AVELINA ABARIENTOS REBUSQUILLO and SALVADOR A. OROSCO, Petitioners,
SPS. DOMINGO and EMELINDA REBUSQUILLO GUALVEZ and the CITY ASSESSOR OF LEGAZPI CITY, Respondents.
G.R. No. 204029 June 4, 2014
PONENTE: Velasco, Jr.
TOPIC: Simulation of contract, intestate proceeding
Petitioner Avelina was one of the children of Eulalio who died intestate. On his death, Eulalio left behind an untitled parcel of land in Legazpi City.
In 2001, Avelina was supposedly made to sign two documents by her daughter Emelinda and her son-in-law Domingo, respondents in this case, on the pretext that the documents were needed to facilitate the titling of the lot. It was only in 2003, so petitioners claim, that Avelina realized that what she signed was an Affidavit of Self-Adjudication and a Deed of Absolute Sale in favor of respondents.
Petitioners filed a complaint for annulment and revocation of an Affidavit of Self-Adjudication and a Deed of Absolute Sale. After trial, RTC held the annulment of the subject documents. CA reversed RTC’s decision. CA held that the RTC erred in annulling the Affidavit of Self-Adjudication simply on petitioners’ allegation of the existence of the heirs of Eulalio, considering that issues on heirship must be made in administration or intestate proceedings, not in an ordinary civil action. Further, the appellate court observed that the Deed of Absolute Sale cannot be nullified as it is a notarized document that has in its favor the presumption of regularity and is entitled to full faith and credit upon its face.
- Whether or not the issue on heirship in this case must be raised in a separate administration or intestate proceedings.
- Whether or not the Deed of Absolute Sale can be nullified.
FIRST ISSUE: No.
The Court ruled that this case falls under the exception of the rule on separate intestate proceedings.
The general rule is that the declaration of heirship must be made in a special proceeding, not in an independent civil action. However, the Court also ruled that recourse to administration proceedings to determine who heirs are is sanctioned only if there is a good and compelling reason for such recourse.
The Court had allowed exceptions to the rule requiring administration proceedings as when the parties in the civil case already presented their evidence regarding the issue of heirship, and the RTC had consequently rendered judgment upon the issues it defined during the pre-trial.
Similar to the case of Portugal v. Portugal-Beltran, in the present case, there appears to be only one parcel of land being claimed by the contending parties as the inheritance from Eulalio.
It would be more practical, as Portugal teaches, to dispense with a separate special proceeding for the determination of the status of petitioner Avelina as sole heir of Eulalio, especially in light of the fact that respondents spouses Gualvez admitted in court that they knew for a fact that petitioner Avelina was not the sole heir of Eulalio and that petitioner Salvador was one of the other living heirs with rights over the subject land.
Accordingly, the court a quo had properly rendered judgment on the validity of the Affidavit of Self-Adjudication executed by Avelina. As pointed out by the trial court, an Affidavit of Self-Adjudication is only proper when the affiant is the sole heir of the decedent.
SECOND ISSUE: Yes.
The Court held that it is apparent from the admissions of respondents and the records of this case that Avelina had no intention to transfer the ownership, of whatever extent, over the property to respondents. Hence, the Deed of Absolute Sale is nothing more than a simulated contract.
Heirs of Policronio Ureta Sr. v. Heirs of Liberato Ureta: In absolute simulation, there is a colorable contract but it has no substance as the parties have no intention to be bound by it. The main characteristic of an absolute simulation is that the apparent contract is not really desired or intended to produce legal effect or in any way alter the juridical situation of the parties. As a result, an absolutely simulated or fictitious contract is void, and the parties may recover from each other what they may have given under the contract.
In the present case, the true intention of the parties in the execution of the Deed of Absolute Sale is simply to “facilitate the titling of the subject property,” not to transfer the ownership of the lot to them. Furthermore, respondents concede that petitioner Salvador remains in possession of the property and that there is no indication that respondents ever took possession of the subject property after its supposed purchase. Such failure to take exclusive possession of the subject property or, in the alternative, to collect rentals from its possessor, is contrary to the principle of ownership and is a clear badge of simulation that renders the whole transaction void.