G.R. No. 146294, 31 July 2006
In 1986, John Abing and Juliet Waeyan cohabited as husband and wife without the benefit of marriage. Together, they bought a 2-storey residential house. In December 1991, Juliet left for Korea and worked thereat, sending money to John which the latter deposited in their joint account. In 1992, their house was renovated and to it was annex a structure which housed a sari-sari store. In 1994, Juliet returned.
In 1995, they decided to partition their properties as their relationship soured. They executed a Memorandum of Agreement. Unfortunately, the document was left unsigned by the parties although signed by the witnesses thereto. Under their unsigned agreement, John shall leave the dwelling with Juliet paying him the amount of P428,870.00 representing John’s share in all their properties. Juliet paid John the sum of P232,397.66 by way of partial payment of his share, with the balance of P196,472.34 to be paid by Juliet in twelve monthly installment.
Juliet, however, failed to make good the balance. John demanded Juliet to vacate the annex structure. Juliet refused, prompting John to file an ejectment suit against her. John alleged that he alone spent for the construction of the annex structure with his own funds and thru the money he borrowed from his relatives. He added that the tax declaration for the structure was under his name.
Does John exclusively own the property subject of the suit?
No. Other than John’s bare allegation that he alone, thru his own funds and money he borrowed from his relatives, spent for the construction of the annex structure, evidence wants to support such naked claim.
Art. 147. When a man and a woman who are capacitated to marry each other, live exclusively with each other as husband and wife without the benefit of marriage or under a void marriage, their wages and salaries shall be owned by them in equal shares and the property acquired by both of them through their work or industry shall be governed by the rules on co-ownership.
In the absence of proof to the contrary, properties acquired while they lived together shall be presumed to have been obtained by their joint efforts, work or industry, and shall be owned by them in equal shares. For purposes of this Article, a party who did not participate in the acquisition by other party of any property shall be deemed to have contributed jointly in the acquisition thereof if the former’s efforts consisted in the care and maintenance of the family and of the household.
The law is clear. In the absence of proofs to the contrary, any property acquired by common-law spouses during their period of cohabitation is presumed to have been obtained thru their joint efforts and is owned by them in equal shares. Their property relationship is governed by the rules on co-ownership. And under this regime, they owned their properties in common “in equal shares.”
Being herself a co-owner, Juliet may not be ejected from the structure in question. She is as much entitled to enjoy its possession and ownership as John. Juliet’s failure to pay John the balance of the latter’s share in their common properties could at best give rise to an action for a sum of money against Juliet, or for rescission of the said agreement and not for ejectment.
* Case digest by Liezel O. Lagare, LLB-1, Andres Bonifacio Law School, SY 2017-2018