G.R. No. 185063, 23 July 2009
On July 20, 1965, Bonifacio O. De Leon, then single, and the People’s Homesite and Housing Corporation (PHHC) entered into a Conditional Contract to Sell for the purchase on installment of a 191.30 square-meter lot situated in Fairview, Quezon City. Subsequently, on April 24, 1968, Bonifacio married Anita de Leon in a civil rite officiated by the Municipal Mayor of Zaragosa, Nueva Ecija. To this union were born Danilo and Vilma.Following the full payment of the cost price for the lot thus purchased, PHHC executed, on June 22, 1970, a Final Deed of Sale in favor of Bonifacio. Accordingly, Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. 173677 was issued on February 24, 1972 in the name of Bonifacio, “single.”
Subsequently, Bonifacio, for PhP 19,000, sold the subject lot to her sister, Lita, and husband Felix Rio Tarrosa (Tarrosas), petitioners herein. The conveying Deed of Sale dated January 12, 1974 (Deed of Sale) did not bear the written consent and signature of Anita.
Thereafter, or on May 23, 1977, Bonifacio and Anita renewed their vows in a church wedding at St. John the Baptist Parish in San Juan, Manila.
On February 29, 1996, Bonifacio died. Three months later, the Tarrosas registered the Deed of Sale and had TCT No. 173677 canceled. They secured the issuance in their names of TCT No. N-173911 from the Quezon City Register of Deeds. Danilo and Vilma filed on May 19, 2003 a Notice of Adverse Claim before the Register of Deeds of Quezon City to protect their rights over the subject property. Very much later, Anita, Danilo, and Vilma filed a reconveyance suit before the RTC in Quezon City.
The Tarrosas, in their Answer with Compulsory Counterclaim, averred that the lot Bonifacio sold to them was his exclusive property inasmuch as he was still single when he acquired it from PHHC. As further alleged, they were not aware of the supposed marriage between Bonifacio and Anita at the time of the execution of the Deed of Sale.
Is the land purchased on installment before marriage, where some installments were paid during the marriage is conjugal property?
No. Given that the subject property is presumed to be conjugal, which in turn makes the contract between Bonifacio and the Tarrosas void under Art. 166 of the Civil Code.
As Provided by Art. 160 of the Civil Code, the subject property is “… presumed to belong to the conjugal partnership, unless it be proved that it pertains exclusively to the husband or to the wife.” Since Art. 166 of the Code requires the consent of the wife before the husband may alienate or encumber any real property of the conjugal partnership, it follows that the acts or transactions executed against this mandatory provision are void except when the law itself authorized their validity.
As a final consideration, the Court agrees with the CA that the sale of one-half of the conjugal property without liquidation of the partnership is void. Prior to the liquidation of the conjugal partnership, the interest of each spouse in the conjugal assets is inchoate, a mere expectancy, which constitutes neither a legal nor an equitable estate, and does not ripen into a title until it appears that there are assets in the community as a result of the liquidation and settlement. The interest of each spouse is limited to the net remainder or “remanenteliquido” (haberganancial) resulting from the liquidation of the affairs of the partnership after its dissolution. Thus, the right of the husband or wife to one-half of the conjugal assets does not vest until the dissolution and liquidation of the conjugal partnership, or after dissolution of the marriage, when it is finally determined that, after settlement of conjugal obligations, there are net assets left which can be divided between the spouses or their respective heirs.
Therefore, even on the supposition that Bonifacio only sold his portion of the conjugal partnership, the sale is still theoretically void, for, as previously stated, the right of the husband or the wife to one-half of the conjugal assets does not vest until the liquidation of the conjugal partnership.
Nevertheless, this Court is mindful of the fact that the Tarrosas paid a valuable consideration in the amount of PhP 19,000 for the property in question. Thus, as a matter of fairness and equity, the share of Bonifacio after the liquidation of the partnership should be liable to reimburse the amount paid by the Tarrosas.
* Case digest by Desmarc G. Malate, LLB-1, Andres Bonifacio Law School, SY 2017-2018