G.R. No. 146683, 22 November 2001


Francisco Comille and his wife Zosima Montallana became the registered owners of Lot No. 437-A located at Balintawak St. and Rizal Avenue in Dipolog City, Zamboanga del Norte in January 1956. Zosima died in 1980 hence Francisco and his mother in law executed a deed of extrajudicial partition with waiver of rights, where the latter waived her share consisting of ¼ of the property in favor of Francisco. Since Francisco do not have any children to take care of him after his retirement, he asked Leticia, his niece, Leticia’s cousin, Luzviminda and Cirila Arcaba, the petitioner, who was then a widow and took care of Francisco’s house as well as the store inside.

According to Leticia, Francisco and Cirila were lovers since they slept in the same room. On the other hand, Erlinda Tabancura, another niece of Francisco claimed that the latter told her that Cirila was his mistress. However, Cirila defensed herself that she was a mere helper who could enter the master’s bedroom when Francisco asked her to and that Francisco was too old for her. She denied having sexual intercourse with Francisco. When the nieces got married, Cirila who was then 34 year-old widow started working for Francisco who was 75 year old widower. The latter did not pay him any wages as househelper though her family was provided with food and lodging. Francisco’s health deteriorated and became bedridden. Tabancura testified that Francisco’s only source of income was the rentals from his lot near the public streets.

In January 1991, few months before Francisco died, he executed a “Deed of Donation Inter Vivos” where he ceded a portion of Lot 437-A composed of 150 sq m., together with his house to Cirila who accepted the same. The larger portion of 268 sq m. was left under his name. This was made in consideration of the 10 year of faithful services of the petitioner. Atty Lacaya notarized the deed and was later registered by Cirila as its absolute owner.

In Octoer 1991, Francisco died and in 1993, the lot received by Cirila had a market value of P57, 105 and assessed value of P28, 550. The decedent’s nephews and nieces and his heirs by intestate succession alleged that Cirila was the common-law wife of Francisco.


Whether or not the deed of donation inter vivos executed by Francisco in Arcaba’s favor was valid.


The court in this case considered a sufficient proof of common law relationship wherein donation is not valid. The conclusion was based on the testimony of Tabancura and certain documents bearing the signature of “Cirila Comille” such as application for business permit, sanitary permit and the death certificate of Francisco. Also, the fact that Cirila did not demand her wages is an indication that she was not simply a caregiver –employee.

Cohabitation means more than sexual intercourse, especially when one of the parties is already old and may no longer be interested in sex at the very least; cohabitation is a public assumption of men and women holding themselves out to the public as such.

Hence, the deed of donation by Francisco in favor of Cirila is void under Art. 87 of the Family Code.

* Case digest by Marife G. Guige, LLB-1, Andres Bonifacio Law School, SY 2017-2018