Brown v. Yambao

G.R. No. L-10699, 18 October 1957

FACTS:

On July 14, 1955, William H. Brown filed suit in the Court of First Instance of Manila to obtain legal separation from his lawful wife Juanita Yambao. He alleged under oath that while interned by the Japanese invaders, from 1942 to 1945, at the University of Sto. Tomas internment camp, his wife engaged in adulterous relations with one Carlos Field of whom she begot a baby girl that Brown learned of his wife’s misconduct only in 1945, upon his release from internment and that they have lived separately thereafter.

Brown prayed for confirmation of the liquidation agreement; for custody of the children issued of the marriage; that the defendant be declared disqualified to succeed the plaintiff; and for their remedy as might be just and equitable.

The court subsequently declared Juanita Yambao in default, for failure to answer in due time, despite service of summonsand directed the City Fiscal or his representatives to investigate, in accordance with Article 101 of the Civil Code, if collusion exists between the parties.

During the cross-examination of the plaintiff by Assistant City Fiscal Rafael Jose, it was found out that after the liberation,Brown had lived maritally with another woman and had begotten children by her. Thereafter, the court rendered judgment denying the legal separation asked, on the ground that, while the wife’s adultery was established, Brown had incurred in a misconduct of similar nature that barred his right of action under Article 100 of the new Civil Code.

ISSUE:

Whether or not the petition for legal separation should be granted?

RULING:

No.The court below correctly held that the appellant’s action was already barred, because Brown did not petition for legal separation proceedings until ten years after he learned of his wife’s adultery, which was upon his release from internment in 1945.Appellant’s brief does not even contest the correctness of such findings and conclusion.

Article 100 of the Civil Code provides that:“The legal separation may be claimed only by the innocent spouse, provided there has been no condonation of or consent to the adultery or concubinage. Where both spouses are offenders, a legal separation cannot be claimed by either of them. Collusion between the parties to obtain legal separation shall cause the dismissal of the petition.”

In the case at bar, it is pursuant to the second sentence of the aforementioned law, wherein Brown and Yumbao are both offenders, hence, a legal separation cannot be granted.

Article 102 of the Civil Code provides that:“An action for legal separation cannot be filed except within one year from and after the date on which the plaintiff became cognizant of the cause and within five years from and after the date when such cause occurred.”

In the case at bar, Brown did not petition for legal separation proceedings until ten years after he learned of his wife’s adultery.

It is true that the wife has not interposed prescription as a defense. Nevertheless, the courts can take cognizance thereof, because actions seeking a decree of legal separation, or annulment of marriage, involve public interest and it is the policy of our law that no such decree be issued if any legal obstacles thereto appear upon the record.

Hence, there being at least two well established statutory grounds for denying the remedy sought (commission of similar offense by petitioner and prescription of the action), it becomes unnecesary to delve further into the case and ascertain if Brown’s inaction for ten years also evidences condonation or connivance on his part. Even if it did not, his situation would not be improved. It is thus needless to discuss the second assignment of error.

The third assignment of error being a mere consequence of the others must necessarily fail with them. The decision appealed from is affirmed, with costs against appellant. So ordered.

* Case digest by Neah Hope L. Bato, LLB-1, Andres Bonifacio Law School, SY 2017-2018

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