G.R. No. 46623, 7 December 1939
This is an appeal taken by the defendant-petitioner (Kasilag) from the decision of the Court of Appeals which modified that rendered by the court of First Instance of Bataan. The said court held: that the contract is entirely null and void and without effect; that the plaintiffs-respondents (Rodriguez, et.al.), then appellants, are the owners of the disputed land, with its improvements, in common ownership with their brother Gavino Rodriguez, hence, they are entitled to the possession thereof; that the defendant-petitioner should yield possession of the land in their favor, with all the improvements thereon and free from any lien.
The parties entered into a contract of loan to which has an accompanying accessory contract of mortgage. The executed accessory contract involved the improvements on a piece land, the land having been acquired by means of homestead. Petitioner for his part accepted the contract of mortgage.
Believing that there are no violations to the prohibitions in the alienation of lands Petitioner, acting in good faith took possession of the land. To wit, the Petitioner has no knowledge that the enjoyment of the fruits of the land is an element of the credit transaction of Antichresis.
Whether the petitioner should be deemed a possessor in good faith?
When the acquisition appears in a public document, the capacity of the parties has already passed upon by competent authority, and even established by appeals taken from final judgments and administrative remedies against the qualification of registrars, and the possibility of error is remote under such circumstances; but unfortunately, private documents and even verbal agreements far exceed public documents in number, while no one should be ignorant of the law, the truth is that even we who are called upon to know and apply it fall into error not infrequently. However, a clear, manifest, and truly unexcusable ignorance is one thing, to which undoubtedly refers article 2, and another and different this is possible and excusable errors arising from complex legal principles and from the interpretation of conflicting doctrines
Even ignorance of the law may be based upon error of fact, or better still, ignorance of a fact is possible as to the capacity to transmit and as to the intervention of certain persons, compliance with certain formalities and appreciation of certain acts, and error of law is possible in the interpretation of doubtful doctrines.
Gross and inexcusable ignorance of law may not be the basis of good faith, but possible, excusable ignorance may be such basis. It is a fact that the petitioner is not conversant with the laws because he is not a lawyer. In accepting the mortgage of the improvements he proceeded on the well-grounded belief that he was not violating the prohibition regarding the alienation of the land. In taking possession thereof and in consenting to receive its fruits, he did not know, as clearly as a jurist does, that the possession and enjoyment of the fruits are attributes of the contract of antichresis and that the latter, as lien, was prohibited by section 116. These considerations again bring us to the conclusion that, as to the petitioner, his ignorance of the provisions of section 116 is excusable and may therefore, be the basis of good faith.We do not give much importance to the change of the tax declaration, which consisted in making the petitioner appear as the owner of the land, because such an act may only be considered as a sequel to the change of possession and enjoyment of the fruits by the petitioner, to about which we have stated that the petitioner’s ignorance of the law is possible and excusable. We, therefore, hold that the petitioner acted in good faith in taking possession of the land and enjoying its fruits.
* Case digest by Aileen B. Buenafe, LLB-1, Andres Bonifacio Law School, SY 2017-2018