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The wife’s right under the civil code

Joe and Mel bought a parcel of land from Cris. Subsequently, the Transfer Certificate of Title was issued and registered to “Joe, married to Mel.” The spouses thereafter built their dream home on the said lot.

Mel left the Philippines to work in the Middle East. Unfortunately, Joe died prompting her to return home.

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While still grieving and much to Mel’s shock, she discovered that the title of their lot had long been canceled through a string of conveyances. The transactions were made possible on the strength of a forged Special Power of Attorney allegedly executed by Joe and Mel authorizing Joe’s father to sell the property. All the conveyances occurred before Aug. 3, 1988, the effectivity of the Family Code.

Mel sued her brother-in-law, Ram who eventually acquired the property. While the case was pending Ram sold it to Spouses Mons.

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Q: Is the subject property conjugal?

A: Since the factual circumstances here transpired prior to the effectivity of the Family Code on Aug. 3, 1988, Mel and Joe’s marriage and property relations are governed by the Civil Code. Under the Civil Code, property acquired during marriage is presumed to be conjugal. There is no need to prove that the money used to purchase a property came from the conjugal fund. What must be established is that the property was acquired during marriage. Only through “clear, categorical and convincing” proof to the contrary will it be considered the paraphernal property of one (1) of the spouses. Here, the pieces of evidence presented by spouses Mons, who had the burden of proving that the property was not conjugal, were insufficient to overturn this presumption.

The following events refute the claim that Mel and Joe had no means to purchase the lot as they were jobless. Mel was then working in the Middle East, presumably earning income when the Deed of Absolute Sale was executed and the house was constructed. These circumstances—along with the execution of the Deed of Absolute Sale between Joe and the seller, and the title over the property being in Joe’s name “Joe, married to Mel”—sufficiently show that the property was, indeed, conjugal.

Q: What is the best proof of ownership?

A: A certificate of title is the best evidence of ownership of a property. A certificate of title accumulates in one document a precise and correct statement of the exact status of the fee held by its owner. The certificate, in the absence of fraud, is the evidence of title and shows exactly the real interest of its owner. The title once registered, with very few exceptions, should not thereafter be impugned, altered, changed, modified, enlarged or diminished, except in some direct proceeding permitted by law. Otherwise, all security in registered titles would be lost.

Q: Does Mel have the right of the wife to have the conveyances annulled?

A: Under the Civil Code, which is the applicable law in this case, the conveyance executed by the husband without the wife’s consent, may be annulled by Mel as Joe had no right to either unilaterally dispose the conjugal property or grant his father in the authority through the supposed Special Power of Attorney.

Source: Malabanan vs. Malabanan, G.R. No. 187225, March 6, 2019

Ma. Soledad Deriquito-Mawis, Dean, Lyceum of the Philippines University; Chairperson, Philippine Association of Law Schools; Mawis Law Office

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TAGS: Civil Code, Family Code, wife’s right
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