Saturday, March 03, 2012

Alipio vs. CA [G.R. No. 134100 Sept. 29, 2000]

Facts: Respondent Romeo Jaring was the lessee of a 14.5 hectare fishpond in Bataan for a period of 5 years ending on September 12, 1990. On June 19, 1987, he subleased the fishpond for the remaining period of his lease to the spouses Placido and Purita Alipio and the spouses Bienvenido and Remedios Manuel for an amount of Php 485,600.oo payable in 2 installments in the amount of Php 300,000.00 and 185,600.00 respectively. The 2nd installment will fall due on June 30, 1989. The 1st installment was duly paid but the 2nd installment was only partially fulfilled leaving a balance of Php 50,600.00. The sub lessees failed to settle the remaining balance despite repeated demands. This prompted private respondent Jaring to file a complaint on Oct. 13, 1989 against the Alipio and Manuel spouses in the RTC Bataan for the collection of the said amount and prayed in the alternative, the rescission of the sublease contract in case of failure to pay. However, prior to the institution of the complaint, on Dec. 1, 1988, one of the sub lessees, Placido Alipio, died. His wife, Purita moved to dismiss the complaint citing Rule 3 Sec 21 of the 1964 Rules of Court which states that in an action for recovery of money, debt or interests and the defendant dies before the CFI renders the final judgment, the case shall be dismissed and prosecuted in the manner especially provided in these rules. This rule was however amended, so that in Rule 3 Sec 20 of the 1997 Rules of Civil procedure, it states that there is no longer need to dismiss, that the case will be allowed to continue until entry of final judgment and that the claims will then be pursued in the manner provided by the rules on prosecuting claims against the estate of a deceased person. The RTC however, denied petitioner’s motion while the Manuel spouses were defaulted for failure to file an answer. The RTC rendered a decision ordering the petitioner and the Manuel spouses to pay the unpaid balance of Php 50,600 plus Php 10,000.00 for atty’s fees and cost of suit. 

Petitioner Alipio appealed to the CA but her appeal was also dismissed by the said appellate court citing the cases (1) Climaco vs. Siy-Uy - that the rule invoked by petitioner does not apply where there are another defendants against whom the action is instituted; and (2) Imperial insurance Ins. vs. David – that where a husband and wife bound themselves jointly and severally, in case of death, the liability of the surviving spouse is independent and separate so that she may be sued for the whole debt. 

Hence, petitioner Alipio, filed a petition for review on certiorari questioning the applicability of the above 2 cases. 

Issue: Whether or not a creditor can sue the surviving spouse for the collection of a debt which is owed by the conjugal partnership of gains or whether such claims must be filed in proceedings for the settlement of the estate of the decedent

Held: Petitioner and her late husband and the Manuel spouses signed the sublease contract binding themselves to pay the rentals stipulated which under Art. 161 of the Civil Code will make the conjugal partnership liable. However, when petitioner’s husband died, the conjugal partnership of gains was automatically dissolved thus all debts chargeable to it are to be paid in the intestate of testate proceedings of the deceased spouse. And even when there is no liquidation that has been made, this would not mean that the conjugal partnership of gains continues to exist in order to pursue the claim against the surviving spouse alone. The creditor under Sec 6 Rule 78 of the Revised Rules of Court can have the remedy of applying in court for letters of administration in his capacity as the principal creditor. 

SC ruled that the 2 cases cited by the CA do not apply in this case because such cases are based on different sets of facts not similar to the case herein. Private respondent cannot maintain the present suit against petitioner. The proper remedy is to file a claim against the Alipios in a proceeding for the settlement of the estate of the deceased husband. 

SC also ruled that the CA decision ordering payment of the balance does not specify whether it is to be paid jointly or solidarily. Applying Art 1207 of the Civil Code, the obligation of petitioner and the Manuel spouses is presumed to be only JOINT, i.e. the debt is divided into as many equal shares as there are debtors, each debt being considered distinct from one another. SC therefore grants the petition and orders the Manuel spouses to pay Php 25,300.00 plus Php 10,000.00 for atty’s fees and cost of suit. The complaint against petitioner was dismissed without prejudice to the filing of claim by private respondent in a proceeding for the settlement of the estate of the deceased husband. 

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