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She cares, he gives

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Property rules

She cares, he gives

Francis and his wife Zosi are registered owners of a lot in Dipolog City. Their blissful togetherness was cut short by the untimely demise of Zosi.

Francis and his mother-in-law, Mama Juliana, executed a deed of extrajudicial partition with waiver of rights, in which the latter waived her share consisting of one-fourth of the property to Francis. Francis registered the lot in his name with the Registry of Deeds.

Having no children to take care of him after his retirement, Francis asked his niece Letty, the latter’s cousin, Luz, and Ciri, then a widow, to take care of his house, as well as the store inside.

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Since Letty and Luz were married, only Ciri, then 34 years old, was left to attend to the personal needs of Francis, then a 75-year-old widower. Francis did not pay Ciri regular cash as a househelper, though he provided her with food and lodging.

Letty noticed the growing closeness between Francis and Ciri. Ciri was the only one who could enter the master’s bedroom. Ciri was the only one who can give Francis a therapeutic massage and could sleep in Francis’ room. Ciri, however, denied that Francis is her lover as, according to her, he was too old for her taste.

A few months before his death, Francis executed a document denominated “Deed of Donation Inter Vivos,” in which he ceded a portion of his lot to his favorite caregiver, Ciri, who accepted the donation in the same instrument. Francis left the larger portion of 268 sqm in his name.

The deed stated that the donation was being made in consideration of “the faithful services Ciri had rendered over the past ten (10) years.” The deed was notarized and later registered by Ciri as its absolute owner.

A year after the deed of donation was executed, Francis joined his wife, Zosi in the great beyond. Francis’ nephews and nieces, his heirs by intestate succession, sought to nullify the deed of donation inter vivos their uncle executed in favor of Ciri. They claimed that since their uncle and Ciri are lovers, he cannot donate his property to his common-law wife.

Q: What is the meaning of the term “cohabitation”?

A: Cohabitation means not only residing under one roof, but also having repeated sexual intercourse. Cohabitation, of course, 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 public assumption by a man and a woman of the marital relation, and dwelling together as man and wife, thereby holding themselves out to the public as such. Secret meetings or nights clandestinely spent together, even if often repeated, do not constitute such kind of cohabitation; they are merely meretricious.

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Q: Was Ciri a mere househelper/caregiver or a common-law wife?

A: By all indications, Ciri was the common law wife of Francis.

Their public conduct and behavior, at the very least, indicated that theirs was not just a relationship of caregiver and patient, but that of exclusive partners akin to husband and wife.

Aside from the fact that Ciri was the only househelper allowed to sleep in the master’s bedroom, she had, on several occasions, used the surname of Francis on several public documents.

Her use of Francis’ surname surely shows that Ciri saw herself as Francis’ common-law wife. Moreover, the fact that Ciri did not demand from Francis a regular cash wage is an indication that she was not simply a caregiver-employee, but Francis’ common law spouse.

She was, after all, entitled to a regular cash wage under the law. It is thus difficult to believe that she stayed with Francis and served him out of pure beneficence. Human reason would lead to the conclusion that she was Francis’ common-law spouse.

Q: Is the Deed of Donation Inter Vivos Francis executed in favor of Ciri void?

A: Yes, the donation is void.

Since Ciri and Francis lived together as husband and wife without a valid marriage, then the donation made by Francis in favor of Ciri is void under Art. 87 of the Family Code which states “Every donation or grant of gratuitous advantage, direct or indirect, between the spouses during the marriage shall be void, except moderate gifts which the spouses may give each other on the occasion of any family rejoicing. The prohibition shall also apply to persons living together as husband and wife without a valid marriage.”

(Source: Arcaba v de Batocael, G.R. No. 146683. Nov. 22, 2001)

Ma. Soledad Deriquito-Mawis is currently the Dean for the Lyceum of the Philippines University; president of the Philippines Association of Law Schools; and Senior Partner, Gatchalian Castro & Mawis Law Office

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