G.R. No. L-28771, 31 March 1971, 38 SCRA 284


The plaintiff, now appellant Cornelia Matabuena, a sister to the deceased Felix Matabuena, maintains that a donation made while he was living maritally without benefit of marriage to defendant, now appellee Petronila Cervantes, was void. The lower court, after noting that it was made at a time before defendant was married to the donor, sustained the latter’s stand.

In the decision rendered against the plaintiff, the lower court noted that the donation was made in 1956 and the marriage of the defendendant and Felix Matabuena took place in 1962; that during pre-trial, both parties agree and stipulate;

(1) That the deceased Felix Matabuena owned the property in question;
(2) That said Felix Matabuena executed a Deed of Donation inter vivos in favor of Defendant, Petronila Cervantes over the parcel of land in question which same donation was accepted by defendant;
(3) That the donation of the land to the defendant which took effect immediately was made during the common law relationship as husband and wife between the defendant-donee and now deceased donor and donee were married on March 28, 1962;
(4) That the deceased Felix Matabuena died intestate on September 13, 1962;
(5) That the plaintiff claims the property by reason of being the only sister and nearest collateral relative of the deceased by virtue of an affidavit of self-adjudication executed by her in 1962 and had the land declared in her name and paid the estate and inheritance taxes thereon. The decision was then appealed and reversed before the CA.

Hence this petition.


Whether or not the ban of on a donation between the spouses during a marriage applies to a common-law relationship.


YES. While Art. 133 of the Civil Code considers as void a “donation between the spouses during the marriage,” policy considerations of the most exigent character as well as the dictates of morality require that the same prohibition should apply to a common-law relationship.

As announced at the outset of this opinion, a 1954 Court of Appeals decision, Buenaventura v. Bautista, interpreting a similar provision of the old Civil Code speaks unequivocally. If the policy of the law is, in the language of the opinion of the then Justice J.B.L. Reyes of that Court, “to prohibit donations in favor of the other consort and his descendants because of fear of undue and improper pressure and influence upon the donor, a prejudice deeply rooted in our ancient law; ‘porque no se engañen despojandose el uno al otro por amor que han de consuno [according to] the Partidas (Part IV, Tit. XI, LAW IV), reiterating the rationale ‘Ne mutuato amore invicem spoliarentur’ of the Pandects (Bk. 24, Tit. 1, De donat, inter virum et uxorem); then there is every reason to apply the same prohibitive policy to persons living together as husband and wife without the benefit of nuptials. For it is not to be doubted that assent to such irregular connection for thirty years bespeaks greater influence of one party over the other, so that the danger that the law seeks to avoid is correspondingly increased

NOTE: The case above is on prohibition of donation between spouses and common-law relationship. In case of sale by and between spouses, the general rule is that it is null and void except when there is separation of property as agreed upon in the marriage settlement and judicial separation of property as agreed between them. Such prohibition also applies to common-law relationship.

*Case digest by JAY MARK P. BALBOSA JD – IV, Andres Bonifacio College, SY 2019 – 2020.