G.R. No. 134100, 29 September 2000
(1) Respondent Romeo Jaring was the lessee of a 14.5 hectare fishpond in Barito, Mabuco, Hermosa, Bataan. The lease was for a period of five years ending on September 12, 1990. On June 19, 1987, he subleased the fishpond, for the remaining period of his lease, to the spouses Placido and Purita Alipio and the Manuel Spouses.
(2) The sublessees only satisfied a portion thereof, leaving an unpaid balance of P50,600.00.
(3) Purita Alipio moved to dismiss the case on the ground that her husband, Placido Alipio, had passed away on December 1, 1988.
RTC: Surviving spouse should pay. The trial court denied petitioner’s motion on the ground that since petitioner was herself a party to the sublease contract, she could be independently impleaded in the suit together with the Manuel spouses and that the death of her husband merely resulted in his exclusion from the case.
CA: Surviving spouse should pay. It is noted that all the defendants, including the deceased, were signatories to the contract of sub-lease. The remaining defendants cannot avoid the action by claiming that the death of one of the parties to the contract has totally extinguished their obligation.
(1) Whether a creditor can sue the surviving spouse for the collection of a debt which is owed by the conjugal partnership of gains, or
(2) Whether such claim must be filed in proceedings for the settlement of the estate of the decedent.
(1) Surviving spouse is not liable. The conjugal partnership of gains is liable. It is clear that Climaco had a cause of action against the persons named as defendants therein. It was, however, a cause of action for the recovery of damages, that is, a sum of money and the corresponding action is, unfortunately, one that does not survive upon the death of the defendant, in accordance with the provisions of Section 21, Rule 3 of the Rules of Court. As held in Calma v. Tañedo, after the death of either of the spouses, no complaint about the collection of indebtedness chargeable against the conjugal partnership
can be brought against the surviving spouse. Instead, the claim must be made in the proceedings for the liquidation and settlement of the conjugal property. The reason for this is that upon the death of one spouse, the powers of administration of the surviving spouse ceases and is passed to the administrator appointed by the court having jurisdiction over the settlement of estate proceedings. Indeed, the surviving spouse is not even a de facto administrator such that conveyances made by him of any property belonging to the partnership prior to the liquidation of the mass of conjugal partnership property is void. the inventory of the Alipios’ conjugal property is necessary before any claim chargeable against it can be paid. Needless to say, such power exclusively pertains to the court having jurisdiction over the settlement of the decedent’s estate and not to any other court.
(2) The obligation is joint. Indeed, if from the law or the nature or the wording of the obligation the contrary does not appear, an obligation is presumed to be only joint, i.e., the debt is divided into as many equal shares as there are debtors, each debt being considered distinct from one another. Clearly, the liability of the sublessees is merely joint. Since the obligation of the Manuel and Alipio spouses is chargeable against their respective conjugal partnerships, the unpaid balance of P50,600.00 should be divided into two so that each couple is liable to pay the amount of P25,300.00.
* Case digest by Leizel O. Lagare, LLB-1, Andres Bonifacio Law School, SY 2017-2018