Friday, December 16, 2011

IDR v. Siochi, GR. 169977, March 2010

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FACTS: Elvira Gozon filed a petition for legal separation against Alfredo Gozon. During the pendency of the legal separation case Alfredo agreed to sell a parcel of land belonging to the conjugal partnership to Mario Siochi for eighteen million pesos. A notice of lis pendens was later annotated in the title of the property. Siochi and Alfredo then entered into a contract wherein the latter was to have the property excluded from the conjugal partnership by the Court, and was to have the notice of lis pendens removed from the title. The RTC then rendered its decision in the legal separation case. Alfredo was held to be the guilty spouse and his share in the net profits of the conjugal partnership was forfeited in favor of his daughter Winfred. However, the property sold to Siochi was not removed from the partnership by the Court. Neither was the notice of lis pendens removed from the title. Alfredo transferred the title of the property to his daughter. He secured from her a special power of attorney and sold the property to IDR. Mario subsequently filed an action for specific performance with damages against Alfredo. The RTC of Malabon found in favor of Siochi and enjoined Alfredo, his daughter and IDR from entering the property. On appeal the decision of the Malabon RTC was affirmed with modifications. The Court of Appeals held that since the property was part of the conjugal partnership, the consent of Elvira was required before it could be sold by Alfredo. Therefore the agreement between Alfredo and Siochi was held to be null and void. Siochi appealed the decision to the Supreme Court. He claimed that the sale of the property to him by Alfredo was valid because it was a continuing offer by Alfredo to Elvira.

Issue: Whether or not the agreement between Siochi and Gozon was null and voild for failing to secure the consent of Elvira?

Held: Yes. This case involves the conjugal property of Alfredo and Elvira. Since the disposition of the property occurred after the effectivity of the Family Code, the applicable law is the Family Code. Article 124 of the Family Code provides:

Art. 124. The administration and enjoyment of the conjugal partnership property shall belong to both spouses jointly. In case of disagreement, the husband’s decision shall prevail, subject to the recourse to the court by the wife for a proper remedy, which must be availed of within five years from the date of the contract implementing such decision.

In the event that one spouse is incapacitated or otherwise unable to participate in the administration of the conjugal properties, the other spouse may assume sole powers of administration. These powers do not include the powers of disposition or encumbrance which must have the authority of the court or the written consent of the other spouse. In the absence of such authority or consent, the disposition or encumbrance shall be void. However, the transaction shall be construed as a continuing offer on the part of the consenting spouse and the third person, and may be perfected as a binding contract upon the acceptance by the other spouse or authorization by the court before the offer is withdrawn by either or both offerors.

  In this case, Alfredo was the sole administrator of the property because Elvira, with whom Alfredo was separated in fact, was unable to participate in the administration of the conjugal property. However, as sole administrator of the property, Alfredo still cannot sell the property without the written consent of Elvira or the authority of the court. Without such consent or authority, the sale is void. The absence of the consent of one of the spouse renders the entire sale void, including the portion of the conjugal property pertaining to the spouse who contracted the sale. Even if the other spouse actively participated in negotiating for the sale of the property, that other spouse’s written consent to the sale is still required by law for its validity. The Agreement entered into by Alfredo and Mario was without the written consent of Elvira. Thus, the Agreement is entirely void. As regards Mario’s contention that the Agreement is a continuing offer which may be perfected by Elvira’s acceptance before the offer is withdrawn, the fact that the property was subsequently donated by Alfredo to Winifred and then sold to IDRI clearly indicates that the offer was already withdrawn.

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