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June 25, 2014

Macariola vs. Asuncion

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Facts:

  • In 1968, Bernardita R. Macariola charged respondent Judge Elias B. Asuncion of the Court of First Instance of Leyte, now Associate Justice of the Court of Appeals, with "acts unbecoming a judge." 
  • Civil Case No. 3010 of the Court of First Instance of Leyte was a complaint for partition filed by Sinforosa R. Bales, Luz R. Bakunawa, Anacorita Reyes, Ruperto Reyes, Adela Reyes, and Priscilla Reyes, plaintiffs, against Bernardita R. Macariola, defendant, concerning the properties left by the deceased Francisco Reyes, the common father of the plaintiff and defendant. 
  • Judge Asuncion was the hearing judge of the civil case which became final for lack of appeal. 
  • A particular Lot 1184-E was sold on July 31, 1964 to Dr. Arcadio Galapon who was issued transfer certificate of title No. 2338 of the Register of Deeds of the city of Tacloban. The same lot was part of the properties which was decided by Asunsion in civil case no. 3010.
  • On March 6, 1965, Dr. Arcadio Galapon and his wife Sold a portion of Lot 1184-E with an area of around 1,306 sq. meters to Judge Asuncion and his wife, Victoria S. Asuncion, which particular portion was declared by the latter for taxation purposes.
  • On August 31, 1966, spouses Asuncion and spouses Galapon conveyed their respective shares and interest in Lot 1184-E to "The Traders Manufacturing and Fishing Industries Inc.". 
  • At the time of said sale the stockholders of the corporation were Dominador Arigpa Tan, Humilia Jalandoni Tan, Jaime Arigpa Tan, Judge Asuncion, and the latter's wife, Victoria S. Asuncion, with Judge Asuncion as the President and Mrs. Asuncion as the secretary . The Articles of Incorporation of "The Traders Manufacturing and Fishing Industries, Inc." which we shall henceforth refer to as "TRADERS" were registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission only on January 9, 1967. 
  • Complainant Bernardita R. Macariola filed on August 9, 1968 the instant complaint dated August 6, 1968 alleging four causes, to wit: 
[1] that respondent Judge Asuncion violated Article 1491, paragraph 5, of the New Civil Code in acquiring by purchase a portion of Lot No. 1184-E which was one of those properties involved in Civil Case No. 3010 decided by him;
[2] that he likewise violated Article 14, paragraphs I and 5 of the Code of Commerce, Section 3, paragraph H, of R.A. 3019, otherwise known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, Section 12, Rule XVIII of the Civil Service Rules, and Canon 25 of the Canons of Judicial Ethics, by associating himself with the Traders Manufacturing and Fishing Industries, Inc., as a stockholder and a ranking officer while he was a judge of the Court of First Instance of Leyte;
[3] that respondent was guilty of coddling an impostor and acted in disregard of judicial decorum by closely fraternizing with a certain Dominador Arigpa Tan who openly and publicly advertised himself as a practising attorney when in truth and in fact his name does not appear in the Rolls of Attorneys and is not a member of the Philippine Bar; and
[4] that there was a culpable defiance of the law and utter disregard for ethics by respondent Judge. 

Issue: Whether or not Judge Asuncion may acquire property under whom said property has been decided in a civil case. 

Held: Yes. He may acquire the property in question. 

Article 1491. The following persons cannot acquire by purchase, even at a public or judicial action, either in person or through the mediation of another: 
xxx xxx xxx (5) Justices, judges, prosecuting attorneys, clerks of superior and inferior courts, and other officers and employees connected with the administration of justice, the property and rights in litigation or levied upon an execution before the court within whose jurisdiction or territory they exercise their respective functions; this prohibition includes the act of acquiring by assignment and shall apply to lawyers, with respect to the property and rights which may be the object of any litigation in which they may take part by virtue of their profession.

In the case at bar, when the respondent Judge purchased on March 6, 1965 a portion of Lot 1184-E, the decision in Civil Case No. 3010 which he rendered on June 8, 1963 was already final because none of the parties therein filed an appeal within the reglementary period; hence, the lot in question was no longer subject of the litigation. 

Moreover, at the time of the sale on March 6, 1965, respondent's order dated October 23, 1963 and the amended order dated November 11, 1963 approving the October 16, 1963 project of partition made pursuant to the June 8, 1963 decision, had long become final for there was no appeal from said orders. 

Furthermore, respondent Judge did not buy the lot in question on March 6, 1965 directly from the plaintiffs in Civil Case No. 3010 but from Dr. Arcadio Galapon who earlier purchased on July 31, 1964 Lot 1184-E from three of the plaintiffs after the finality of the decision in Civil Case No. 3010. The subsequent sale on August 31, 1966 by spouses Asuncion and spouses Galapon of their respective shares and interest in said Lot 1184-E to the Traders Manufacturing and Fishing Industries, Inc., in which respondent was the president and his wife was the secretary, took place long after the finality of the decision in Civil Case No. 3010 and of the subsequent two aforesaid orders therein approving the project of partition. 

However, it was improper for him to have acquired the same. He should be reminded of Canon 3 of the Canons of Judicial Ethics which requires that: "A judge's official conduct should be free from the appearance of impropriety, and his personal behavior, not only upon the bench and in the performance of judicial duties, but also in his everyday life, should be beyond reproach." 

And as aptly observed by the Investigating Justice: "... it was unwise and indiscreet on the part of respondent to have purchased or acquired a portion of a piece of property that was or had been in litigation in his court and caused it to be transferred to a corporation of which he and his wife were ranking officers at the time of such transfer. One who occupies an exalted position in the judiciary has the duty and responsibility of maintaining the faith and trust of the citizenry in the courts of justice, so that not only must he be truly honest and just, but his actuations must be such as not give cause for doubt and mistrust in the uprightness of his administration of justice.
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June 22, 2014

NPC vs. Ibrahim

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Facts:

  • Ibrahim owns a parcel of land located in Lanao del Norte.
  • In 1978, NAPOCOR took possession of the sub-terrain area of the land and constructed underground tunnels on the said property. 
  • The tunnels were apparently being used by NAPOCOR in siphoning the water of Lake Lanao and in the operation of NAPOCOR’s Agus projects.
  • In 1991, Maruhom (one of the co-heirs of Ibrahim) requested Marawi City Water District for a permit to construct or install a motorized deep well on the parcel of land but it was rejected on the grounds that the construction would cause danger to lives and property by reason of the presence of the underground tunnels.
  • Maruhom demanded NAPOCOR to pay damages and to vacate the sub-terrain portion of the land.

Issue: WON Ibrahim is the rightful owner of the sub-terrain area of the land.
If yes, are they entitled to the payment of just compensation.

Held: YES. The sub-terrain portion of the property belongs to Ibrahim.

The Supreme Court cited Article 437 of the Civil Code which provides that: The owner of a parcel of land is the owner of its surface and of everything under it, and he can construct thereon any works or make any plantations and excavations which he may deem proper, without detriment to servitudes and subject to special laws and ordinances. xxx

Hence, the ownership of land extends to the surface as well as to the subsoil under it. Therefore, Ibrahim owns the property as well as the sub-terrain area of the land where the underground tunnels were constructed.

On the issue of just compensation, the Supreme Court also said that Ibrahim should be paid a just compensation.

Ibrahim could have dug upon their property and built motorized deep wells but was prevented from doing so by the authorities because of the construction of the tunnels underneath the surface of the land.

Ibrahim still had a legal interest in the sub-terrain portion insofar as they could have excavated the same for the construction of the deep wells.  It has been shown that the underground tunnels have deprived the plaintiffs of the lawful use of the land and considerably reduced its value. 

It was held that: If the government takes property without expropriation and devotes the property to public use, after many years, the property owner may demand payment of just compensation in the event restoration of possession is neither convenient nor feasible. This is in accordance with the principle that persons shall not be deprived of their property except by competent authority and for public use and always upon payment of just compensation.

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June 18, 2014

Lee Tek Sheng vs. CA

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Facts:

  • After his mother’s death, petitioner Leoncio Lee Tek Sheng filed a complaint against his father (private respondent) for the partition of the conjugal properties of his parents.
  • The private respondent alleged that the 4 parcels of land registered in petitioner’s name are conjugal properties.
  • The PR contends that the lots were registered under Leoncio’s name only as a trustee because during the registration, Leoncio was the only Filipino in the family.
  • Respondent prayed for the dismissal of the partition case and for the reconveyance of the lots to its rightful owner – the conjugal regime.
  • To protect the interest of the conjugal regime during the pendency of the case, PR caused the annotation of a notice of lis pendens on TCT 8278.
  • Petitioner moved for the cancellation of said annotation but it was denied by RTC on the grounds that: (a) the notice was not for the purpose of molesting or harassing petitioner and (b) also to keep the property within the power of the court pending litigation. CA affirmed the decision. Hence this petition. 
  • Petitioner’s contention: The resolution of an incidental motion for cancellation of the notice of lis pendens was improper to thresh out the issue of ownership of the disputed lots since ownership cannot be passed upon in a partition case and that it would amount to a collateral attack of his title obtained more than 28 years ago.
  • Private respondent’s contention: The evidence of ownership is admissible in a partition case as this is not a probate or land registration proceedings when the court’s jurisdiction is limited. 

Issue: WON the annotation of a notice of lis pendens is valid. 

Held: Yes. 

Petitioner’s claim is not legally tenable. The annotation of a notice of lis pendens does not in any case amount nor can it be considered as equivalent to a collateral attack of the certificate of title for a parcel of land. 

What cannot be collaterally attacked is the certificate of title and not the title. Placing a parcel of land under the mantle of the Torrens system does not mean that ownership thereof can no longer be disputed. Ownership is different from a certificate of title. The TCT is only the best proof of ownership of a piece of land. Besides, the certificate cannot always be considered as conclusive evidence of ownership.

Registration is not the equivalent of title, but is only the best evidence thereof. Title as a concept of ownership should not be confused with the certificate of title as evidence of such ownership although both are interchangeably used. In this case, contrary to petitioner’s fears, his certificate of title is not being assailed by private respondent. What the latter disputes is the former’s claim of sole ownership. Thus, although petitioner’s certificate of title may have become incontrovertible one year after issuance, yet contrary to his argument, it does not bar private respondent from questioning his ownership.

A notice of lis pendens may be cancelled only on two grounds:
(1) if the annotation was for the purpose of molesting the title of the adverse party
(2) when the annotation is not necessary to protect the title of the party who caused it to be recorded. 
Neither ground for cancellation of the notice was convincingly shown to concur in this case. 

It must be emphasized that the annotation of a notice of lis pendens is only for the purpose of announcing “to the whole world that a particular real property is in litigation, serving as a warning that one who acquires an interest over said property does so at his own risk, or that he gambles on the result of the litigation over said property.”

On the contention that ownership cannot be passed upon in partition case, suffice it to say that until and unless ownership is definitely resolved, it would be premature to effect partition of the property. For purposes of annotating a notice of lis pendens, there is nothing in the rules which requires the party seeking annotation to prove that the land belongs to him. Besides, an action for partition is one case where the annotation of a notice of lis pendens is proper.
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June 16, 2014

Lacbayan vs. Samoy

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Facts:

  • Betty Lacbayan (petitioner) and Bayani S. Samoy (respondent) had an illicit relationship. 
  • During their relationship, they, together with three more incorporators, were able to establish a manpower services company.
  • The company acquired five parcels of land were registered in petitioner and respondent’s names, ostensibly as husband and wife.
  • When their relationship turned sour, they decided to divide the said properties and terminate their business partnership by executing a Partition Agreement.
  • Initially, respondent agreed to petitioner’s proposal that the properties in Malvar St. and Don Enrique Heights be assigned to the latter, while the ownership over the three other properties will go to respondent.
  • However, when Lacbayan wanted additional demands to be included in the partition agreement, Samoy refused.
  • Feeling aggrieved, petitioner filed a complaint for judicial partition of the said properties.
  • Petitioner’s contention: She claimed that they started to live together as husband and wife in 1979 without the benefit of marriage and worked together as business partners, acquiring real properties amounting to P15,500,000.00.
  • Respondent’s contention: He purchased the properties using his own personal funds.
  • RTC and CA ruled in favor or respondent. 

Issues:
1. WON an action for partition precludes a settlement on the issue of ownership.
2. Would a resolution on the issue of ownership subject the Torrens title issued over the disputed realties to a collateral attack?

Held: 

1. No.

While it is true that the complaint involved here is one for partition, the same is premised on the existence or non-existence of co-ownership between the parties. Until and unless this issue of co-ownership is definitely and finally resolved, it would be premature to effect a partition of the disputed properties. More importantly, the complaint will not even lie if the claimant, or petitioner in this case, does not even have any rightful interest over the subject properties.

A careful perusal of the contents of the so-called Partition Agreement indicates that the document involves matters which necessitate prior settlement of questions of law, basic of which is a determination as to whether the parties have the right to freely divide among themselves the subject properties.

2. No. 

There is no dispute that a Torrens certificate of title cannot be collaterally attacked, but that rule is not material to the case at bar. What cannot be collaterally attacked is the certificate of title and not the title itself. The certificate referred to is that document issued by the Register of Deeds known as the TCT. In contrast, the title referred to by law means ownership which is, more often than not, represented by that document. 

Moreover, placing a parcel of land under the mantle of the Torrens system does not mean that ownership thereof can no longer be disputed. Mere issuance of the certificate of title in the name of any person does not foreclose the possibility that the real property may be under co-ownership with persons not named in the certificate, or that the registrant may only be a trustee, or that other parties may have acquired interest over the property subsequent to the issuance of the certificate of title. Needless to say, registration does not vest ownership over a property, but may be the best evidence thereof.

Other topic: 

Whether respondent is estopped from repudiating co-ownership over the subject realties.

YES. Petitioner herself admitted that she did not assent to the Partition Agreement after seeing the need to amend the same to include other matters. Petitioner does not have any right to insist on the contents of an agreement she intentionally refused to sign.

Moreover, to follow petitioner’s argument would be to allow respondent not only to admit against his own interest but that of his legal spouse as well, who may also be lawfully entitled co-ownership over the said properties.
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June 7, 2014

10 Best Performing Law School for 2013 Bar Examinations

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