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PROPERTY RULES

A shattered unity in diversity

Some enchanted evening

You may see a stranger,

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you may see a stranger

Across a crowded room

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And somehow you know,

You know even then

That somewhere you’ll see her

Again and again.

(“Some Enchanted Evening” from the musical “South Pacific”, Rodgers and Hammerstein)

There she was across the crowded room, pouring coffee in a cup that is not her own. Her beauty was far from ephemeral. Her brown skin radiated in the stillness of the hour.

It was love at first sight. Scottie Colby, a foreigner, fell madly in love with Luzviminda Santos, a Filipina.

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In 2000, Luzviminda’s fate changed. Marriage for Luzviminda became her answer to poverty. Scottie had a sizable amount of money in the bank at the time they exchanged their vows. One year after they exchanged their vows, Scottie sold his inherited land in England and used the proceeds from the sale to buy a house and lot in Makati City.

In his effort to avoid the prohibition on aliens owning private land, Scottie had the Makati property registered in the name of Luzviminda. In time, the couple also acquired cars and pieces of jewelry.

Their blissful togetherness, however, came to an abrupt end when Luzviminda discovered Scottie’s unfaithfulness. Years after, a decree of legal separation was issued by a Philippine court.

Q: What law governs the property relationship of Scottie, a foreigner, and Luzviminda, a Filipina?

A: In the absence of a pre-nuptial agreement, the property relations of the spouses shall be governed by Philippine laws, regardless of the place of the celebration of the marriage and their residence. (Art. 80, Family Code)

Q: What is the property regime that governs the couple’s property relationship?

A: In the absence of pre-nuptial agreement, the system of absolute community shall be the property regime of the couple.

Q: Which property will comprise the absolute community property regime?

A: The community property shall consist of all the property owned by the spouses at the time of the celebration of the marriage or acquired thereafter. (Art.91, Family Code) In this case, their community property consists of the the money in the bank at the time they exchanged their vows, the cars, and the pieces of jewelry they acquired during the marriage.

Q: How about the Makati house and lot? Who owns it?

A: Only Luzviminda owns the house and lot. This is because of the proscription under Section 7, Article XII of the 1987 Philippine Constitution which states: “Save in cases of hereditary succession, no private lands shall be transferred or conveyed except to individuals, corporations, or associations qualified to acquire or hold lands of the public domain”.

Q: Can Scottie demand reimbursement of the value of the house and lot against his Filipina spouse?

A: No, he cannot. Scottie “cannot seek reimbursement on the ground of equity where it is clear that he willingly and knowingly bought the property despite the afore-quoted constitutional prohibition.

“He who seeks equity must do equity, and he who comes into equity must come with clean hands. Conversely stated, he who has done inequity shall not be accorded equity. Thus, a litigant may be denied relief by a court of equity on the ground that his conduct has been inequitable, unfair and dishonest, or fraudulent, or deceitful.” (Buemer vs. Amores, G.R. No.195670, December 3, 2012; Muller vs. Muller, G.R. No. 149615, August 29, 2006)

Q: What other property will be excluded from the community property?

A: The following are excluded from the community property:

Property acquired during the marriage by gratuitous title by either spouse, and the fruits as well as the income thereof, if any, unless it is expressly provided by the donor, testator or grantor that they shall form part of the community property;

Property for personal and exclusive use of either spouse. However, jewelry shall form part of the community property; and

Property acquired before the marriage by either spouse who has legitimate descendants by a former marriage, and the fruits as well as the income, if any, of such property. (Art. 92, Family Code)

Ma. Soledad Deriquito-Mawis is currently the Dean of College of Law, Lyceum of the Philippines University; and President of Philippine Association of Law Schools

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