623 Phil. 303
x x x [It] appears that in the early part of 1958, Domingo Hernandez, Sr. (who was then a Central Bank employee) and his spouse Sergia V. Hernandez were awarded a piece of real property by the Philippine Homesite and Housing Corporation (PHHC) by way of salary deduction. On October 18, 1963, the [petitioners] then having paid in full the entire amount of P6,888.96, a Deed of Absolute Sale of the property was executed by the PHHC in their favor. TCT No. 107534, covering the property was issued to the [petitioners] on May 23, 1966. It bears an annotation of the retention period of the property by the awardee (i.e., restriction of any unauthorized sale to third persons within a certain period). Tax payments due on the property were religiously paid (until 1955) by the [petitioners] as evidenced by receipts under the [petitioners'] name.
Hernandez, Sr. died intestate in April 1983 and it was only after his burial that his heirs found out that TCT No. 107534 was already cancelled a year before (in 1982), and in lieu thereof, TCT No. 290121 was issued to the [respondents]. Upon diligent inquiry, [petitioners] came to know that the cancellation of TCT (No. 107534) in favor of the [respondents'] xxx TCT (No. 290121) was based upon three sets of documents, namely, (1) Irrevocable Power of Attorney; (2) Irrevocable Special Power of Attorney; and (3) Deed of Absolute Sale.
[Petitioners] also allege that because of financial difficulties, they were only able to file a complaint on February 11, 1995 after consulting with several lawyers.
x x x x
[Respondents] xxx on the other hand do not deny that Hernandez, Sr. was indeed awarded a piece of real property by the PHHC. According to the [respondents] xxx, Hernandez, Sr. was awarded by the PHHC the Right to Purchase the property in question; however, the late Hernandez, Sr. failed to pay all the installments due on the said property. Thus, afraid that he would forfeit his right to purchase the property awarded to him, Hernandez, Sr. sold to Dolores Camisura his rights for the sum of P6,500.00 on February 14, 1963, through a deed of transfer of rights, seemingly a printed form from the PHHC. Simultaneous to this, Hernandez, Sr. and his spouse executed an irrevocable special power of attorney, appointing Dolores Camisura as their attorney-in-fact with express power to sign, execute and acknowledge any contract of disposition, alienation and conveyance of her right over the aforesaid parcel of land.
Apparently, this special power of attorney was executed for the purpose of securing her right to transfer the property to a third person considering that there was a prohibition to dispose of the property by the original purchaser within one (1) year from full payment. Else wise stated, the irrevocable power of attorney was necessary in order to enable the buyer, Dolores Camisura, to sell the lot to another, Plaridel Mingoa, without the need of requiring Hernandez, to sign a deed of conveyance.
On May 9, 1964, Dolores Camisura sold her right over the said property to Plaridel Mingoa for P7,000.00. Camisura then executed a similar irrevocable power of attorney and a deed of sale of right in a residential land and improvements therein in favor of Plaridel Mingoa. Upon such payment and on the strength of the said irrevocable power of attorney, Plaridel Mingoa took possession of the said property and began paying all the installments due on the property to PHHC. Plaridel Mingoa further secured TCT No. 107534 (issued in the name of Domingo Hernandez, Sr.) on May, 1966. On July 9, 1978, Plaridel Mingoa sold to his eldest child, Melanie Mingoa, the property in question for P18,000.00. TCT No. 107534 was thus cancelled and TCT No. 290121 was issued in the name of Melanie Mingoa. It is further claimed that since 1966 until 1982, Plaridel Mingoa religiously paid all the taxes due on the said property; and that from 1983 up to the present, Melanie Mingoa paid all the property taxes due thereon aside from having actual possession of the said property. (words in brackets ours)
WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered in favor of the plaintiffs as follows:
1) TCT No. 290121 and all its derivative titles are hereby declared null and void;
2) Ordering the Register of Deeds of Quezon City to cancel TCT No. 290121 issued in the name of defendant Melanie Mingoa and corresponding owner's duplicate certificate and all its derivative title[s];
3) Ordering defendant Melanie Mingoa and all derivative owners to surrender owner's duplicate copies of transfer certificate of title to the Register of Deeds of Quezon City for cancellation upon finality of this decision;
4) Ordering the defendants except the Register of Deeds of Quezon City to turn over to the plaintiffs the peaceful possession of the subject property; and
5) Ordering the defendants except the Register of Deeds of Quezon City to jointly and severally (sic) pay the plaintiffs the sum of P10,000.00 as attorney's [fees] and to pay the costs of suit.
The two (2) parties in the case at bar gave out conflicting versions as to who paid for the subject property. The plaintiffs claim that they were the ones who paid the entire amount out of the conjugal funds while it is the contention of the defendant Mingoa that the former were not able to pay. The defendant alleged that the right to purchase was sold to him and he was able to pay the whole amount. The Court is of the opinion that petitioners' version is more credible taken together with the presence of the irrevocable power of attorney which both parties admitted. In light of the version of the defendants, it is highly improbable that a Power of Attorney would be constituted by the plaintiffs authorizing the former to sell the subject property. This is because for all intents and purposes, the land is already the defendants' for if we are to follow their claim, they paid for the full amount of the same. It can be safely concluded then that the Power of Attorney was unnecessary because the defendants, as buyers, can compel the plaintiff-sellers to execute the transfer of the said property after the period of prohibition has lapsed. The defendants, as owners, will have the right to do whatever they want with the land even without an Irrevocable Power of Attorney. Since the presence of the Irrevocable Power of Attorney is established, it is now the task of this Court to determine the validity of the sale made by virtue of the said Power of Attorney. As what was said earlier, the Court subscribes to the points raised by the plaintiffs. It was proved during trial that the signature of the wife was falsified. Therefore, it is as if the wife never authorized the agent to sell her share of the subject land, it being conjugal property. It follows that the sale of half of the land is invalid. However, it must be pointed out that the signature of the deceased husband was never contested and is therefore deemed admitted. We now come to the half which belongs to the deceased husband. The Law on Sales expressly prohibits the agent from purchasing the property of the principal without the latter's consent (Article 1491 of the Civil Code). It was established from the records that defendant Plaridel Mingoa sold the subject land to his daughter Melanie. It is now for the Court to decide whether this transaction is valid. x x x Considering that the sale took place in July 1978, it follows from simple mathematical computation that Melanie was then a minor (20 years of age) when she allegedly bought the property from her father. Since Melanie's father is the sub-agent of the deceased principal, he is prohibited by law from purchasing the land without the latter's consent. This being the case, the sale is invalid for it appears that Plaridel Mingoa sold the land to himself. It should be noted that the defendants could have easily presented Melanie's birth certificate, it being at their disposal, but they chose not to. Because of this, this Court is of the belief that the presumption that evidence willfully suppressed would be adverse if produced arises.
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the Decision of the RTC Branch 92, Quezon City, in Civil Case No. Q-94-19276, entitled, "Heirs of Domingo Hernandez, Sr. vs. Dolores Camisura, et. al.," is hereby REVERSED AND SET ASIDE. A new one is hereby entered, DISMISSING the complaint in Civil Case No. Q-94-19276 entitled, "Heirs of Domingo Hernandez, Sr. vs. Dolores Camisura, et. al.," filed by the plaintiffs-appellees before the RTC Branch 92, Quezon City for lack of merit.
As a general rule, only questions of law may be raised in a petition for review on certiorari to the Supreme Court. Although it has long been settled that findings of fact are conclusive upon this Court, there are exceptional circumstances which would require us to review findings of fact of the Court of Appeals, to wit:(1) the conclusion is a finding grounded entirely on speculation, surmise and conjectures; (2) the inference made is manifestly mistaken; (3) there is grave abuse of discretion; (4) the judgment is based on misapprehension of facts; (5) the findings of fact are conflicting; (6) the Court of Appeals went beyond the issues of the case and its findings are contrary to the admissions of both appellant and appellees; (7) the findings of fact of the Court of Appeals are contrary to those of the trial court; (8) said findings of fact are conclusions without citation of specific evidence on which they are based; (9) the facts set forth in the decision as well as in the petitioner's main and reply briefs are not disputed by the respondents; (10) the finding of fact of the Court of Appeals is premised on the supposed absence of evidence and is contradicted by evidence on record. (emphasis ours)
The general rule is that the certificate of non-forum shopping must be signed by all the plaintiffs in a case and the signature of only one of them is insufficient. However, the Court has also stressed that the rules on forum shopping were designed to promote and facilitate the orderly administration of justice and thus should not be interpreted with such absolute literalness as to subvert its own ultimate and legitimate objective. The rule of substantial compliance may be availed of with respect to the contents of the certification. This is because the requirement of strict compliance with the provisions regarding the certification of non-forum shopping merely underscores its mandatory nature in that the certification cannot be altogether dispensed with or its requirements completely disregarded. Thus, under justifiable circumstances, the Court has relaxed the rule requiring the submission of such certification considering that although it is obligatory, it is not jurisdictional.
In HLC Construction and Development Corporation v. Emily Homes Subdivision Homeowners Association, it was held that the signature of only one of the petitioners in the certification against forum shopping substantially complied with rules because all the petitioners share a common interest and invoke a common cause of action or defense.
The same leniency was applied by the Court in Cavile v. Heirs of Cavile, because the lone petitioner who executed the certification of non-forum shopping was a relative and co-owner of the other petitioners with whom he shares a common interest. x x x
x x x
In the instant case, petitioners share a common interest and defense inasmuch as they collectively claim a right not to be dispossessed of the subject lot by virtue of their and their deceased parents' construction of a family home and occupation thereof for more than 10 years. The commonality of their stance to defend their alleged right over the controverted lot thus gave petitioners xxx authority to inform the Court of Appeals in behalf of the other petitioners that they have not commenced any action or claim involving the same issues in another court or tribunal, and that there is no other pending action or claim in another court or tribunal involving the same issues. x x x
x x x [The] Court agrees that the correct procedure, as mandated by Section 4, Rule 45 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, is not to implead the lower court which rendered the assailed decision. However, impleading the lower court as respondent in the petition for review on certiorari does not automatically mean the dismissal of the appeal but merely authorizes the dismissal of the petition. Besides, formal defects in petitions are not uncommon. The Court has encountered previous petitions for review on certiorari that erroneously impleaded the CA. In those cases, the Court merely called the petitioners' attention to the defects and proceeded to resolve the case on their merits.
The Court finds no reason why it should not afford the same liberal treatment in this case. While unquestionably, the Court has the discretion to dismiss the appeal for being defective, sound policy dictates that it is far better to dispose of cases on the merits, rather than on technicality as the latter approach may result in injustice. This is in accordance with Section 6, Rule 1 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure which encourages a reading of the procedural requirements in a manner that will help secure and not defeat justice.
- Domingo Hernandez, Sr. was awarded a piece of real property in 1958 by the PHHC as part of the government's housing program at the time. Title over the said property was issued in 1966 in the name of Hernandez, Sr., after full payment for the property was received by the PHHC.
- Neither [petitioners] nor Hernandez, Sr., took possession of the said property. On the other hand, the [respondents] took possession of the said property in 1966 and are in actual and physical possession thereof up to the present, and have made considerable improvements thereon, including a residential house where they presently reside.
- The Owner's Duplicate Copy of the title over the property given by the PHHC to Hernandez, Sr. was in the possession of Plaridel Mingoa, the latter being able to facilitate the cancellation of the said title and [the issuance of] a new TCT xxx in the name of Melanie Mingoa.
- The realty taxes have been paid by [respondents], albeit in the name of Hernandez, Sr., but all official receipts of tax payments are kept by the [respondents].
- From 1966 (the time when the [respondents] were able to possess the property) to 1983 (the time when the [petitioners] had knowledge that the TCT in the name of Hernandez, Sr. had already been cancelled by the Registry of Deeds of Quezon City) covers almost a span of 17 years; and from 1983 to 1995 (the time when the Heirs filed the original action) is a period of another 12 years.
1. To sign, execute and acknowledge all such contracts, deeds or other instruments which may be required by the People's Homesite and Housing Corporation with respect to the purchase of that certain parcel of land known and designated as Lot No. 15 Block E-89 of the Malaya Avenue Subdivision, situated in Quezon City and containing an area of 520 square meters, more or less, which I have acquired thru the CENTRAL BANK STAFF HOUSING CORPORATION;
2. To sign, execute and acknowledge all such contracts or other instruments which may deem necessary or be required to sign, execute and acknowledge for the purpose of selling, transferring, conveying, disposing of or alienating whatever rights I may have over that parcel of land mentioned above;
x x x.
x x x Appreciating the case in its entirety, the purported SPA appear to be merely a grant of authority to Camisura (and then to Plaridel Mingoa) to sell and dispose of the subject property as well as a grant of right to purchase the said property; but in essence, such SPA are disguised deeds of sale of the property executed in circumventing the retention period restriction over the said property. Verily, the parties knew that the land in question could not be alienated in favor of any third person within one (1) year without the approval of the PHHC.
Art. 165. The husband is the administrator of the conjugal partnership.
Art. 166. Unless the wife has been declared a non compos mentis or a spendthrift, or is under civil interdiction or is confined in a leprosarium, the husband cannot alienate or encumber any real property of the conjugal partnership without the wife's consent. If she refuses unreasonably to give her consent, the court may compel her to grant the same. x x x.
Art. 173. The wife may, during the marriage, and within ten years from the transaction questioned, ask the courts for the annulment of any contract of the husband entered into without her consent, when such consent is required, or any act or contract of the husband which tends to defraud her or impair her interest in the conjugal partnership property. Should the wife fail to exercise this right, she or her heirs, after the dissolution of the marriage, may demand the value of property fraudulently alienated by the husband. (Emphasis ours.)
The plain meaning attached to the plain language of the law is that the contract, in its entirety, executed by the husband without the wife's consent, may be annulled by the wife. (emphasis ours)
The Family Code, which took effect on 3 August 1988, provides that any alienation or encumbrance made by the husband of the conjugal partnership property without the consent of the wife is void. However, when the sale is made before the effectivity of the Family Code, the applicable law is the Civil Code.
Article 173 of the Civil Code provides that the disposition of conjugal property without the wife's consent is not void but merely voidable.
xxx [Under] Article 173, in relation to Article 166, both of the New Civil Code, which was still in effect on January 11, 1988 when the deed in question was executed, the lack of marital consent to the disposition of conjugal property does not make the contract void ab initio but merely voidable.
In the recent case of Heirs of Ignacia Aguilar-Reyes v. Spouses Mijares, we reiterated the rule that the husband cannot alienate or encumber any conjugal real property without the consent, express or implied, of the wife, otherwise, the contract is voidable. To wit:Indeed, in several cases the Court has ruled that such alienation or encumbrance by the husband is void. The better view, however, is to consider the transaction as merely voidable and not void. This is consistent with Article 173 of the Civil Code pursuant to which the wife could, during the marriage and within 10 years from the questioned transaction, seek its annulment.
x x x
Likewise, in the case of Heirs of Christina Ayuste v. Court of Appeals, we declared that:There is no ambiguity in the wording of the law. A sale of real property of the conjugal partnership made by the husband without the consent of his wife is voidable. The action for annulment must be brought during the marriage and within ten years from the questioned transaction by the wife. Where the law speaks in clear and categorical language, there is no room for interpretation - there is room only for application.
x x x (Emphasis ours.)
xxx [Under] Article 173 of the New Civil Code, an action for the annulment of any contract entered into by the husband without the wife's consent must be filed (1) during the marriage; and (2) within ten years from the transaction questioned. Where any one of these two conditions is lacking, the action will be considered as having been filed out of time.
In the case at bar, while respondent filed her complaint for annulment of the deed of sale on July 8, 1994, i.e., within the ten-year period counted from the execution of the deed of sale of the property on June 3, 1986, the marriage between her and Avelino had already been dissolved by the death of the latter on November 20, 1993. In other words, her marriage to Avelino was no longer subsisting at the time she filed her complaint. Therefore, the civil case had already been barred by prescription. (Emphasis ours.)
In Villaranda v. Villaranda, et al., this Court, through Mr. Justice Artemio V. Panganiban, ruled that without the wife's consent, the husband's alienation or encumbrance of conjugal property prior to the effectivity of the Family Code is not void, but merely voidable. However, the wife's failure to file with the courts an action for annulment of the contract during the marriage and within ten (10) years from the transaction shall render the sale valid. x x x (emphasis ours)
Laches means the failure or neglect for an unreasonable and unexplained length of time to do that which, by observance of due diligence, could or should have been done earlier. It is negligence or omission to assert a right within a reasonable time, warranting the presumption that the party entitled to assert his right either has abandoned or declined to assert it. Laches thus operates as a bar in equity.
x x x
The time-honored rule anchored on public policy is that relief will be denied to a litigant whose claim or demand has become "stale," or who has acquiesced for an unreasonable length of time, or who has not been vigilant or who has slept on his rights either by negligence, folly or inattention. In other words, public policy requires, for peace of society, the discouragement of claims grown stale for non-assertion; thus laches is an impediment to the assertion or enforcement of a right which has become, under the circumstances, inequitable or unfair to permit.
It was earlier shown that there existed a period of 17 years during which time Hernandez, Sr. xxx never even questioned the defendants-appellants possession of the property; also there was another interval of 12 years after discovering that the TCT of the property in the name of Hernandez, Sr. before the Heirs of Hernandez instituted an action for the reconveyance of the title of the property.
x x x
The fact that the Mingoa's were able to take actual possession of the subject property for such a long period without any form of cognizable protest from Hernandez, Sr. and the plaintiffs-appellees strongly calls for the application of the doctrine of laches. It is common practice in the real estate industry, an ocular inspection of the premises involved is a safeguard to the cautious and prudent purchaser usually takes, and should he find out that the land he intends to buy is occupied by anybody else other than the seller who is not in actual possession, it could then be incumbent upon the purchaser to verify the extent of the occupant's possessory rights. The plaintiffs-appellees asseverate that the award was made in favor of Hernandez, Sr. in 1958; full payment made in 1963; and title issued in 1966. It would thus be contrary to ordinary human conduct (and prudence dictates otherwise) for any awardee of real property not to visit and inspect even once, the property awarded to him and find out if there are any transgressors in his property.
Furthermore, Hernandez, Sr.'s inaction during his lifetime lends more credence to the defendants-appellants assertion that the said property was indeed sold by Hernandez, Sr. by way of the SPAs, albeit without the consent of his wife. xxx
In addition, the reasons of poverty and poor health submitted by the plaintiffs-appellees could not justify the 12 years of delay in filing a complaint against the defendants-appellants. The records are bereft of any evidence to support the idea that the plaintiffs-appellees diligently asserted their rights over the said property after having knowledge of the cancellation of the TCT issued in Hernandez name. Moreover the Court seriously doubts the plausibility of this contention since what the plaintiffs-appellees are trying to impress on this Court's mind is that they did not know anything at all except only shortly before the death of Hernandez. To accept that not even the wife knew of the transactions made by Hernandez, Sr. nor anything about the actual possession of the defendants-appellants for such a long period is to Us absurd if not fantastic.
x x x ARTICLE 1410. The action or defense for the declaration of the inexistence of a contract does not prescribe.
(2) Those which are absolutely simulated or fictitious;
x x x
These contracts cannot be ratified. Neither can the right to set up the defense of illegality be waived.