Rubias v. Batiller

51 SCRA 120

FACTS:

On August 31, 1964, plaintiff Domingo D. Rubias, a lawyer, filed a suit to recover the ownership and possession of certain portions of lot located in Barrio General Luna, Barotac Viejo, Iloilo which he bought from his father-in-law, Francisco Militante in 1956 against its present occupant defendant, Isaias Batiller, who illegally entered said portions of the lot. Plaintiff prayed also for damages and attorney’s fees. In his answer with counter-claim defendant claims the complaint of the plaintiff does not state a cause of action, the truth of the matter being that he and his predecessors-in-interest have always been in actual, open and continuous possession since time immemorial under claim of ownership of the portions of the lot in question and for the alleged malicious institution of the complaint he claims he has suffered moral damages in the amount of P 2,000.00, as well as the sum of P500.00 for attorney’s fees.

Defendant claims that plaintiff could not have acquired any interest in the property in dispute as the contract he (plaintiff) had with Francisco Militante was inexistent and void. Plaintiff strongly opposed defendant’s motion to dismiss claiming that defendant cannot invoke Articles 1409 and 1491 of the Civil Code as Article 1422 of the same Code provides that ‘The defense of illegality of contracts is not available to third persons whose interests are not directly affected’.

ISSUE:

Whether or not the contract of sale between appellant and his father-in-law, the late Francisco Militante over the property was void because it was made when plaintiff was counsel of his father-in-law in a land registration case involving the property in dispute.

RULING:

The stipulated facts and exhibits of record indisputably established plaintiff’s lack of cause of action and justified the outright dismissal of the complaint. Plaintiff’s claim of ownership to the land in question was predicated on the sale thereof for P2,000.00 made in 1956 by his father-in-law, Francisco Militante, in his favor, at a time when Militante’s application for registration thereof had already been dismissed by the Iloilo land registration court and was pending appeal in the Court of Appeals.

Hence, there was no right or title to the land that could be transferred or sold by Militante’s purported sale in 1956 in favor of plaintiff. Manifestly, then plaintiff’s complaint against defendant, to be declared absolute owner of the land and to be restored to possession thereof with damages was bereft of any factual or legal basis.

Article 1491 of our Civil Code (like Article 1459 of the Spanish Civil Code) prohibits in its six paragraphs certain persons, by reason of the relation of trust or their peculiar control over the property, from acquiring such property in their trust or control either directly or indirectly and even at a public or judicial auction as follows: (1) guardians; (2) agents; (3) administrators; (4)public officers and employees; judicial officers and employees, prosecuting attorneys, and lawyers; and (6) others especially disqualified by law.

*Case digest by Bryne Angelo M. Brillantes, JD-IV, Andres Bonifacio Law School, SY 2019-2020.

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