Conchita Liguez filed a complaint against the widow and heirs of Salvador Lopez to recover a parcel of 51.84 hectares of land in Davao. She averred to be its legal owner, pursuant to a deed of donation executed in her favor by Salvador. At the time the deed was executed, Conchita was 16. She had also been living with Salvador’s parents for barely a month. The deed of donation recites that the donor Salvador, “for and in consideration of his love and affection” for Conchita, and “also for the good and valuable services rendered to [Salvador] by [Conchita], does by these presents, voluntarily give, grant and donate…”
The donation was made in view of Salvador’s desire to have sexual relations with Conchita. Furthermore, Conchita’s parents would not allow Conchita to live with him unless he first donated the subject land. The donated land originally belonged to the conjugal partnership of Salvador and his wife, Maria Ngo. The deed of donation was inoperative, and null and void because: (a) Lopez had no right to donate conjugal property to Conchita; and (b) the donation was tainted with illegal causa or consideration.
Whether or not the conveyance was predicated on illegal causa.
Yes. Conchita Liguez entitled to so much of the donated property as may be found, upon proper liquidation, not to prejudice the share of the widow Maria Ngo in the conjugal partnership or the legitimes of Salvador’s forced heirs. Under the cited Art. 1274, liberality of the donor is deemed causa only in contracts that are of “pure” beneficence, or contracts designed solely and exclusively to procure the welfare of the beneficiary, without any intent of producing any satisfaction for the donor.
In this case, Salvador was not moved exclusively by the desire to benefit Conchita, but also to secure her cohabiting with him, and so that he could gratify his sexual impulses. This is clear from Salvador’s confession to two witnesses that he was in love with her but her parents would not agree unless he donated the land in question to her. Actually, therefore, the donation was but one part of an onerous transaction (at least with Conchita’s parents) that must be viewed in its totality. Thus considered, the conveyance was clearly predicated upon an illicit causa. Lopez would not have conveyed the property in question had he known that Conchita would refuse to cohabit with him. The cohabitation was an implied condition to the donation and being unlawful, necessarily tainted the donation.
Moreover, the CA erred in applying the pari delicto rule. It cannot be said that both parties had equal guilt. Salvador was a man advanced in years and mature experience, and Conchita was only 16 when the donation was made. Her acceptance of the deed does not imply knowledge of conditions and terms not set forth therein. Witnesses testified that it was Conchita’s parents who insisted on the donation. The rule that parties to an illegal contract, if equally guilty, will not be aided by the law but will both be left where it finds them, has been interpreted by this Court as barring the party from pleading the illegality of the bargain either as a cause of action or as a defense. But where the plaintiff can establish a cause of action without exposing its illegality, the vice does not affect the right to recover.
* Case digest by Vera L. Nataa, LLB-1, Andres Bonifacio Law School, SY 2017-2018