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April 8, 2014

Cavite Development Bank vs. Lim

Facts:
Petitioners Cavite Development Bank (CDB) and Far East Bank and Trust Company (FEBTC) are banking institutions duly organized and existing under Philippine laws. On or about June 15, 1983, a certain Rodolfo Guansing obtained a loan in the amount of P90,000.00 from CDB, to secure which he mortgaged a parcel of land situated at No. 63 Calavite Street, La Loma, Quezon City and covered by TCT No. 300809 registered in his name. As Guansing defaulted in the payment of his loan, CDB foreclosed the mortgage. 

At the foreclosure sale held on March 15, 1984, the mortgaged property was sold to CDB as the highest bidder. Guansing failed to redeem, and on March 2, 1987, CDB consolidated title to the property in its name. TCT No. 300809 in the name of Guansing was cancelled and, in lieu thereof, TCT No. 355588 was issued in the name of CDB.1âwphi1.nêt

On June 16, 1988, private respondent Lolita Chan Lim, assisted by a broker named Remedios Gatpandan, offered to purchase the property from CDB. 

Pursuant to the foregoing terms and conditions of the offer, Lim paid CDB P30,000.00 as Option Money, for which she was issued Official Receipt No. 3160, dated June 17, 1988, by CDB. However, after some time following up the sale, Lim discovered that the subject property was originally registered in the name of Perfecto Guansing, father of mortgagor Rodolfo Guansing, under TCT No. 91148. 

Aggrieved by what she considered a serious misrepresentation by CDB and its mother-company, FEBTC, on their ability to sell the subject property, Lim, joined by her husband, filed on August 29, 1989 an action for specific performance and damages against petitioners in the Regional Trial Court.

On March 10, 1993, the trial court rendered a decision in favor of the Lim spouses. Petitioners brought the matter to the Court of Appeals, which, on October 14, 1997, affirmed in toto the decision of the Regional Trial Court. 

Issue: WON there was a valid sale.

Held: NO.

In this case, the sale by CDB to Lim of the property mortgaged in 1983 by Rodolfo Guansing must, therefore, be deemed a nullity for CDB did not have a valid title to the said property. To be sure, CDB never acquired a valid title to the property because the foreclosure sale, by virtue of which, the property had been awarded to CDB as highest bidder, is likewise void since the mortgagor was not the owner of the property foreclosed.

A foreclosure sale, though essentially a "forced sale," is still a sale in accordance with Art. 1458 of the Civil Code, under which the mortgagor in default, the forced seller, becomes obliged to transfer the ownership of the thing sold to the highest bidder who, in turn, is obliged to pay therefor the bid price in money or its equivalent. Being a sale, the rule that the seller must be the owner of the thing sold also applies in a foreclosure sale. This is the reason Art. 2085 of the Civil Code, in providing for the essential requisites of the contract of mortgage and pledge, requires, among other things, that the mortgagor or pledgor be the absolute owner of the thing pledged or mortgaged, in anticipation of a possible foreclosure sale should the mortgagor default in the payment of the loan.

There is, however, a situation where, despite the fact that the mortgagor is not the owner of the mortgaged property, his title being fraudulent, the mortgage contract and any foreclosure sale arising therefrom are given effect by reason of public policy. This is the doctrine of "the mortgagee in good faith" based on the rule that all persons dealing with property covered by a Torrens Certificate of Title, as buyers or mortgagees, are not required to go beyond what appears on the face of the title. The public interest in upholding the indefeasibility of a certificate of title, as evidence of the lawful ownership of the land or of any encumbrance thereon, protects a buyer or mortgagee who, in good faith, relied upon what appears on the face of the certificate of title.

This principle is cited by petitioners in claiming that, as a mortgagee bank, it is not required to make a detailed investigation of the history of the title of the property given as security before accepting a mortgage.

We are not convinced, however, that under the circumstances of this case, CDB can be considered a mortgagee in good faith. While petitioners are not expected to conduct an exhaustive investigation on the history of the mortgagor's title, they cannot be excused from the duty of exercising the due diligence required of banking institutions. In Tomas v. Tomas, we noted that it is standard practice for banks, before approving a loan, to send representatives to the premises of the land offered as collateral and to investigate who are real owners thereof, noting that banks are expected to exercise more care and prudence than private individuals in their dealings, even those involving registered lands, for their business is affected with public interest. 

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