Posted by: Elmer Brabante | September 16, 2009

Consolacion Villanueva vs. Intermediate Appellate Court


CONSOLACION VILLANUEVA vs. INTERMEDIATE APPELLATE COURT

GR No. 74577

192 SCRA 21

Dcember 4, 1990

 

 FACTS:

                Dorothea and Teodoro Aranas borrowed P18,000 from private respondent Jesus Bernas, mortgaging as collateral their father Modesto’s property, Lot 13-C.  In the loan agreement between them on Oct. 30, 1975, the Aranas described themselves as the absolute co-owners.  When Dorothea and Teodoro failed to pay the loan, Bernas caused the extrajudicial foreclosure of the mortgage in 1977 and acquired the land as the highest bidder.  After the foreclosure sale, the Aranases executed a deed of extrajudicial partition in 1978, in which they adjudicated the same lot 13-C unto themselves in equal share pro-indiviso.  Bernas then consolidated his ownership over the lot when the mortgagors failed to redeem it withn the reglementary period, and had the title in the name of Modesto cancelled and another TCT issued in his name. 

                On November 24, 1978, herein petitioner Consolacion Villanueva and Raymundo Aranas (witness to the deed of mortgage in 1975) filed a complaint with the RTC of Roxas ity against respondents spouses Jesus and Remedios Bernas, for the cancellation of the TCT under the name of the Bernases, and they (Villanueva and Aranas) be declared co-owners of the land.  Petitioner alleged that spouses Modesto and Victoria Aranas in 1987 and 1958 executed two separate wills: first bequeathing to Consolacion and Raymundo and to Dorothea and Teodoro, in equal shares pro diviso, all of said Victoria’s shares from the conjugal partnership property; and second Modesto’s interests in his conjugal partnership with Victoria as well as his separate properties bequeathed to Dorothea and Teodoro (his illegitimate children).  The trial court dismissed the complaint, declaring herein respondents as the legal owners of the disputed property. 

                Upon appeal, the Intermediate Appellate Court (IAC) affirmed the lower court’s decision in toto. 

ISSUE:  Whether or not Villanueva had a right over Lot 13-C and the improvements thereon made by Victoria rendered the lot as conjugal property. 

HELD:

                Lot 13-C was not a conjugal partnership property of Victoria and Modesto.  It was Modesto’s exclusive, private property, which he inherited from his parents.  Moreover, since Victoria died ahead of Modesto, Victoria did not inherit said lot from him and therefore had nothing of Lot 13-C to bequeath by will of otherwise to Consolacion. 

                Article 158 of the Civil Code says that improvements, whether for utility or adornment made on the separate property of the spouses through advancements from the partnership or through the industry of either spouse belong to the conjugal partnership, and buildings constructed at the expense of the partnership during the marriage on land belonging to one of the spouses also pertain to the partnership, but the value of the land shall be reimbursed to the spouse who owns the same. 

                Proof, therefore, is needful of the time of the making or construction of the improvements and the source of the funds used therefor in order to determine the character of the improvements as belonging to the conjugal partnership or to one spouse separately.  No such proof was presented or proffered by Villanueva.  What is certain is that the land on which the improvements stand was the exclusive property of Modesto and that where the property is registered in the name of one spouse only and there is no showing of when precisely the property was acquired, the presumption is that is belongs exclusively to said spouse [PNB vs. CA, 153 SCRA 435, 1987].  It is not therefore possible to declare the improvements to be conjugal in character. 

                Furthermore, Bernas’ mode of acquisition of ownership over the property appears in all respect to be regular, untainted by any defect whatsoever.  Bernas must therefore be deemed to have acquired indefeasible and clear title to Lot 13-C which cannot be defeated or negated by claims subsequently arising and of which he had no knowledge or means of knowing prior to their assertion and ventilation. 

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