Published 27 December 2021, The Daily Tribune

Christmas is the season for giving and sharing. I refer not only to the traditional exchanging of gifts but the also laudable efforts of well-meaning individuals and institutions in giving donations for various civic purposes.

Donation is an act of liberality whereby a person disposes gratuitously of a thing or right in favor of another, who accepts it. An agreement between the donor and the donee is essential like in any other contract. As such, the requisites of a valid contract under Article 1318 of the Civil Code must concur, namely: (1) Consent of the contracting parties, that is consent to donate the subject land to petitioners; (2) object certain which is the subject matter of the contract; (3) cause of the obligation which is established.

What is the legal consequence, however, if the donor’s consent is absent or vitiated? Is the donation void or merely avoidable? Is there a period to invalidate such defective donation? These questions were answered in the fairly recent case of Spouses Cardinez v. Spouses Prudencio, GR 213001, 4 August 2021, penned by Justice Ramon Hernando.

In this case, it was ruled that the donors’ consent was absent. The High Court instructs that consent, to be valid, must have the following requisites: (1) Intelligent or with an exact notion of the matter to which it refers; (2) free; and (3) spontaneous. The parties’ intention should be clear; otherwise, the donation is rendered void in the absence thereof, or voidable if there exists a vice of consent.

Accordingly, the absence of consent, and not just a mere vitiation thereof, on the part of the purported donors (“respondents”) to donate their land was satisfactorily established.

The respondents, who only finished Grade 3, categorically and firmly stated that they did not know that the documents they signed was a Deed of Donation. In fact, they did not read the document before affixing their signature because one of the respondents trusted his brother that it was for the partition of their inherited land and the cancellation of its title. His brother neither read the contents of the document to such donor nor gave him a copy thereof. The notary public likewise did not explain its contents to the donors and only asked them to affix their signatures therein.

The Court also found it very perplexing why the respondents would donate their portion of the land considering that it was an inherited property and respondents have children of their own.

Considering that the respondents did not give their consent at all to the Deed of Donation, it is therefore null and void.

While it is true that a document acknowledged before a notary public indeed enjoys the presumption of regularity, the presumption may be rebutted by evidence to the contrary. Here, the respondents successfully refuted said presumption of regularity. The notary public testified that all the parties personally appeared before him when the Deed of Donation was notarized.

Interestingly, one of the supposed donees died 36 years before the Deed of Donation was executed. It is also worthy to note that one of the petitioners admitted his mother’s demise during the trial.

The Deed of Donation is an absolute nullity, hence, it is subject to attack at any time. Its defect, i.e., the absence of consent of respondents, is permanent and incurable by ratification or prescription. In other words, the action is imprescriptible. This is in accord with Article 1410 of the Civil Code which states that an action to declare the inexistence of a void contract does not prescribe. Respondents therefore have the right to institute a case for the reconveyance of the property at any time.

It is said that it is better to give than to receive. Well, such adage assumes that the giving is voluntary, freely given and inspired by the best intentions.

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