G.R. No. 135634 May 31, 2000
HEIRS OF JUAN SAN ANDRES (VICTOR S. ZIGA) and SALVACION S. TRIA, petitioners,
VICENTE RODRIGUEZ, respondent.
This is a petition for review on certiorari of the decision of the Court of Appeals 1 reversing the decision of the Regional Trial Court, Naga City, Branch 19, in Civil Case No. 87-1335, as well as the appellate court's resolution denying reconsideration.
The antecedent facts are as follows:
Juan San Andres was the registered owner of Lot No. 1914-B-2 situated in Liboton, Naga City. On September 28, 1964, he sold a portion thereof, consisting of 345 square meters, to respondent Vicente S. Rodriguez for P2,415.00. The sale is evidenced by a Deed of Sale. 2
Upon the death of Juan San Andres on May 5, 1965, Ramon San Andres was appointed judicial administrator of the decedent's estate in Special Proceedings No. R-21, RTC, Branch 19, Naga City. Ramon San Andres engaged the services of a geodetic engineer, Jose Peñero, to prepare a consolidated plan (Exh. A) of the estate. Engineer Peñero also prepared a sketch plan of the 345-square meter lot sold to respondent. From the result of the survey, it was found that respondent had enlarged the area which he purchased from the late Juan San Andres by 509 square meters. 3
Accordingly, the judicial administrator sent a letter, 4 dated July 27, 1987, to respondent demanding that the latter vacate the portion allegedly encroached by him. However, respondent refused to do so, claiming he had purchased the same from the late Juan San Andres. Thereafter, on November 24, 1987, the judicial administrator brought an action, in behalf of the estate of Juan San Andres, for recovery of possession of the 509-square meter lot.
In his Re-amended Answer filed on February 6, 1989, respondent alleged that apart from the 345-square meter lot which had been sold to him by Juan San Andres on September 28, 1964, the latter likewise sold to him the following day the remaining portion of the lot consisting of 509 square meters, with both parties treating the two lots as one whole parcel with a total area of 854 square meters. Respondent alleged that the full payment of the 509-square meter lot would be effected within five (5) years from the execution of a formal deed of sale after a survey is conducted over said property. He further alleged that with the consent of the former owner, Juan San Andres, he took possession of the same and introduced improvements thereon as early as 1964.
As proof of the sale to him of 509 square meters, respondent attached to his answer a receipt (Exh. 2) 5 signed by the late Juan San Andres, which reads in full as follows:
Received from Vicente Rodriguez the sum of Five Hundred (P500.00) Pesos representing an advance payment for a residential lot adjoining his previously paid lot on three sides excepting on the frontage with the agreed price of Fifteen (15.00) Pesos per square meter and the payment of the full consideration based on a survey shall be due and payable in five (5) years period from the execution of the formal deed of sale; and it is agreed that the expenses of survey and its approval by the Bureau of Lands shall be borne by Mr. Rodriguez.
Naga City, September 29, 1964.
JUAN R. SAN ANDRES
Respondent also attached to his answer a letter of judicial administrator Ramon San Andres (Exh. 3), 6 asking payment of the balance of the purchase price. The letter reads:
Please accommodate my request for Three Hundred (P300.00) Pesos as I am in need of funds as I intimated to you the other day.
We will just adjust it with whatever balance you have payable to the subdivision.
RAMON SAN ANDRES
Penafrancia Subdivision, Naga City
You can let bearer Enrique del Castillo sign for the amount.
Received One Hundred Only
RAMON SAN ANDRES
Respondent deposited in court the balance of the purchase price amounting to P7,035.00 for the aforesaid 509-square meter lot.
While the proceedings were pending, judicial administrator Ramon San Andres died and was substituted by his son Ricardo San Andres. On the other band, respondent Vicente Rodriguez died on August 15, 1989 and was substituted by his heirs. 7
Petitioner, as plaintiff, presented two witnesses. The first witness, Engr. Jose Peñero, 8 testified that based on his survey conducted sometime between 1982 and 1985, respondent had enlarged the area which he purchased from the late Juan San Andres by 509 square meters belonging to the latter's estate. According to Peñero, the titled property (Exh. A-5) of respondent was enclosed with a fence with metal holes and barbed wire, while the expanded area was fenced with barbed wire and bamboo and light materials.
The second witness, Ricardo San Andres, 9 administrator of the estate, testified that respondent had not filed any claim before Special Proceedings No. R-21 and denied knowledge of Exhibits 2 and 3. However, he recognized the signature in Exhibit 3 as similar to that of the former administrator, Ramon San Andres. Finally, he declared that the expanded portion occupied by the family of respondent is now enclosed with barbed wire fence unlike before where it was found without fence.
On the other hand, Bibiana B. Rodriguez, 10 widow of respondent Vicente Rodriguez, testified that they had purchased the subject lot from Juan San Andres, who was their compadre, on September 29, 1964, at P15.00 per square meter. According to her, they gave P500.00 to the late Juan San Andres who later affixed his signature to Exhibit 2. She added that on March 30, 1966; Ramon San Andres wrote them a letter asking for P300.00 as partial payment for the subject lot, but they were able to give him only P100.00. She added that they had paid the total purchase price of P7,035.00 on November 21, 1988 by depositing it in court. Bibiana B. Rodriquez stated that they had been in possession of the 509-square meter lot since 1964 when the late Juan San Andres signed the receipt. (Exh. 2) Lastly, she testified that they did not know at that time the exact area sold to them because they were told that the same would be known after the survey of the subject lot.
On September 20, 1994, the trial court 11 rendered judgment in favor of petitioner. It ruled that there was no contract of sale to speak of for lack of a valid object because there was no sufficient indication in Exhibit 2 to identify the property subject of the sale, hence, the need to execute a new contract.
Respondent appealed to the Court of Appeals, which on April 21, 1998 rendered a decision reversing the decision of the trial court. The appellate court held that the object of the contract was determinable, and that there was a conditional sale with the balance of the purchase price payable within five years from the execution of the deed of sale. The dispositive portion of its decision's reads:
IN VIEW OF ALL THE FOREGOING, the judgment appealed from is hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE and a new one entered DISMISSING the complaint and rendering judgment against the plaintiff-appellee:
1. to accept the P7,035.00 representing the balance of the purchase price of the portion and which is deposited in court under Official Receipt No. 105754 (page 122, Records);
2. to execute the formal deed of sale over the said 509 square meter portion of Lot 1914-B-2 in favor of appellant Vicente Rodriguez;
3. to pay the defendant-appellant the amount of P50,000.00 as damages and P10,000.00 attorney's fees as stipulated by them during the trial of this case; and
4. to pay the costs of the suit.
Hence, this petition. Petitioner assigns the following errors as having been allegedly committed by the trial court:
I. THE HON. COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN HOLDING THAT THE DOCUMENT (EXHIBIT "2") IS A CONTRACT TO SELL DESPITE ITS LACKING ONE OF THE ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS OF A CONTRACT, NAMELY, OBJECT CERTAIN AND SUFFICIENTLY DESCRIBED.
II. THE HON. COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN HOLDING THAT PETITIONER IS OBLIGED TO HONOR THE PURPORTED CONTRACT TO SELL DESPITE NON-FULFILLMENT BY RESPONDENT OF THE CONDITION THEREIN OF PAYMENT OF THE BALANCE OF THE PURCHASE PRICE.
III. THE HON. COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN HOLDING THAT CONSIGNATION WAS VALID DESPITE NON-COMPLIANCE WITH THE MANDATORY REQUIREMENTS THEREOF.
IV. THE HON. COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN HOLDING THAT LACHES AND PRESCRIPTION DO NOT APPLY TO RESPONDENT WHO SOUGHT INDIRECTLY TO ENFORCE THE PURPORTED CONTRACT AFTER THE LAPSE OF 24 YEARS.
The petition has no merit.
First. Art. 1458 of the Civil Code provides:
By the contract of sale one of the contracting parties obligates himself to transfer the ownership of and to deliver a determinate thing, and the other to pay therefor a price certain in money or its equivalent.
A contract of sale may be absolute or conditional.
As thus defined, the essential elements of sale are the following:
a) Consent or meeting of the minds, that is, consent to transfer ownership in exchange for the price;
b) Determinate subject matter; and,
c) Price certain in money or its equivalent. 12
As shown in the receipt, dated September 29, 1964, the late Juan San Andres received P500.00 from respondent as "advance payment for the residential lot adjoining his previously paid lot on three sides excepting on the frontage; the agreed purchase price was P15.00 per square meter; and the full amount of the purchase price was to be based on the results of a survey and would be due and payable in five (5) years from the execution of a deed of sale.
Petitioner contends, however, that the "property subject of the sale was not described with sufficient certainty such that there is a necessity of another agreement between the parties to finally ascertain the identity; size and purchase price of the property which is the object of the alleged sale." 1 He argues that the "quantity of the object is not determinate as in fact a survey is needed to determine its exact size and the full purchase price therefor" 14 In support of his contention, petitioner cites the following provisions of the Civil Code:
Art. 1349. The object of every contract must be determinate as to its kind. The fact that the quantity is not determinable shall not be an obstacle to the existence of a contract, provided it is possible to determine the same without the need of a new contract between the parties.
Art. 1460. . . . The requisite that a thing be determinate is satisfied if at the time the contract is entered into, the thing is capable of being made determinate without the necessity of a new and further agreement between the parties.
Petitioner's contention is without merit. There is no dispute that respondent purchased a portion of Lot 1914-B-2 consisting of 345 square meters. This portion is located in the middle of Lot 1914-B-2, which has a total area of 854 square meters, and is clearly what was referred to in the receipt as the "previously paid lot." Since the lot subsequently sold to respondent is said to adjoin the "previously paid lot" on three sides thereof, the subject lot is capable of being determined without the need of any new contract. The fact that the exact area of these adjoining residential lots is subject to the result of a survey does not detract from the fact that they are determinate or determinable. As the Court of Appeals explained: 15
Concomitantly, the object of the sale is certain and determinate. Under Article 1460 of the New Civil Code, a thing sold is determinate if at the time the contract is entered into, the thing is capable of being determinate without necessity of a new or further agreement between the parties. Here, this definition finds realization.
Appellee's Exhibit "A" (page 4, Records) affirmingly shows that the original 345 sq. m. portion earlier sold lies at the middle of Lot 1914-B-2 surrounded by the remaining portion of the said Lot 1914-B-2 on three (3) sides, in the east, in the west and in the north. The northern boundary is a 12 meter road. Conclusively, therefore, this is the only remaining 509 sq. m. portion of Lot 1914-B-2 surrounding the 345 sq. m. lot initially purchased by Rodriguez. It is quite difined, determinate and certain. Withal, this is the same portion adjunctively occupied and possessed by Rodriguez since September 29, 1964, unperturbed by anyone for over twenty (20) years until appellee instituted this suit.
Thus, all of the essential elements of a contract of sale are present, i.e., that there was a meeting of the minds between the parties, by virtue of which the late Juan San Andres undertook to transfer ownership of and to deliver a determinate thing for a price certain in money. As Art. 1475 of the Civil Code provides:
The contract of sale is perfected at the moment there is a meeting of minds upon the thing which is the object of the contract and upon the price. . . .
That the contract of sale is perfected was confirmed by the former administrator of the estates, Ramon San Andres, who wrote a letter to respondent on March 30, 1966 asking for P300.00 as partial payment for the subject lot. As the Court of Appeals observed:
Without any doubt, the receipt profoundly speaks of a meeting of the mind between San Andres and Rodriguez for the sale of the property adjoining the 345 square meter portion previously sold to Rodriguez on its three (3) sides excepting the frontage. The price is certain, which is P15.00 per square meter. Evidently, this is a perfected contract of sale on a deferred payment of the purchase price. All the pre-requisite elements for a valid purchase transaction are present. Sale does not require any formal document for its existence and validity. And delivery of possession of land sold is a consummation of the sale (Galar vs. Husain, 20 SCRA 186 ). A private deed of sale is a valid contract between the parties (Carbonell v. CA, 69 SCRA 99 ).
In the same vein, after the late Juan R. San Andres received the P500.00 downpayment on March 30, 1966, Ramon R. San Andres wrote a letter to Rodriguez and received from Rodriguez the amount of P100.00 (although P300.00 was being requested) deductible from the purchase price of the subject portion. Enrique del Castillo, Ramon's authorized agent, correspondingly signed the receipt for the P100.00. Surely, this is explicitly a veritable proof of he sale over the remaining portion of Lot 1914-B-2 and a confirmation by Ramon San Andres of the existence thereof. 16
There is a need, however, to clarify what the Court of Appeals said is a conditional contract of sale. Apparently, the appellate court considered as a "condition" the stipulation of the parties that the full consideration, based on a survey of the lot, would be due and payable within five (5) years from the execution of a formal deed of sale. It is evident from the stipulations in the receipt that the vendor Juan San Andres sold the residential lot in question to respondent and undertook to transfer the ownership thereof to respondent without any qualification, reservation or condition. In Ang Yu Asuncion v. Court of Appeals, 17 we held:
In Dignos v. Court of Appeals (158 SCRA 375), we have said that, although denominated a "Deed of Conditional Sale," a sale is still absolute where the contract is devoid of any proviso that title is reserved or the right to unilaterally rescind is stipulated, e.g., until or unless the price is paid. Ownership will then be transferred to the buyer upon actual or constructive delivery (e.g., by the execution of a public document) of the property sold. Where the condition is imposed upon the perfection of the contract itself, the failure of the condition would prevent such perfection. If the condition is imposed on the obligation of a party which is not fulfilled, the other party may either waive the condition or refuse to proceed with the sale. (Art. 1545, Civil Code).
Thus, in. one case, when the sellers declared in a "Receipt of Down Payment" that they received an amount as purchase price for a house and lot without any reservation of title until full payment of the entire purchase price, the implication was that they sold their property. 18 In People's Industrial Commercial Corporation v. Court of Appeals, 19 it was stated:
A deed of sale is considered absolute in nature where there is neither a stipulation in the deed that title to the property sold is reserved in the seller until full payment of the price, nor one giving the vendor the right to unilaterally resolve the contract the moment the buyer fails to pay within a fixed period.
Applying these principles to this case, it cannot be gainsaid that the contract of sale between the parties is absolute, not conditional. There is no reservation of ownership nor a stipulation providing for a unilateral rescission by either party. In fact, the sale was consummated upon the delivery of the lot to respondent. 20 Thus, Art. 1477 provides that the ownership of the thing sold shall be transferred to the vendee upon the actual or constructive delivery thereof.
The stipulation that the "payment of the full consideration based on a survey shall be due and payable in five (5) years from the execution of a formal deed of sale" is not a condition which affects the efficacy of the contract of sale. It merely provides the manner by which the full consideration is to be computed and the time within which the same is to be paid. But it does not affect in any manner the effectivity of the contract. Consequently, the contention that the absence of a formal deed of sale stipulated in the receipt prevents the happening of a sale has no merit.
Second. With respect to the contention that the Court of Appeals erred in upholding the validity of a consignation of P7,035.00 representing the balance of the purchase price of the lot, nowhere in the decision of the appellate court is there any mention of consignation. Under Art. 1257 of this Civil Code, consignation is proper only in cases where an existing obligation is due. In this case, however, the contracting parties agreed that full payment of purchase price shall be due and payable within five (5) years from the execution of a formal deed of sale. At the time respondent deposited the amount of P7,035.00 in the court, no formal deed of sale had yet been executed by the parties, and, therefore, the five-year period during which the purchase price should be paid had not commenced. In short, the purchase price was not yet due and payable.
This is not to say, however, that the deposit of the purchase price in the court is erroneous. The Court of Appeals correctly ordered the execution of a deed of sale and petitioners to accept the amount deposited by respondent.
Third. The claim of petitioners that the price of P7,035.00 is iniquitous is untenable. The amount is based on the agreement of the parties as evidenced by the receipt (Exh. 2). Time and again, we have stressed the rule that a contract is the law between the parties, and courts have no choice but to enforce such contract so long as they are not contrary to law, morals, good customs or public policy. Otherwise, court would be interfering with the freedom of contract of the parties. Simply put, courts cannot stipulate for the parties nor amend the latter's agreement, for to do so would be to alter the real intentions of the contracting parties when the contrary function of courts is to give force and effect to the intentions of the parties.
Fourth. Finally, petitioners argue that respondent is barred by prescription and laches from enforcing the contract. This contention is likewise untenable. The contract of sale in this case is perfected, and the delivery of the subject lot to respondent effectively transferred ownership to him. For this reason, respondent seeks to comply with his obligation to pay the full purchase price, but because the deed of sale is yet to be executed, he deemed it appropriate to deposit the balance of the purchase price in court. Accordingly, Art. 1144 of the Civil Code has no application to the instant case. 21 Considering that a survey of the lot has already been conducted and approved by the Bureau of Lands, respondent's heirs, assign or successors-in-interest should reimburse the expenses incurred by herein petitioners, pursuant to the provisions of the contract.
WHEREFORE, the decision of the Court of Appeals is AFFIRMED with the modification that respondent is ORDERED to reimburse petitioners for the expenses of the survey.
Bellosillo and Buena, JJ., concur.
Quisumbing and De Leon, Jr., JJ., are on leave.
1 Per Justice Conrado M. Vasquez and concurred in by Justices Fermin A. Martin, Jr. and Artemio S. Tuquero.
2 Records, p. 119.
3 TSN, pp. 1-23, April 5, 1993.
4 Records, p. 84.
5 Id., p. 120.
6 Id., p. 121.
7 Id., p. 69.
8 TSN, pp. 1-23, April 5, 1993.
9 TSN, pp. 1-22, July 7, 1993.
10 TSN, pp. 1-33, April 13, 1994.
11 Presided over by Judge Gregorio E. Manio, Jr.
12 Jovan Land, Inc. v. Court of Appeals, 268 SCRA 160 (1997); Coronel v. Court of Appeals, 263 SCRA 15 (1996).
13 Rollo, p. 15.
14 Id., p. 16.
15 CA Decision, p. 5.
16 Id., pp. 5-6.
17 238 SCRA 602, 612 (1994).
18 Coronel v. Court of Appeals, 263 SCRA 15 (1996)
19 281 SCRA 206 (1997).
20 Cf. Lim v. Court of Appeals, 263 SCRA 569 (1996).
21 See Bucton v. Gabar, 55 SCRA 499 (1974).
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