to the co-owners, shall be limited to the portion which may be allotted to him in the division upon the termination of the co-ownership.A co-owner is an owner of the whole and over the whole he exercises the right of dominion, but he is at the same time the owner of a portion which is truly abstract.18 Hence, his co-owners have no right to enjoin a co-owner who intends to alienate or substitute his abstract portion or substitute a third person in its enjoyment.19
We are not unaware of the principle that a co-owner cannot rightfully dispose of a particular portion of a co-owned property prior to partition among all the co-owners. However, this should not signify that the vendee does not acquire anything at all in case a physically segregated area of the co-owned lot is in fact sold to him. Since the co-owner/vendor’s undivided interest could properly be the object of the contract of sale between the parties, what the vendee obtains by virtue of such a sale are the same rights as the vendor had as co-owner, in an ideal share equivalent to the consideration given under their transaction. In other words, the vendee steps into the shoes of the vendor as co-owner and acquires a proportionate abstract share in the property held in common.24Also worth noting is the pronouncement in Lopez v. Vda. De Cuaycong:25
x x x The fact that the agreement in question purported to sell a concrete portion of the hacienda does not render the sale void, for it is a well-established principle that the binding force of a contract must be recognized as far as it is legally possible to do so. “Quando res non valet ut ago, valeat quantum valere potest.” (When a thing is of no force as I do it, it shall have as much force as it can have).26 (Italics theirs).Consequently, whether the disposition involves an abstract or concrete portion of the co-owned property, the sale remains validly executed.
COME NOW[,] the parties and to this Honorable Court, most respectfully state that instead of partitioning the properties, subject matter of litigation, that they will just sell the properties covered by TCT Nos. 25796, 25797 and 25798 of the Register of Deeds of the Province of Cebu and divide the proceeds among themselves.Be that as it may, the compromise agreement failed to defeat the already accrued right of ownership of Lapinid over the share sold by Jesus. As early as 9 November 1997, Lapinid already became a co-owner of the property and thus, vested with all the rights enjoyed by the other co-owners. The judgment based on the compromise agreement, which is to have the covered properties sold, is valid and effectual provided as it does not affect the proportionate share of the non-consenting party. Accordingly, when the compromise agreement was executed without Lapinid’s consent, said agreement could not have affected his ideal and undivided share. Petitioners cannot sell Lapinid’s share absent his consent. Nemo dat quod non habet – “no one can give what he does not have.”28
That Jesus Velez, Mariano Velez and Vicente Torres, Jr. are currently authorized to sell said properties, receive the proceeds thereof and distribute them to the parties.27
Art. 486. Each co-owner may use the thing owned in common, provided he does so in accordance with the purpose for which it is intended and in such a way as not to injure the interest of the co-ownership or prevent the other co-owners from using it according to their rights. The purpose of the co-ownership may be changed by agreement, express or implied.Affirming these rights, the Court held in Aguilar v. Court of Appeals that:30
Art. 493. Each co-owner shall have the full ownership of his part and of the fruits and benefits pertaining thereto, and he may therefore alienate, assign or mortgage it and even substitute another person in its enjoyment, except when personal rights are involved. But the effect of the alienation or mortgage, with respect to the co-owners, shall be limited to the portion which may be allotted to him in the division upon the termination of the co-ownership.
x x x Each co-owner of property held pro indiviso exercises his rights over the whole property and may use and enjoy the same with no other limitation than that he shall not injure the interests of his co-owners, the reason being that until a division is made, the respective share of each cannot be determined and every co-owner exercises, together with his co-participants joint ownership over the pro indiviso property, in addition to his use and enjoyment of the same.31From the foregoing, it is absurd to rule that Lapinid, who is already a co-owner, be ordered to pay rental payments to his other co-owners. Lapinid’s right of enjoyment over the property owned in common must be respected despite opposition and may not be limited as long he uses the property to the purpose for which it is intended and he does not injure the interest of the co-ownership.
x x x xPetitioners cite Jesus’ act of selling a definite portion to Lapinid as the reason which forced them to litigate and file their complaint. However, though the Court may not fault the complainants when they filed a complaint based on their perceived cause of action, they should have also considered thoroughly that it is well within the rights of a co-owner to validly sell his ideal share pursuant to law and jurisprudence.
In all cases, the attorney’s fees and expenses of litigation must be reasonable.
- When exemplary damages are awarded;
- When the defendant’s act or omission has compelled the plaintiff to litigate with third persons or to incur expenses to protect his interests;
- In criminal cases of malicious prosecution against the plaintiff;
- In case of a clearly unfounded civil action or proceeding against the plaintiff;
- Where the defendant acted in gross and evident bad faith in refusing to satisfy the plaintiff’s plainly valid and demandable claim;
- In actions for legal support;
- In actions for the recovery of wages of household helpers, laborers and skilled workers;
- In actions for indemnity under workmen’s compensation and employer’s liability laws;
- In a separate civil action to recover civil liability arising from a crime;
- When at least double judicial costs are awarded;
- In any other case where the court deems it just and equitable that attorney’s fees and expenses of litigation should be recovered.
* Per Special Order No. 1885 dated 24 November 2014.
1Rollo, pp. 3-20.
2 Penned by Associate Justice Francisco P. Acosta with Associate Justices Amy C. Lazaro-Javier and Rodil V. Zalameda, concurring. Id. at 22-31.
3 Id. at 39-40.
4 Penned by Judge Simeon P. Dumdum, Jr. Records, pp. 149-154.
5 Now deceased and substituted by his legal heirs named as petitioners in this case.
6 Records, pp. 1-4.
7 With an area of 19,018 square meters.
8 Records, p. 178.
9 Annexes “A” “A-I,” id. at 14-25.
10 Joint Answer of Jesus and Lapinid, id. at 10-13; Affidavit of Jesus, id. at 113-116.
11 Id.; Affidavit of Lapinid, id. at 120-121.
12 Id.; Municipal Trial Court Decision, id. at 43-50.
13 Id. at 154.
14 Id. at 165.
15 Id. at 167.
16Rollo, pp. 22-31.
17 Rabuya, Elmer, Property, 2008 ed., p. 306 citing City of Mandaluyong v. Aguilar, 403 Phil. 404, 424 (2001).
18De Guia v. Court of Appeals, 459 Phil. 447, 462 (2003).
19Heirs of Dela Rosa v. Batongbakal, G.R. No. 179205, 30 July 2014.
20 Rabuya, Elmer, Property, 2008 ed., p. 307.
21Vagilidad v. Vagilidad, Jr., 537 Phil. 310, 326-327 (2006); Sanchez v. Court of Appeals, 452 Phil. 665, 676 (2003) citing Oliveras v. Lopez, 250 Phil. 430, 435-436 (1988).
22 Rabuya, Elmer, Property, 2008 ed., p. 308 citing Oliveras v. Lopez, id. at 436; City of Mandaluyong v. Aguilar, supra note 17 at 424; Spouses Del Campo v. Court of Appeals, 403 Phil. 706, 717 (2001).
25 74 Phil. 601 (1944).
26 Id. at 609.
27 Records, p. 65.
28 Rabuya, Elmer, Property, 2008 ed., p. 318 citing Spouses Del Campo v. Court of Appeals, supra note 22 at 717.
29Acabal v. Acabal, 494 Phil. 528, 553 (2005); Spouses Del Campo v. Court of Appeals, id.
30 G.R. No. 76351, 29 October 1993, 227 SCRA 472.
31 Id. at 480.