G.R. No. 165879, 10 November 2006
Respondents Joseph Goyanko et al. filed with the Regional Trial Court of Cebu City a complaint for recovery of property and damages against Maria Ching, praying for the nullification of the deed of sale and of transfer certificate and the issuance of a new one. Goyanko et al. aver that they are the real owners of the property involved. They further contend that it was after their father‘s death that they found out that a contract of sale involving the same property has been executed by their father and common-law wife Ching. However, Ching claimed that she is the actual owner of the property as it was she who provided its purchase price. The RTC dismissed the complaint against Ching, declaring that there is no valid and sufficient ground to declare the sale as null and void, fictitious and simulated.
On appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed the decision of the trial court and declared null and void the questioned deed of sale and TCT No. 138405.
Whether or not the contract of sale was null and void for being contrary to morals and public policy.
Yes, the Court ruled that the contract of sale was null and void for being contrary to morals and public policy. The sale was made by a husband in favor of a concubine after he had abandoned his family and left the conjugal home where his wife and children lived and from whence they derived their support. The sale was subversive of the stability of the family, a basic social institution which public policy cherishes and protects.
Article 1409 of the Civil Code states inter alia that: contracts whose cause, object, or purposes is contrary to law, morals, good customs, public order, or public policy are void and inexistent from the very beginning.
In the case at bar, the subject property having been acquired during the existence of a valid marriage between Joseph Sr. and Epifania dela Cruz-Goyanko, is presumed to belong to the conjugal partnership. Moreover, while this presumption in favor of conjugality is rebuttable with clear and convincing proof to the contrary, the court finds no evidence on record to conclude otherwise. The record shows that while Joseph Sr. and his wife Epifania have been estranged for years and that he and defendant-appellant Maria Ching, have in fact been living together as common-law husband and wife, there has never been a judicial decree declaring the dissolution of his marriage to Epifania nor their conjugal partnership. It is therefore undeniable that the property located at Cebu City belongs to the conjugal partnership. Assuming that the subject property was not conjugal, still the court cannot sustain the validity of the sale of the property by Joseph, Sr. to defendant-appellant Maria Ching, there being overwhelming evidence on records that they have been living together as common-law husband and wife.
Additionally, the law emphatically prohibits the spouses from selling property to each other subject to certain exceptions. Similarly, donations between spouses during marriage are prohibited. And this is so because if transfers or conveyances between spouses were allowed during marriage, that would destroy the system of conjugal partnership, a basic policy in civil law. It was also designed to prevent the exercise of undue influence by one spouse over the other, as well as to protect the institution of marriage, which is the cornerstone of family law. The prohibitions apply to a couple living as husband and wife without benefit of marriage, otherwise, the condition of those who incurred guilt would turn out to be better than those in legal union. Those provisions are dictated by public interest and their criterion must be imposed upon the will of the parties.
* Case digest by Vera L. Nataa, LLB-1, Andres Bonifacio Law School, SY 2017-2018