G.R. No. 124242             January 21, 2005
SAN LORENZO DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION, petitioner,
COURT OF APPEALS, PABLO S. BABASANTA, SPS. MIGUEL LU and PACITA ZAVALLA LU, respondents.
D E C I S I O N
From a coaptation of the records of this case, it appears that respondents Miguel Lu and Pacita Zavalla, (hereinafter, the Spouses Lu) owned two (2) parcels of land situated in Sta. Rosa, Laguna covered by TCT No. T-39022 and TCT No. T-39023 both measuring 15,808 square meters or a total of 3.1616 hectares.
On 20 August 1986, the Spouses Lu purportedly sold the two parcels of land to respondent Pablo Babasanta, (hereinafter, Babasanta) for the price of fifteen pesos (₱15.00) per square meter. Babasanta made a downpayment of fifty thousand pesos (₱50,000.00) as evidenced by a memorandum receipt issued by Pacita Lu of the same date. Several other payments totaling two hundred thousand pesos (₱200,000.00) were made by Babasanta.
Sometime in May 1989, Babasanta wrote a letter to Pacita Lu to demand the execution of a final deed of sale in his favor so that he could effect full payment of the purchase price. In the same letter, Babasanta notified the spouses about having received information that the spouses sold the same property to another without his knowledge and consent. He demanded that the second sale be cancelled and that a final deed of sale be issued in his favor.
In response, Pacita Lu wrote a letter to Babasanta wherein she acknowledged having agreed to sell the property to him at fifteen pesos (₱15.00) per square meter. She, however, reminded Babasanta that when the balance of the purchase price became due, he requested for a reduction of the price and when she refused, Babasanta backed out of the sale. Pacita added that she returned the sum of fifty thousand pesos (₱50,000.00) to Babasanta through Eugenio Oya.
On 2 June 1989, respondent Babasanta, as plaintiff, filed before the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 31, of San Pedro, Laguna, a Complaint for Specific Performance and Damages1 against his co-respondents herein, the Spouses Lu. Babasanta alleged that the lands covered by TCT No. T- 39022 and T-39023 had been sold to him by the spouses at fifteen pesos (₱15.00) per square meter. Despite his repeated demands for the execution of a final deed of sale in his favor, respondents allegedly refused.
In their Answer,2 the Spouses Lu alleged that Pacita Lu obtained loans from Babasanta and when the total advances of Pacita reached fifty thousand pesos (₱50,000.00), the latter and Babasanta, without the knowledge and consent of Miguel Lu, had verbally agreed to transform the transaction into a contract to sell the two parcels of land to Babasanta with the fifty thousand pesos (₱50,000.00) to be considered as the downpayment for the property and the balance to be paid on or before 31 December 1987. Respondents Lu added that as of November 1987, total payments made by Babasanta amounted to only two hundred thousand pesos (₱200,000.00) and the latter allegedly failed to pay the balance of two hundred sixty thousand pesos (₱260,000.00) despite repeated demands. Babasanta had purportedly asked Pacita for a reduction of the price from fifteen pesos (₱15.00) to twelve pesos (₱12.00) per square meter and when the Spouses Lu refused to grant Babasanta’s request, the latter rescinded the contract to sell and declared that the original loan transaction just be carried out in that the spouses would be indebted to him in the amount of two hundred thousand pesos (₱200,000.00). Accordingly, on 6 July 1989, they purchased Interbank Manager’s Check No. 05020269 in the amount of two hundred thousand pesos (₱200,000.00) in the name of Babasanta to show that she was able and willing to pay the balance of her loan obligation.
Babasanta later filed an Amended Complaint dated 17 January 19903 wherein he prayed for the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction with temporary restraining order and the inclusion of the Register of Deeds of Calamba, Laguna as party defendant. He contended that the issuance of a preliminary injunction was necessary to restrain the transfer or conveyance by the Spouses Lu of the subject property to other persons.
The Spouses Lu filed their Opposition4 to the amended complaint contending that it raised new matters which seriously affect their substantive rights under the original complaint. However, the trial court in its Order dated 17 January 19905 admitted the amended complaint.
On 19 January 1990, herein petitioner San Lorenzo Development Corporation (SLDC) filed a Motion for Intervention6 before the trial court. SLDC alleged that it had legal interest in the subject matter under litigation because on 3 May 1989, the two parcels of land involved, namely Lot 1764-A and 1764-B, had been sold to it in a Deed of Absolute Sale with Mortgage.7 It alleged that it was a buyer in good faith and for value and therefore it had a better right over the property in litigation.
In his Opposition to SLDC’s motion for intervention,8 respondent Babasanta demurred and argued that the latter had no legal interest in the case because the two parcels of land involved herein had already been conveyed to him by the Spouses Lu and hence, the vendors were without legal capacity to transfer or dispose of the two parcels of land to the intervenor.
Meanwhile, the trial court in its Order dated 21 March 1990 allowed SLDC to intervene. SLDC filed its Complaint-in-Intervention on 19 April 1990.9 Respondent Babasanta’s motion for the issuance of a preliminary injunction was likewise granted by the trial court in its Order dated 11 January 199110 conditioned upon his filing of a bond in the amount of fifty thousand pesos (₱50,000.00).
SLDC in its Complaint-in-Intervention alleged that on 11 February 1989, the Spouses Lu executed in its favor an Option to Buy the lots subject of the complaint. Accordingly, it paid an option money in the amount of three hundred sixteen thousand one hundred sixty pesos (₱316,160.00) out of the total consideration for the purchase of the two lots of one million two hundred sixty-four thousand six hundred forty pesos (₱1,264,640.00). After the Spouses Lu received a total amount of six hundred thirty-two thousand three hundred twenty pesos (₱632,320.00) they executed on 3 May 1989 a Deed of Absolute Sale with Mortgage in its favor. SLDC added that the certificates of title over the property were delivered to it by the spouses clean and free from any adverse claims and/or notice of lis pendens. SLDC further alleged that it only learned of the filing of the complaint sometime in the early part of January 1990 which prompted it to file the motion to intervene without delay. Claiming that it was a buyer in good faith, SLDC argued that it had no obligation to look beyond the titles submitted to it by the Spouses Lu particularly because Babasanta’s claims were not annotated on the certificates of title at the time the lands were sold to it.
After a protracted trial, the RTC rendered its Decision on 30 July 1993 upholding the sale of the property to SLDC. It ordered the Spouses Lu to pay Babasanta the sum of two hundred thousand pesos (₱200,000.00) with legal interest plus the further sum of fifty thousand pesos (₱50,000.00) as and for attorney’s fees. On the complaint-in-intervention, the trial court ordered the Register of Deeds of Laguna, Calamba Branch to cancel the notice of lis pendens annotated on the original of the TCT No. T-39022 (T-7218) and No. T-39023 (T-7219).
Applying Article 1544 of the Civil Code, the trial court ruled that since both Babasanta and SLDC did not register the respective sales in their favor, ownership of the property should pertain to the buyer who first acquired possession of the property. The trial court equated the execution of a public instrument in favor of SLDC as sufficient delivery of the property to the latter. It concluded that symbolic possession could be considered to have been first transferred to SLDC and consequently ownership of the property pertained to SLDC who purchased the property in good faith.
Respondent Babasanta appealed the trial court’s decision to the Court of Appeals alleging in the main that the trial court erred in concluding that SLDC is a purchaser in good faith and in upholding the validity of the sale made by the Spouses Lu in favor of SLDC.
Respondent spouses likewise filed an appeal to the Court of Appeals. They contended that the trial court erred in failing to consider that the contract to sell between them and Babasanta had been novated when the latter abandoned the verbal contract of sale and declared that the original loan transaction just be carried out. The Spouses Lu argued that since the properties involved were conjugal, the trial court should have declared the verbal contract to sell between Pacita Lu and Pablo Babasanta null and void ab initio for lack of knowledge and consent of Miguel Lu. They further averred that the trial court erred in not dismissing the complaint filed by Babasanta; in awarding damages in his favor and in refusing to grant the reliefs prayed for in their answer.
On 4 October 1995, the Court of Appeals rendered its Decision11 which set aside the judgment of the trial court. It declared that the sale between Babasanta and the Spouses Lu was valid and subsisting and ordered the spouses to execute the necessary deed of conveyance in favor of Babasanta, and the latter to pay the balance of the purchase price in the amount of two hundred sixty thousand pesos (₱260,000.00). The appellate court ruled that the Absolute Deed of Sale with Mortgage in favor of SLDC was null and void on the ground that SLDC was a purchaser in bad faith. The Spouses Lu were further ordered to return all payments made by SLDC with legal interest and to pay attorney’s fees to Babasanta.
SLDC and the Spouses Lu filed separate motions for reconsideration with the appellate court.12 However, in a Manifestation dated 20 December 1995,13 the Spouses Lu informed the appellate court that they are no longer contesting the decision dated 4 October 1995.
In its Resolution dated 11 March 1996,14 the appellate court considered as withdrawn the motion for reconsideration filed by the Spouses Lu in view of their manifestation of 20 December 1995. The appellate court denied SLDC’s motion for reconsideration on the ground that no new or substantial arguments were raised therein which would warrant modification or reversal of the court’s decision dated 4 October 1995.
Hence, this petition.
SLDC assigns the following errors allegedly committed by the appellate court:
THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN HOLDING THAT SAN LORENZO WAS NOT A BUYER IN GOOD FAITH BECAUSE WHEN THE SELLER PACITA ZAVALLA LU OBTAINED FROM IT THE CASH ADVANCE OF ₱200,000.00, SAN LORENZO WAS PUT ON INQUIRY OF A PRIOR TRANSACTION ON THE PROPERTY.
THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN FAILING TO APPRECIATE THE ESTABLISHED FACT THAT THE ALLEGED FIRST BUYER, RESPONDENT BABASANTA, WAS NOT IN POSSESSION OF THE DISPUTED PROPERTY WHEN SAN LORENZO BOUGHT AND TOOK POSSESSION OF THE PROPERTY AND NO ADVERSE CLAIM, LIEN, ENCUMBRANCE OR LIS PENDENS WAS ANNOTATED ON THE TITLES.
THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN FAILING TO APPRECIATE THE FACT THAT RESPONDENT BABASANTA HAS SUBMITTED NO EVIDENCE SHOWING THAT SAN LORENZO WAS AWARE OF HIS RIGHTS OR INTERESTS IN THE DISPUTED PROPERTY.
THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN HOLDING THAT NOTWITHSTANDING ITS FULL CONCURRENCE ON THE FINDINGS OF FACT OF THE TRIAL COURT, IT REVERSED AND SET ASIDE THE DECISION OF THE TRIAL COURT UPHOLDING THE TITLE OF SAN LORENZO AS A BUYER AND FIRST POSSESSOR IN GOOD FAITH. 15
SLDC contended that the appellate court erred in concluding that it had prior notice of Babasanta’s claim over the property merely on the basis of its having advanced the amount of two hundred thousand pesos (₱200,000.00) to Pacita Lu upon the latter’s representation that she needed the money to pay her obligation to Babasanta. It argued that it had no reason to suspect that Pacita was not telling the truth that the money would be used to pay her indebtedness to Babasanta. At any rate, SLDC averred that the amount of two hundred thousand pesos (₱200,000.00) which it advanced to Pacita Lu would be deducted from the balance of the purchase price still due from it and should not be construed as notice of the prior sale of the land to Babasanta. It added that at no instance did Pacita Lu inform it that the lands had been previously sold to Babasanta.
Moreover, SLDC stressed that after the execution of the sale in its favor it immediately took possession of the property and asserted its rights as new owner as opposed to Babasanta who has never exercised acts of ownership. Since the titles bore no adverse claim, encumbrance, or lien at the time it was sold to it, SLDC argued that it had every reason to rely on the correctness of the certificate of title and it was not obliged to go beyond the certificate to determine the condition of the property. Invoking the presumption of good faith, it added that the burden rests on Babasanta to prove that it was aware of the prior sale to him but the latter failed to do so. SLDC pointed out that the notice of lis pendens was annotated only on 2 June 1989 long after the sale of the property to it was consummated on 3 May 1989.1awphi1.nét
Meanwhile, in an Urgent Ex-Parte Manifestation dated 27 August 1999, the Spouses Lu informed the Court that due to financial constraints they have no more interest to pursue their rights in the instant case and submit themselves to the decision of the Court of Appeals.16
On the other hand, respondent Babasanta argued that SLDC could not have acquired ownership of the property because it failed to comply with the requirement of registration of the sale in good faith. He emphasized that at the time SLDC registered the sale in its favor on 30 June 1990, there was already a notice of lis pendens annotated on the titles of the property made as early as 2 June 1989. Hence, petitioner’s registration of the sale did not confer upon it any right. Babasanta further asserted that petitioner’s bad faith in the acquisition of the property is evident from the fact that it failed to make necessary inquiry regarding the purpose of the issuance of the two hundred thousand pesos (₱200,000.00) manager’s check in his favor.
The core issue presented for resolution in the instant petition is who between SLDC and Babasanta has a better right over the two parcels of land subject of the instant case in view of the successive transactions executed by the Spouses Lu.
To prove the perfection of the contract of sale in his favor, Babasanta presented a document signed by Pacita Lu acknowledging receipt of the sum of fifty thousand pesos (₱50,000.00) as partial payment for 3.6 hectares of farm lot situated at Barangay Pulong, Sta. Cruz, Sta. Rosa, Laguna.17 While the receipt signed by Pacita did not mention the price for which the property was being sold, this deficiency was supplied by Pacita Lu’s letter dated 29 May 198918 wherein she admitted that she agreed to sell the 3.6 hectares of land to Babasanta for fifteen pesos (₱15.00) per square meter.
An analysis of the facts obtaining in this case, as well as the evidence presented by the parties, irresistibly leads to the conclusion that the agreement between Babasanta and the Spouses Lu is a contract to sell and not a contract of sale.
Contracts, in general, are perfected by mere consent,19 which is manifested by the meeting of the offer and the acceptance upon the thing which are to constitute the contract. The offer must be certain and the acceptance absolute.20 Moreover, contracts shall be obligatory in whatever form they may have been entered into, provided all the essential requisites for their validity are present.21
The receipt signed by Pacita Lu merely states that she accepted the sum of fifty thousand pesos (₱50,000.00) from Babasanta as partial payment of 3.6 hectares of farm lot situated in Sta. Rosa, Laguna. While there is no stipulation that the seller reserves the ownership of the property until full payment of the price which is a distinguishing feature of a contract to sell, the subsequent acts of the parties convince us that the Spouses Lu never intended to transfer ownership to Babasanta except upon full payment of the purchase price.
Babasanta’s letter dated 22 May 1989 was quite telling. He stated therein that despite his repeated requests for the execution of the final deed of sale in his favor so that he could effect full payment of the price, Pacita Lu allegedly refused to do so. In effect, Babasanta himself recognized that ownership of the property would not be transferred to him until such time as he shall have effected full payment of the price. Moreover, had the sellers intended to transfer title, they could have easily executed the document of sale in its required form simultaneously with their acceptance of the partial payment, but they did not. Doubtlessly, the receipt signed by Pacita Lu should legally be considered as a perfected contract to sell.
The distinction between a contract to sell and a contract of sale is quite germane. In a contract of sale, title passes to the vendee upon the delivery of the thing sold; whereas in a contract to sell, by agreement the ownership is reserved in the vendor and is not to pass until the full payment of the price.22 In a contract of sale, the vendor has lost and cannot recover ownership until and unless the contract is resolved or rescinded; whereas in a contract to sell, title is retained by the vendor until the full payment of the price, such payment being a positive suspensive condition and failure of which is not a breach but an event that prevents the obligation of the vendor to convey title from becoming effective.23
The perfected contract to sell imposed upon Babasanta the obligation to pay the balance of the purchase price. There being an obligation to pay the price, Babasanta should have made the proper tender of payment and consignation of the price in court as required by law. Mere sending of a letter by the vendee expressing the intention to pay without the accompanying payment is not considered a valid tender of payment.24 Consignation of the amounts due in court is essential in order to extinguish Babasanta’s obligation to pay the balance of the purchase price. Glaringly absent from the records is any indication that Babasanta even attempted to make the proper consignation of the amounts due, thus, the obligation on the part of the sellers to convey title never acquired obligatory force.
On the assumption that the transaction between the parties is a contract of sale and not a contract to sell, Babasanta’s claim of ownership should nevertheless fail.
Sale, being a consensual contract, is perfected by mere consent25 and from that moment, the parties may reciprocally demand performance.26 The essential elements of a contract of sale, to wit: (1) consent or meeting of the minds, that is, to transfer ownership in exchange for the price; (2) object certain which is the subject matter of the contract; (3) cause of the obligation which is established.27
The perfection of a contract of sale should not, however, be confused with its consummation. In relation to the acquisition and transfer of ownership, it should be noted that sale is not a mode, but merely a title. A mode is the legal means by which dominion or ownership is created, transferred or destroyed, but title is only the legal basis by which to affect dominion or ownership.28 Under Article 712 of the Civil Code, "ownership and other real rights over property are acquired and transmitted by law, by donation, by testate and intestate succession, and in consequence of certain contracts, by tradition." Contracts only constitute titles or rights to the transfer or acquisition of ownership, while delivery or tradition is the mode of accomplishing the same.29 Therefore, sale by itself does not transfer or affect ownership; the most that sale does is to create the obligation to transfer ownership. It is tradition or delivery, as a consequence of sale, that actually transfers ownership.
Explicitly, the law provides that the ownership of the thing sold is acquired by the vendee from the moment it is delivered to him in any of the ways specified in Article 1497 to 1501.30 The word "delivered" should not be taken restrictively to mean transfer of actual physical possession of the property. The law recognizes two principal modes of delivery, to wit: (1) actual delivery; and (2) legal or constructive delivery.
Actual delivery consists in placing the thing sold in the control and possession of the vendee.31 Legal or constructive delivery, on the other hand, may be had through any of the following ways: the execution of a public instrument evidencing the sale;32 symbolical tradition such as the delivery of the keys of the place where the movable sold is being kept;33 traditio longa manu or by mere consent or agreement if the movable sold cannot yet be transferred to the possession of the buyer at the time of the sale;34 traditio brevi manu if the buyer already had possession of the object even before the sale;35 and traditio constitutum possessorium, where the seller remains in possession of the property in a different capacity.36
Following the above disquisition, respondent Babasanta did not acquire ownership by the mere execution of the receipt by Pacita Lu acknowledging receipt of partial payment for the property. For one, the agreement between Babasanta and the Spouses Lu, though valid, was not embodied in a public instrument. Hence, no constructive delivery of the lands could have been effected. For another, Babasanta had not taken possession of the property at any time after the perfection of the sale in his favor or exercised acts of dominion over it despite his assertions that he was the rightful owner of the lands. Simply stated, there was no delivery to Babasanta, whether actual or constructive, which is essential to transfer ownership of the property. Thus, even on the assumption that the perfected contract between the parties was a sale, ownership could not have passed to Babasanta in the absence of delivery, since in a contract of sale ownership is transferred to the vendee only upon the delivery of the thing sold.37
However, it must be stressed that the juridical relationship between the parties in a double sale is primarily governed by Article 1544 which lays down the rules of preference between the two purchasers of the same property. It provides:
Art. 1544. If the same thing should have been sold to different vendees, the ownership shall be transferred to the person who may have first taken possession thereof in good faith, if it should be movable property.
Should it be immovable property, the ownership shall belong to the person acquiring it who in good faith first recorded it in the Registry of Property.
Should there be no inscription, the ownership shall pertain to the person who in good faith was first in the possession; and, in the absence thereof, to the person who presents the oldest title, provided there is good faith.
The principle of primus tempore, potior jure (first in time, stronger in right) gains greater significance in case of double sale of immovable property. When the thing sold twice is an immovable, the one who acquires it and first records it in the Registry of Property, both made in good faith, shall be deemed the owner.38 Verily, the act of registration must be coupled with good faith— that is, the registrant must have no knowledge of the defect or lack of title of his vendor or must not have been aware of facts which should have put him upon such inquiry and investigation as might be necessary to acquaint him with the defects in the title of his vendor.39
Admittedly, SLDC registered the sale with the Registry of Deeds after it had acquired knowledge of Babasanta’s claim. Babasanta, however, strongly argues that the registration of the sale by SLDC was not sufficient to confer upon the latter any title to the property since the registration was attended by bad faith. Specifically, he points out that at the time SLDC registered the sale on 30 June 1990, there was already a notice of lis pendens on the file with the Register of Deeds, the same having been filed one year before on 2 June 1989.
Did the registration of the sale after the annotation of the notice of lis pendens obliterate the effects of delivery and possession in good faith which admittedly had occurred prior to SLDC’s knowledge of the transaction in favor of Babasanta?
We do not hold so.
It must be stressed that as early as 11 February 1989, the Spouses Lu executed the Option to Buy in favor of SLDC upon receiving ₱316,160.00 as option money from SLDC. After SLDC had paid more than one half of the agreed purchase price of ₱1,264,640.00, the Spouses Lu subsequently executed on 3 May 1989 a Deed of Absolute Sale in favor or SLDC. At the time both deeds were executed, SLDC had no knowledge of the prior transaction of the Spouses Lu with Babasanta. Simply stated, from the time of execution of the first deed up to the moment of transfer and delivery of possession of the lands to SLDC, it had acted in good faith and the subsequent annotation of lis pendens has no effect at all on the consummated sale between SLDC and the Spouses Lu.
A purchaser in good faith is one who buys property of another without notice that some other person has a right to, or interest in, such property and pays a full and fair price for the same at the time of such purchase, or before he has notice of the claim or interest of some other person in the property.40 Following the foregoing definition, we rule that SLDC qualifies as a buyer in good faith since there is no evidence extant in the records that it had knowledge of the prior transaction in favor of Babasanta. At the time of the sale of the property to SLDC, the vendors were still the registered owners of the property and were in fact in possession of the lands.l^vvphi1.net Time and again, this Court has ruled that a person dealing with the owner of registered land is not bound to go beyond the certificate of title as he is charged with notice of burdens on the property which are noted on the face of the register or on the certificate of title.41 In assailing knowledge of the transaction between him and the Spouses Lu, Babasanta apparently relies on the principle of constructive notice incorporated in Section 52 of the Property Registration Decree (P.D. No. 1529) which reads, thus:
Sec. 52. Constructive notice upon registration. – Every conveyance, mortgage, lease, lien, attachment, order, judgment, instrument or entry affecting registered land shall, if registered, filed, or entered in the office of the Register of Deeds for the province or city where the land to which it relates lies, be constructive notice to all persons from the time of such registering, filing, or entering.
However, the constructive notice operates as such¾by the express wording of Section 52¾from the time of the registration of the notice of lis pendens which in this case was effected only on 2 June 1989, at which time the sale in favor of SLDC had long been consummated insofar as the obligation of the Spouses Lu to transfer ownership over the property to SLDC is concerned.
More fundamentally, given the superiority of the right of SLDC to the claim of Babasanta the annotation of the notice of lis pendens cannot help Babasanta’s position a bit and it is irrelevant to the good or bad faith characterization of SLDC as a purchaser. A notice of lis pendens, as the Court held in Nataño v. Esteban,42 serves as a warning to a prospective purchaser or incumbrancer that the particular property is in litigation; and that he should keep his hands off the same, unless he intends to gamble on the results of the litigation." Precisely, in this case SLDC has intervened in the pending litigation to protect its rights. Obviously, SLDC’s faith in the merit of its cause has been vindicated with the Court’s present decision which is the ultimate denouement on the controversy.
The Court of Appeals has made capital43 of SLDC’s averment in its Complaint-in-Intervention44 that at the instance of Pacita Lu it issued a check for ₱200,000.00 payable to Babasanta and the confirmatory testimony of Pacita Lu herself on cross-examination.45 However, there is nothing in the said pleading and the testimony which explicitly relates the amount to the transaction between the Spouses Lu and Babasanta for what they attest to is that the amount was supposed to pay off the advances made by Babasanta to Pacita Lu. In any event, the incident took place after the Spouses Lu had already executed the Deed of Absolute Sale with Mortgage in favor of SLDC and therefore, as previously explained, it has no effect on the legal position of SLDC.
Assuming ex gratia argumenti that SLDC’s registration of the sale had been tainted by the prior notice of lis pendens and assuming further for the same nonce that this is a case of double sale, still Babasanta’s claim could not prevail over that of SLDC’s. In Abarquez v. Court of Appeals,46 this Court had the occasion to rule that if a vendee in a double sale registers the sale after he has acquired knowledge of a previous sale, the registration constitutes a registration in bad faith and does not confer upon him any right. If the registration is done in bad faith, it is as if there is no registration at all, and the buyer who has taken possession first of the property in good faith shall be preferred.
In Abarquez, the first sale to the spouses Israel was notarized and registered only after the second vendee, Abarquez, registered their deed of sale with the Registry of Deeds, but the Israels were first in possession. This Court awarded the property to the Israels because registration of the property by Abarquez lacked the element of good faith. While the facts in the instant case substantially differ from that in Abarquez, we would not hesitate to rule in favor of SLDC on the basis of its prior possession of the property in good faith. Be it noted that delivery of the property to SLDC was immediately effected after the execution of the deed in its favor, at which time SLDC had no knowledge at all of the prior transaction by the Spouses Lu in favor of Babasanta.1a\^/phi1.net
The law speaks not only of one criterion. The first criterion is priority of entry in the registry of property; there being no priority of such entry, the second is priority of possession; and, in the absence of the two priorities, the third priority is of the date of title, with good faith as the common critical element. Since SLDC acquired possession of the property in good faith in contrast to Babasanta, who neither registered nor possessed the property at any time, SLDC’s right is definitely superior to that of Babasanta’s.
At any rate, the above discussion on the rules on double sale would be purely academic for as earlier stated in this decision, the contract between Babasanta and the Spouses Lu is not a contract of sale but merely a contract to sell. In Dichoso v. Roxas,47 we had the occasion to rule that Article 1544 does not apply to a case where there was a sale to one party of the land itself while the other contract was a mere promise to sell the land or at most an actual assignment of the right to repurchase the same land. Accordingly, there was no double sale of the same land in that case.
WHEREFORE, the instant petition is hereby GRANTED. The decision of the Court of Appeals appealed from is REVERSED and SET ASIDE and the decision of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 31, of San Pedro, Laguna is REINSTATED. No costs.
Puno, (Chairman), Austria-Martinez, Callejo, Sr., and Chico-Nazario, JJ., concur.
1 RTC Records, pp. 1-11.
2 Id. at 30-37.
3 Id. at 73-90.
4 Id. at 104-106.
5 Id. at 96.
6 Id. at 98- 100.
7 Id. at 116-119.
8 Id. at 120-121.
9 Id. at 162-168.
10 Id. at 287-288.
11 Penned by Justice Cesar D. Francisco, concurred in by Justices Eubulo G. Verzola and Oswaldo D. Agcaoili.
12 CA Rollo, pp. 204-220 for SLDC and pp. 224-230 for Spouses Lu.
13 Id. at 251.
14 Id. at 261-262.
15 Rollo, pp. 19-20.
16 Id. at 347-348.
17 RTC Records, p. 9.
18 Rollo, p. 11.
19 Art. 1315, Civil Code.
20 Art. 1319, Civil Code.
21 Tan v. Lim, 357 Phil. 452 (1998); Cenido v. Apacionado, 376 Phil. 801 (1999).
22 Ong v. Court of Appeals, 361 Phil. 228 (1999).
23 Odyssey Park, Inc. v. Court of Appeals, 345 Phil. 475 (1997).
24 Vda. de Zulueta, et.al., v. Octaviano, 205 Phil. 247 (1983).
25 Co v. Court of Appeals, 349 Phil. 745 (1998); Fule v. Court of Appeals, 350 Phil. 349 (1998).
26 Xentrex Automotive, Inc. v. Court of Appeals, 353 Phil. 258 (1998).
27 San Juan Structural and Steel Fabricators, Inc. v. Court of Appeals, 357 Phil. 631 (1998); Archipelago Management and Marketing Corporation v. Court of Appeals, 359 Phil. 363 (1998.
28 Villanueva, Philippine Law on Sales, 1995 Edition, at p. 5.
29 Gonzales v. Rojas, 16 Phil. 51 (1910); Ocejo, Perez and Co. v. International Bank, 37 Phil. 631 (1917-18); Fidelity and Deposit Co. v. Wilson, 8 Phil. 51 (1907).
30 Art. 1495, Civil Code
31 Art. 1497, Civil Code.
32 Art. 1498, Civil Code.
33 Art. 1498, par. 2, Civil Code.
34 Art. 1499, Civil Code.
36 Art. 1500, Civil Code.
37 Dawson v. Register of Deeds of Quezon City, 356 Phil. 1037 (1998).
38 Nuguid v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 77423, 13 March 1989, 171 SCRA 213; Bautista v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 106042, 28 February 1994, 230 SCRA 446.
39 Balatbat v. Court of Appeals, 329 Phil. 858 (1996).
40 Bautista v. Court of Appeals, supra note 39.
41 Viray v. Court of Appeals, 350 Phil. 107 (1998); Heirs of Leopoldo Vencilao, Sr. v. Court of Appeals, 351 Phil. 815 (1998); Heirs of Spouses Benito Gavino and Juana Euste v. Court of Appeals, 353 Phil. 686 (1998).
42 124 Phil. 1067, 1072 (1966); citation omitted.
43 Rollo, pp. 25-29.
44 RTC Records, p. 165.
45 TSN, September 19, 1991, pp. 11-12, 14-15, 19.
46 G.R. No. 95843, 2 September 1992, 213 SCRA 415 citing Palanca v. Director of Lands, 43 Phil. 146 (1922); Cagaoan v. Cagaoan, 43 Phil. 554 (1922); Fernandez v. Mercader, 43 Phil. 581 (1922).
47 11 Phil. 768 (1908).
The Lawphil Project - Arellano Law Foundation