Published 23 July 2021, The Daily Tribune
What is the consequence of a donation of a piece of land made by a husband to his grandson without the consent of his wife? Is it void or valid? Would it matter if, subsequently, the marriage of the husband and the wife was nullified by a court on the ground of psychological incapacity? These are the lingering questions answered by the Supreme Court (SC) in its 24 March 2021 decision entitled Nicxon L. Perez Jr. v. Avegail Perez-Senerpida (G.R. 233365).
In this case, spouses Eliodoro and Adelita were the registered owners of a parcel of land in Olongapo City. The spouse had two children Avegail and Adonis. Prior to his marriage with Adelita, Eliodoro was married and had several children, one of whom was Nicxon Perez Sr., who sired Nicxon Jr..
In 2004, Eliodoro donated their land to his grandson, Nicxon Jr., without the conformity of Adelita. In February 2005, Eliodoro filed against Adelita a petition for declaration of nullity of marriage on the ground of psychological incapacity. The trial court granted the petition and the judgment became final and executory in July 2005. Eliodoro died in 2008 and, a year later, an extrajudicial settlement among the heirs was executed. In 2010, Avegail brought an action of annulment of donation of the land donated by Eliodoro to Nicxon Jr. on the ground that it was prejudicial to her interest because it affected her future inheritance or legitime.
The pressing question now before the SC is whether the donation made by Eliodoro to Nicxon Jr., without the consent of Adelita, is void.
Had Eliodoro’s and Adelita’s marriage not only been nullified on the ground of psychological incapacity (Article 36 of the Family Code or FC), the question could easily be answered by a yes. Article 98 of the FC expressly states that “neither spouse may donate any community property without the consent of the other.” However, since the spouses’ marriage was declared void under Article 36 of the FC, their property regime is not governed by Article 98 but by Article 147, which covers the exclusive cohabitation of a man and woman as husband and wife without the benefit of marriage or under a void marriage.
In the present case, the SC noted that under Article 147, “there is unfortunately no direct prohibition on donation of any property acquired during the cohabitation by one party without the consent of the other.” What Article 147 explicitly and directly proscribes is the donation of a party’s share (and not necessarily the entire property) in the property acquired during cohabitation without the consent of the other party, viz.:
Neither party can encumber or dispose by acts inter vivos of his or her share in the property acquired during cohabitation and owned in common, without the consent of the other, until after the termination of their cohabitation. (Emphasis supplied)
Notwithstanding, the SC still ruled that the donation made by Eliodoro of the entire property acquired during their cohabitation sans the consent of Adelita is void. Verily, the SC stated: “(i)f a disposition of a party’s share in the property under special co-ownership created by virtue of Article 147 without the consent of the other party is proscribed by law, then, and with more reason, should the disposition of the entire property under such special co-ownership by a party without the other party’s consent be considered void as well.” (Emphasis and underscoring in the original)
The reason for this prohibition, the SC noted, is that if the parties are allowed to dispose of their shares in said properties like in an ordinary co-ownership, then it will destroy their relationship.
Quoting the eminent civilist, Dr. Arturo Tolentino, the SC held that the law “would like to encourage the parties to legalize their union some day and is just smoothing out the way until their relationship ripens into a valid union.”
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