Case Brief: Cheng vs Donini

Serafin Cheng

vs

Spouses Vittorio and Ma. Helen Donini

GR 167017   June 22, 2009

Facts:

In an oral lease agreement, Cheng agreed to lease his property to Donini, who intended to put up a restaurant thereon. Donini then proceeded to introduce improvements in the premises.

However, before respondents’ business could take off and before any final lease agreement could be drafted and signed, the parties began to have serious disagreements regarding its terms and conditions. Cheng wrote to Donini, demanding payment of the deposit and rentals, and signifying that he had no intention to continue with the agreement should Donini fail to pay. Donini ignored the demand, and continued to occupy the premises, until in April 17, 1991, when their caretaker voluntarily surrendered the property to the petitioner.

Note that the CA made the following findings and conclusions: 1.) There was no agreement that the deposit and rentals accruing to petitioner would be deducted from the costs of repairs and renovation incurred by respondents; 2.). Respondents committed a breach in the terms and conditions of the agreement when they failed to pay the rentals; 3) There was no valid rescission on the part of petitioner; 4). Respondents were entitled to reimbursement for the cost of improvements under the principle of equity and unjust enrichment; and 5) The award of damages in favor of petitioenr had no basis in fact and law.

SC declared that because there was never an absence of law or judicial rules of procedure, petitioner cannot invoke the concept of equity.

 

Issue:

Rule on the right of Cheng and Donini as to the improvements, the right to be reimbursed for the expenses, and the right to retain the property.

 

Held:

The relationship between petitioner and respondents was explicitly governed by the Civil Code provisions on lease, which clearly provide for the rule on reimbursement of useful improvements and ornamental expenses after termination of a lease agreement. Article 1678 states:

“If the lessee makes, in good faith, useful improvements which are suitable to the use for which the lease is intended, without altering the form or substance of the property leased, the lessor upon the termination of the lease shall pay the lessee one-half of the value of the improvements at that time. Should the lessor refuse to reimburse said amount, the lessee may remove the improvements, even though the principal thing may suffer damage thereby. He shall not, however, cause any more impairment upon the property leased than is necessary.

With regard to ornamental expenses, the lessee shall not be entitled to any reimbursement, but he may remove the ornamental objects, provided no damage is caused to the principal thing, and the lessor does not choose to retain them by paying their value at the time the lease is extinguished.”

Contrary to respondents position, Articles 448 and 546 of the Civil Code did not apply. Under these provisions, to be entitled to reimbursement for useful improvements introduced on the property, respondents must be considered builders in good faith. Articles 448 and 546, which allow full reimbursement of useful improvements and retention of the premises until reimbursement is made, apply only to a possessor in good faith or one who builds on land in the belief that he is the owner thereof. A builder in good faith is one who is unaware of any flaw in his title to the land at the time he builds on it.

But respondents cannot be considered possessors or builders in good faith. As early as 1956, in Lopez v. Philippine & Eastern Trading Co., Inc., the Court clarified that a lessee is neither a builder nor a possessor in good faith. “This principle of possessor in good faith naturally cannot apply to a lessee because as such lessee he knows that he is not the owner of the leased property. Neither can he deny the ownership or title of his lessor. Knowing that his occupation of the premises continues only during the life of the lease contract and that he must vacate the property upon termination of the lease or upon the violation by him of any of its terms, he introduces improvements on said property at his own risk in the sense that he cannot recover their value from the lessor, much less retain the premises until such reimbursement.”

Under Article 1678 of the Civil Code, the lessor has the primary right (or the first move) to reimburse the lessee for 50% of the value of the improvements at the end of the lease. If the lessor refuses to make the reimbursement, the subsidiary right of the lessee to remove the improvements, even though the principal thing suffers damage, arises. Consequently, on petitioner rests the primary option to pay for one-half of the value of the useful improvements. It is only when petitioner as lessor refuses to make the reimbursement that respondents, as lessees, may remove the improvements. Should petitioner refuse to exercise the option of paying for one-half of the value of the improvements, he cannot be compelled to do so. It then lies on respondents to insist on their subsidiary right to remove the improvements even though the principal thing suffers damage but without causing any more impairment on the property leased than is necessary.

As regards the ornamental expenses, respondents are not entitled to reimbursement. Article 1678 gives respondents the right to remove the ornaments without damage to the principal thing. But if petitioner appropriates and retains said ornaments, he shall pay for their value upon the termination of the lease.

The fact that petitioner will benefit from the improvements introduced by respondents is beside the point. In the first place, respondents introduced these improvements at their own risk as lessees. Respondents were not forced or obliged to splurge on the leased premises as it was a matter of necessity as well as a business strategy. In fact, had respondents only complied with their obligation to pay the deposit/rent, there would have been no dispute to begin with. If they were able to shell out more than a million pesos to improve the property, the measly P34,000 deposit demanded by petitioner was a mere drop in the bucket, so to speak. More importantly, the unequivocal terms of Article 1678 of the Civil Code should be the foremost consideration.

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Civil Law: Accession – Builder/Planter/Sower

frompexelIn the Civil Code provisions governing property law, one chapter discusses Accession (Article 440, onwards).  In a nutshell, the owner of the property has the right of accession (right to fruits) to everything produced by the property itself, or those which are incorporated and attached thereto, either naturally or artificially.

The chapter on Accession contains the provision on Builder/Planter/Sower, to wit:

Art. 448. The owner of the land on which anything has been built, sown or planted in good faith, shall have the right to appropriate as his own the works, sowing or planting, after payment of the indemnity provided for in Articles 546 and 548, or to oblige the one who built or planted to pay the price of the land, and the one who sowed, the proper rent. However, the builder or planter cannot be obliged to buy the land if its value is considerably more than that of the building or trees. In such case, he shall pay reasonable rent, if the owner of the land does not choose to appropriate the building or trees after proper indemnity. The parties shall agree upon the terms of the lease and in case of disagreement, the court shall fix the terms thereof.

Such provision, including the meaty jurisprudence centering on such concept (e.g. Cheng vs. Donini), can be summarised as follows:

Case A:  If both the owner and the builder/planter/sower (hereinafter referred to as “BPS”) are in good faith:  There is no co-ownership.  The owner owns the property (e.g. land), and the BPS owns that which he built or planted (e.g. building).  However, the owner has the following remedies:

  • To appropriate that which was built or planted (e.g. building) as his own, after paying the BPS the amount of indemnity (i.e. expenses) in Articles 546 and 548; or
  • To compel the BPS to pay the price of the land (if B or P), or the rent (if S).

It is very important to note that it is the owner who makes the determination or choice.  If he does not make the decision, the parties remain status quo — BPS remains the owner of that which was built/planted/sowed.  Moreover, the BPS remains the possessor in good faith, and as a possessor in good faith, he has the right to fruits of the property (e.g. rentals in the building).  This is so because of Article 544 of the Civil Code, to wit:

Art. 544. A possessor in good faith is entitled to the fruits received before the possession is legally interrupted.
Natural and industrial fruits are considered received from the time they are gathered or severed.
Civil fruits are deemed to accrue daily and belong to the possessor in good faith in that proportion.

BPS also has the right of retention over that which was built/planted/sowed, and such right remains until the owner reimburses him for the amount of expenses mentioned in Articles 546 and 548, to wit:

Art. 546. Necessary expenses shall be refunded to every possessor; but only the possessor in good faith may retain the thing until he has been reimbursed therefor.

Useful expenses shall be refunded only to the possessor in good faith with the same right of retention, the person who has defeated him in the possession having the option of refunding the amount of the expenses or of paying the increase in value which the thing may have acquired by reason thereof. (453a)

Art. 548. Expenses for pure luxury or mere pleasure shall not be refunded to the possessor in good faith; but he may remove the ornaments with which he has embellished the principal thing if it suffers no injury thereby, and if his successor in the possession does not prefer to refund the amount expended. (454)

A BPS in good faith is someone who possesses the property, believing the property to be his under some mode or title of acquisition.  See Article 712 for the modes of acquiring ownership.

Hence, if a person knows that he is not the owner, he cannot be considered as a BPS in good faith.  This is why a lessee can never be a BPS in good faith.  It bears noting that there are Supreme Court decisions which gave exception to this rule, such as:  a) a mother-in-law tells the spouses to build on her own property; b) an alleged landowner tells the BPS that he owns the land and that the BPS can build on it, when in fact, the land is not his; or, c) tolerance of the landowner to the acts of BPS.

The general remedy for the landowner to avoid the provision of Article 548 is for him to execute an agreement with the BPS not to build on the property.  In this case, the contractual provisions will apply; and the absent of which makes the Civil Code provisions on lease applicable, such as:

Art. 1678. If the lessee makes, in good faith, useful improvements which are suitable to the use for which the lease is intended, without altering the form or substance of the property leased, the lessor upon the termination of the lease shall pay the lessee one-half of the value of the improvements at that time. Should the lessor refuse to reimburse said amount, the lessee may remove the improvements, even though the principal thing may suffer damage thereby. He shall not, however, cause any more impairment upon the property leased than is necessary.

With regard to ornamental expenses, the lessee shall not be entitled to any reimbursement, but he may remove the ornamental objects, provided no damage is caused to the principal thing, and the lessor does not choose to retain them by paying their value at the time the lease is extinguished. (n)

Case B:  If the owner is in bad faith, and the BPS is in good faith:  Apply Article 447.

Art. 454. When the landowner acted in bad faith and the builder, planter or sower proceeded in good faith, the provisions of article 447 shall apply.

Art. 447. The owner of the land who makes thereon, personally or through another, plantings, constructions or works with the materials of another, shall pay their value; and, if he acted in bad faith, he shall also be obliged to the reparation of damages. The owner of the materials shall have the right to remove them only in case he can do so without injury to the work constructed, or without the plantings, constructions or works being destroyed. However, if the landowner acted in bad faith, the owner of the materials may remove them in any event, with a right to be indemnified for damages.

The general rule is that the landowner is liable to pay for the value of improvements or materials used, and that the owner of materials is entitled to reimbursement or the removal of materials if it will not cause any damage to the property.

If the landowner is in bad faith, he shall be held liable for damages, plus the owner of the materials has the right to remove the materials whether or not there will be a damage to the property.

Case C:  The owner is in good faith, and the BPS is in bad faith:  Apply the following articles:

Art. 449. He who builds, plants or sows in bad faith on the land of another, loses what is built, planted or sown without right to indemnity.

Art. 450. The owner of the land on which anything has been built, planted or sown in bad faith may demand the demolition of the work, or that the planting or sowing be removed, in order to replace things in their former condition at the expense of the person who built, planted or sowed; or he may compel the builder or planter to pay the price of the land, and the sower the proper rent.

Art. 451. In the cases of the two preceding articles, the landowner is entitled to damages from the builder, planter or sower.

Art. 452. The builder, planter or sower in bad faith is entitled to reimbursement for the necessary expenses of preservation of the land.

In essence, the landowner is entitled to damages, plus he may:

  • Appropriate what was built without need of indemnity to the BPS;
  • Demand the demolition of the thing built or restoration of the land at the expense of the BPS;
  • Compel the BPS to pay the land or the sower the proper rent.

Notwithstanding the bad faith on the part of BPS, he still:

  • Is entitled to reimbursement for the necessary expenses of preservation of land; and,
  • Has the right to remove to remove the materials as long as there will be no damage to the land.

Case D:  If both owner and the BPS are in bad faith:  Apply Article 453, to wit:

Art. 453. If there was bad faith, not only on the part of the person who built, planted or sowed on the land of another, but also on the part of the owner of such land, the rights of one and the other shall be the same as though both had acted in good faith.
It is understood that there is bad faith on the part of the landowner whenever the act was done with his knowledge and without opposition on his part.

This bears semblance with the in pari delicto rule.

Note:  The author appreciates any feedback or constructive criticisms.  He encourages  the readers to correct any mistake that they find in the article above to ensure the veracity and the accuracy of the information.  As the topic is a very important one in the realm of Property law, it is also important to ensure that the dissemination of such information remains correct and without any flaws.

Case Brief: Lopez v. Orosa et al

G.R. Nos. L-10817-18  February 28, 1958

ENRIQUE LOPEZ, petitioner,

vs.

VICENTE OROSA, JR., and PLAZA THEATRE, INC., respondents.

Facts:

After agreeing to make an investment in Orosa’s theatre business and his assurance that he would be personally liable for any account that the said construction might incur, Lopez delivered the lumber which was used for the construction of the Plaza Theatre.  But of the total cost of the materials amounting to P62,255.85, Lopez was paid only P20848.50.

Plaza Theatre was erected on a piece of land formerly owned by Orosa, and was acquired by the corporation.  As Lopez was pressing Orosa for payment of remaining unpaid obligation, the latter promised to obtain a bank loan by mortgaging the properties of Plaza Theatre.  Unknown to Lopez, the corporation already got a loan from a bank with Luzon Surety Company as surety, and the corporation in turn executed a mortgage on the land and building in favor of said company as counter-security.

Persistent demand from Lopez caused Orosa to execute an alleged “deed of assignment” of his 480 shares of stock of Plaza Theatre, at P100 per share; and as the obligation still remain unsettled, Lopez filed a complaint against Orosa and Plaza Theatre Inc, praying that xxx in case defendants fail to pay, the building and land owned by corporation be sold at public auction, or the shares of the capital stock be sold, and the proceeds thereof be applied to said indebtedness.

As a defense, Orosa contended that the shares of stocks were personal properties and cannot be made to cover and satisfy the obligation.  it was thus prayed that he be declared exempted from payment of deficiency in case the proceeds from the sale of properties are not enough.

The surety company, upon discovery that the land was already registered, file a petition to annotate the rights and interests of the surety company over the said properties, which was opposed by Lopez who asserted that he has preferred lien over the properties.

The two cases were heard jointly, and lower court held that Orosa were liable for the unpaid balance of the cost of lumber used in the construction, and Lopez thus acquired materialman’s lien over it.  In making the pronouncement that tyhe lien was merely confined to the building and did not extend to the land where it was built, the trial jduge took into consideration that xxx codal provisions specifying that refection credits are preferred could refer to buildings which are also classified as real properties upon which the refaction was made.  Orosa were thus required to xxx with respect tohe building, said mortgage was subject to materialmen’s lien in favor of Lopez.

Lopez tried to secure a modification of decision in so far as it declared that lien did not extend to the land, but was denied by court.  Hence, the appeal.

Issue:

Whether a materialmen’s lien for the value of materials used in the construction of building attaches to said structure alone, and does not extend to the land on which building is adhered to.

Held:

Yes.  Such lien attaches to structure alone, and does not extend to the land where the building is.

In view of employment of the phrase, “real estate or immovable property”, and in as much as said provision does not contain any specification delimiting the lien to the building, said article must be construed as to embrace both the land and building or the structure adhering thereto.  SC cannot subscribe to this view, for while it is true that real estate connotes land and building constructed thereon, it is obvious that the inclusion of the building, separate and distinct from the land, in the enumeration of what may constitute real properties could mean only one thing – that the building is by itself an immovable property.  Moreover, in view of the absence of any specific provision of law to the contrary, a building is an immovable property, irrespective of whether or not said structure and the land on which it is adhered to belong to the same owner.

A close examination of the provision of the Civil Code reveals that the law gives preference to unregistered refectionary credits only with respect to the real estate upon the refection or work was made.  The conclusion is that it must be that the lien so created attaches merely to the immovable property for the construction or repair of which the obligation was incurred.  Therefore, the lien in favor of appellant for the unpaid value of the lumber used in construction of the building attaches only to said structure and to no other property of the obligors.

Wherefore, and on the strength of the foregoing considerations, the decision appealed from is hereby affirmed, with costs against appellant. It is so ordered.

Case Brief: Meralco Securities v Central Board of Assessment Appeals, et al

G.R. No. L-46245    May 31, 1982

MERALCO SECURITIES INDUSTRIAL CORPORATION, petitioner,

vs.

CENTRAL BOARD OF ASSESSMENT APPEALS, BOARD OF ASSESSMENT APPEALS OF LAGUNA and PROVINCIAL ASSESSOR OF LAGUNA, respondents.

Facts:

Pursuant to a pipeline concession issued under the Petroleum Act of 1949, Republic Act No. 387, Meralco Securities installed from Batangas to Manila a pipeline system consisting of cylindrical steel pipes joined together and buried not less than one meter below the surface along the shoulder of the public highway. The pipes are embedded in the soil and are firmly and solidly welded together so as to preclude breakage or damage thereto and prevent leakage or seepage of the oil. The valves are welded to the pipes so as to make the pipeline system one single piece of property from end to end.

In order to repair, replace, remove or transfer segments of the pipeline, the pipes have to be cold-cut by means of a rotary hard-metal pipe-cutter after digging or excavating them out of the ground where they are buried. In points where the pipeline traversed rivers or creeks, the pipes were laid beneath the bed thereof. Hence, the pipes are permanently attached to the land.

Pursuant to the Assessment Law, Commonwealth Act No. 470, the provincial assessor of Laguna treated the pipeline as real property and issued tax declarations, containing the assessed values of portions of the pipeline.

Meralco appealed the assessments to the defendants, but the latter ruled that pipeline is subject to realty tax. The defendants argued that the pipeline is subject to realty tax because they are contemplated in Assessment Law and Real Property Tax Code; that they do not fall within the category of property exempt from realty tax under those laws; that Articles 415 & 416 of the Civil Code, defining real and personal property have no applications to this case because these pipes are constructions adhered to soil and things attached to the land in a fixed manner, and that Meralco Securities is not exempt from realty tax under petroleum law.

Meralco insists that its pipeline is not subject to realty tax because it is not real property within the meaning of Art. 415.

Issue:
Whether the aforementioned pipelines are subject to realty tax.

Held:
Yes, the pipelines are subject to realty tax.

Section 2 of the Assessment Law provides that the realty tax is due “on real property, including land, buildings, machinery, and other improvements.” This provision is reproduced with some modification in Section 38, Real Property Tax Code, which provides that “there shall be levied, assessed, and collected xxx annual ad valorem tax on real property such as land, buildings, machinery, and other improvements affixed or attached to real property xxx.”

It is incontestable that the pipeline of Meralco Securities does not fall within any of the classes of exempt real property enumerated in section 3 of the Assessment Law and section 40 of the Real Property Tax Code.

Pipeline means a line of pipe connected to pumps, valves and control devices for conveying liquids, gases or finely divided solids. It is a line of pipe running upon or in the earth, carrying with it the right to the use of the soil in which it is placed.

Article 415[l] and [3] provides that real property may consist of constructions of all kinds adhered to the soil and everything attached to an immovable in a fixed manner, in such a way that it cannot be separated therefrom without breaking the material or deterioration of the object.

The pipeline system in question is indubitably a construction adhering to the soil. It is attached to the land in such a way that it cannot be separated therefrom without dismantling the steel pipes which were welded to form the pipeline.

WHEREFORE, the questioned decision and resolution are affirmed. The petition is dismissed. No costs.

Case Brief: The Province of Zamboanga del Norte v City of Zamboanga, et. al.

G.R. No. L-24440             March 28, 1968

THE PROVINCE OF ZAMBOANGA DEL NORTE, plaintiff-appellee,
vs.
CITY OF ZAMBOANGA, SECRETARY OF FINANCE and COMMISSIONER OF INTERNAL REVENUE,defendants-appellants.

Facts:

Prior to its incorporation as a chartered city, the Municipality of Zamboanga used to be the provincial capital of the then Zamboanga Province. On October 12, 1936, Commonwealth Act 39 was approved converting the Municipality of Zamboanga into Zamboanga City. Sec. 50 of the Act also provided that “Buildings and properties which the province shall abandon upon the transfer of the capital to another place will be acquired and paid for by the City of Zamboanga at a price to be fixed by the Auditor General.”

Such properties include lots of capitol site, schools, hospitals, leprosarium, high school playgrounds, burleighs, and hydro-electric sites.

On June 6, 1952, Republic Act 711 was approved dividing the province of Zamboanga into two (2): Zamboanga del Norte and Zamboanga del Sur. As to how the assets and obligations of the old province were to be divided between the two new ones, Sec. 6 of that law provided “Upon the approval of this Act, the funds, assets and other properties and the obligations of the province of Zamboanga shall be divided equitably between the Province of Zamboanga del Norte and the Province of Zamboanga del Sur by the President of the Philippines, upon the recommendation of the Auditor General.”

However, on June 17, 1961, Republic Act 3039 was approved amending Sec. 50 of Commonwealth Act 39 by providing that, “All buildings, properties and assets belonging to the former province of Zamboanga and located within the City of Zamboanga are hereby transferred, free of charge, in favor of the said City of Zamboanga.”

This constrained Zamboanga del Norte to file on March 5, 1962, a complaint against defendants-appellants Zamboanga City; that, among others, Republic Act 3039 be declared unconstitutional for depriving Zamboanga del Norte of property without due process and just compensation.

Lower court declared RA 3039 unconstitutional as it deprives Zamboanga del Norte of its private properties.

Hence the appeal.

Issue:

Whether RA 3039 is unconstitutional on the grounds that it deprives Zamboanga del Norte of its private properties.

Held:

No. RA 3039 is valid. The properties petitioned by Zamboanga del Norte is a public property.

The validity of the law ultimately depends on the nature of the 50 lots and buildings thereon in question. For, the matter involved here is the extent of legislative control over the properties of a municipal corporation, of which a province is one. The principle itself is simple: If the property is owned by the municipality (meaning municipal corporation) in its public and governmental capacity, the property is public and Congress has absolute control over it. But if the property is owned in its private or proprietary capacity, then it is patrimonial and Congress has no absolute control. The municipality cannot be deprived of it without due process and payment of just compensation.

The capacity in which the property is held is, however, dependent on the use to which it is intended and devoted. Now, which of two norms, i.e., that of the Civil Code or that obtaining under the law of Municipal Corporations, must be used in classifying the properties in question?

Civil Code

The Civil provide: ART. 423. The property of provinces, cities, and municipalities is divided into property for public use and patrimonial property; ART. 424. Property for public use, in the provinces, cities, and municipalities, consists of the provincial roads, city streets, municipal streets, the squares, fountains, public waters, promenades, and public works for public service paid for by said provinces, cities, or municipalities. All other property possessed by any of them is patrimonial and shall be governed by this Code, without prejudice to the provisions of special laws.

Applying the above cited norm, all the properties in question, except the two (2) lots used as High School playgrounds, could be considered as patrimonial properties of the former Zamboanga province. Even the capital site, the hospital and leprosarium sites, and the school sites will be considered patrimonial for they are not for public use. They would fall under the phrase “public works for public service” for it has been held that under the ejusdem generis rule, such public works must be for free and indiscriminate use by anyone, just like the preceding enumerated properties in the first paragraph of Art 424. The playgrounds, however, would fit into this category.

Law of Municipal Corporations

On the other hand, applying the norm obtaining under the principles constituting the law of Municipal Corporations, all those of the 50 properties in question which are devoted to public service are deemed public; the rest remain patrimonial. Under this norm, to be considered public, it is enough that the property be held and, devoted for governmental purposes like local administration, public education, public health, etc.

 Final Ruling

The controversy here is more along the domains of the Law of Municipal Corporations — State vs. Province — than along that of Civil Law. If municipal property held and devoted to public service is in the same category as ordinary private property, then that would mean they can be levied upon and attached; they can even be acquired thru adverse possession — all these to the detriment of the local community. It is wrong to consider those properties as ordinary private property.

Lastly, the classification of properties other than those for public use in the municipalities as patrimonial under Art. 424 of the Civil Code — is “… without prejudice to the provisions of special laws.” For purpose of this article, the principles, obtaining under the Law of Municipal Corporations can be considered as “special laws”. Hence, the classification of municipal property devoted for distinctly governmental purposes as public should prevail over the Civil Code classification in this particular case.

WHEREFORE, the decision appealed from is hereby set aside and another judgment is hereby entered as follows:.

(1) Defendant Zamboanga City is hereby ordered to return to plaintiff Zamboanga del Norte in lump sum the amount of P43,030.11 which the former took back from the latter out of the sum of P57,373.46 previously paid to the latter; and

(2) Defendants are hereby ordered to effect payments in favor of plaintiff of whatever balance remains of plaintiff’s 54.39% share in the 26 patrimonial properties, after deducting therefrom the sum of P57,373.46, on the basis of Resolution No. 7 dated March 26, 1949 of the Appraisal Committee formed by the Auditor General, by way of quarterly payments from the allotments of defendant City, in the manner originally adopted by the Secretary of Finance and the Commissioner of Internal Revenue. No costs. So ordered.

Case Brief: Concepcion v CA

G.R. No. 120706 January 31, 2000

RODRIGO CONCEPCION, petitioner,

vs.
COURT OF APPEALS and SPS. NESTOR NICOLAS and ALLEM NICOLAS, respondents.

Facts:
Nestor Nicolas and Allem Nicolas, the respondents, resided in an apartment leased to them by the owner thereof, Florence “Bing”Concepcion”. The Nicolas spouses were engaged in business of supplying office equipment appliances and other fixtures, and Florence Concepcion joined this venture by contributing capital to the business and sharing with the earned profit thereafter.

Sometime in the second week of July 1985, petitioner Rodrigo Concepcion, brother of the deceased husband of Florence, angrily accosted Nestor at his apartment and accused him of conducting an adulterous relationship with Florence. To clarify matters, Nestor went with Rodrigo to see some members of Conception family to clarify everything, but the family members including Florence denied knowledge of such affair. Thereafter, however, Rodrigo called Florence over the phone reiterating his accusation and gave some death threats to her.

As a result of the incident, Nestor Nicolas felt extreme embarrassment and shame. Florence Concepcion also ceased to do business with him by not contributing capital anymore so much so that the business venture of the Nicolas spouses declined. Additionally, Allem Nicolas started to doubt Nestor’s fidelity. As such, petitioned Rodrigo to express a public apology and pay the damages. Rodrigo ignored the demand, which caused the Nicolas spouses to file a civil suit against him for damages.

Issues:
1. Whether there is basis to review the facts which are of weight and influence by which were overlooked and misapplied by the respondent appellate court.
2. Whether there is basis in law for the award of damages to private respondents, the Nicolas spouses.

Held:
1. Yes.
Originally, petitioner alleged that certain facts and circumstances of the case were manifestly overlooked by respondent court on the grounds that the trial judge who penned the decision was in no position to observe first-hand the demeanor of the witnesses of respondent spouses as he was not the original judge who heard the case.
The Supreme Court contends that petitioner did not give any sufficient reason to engender doubt as to the factual findings of the court. The fact that the case was handled by different judges brooks no consideration at all. The Supreme Court accords the highest respect to the evaluation made by the lower court of the testimonies of the witnesses presented before it, and that it can be fairly assumed under the performance of duties of public officers that the transcripts of stenographic notes were thoroughly scrutinized and evaluated by the judge himself.

2. Yes.
Petitioner originally claimed that the lower courts were without legal basis to justify its verdict as it does not fall under Arts. 26 and 2219 of Civil Code since it does not constitute libel, slander, or any other form of defamation, nor involve prying into privacy of another’s residence or meddling with or disturbing the private life or family relation of another.
The Supreme Court rejected the petitioner’s contention that no legal provision supports such award for damages. It is understandable that the incident charged of petitioner was no less than an invasion of right of the respondent, Nestor, as a person. Under this article, the rights of persons are protected, and damages are provided for violations thereof. The violations mentioned in the codal provisions are not exclusive but are merely examples and do not preclude other similar or analogous acts. Due to the incident, respondent Nestor Nicolas suffered mental anguish, besmirched reputation, wounded feelings and social humiliation as a proximate result of petitioner’s abusive, scandalous and insulting language. As such, the Supreme Court held that the incident clearly falls under the aforementioned articles and the person who violated those rights should be liable of the damages.

WHEREFORE, in light of the foregoing premises, the assailed Decision of the Court of Appeals affirming the judgment of the Regional Trial Court of Pasig City, Br. 167, holding Rodrigo Concepcion liable to the spouses Nestor Nicolas and Allem Nicolas for F50,000.00 as moral damages, P25,000.00 for exemplary damages, P10,000.00 for attorney’s fees, plus costs of suit, is AFFIRMED.

Case Brief: Concepcion v CA

G.R. No. 123450 August 31, 2005
GERARDO B. CONCEPCION, Petitioners,
vs.
COURT OF APPEALS and MA. THERESA ALMONTE, Respondent.

Facts:

Petitioner Gerardo B. Concepcion and Ma. Theresa Almonte were married on December 29, 1989. They lived in Fairview, Quezon City and a year later on December 8, 1990, Ma. Theresa gave birth to Jose Gerardo.

On December 19, 1991, Gerardo filed a petition to have his marriage to Ma. Theresa annulled on the ground of bigamy, alleging that her marriage with Mario Gopiao on December 10, 198- was never annulled. Although Ma. Theresa did not deny marrying Mario, she averred that the marriage was a sham and that she have never lived with Mario at all.

The trial court said otherwise, and ruled that Ma. Theresa’s marriage to Mario was valid and subsisting, thus declaring her marriage to Gerardo as void ab initio. It deemed Jose Gerardo to be an illegitimate child and the custody was awarded to Ma. Theresa while Gerardo was granted visitation rights. Also, it allowed the child to use the surname of his father.

Ma. Theresa appealed and pleaded for the reverse of the court’s decisions. The Court of Appeals ruled that Jose Gerardo was not the son of Ma. Theresa by Gerardo but by Mario during her first marriage considering the fact that the second marriage was void from the beginning. Therefore, the child Jose Gerardo – under the law – is the child of the legal and subsisting marriage between Ma. Theresa and Mario Gopiao.

Gerardo Concepcion moved for the reconsideration of the decision.

Issue:

Whether the child is the legitimate child of Ma. Theresa and Gopiao or the illegimate child of Ma. Theresa and Gerardo.

Held:
The child, Jose Gerardo, is the legitimate child of Ma. Theresa and Mario Gopiao.

The status and filiation of a child cannot be compromised as per Art. 164 of the Family Code which states, “A child who is conceived or born during the marriage of his parents is legitimate.” It is fully supported by Art. 167 of the Family Code which states, “The child shall be considered legitimate although the mother may have declared against its legitimacy or may have been sentenced as an adulteress.”. The law requires that every reasonable presumption be made in favor of the legitimacy. It is grounded on the policy to protect the innocent offspring from the odium of illegitimacy.

Since the marriage of Gerardo and Ma. Theresa was void from the very beginning, he never became her husband and thus never acquired any right to impugn the legitimacy of her child. The minor cannot be deprived of his/her legitimate status on the bare declaration of the mother and/or even much less, the supposed father. In fine, the law and only the law determines who are the legitimate or illegitimate children for one’s legitimacy or illegitimacy cannot ever be compromised. It should be what the law says and not what a parent says it is. Additionally, public policy demands that there be no compromise on the status and filiation of a child. Otherwise, the child will be at the mercy of those who may be so minded to exploit his defenselessness.

As a legitimate child, Jose Gerardo shall have the right to bear the surnames of his father Mario and mother Ma. Theresa, in conformity with the provisions of the Civil Code on surnames. Also, there being no such parent-child relationship between the child and Gerardo, Gerardo has no legally demandable right to visit the child.

The State as parens patriae affords special protection to children from abuse, exploitation and other conditions prejudicial to their development. It is mandated to provide protection to those of tender years. Through its laws, the State safeguards them from every one, even their own parents, to the end that their eventual development as responsible citizens and members of society shall not be impeded, distracted or impaired by family acrimony. This is especially significant where, as in this case, the issue concerns their filiation as it strikes at their very identity and lineage. The child, by reason of his mental and physical immaturity, needs special safeguard and care, including appropriate legal protection before as well as after birth. In case of assault on his rights by those who take advantage of his innocence and vulnerability, the law will rise in his defense with the single-minded purpose of upholding only his best interests.

WHEREFORE, the petition of Gerardo is hereby DENIED. The resolution of the Court of Appeals in favor of respondents is AFFIRMED.