G.R. No. 196251 July 9, 2014
OLIVAREZ REALTY CORPORATION and DR. PABLO R. OLIVAREZ, Petitioner,
BENJAMIN CASTILLO, Respondent.
Castillo was the owner of a parcel of land covered by TCT 19972. The Philippine Tourism Authority allegedly claimed ownership of the same parcel of land based on TCT 18493.
Castillo and Olivarez Realty Corporation, represented by Dr. Pablo Olivarez, entered into a contract of conditional sale over the property. The details were as follows:
1. Under the deed of conditional sale, Castillo agreed to sell his property to Olivarez Realty; with Olivarez Realty delivering the downpayment and the rest to be paid in 30 equal monthly installments every 8th of the month beginning in the month that the parties would receive a decision voiding the PTA’s title to the property.
2. Under the same deed, Olivarez Realty will file the action against PTA with full assistance of Castillo; and that should the petition be denied, Castillo shall reimburse all the amounts paid by Olivarez Realty.
3. Under the same contract, Olivarez Realty undertook to pay the legitimate tenants of the land disturbance compensation, while Castillo undertook to clear the land of the tenants within 6 months from the signing of the deed; that should Castillo fail to clear the land within 6 months, Olivarez Realty may suspend its monthly downpayment until the tenants vacate the property.
4. The parties agreed that Olivarez Realty Corporation may immediately occupy the property upon signing of the deed. Should the contract be cancelled, Olivarez Realty Corporation agreed to return the property’s possession to Castillo and forfeit all the improvements it may have introduced on the property.
Olivarez Realty failed to comply with the conditions, to wit: a) pay the full purchase price; b) failed to file any action against PTA; c) failed to clear the land of the tenants nor paying them disturbance compensation. For breaching the contract, Castillo prayed for rescission of contract under Art. 1191 of Civil Code, plus damages.
In their defense, Olivarez Realty alleged that Castillo failed to fully assist in filing the action against PTA; that Castillo failed to clear the property of the tenants within 6 months from the signing of the deed. Thus, they had all the legal right to withhold the subsequent payments to fully pay the purchase price.
Both RTC and CA ruled that Olivarez Realty breached the contract and ordered the rescission of the sale plus damages.
What is the nature of obligations undertaken by both parties?
Olivarez Realty’s obligation to pay the disturbance compensation is a pure obligation, and hence, demandable at once. With respect to Castillo’s obligation to clear the land of the tenants within six months from the signing of the contract, his obligation was an obligation with a resolutory period. The obligation to clear the land of the tenants took effect at once, specifically, upon the parties’ signing of the deed of conditional sale. Castillo had until October 2, 2000, six months from April 5, 2000 when the parties signed the deed of conditional sale, to clear the land of the tenants. Olivarez Realty Corporation, therefore, had no right to withhold payments of the purchase price. As the trial court ruled, Olivarez Realty Corporation “can only claim non-compliance of the obligation to clear the land of the tenants in October 2000.
Whether or not rescission of the contract is proper.
Held #2: NO.
SC characterized the contract as a contract to sell, not a contract of conditional sale. In a contract of conditional sale, the buyer automatically acquires title to the property upon full payment of the purchase price. This transfer of title is “by operation of law without any further act having to be performed by the seller.” In a contract to sell, transfer of title to the prospective buyer is not automatic. “The prospective seller must convey title to the property through a deed of conditional sale.” The distinction is important to determine the applicable laws and remedies in case a party does not fulfill his or her obligations under the contract. In contracts of conditional sale, our laws on sales under the Civil Code of the Philippines apply. On the other hand, contracts to sell are not governed by our law on sales but by the Civil Code provisions on conditional obligations.
Specifically, Article 1191 of the Civil Code on the right to rescind reciprocal obligations does not apply to contracts to sell. Failure to fully pay the purchase price in contracts to sell is not the breach of contract under Art. 1191. Failure to fully pay the purchase price is merely an event which prevents the seller’s obligation to convey title from acquiring binding force. This is because there can be no rescission of an obligation that is still nonexistent, the suspensive condition (the condition of having the buyer pay the full purchase price) having not happened.
In this case, Castillo reserved his title to the property and undertook to execute a deed of absolute sale upon Olivarez Realty Corporation’s full payment of the purchase price. Since Castillo still has to execute a deed of absolute sale to Olivarez Realty Corporation upon full payment of the purchase price, the transfer of title is not automatic. As this case involves a contract to sell, Article 1191 of the Civil Code of the Philippines does not apply. The contract to sell is instead cancelled, and the parties shall stand as if the obligation to sell never existed.
SC cancelled the deed of conditional sale. Olivarez Realty was ordered to return to Castillo the possession of property, together with all improvements that it introduced. Olivarez Realty was also ordered to pay moral damages, exemplary damages, and attorney’s fees to Castillo.