SOLEDAD L. LAVADIA vs. HEIRS OF JUAN LUCES LUNA

SOLEDAD L. LAVADIA vs. HEIRS OF JUAN LUCES LUNA

G.R. No. 171914               

July 23, 2014


FACTS:

ATTY. LUNA married Eugenia but they eventually agreed to live apart and to dissolve and liquidate their conjugal partnership of property. ATTY. LUNA later obtained a divorce decree of his marriage with EUGENIA from the Civil and Commercial Chamber of the First Circumscription of the Court of First Instance of Sto. Domingo, Dominican Republic and on the same date, contracted another marriage, this time with SOLEDAD. Thereafter, ATTY. LUNA and SOLEDAD returned to the Philippines and lived together as husband and wife until 1987.


Sometime in 1977, ATTY. LUNA organized a new law firm named: LUPSICON where he was the managing partner. LUPSICON through ATTY. LUNA purchased a condominium unit bearing the following names:


"JUAN LUCES LUNA, married to Soledad L. Luna (38/100); MARIO E. ONGKIKO, married to Sonia P.G. Ongkiko (50/100); TERESITA CRUZ SISON, married to Antonio J.M. Sison (12/100) x x x"


Sometime in 1992, LUPSICON was dissolved and the condominium unit was partitioned by the partners but the same was still registered in common under CCT No. 21716. The parties stipulated that the interest of ATTY. LUNA over the condominium unit would be 25/100 share. ATTY. LUNA thereafter established and headed another law firm with Atty. Renato G. Dela Cruz and used a portion of the office condominium unit as their office. The said law firm lasted until the death of ATTY. JUAN on July 12, 1997.


After the death of ATTY. JUAN, his share in the condominium unit including the lawbooks, office furniture and equipment found therein were taken over by Gregorio Z. Luna, ATTY. LUNA’s son of the first marriage. Gregorio Z. Luna then leased out the 25/100 portion of the condominium unit belonging to his father to Atty. Renato G. De la Cruz. 


Soledad filed a complaint against the heirs of ATTY. Luna with the RTC alleging that the 25/100 pro-indiviso share of ATTY. Luna in the condominium unit as well as the law books, office furniture and equipment were acquired during the existence of her marriage with ATTY. LUNA through their joint efforts that since they had no children, SOLEDAD became co-owner of the said properties upon the death of ATTY. LUNA.


The RTC ruled that the condominium was acquired by Juan Lucas Luna through his sole industry and plaintiff has no right as owner or under any other concept over the condominium unit. Plaintiff was declared to be the owner of the law books.


The CA denied her right in the 25/100 pro indiviso share of the husband in a condominium unit, and in the law books of the husband acquired during the second marriage. It held that EUGENIA, the first wife, was the legitimate wife of ATTY. LUNA until the latter’s death on July 12, 1997. The absolute divorce decree obtained by ATTY. LUNA in the Dominican Republic did not terminate his prior marriage with EUGENIA because foreign divorce between Filipino citizens is not recognized in our jurisdiction. x x x 


MR was denied. 


ISSUES:


1. Whether the divorce between Atty. Luna and Eugenia Zaballero-Luna (Eugenia) had validly dissolved the first marriage.


2. Whether the second marriage entered into by the late Atty. Luna and the petitioner entitled the latter to any rights in property. 


RULING:


The Supreme Court held that divorce between Filipinos is void and ineffectual under the nationality rule adopted by Philippine law. Hence, any settlement of property between the parties of the first marriage involving Filipinos submitted as an incident of a divorce obtained in a foreign country lacks competent judicial approval, and cannot be enforceable against the assets of the husband who contracts a subsequent marriage. 


1. No. Atty. Luna’s first marriage with Eugenia subsisted up to the time of his death.


The SC held that the first marriage between Atty. Luna and Eugenia, both Filipinos, was solemnized in the Philippines on September 10, 1947. The law in force at the time of the solemnization was the Spanish Civil Code, which adopted the nationality rule. The Civil Code continued to follow the nationality rule, to the effect that Philippine laws relating to family rights and duties, or to the status, condition and legal capacity of persons were binding upon citizens of the Philippines, although living abroad.


Pursuant to the nationality rule, Philippine laws governed this case by virtue of both Atty. Luna and Eugenio having remained Filipinos until the death of Atty. Luna on July 12, 1997 terminated their marriage. Conformably with the nationality rule, however, the divorce, even if voluntarily obtained abroad, did not dissolve the marriage between Atty. Luna and Eugenia, which subsisted up to the time of his death on July 12, 1997. 


2. No. The Agreement for Separation and Property Settlement was void for lack of court approval.


Considering that Atty. Luna and Eugenia had not entered into any marriage settlement prior to their marriage on September 10, 1947, the system of relative community or conjugal partnership of gains governed their property relations. This is because the Spanish Civil Code, the law then in force at the time of their marriage, did not specify the property regime of the spouses in the event that they had not entered into any marriage settlement before or at the time of the marriage. Article 119 of the Civil Code clearly so provides, to wit:


Article 119. The future spouses may in the marriage settlements agree upon absolute or relative community of property, or upon complete separation of property, or upon any other regime. In the absence of marriage settlements, or when the same are void, the system of relative community or conjugal partnership of gains as established in this Code, shall govern the property relations between husband and wife.


Article 142 of the Civil Code has defined a conjugal partnership of gains thusly:

Article 142. By means of the conjugal partnership of gains the husband and wife place in a common fund the fruits of their separate property and the income from their work or industry, and divide equally, upon the dissolution of the marriage or of the partnership, the net gains or benefits obtained indiscriminately by either spouse during the marriage.


The conjugal partnership of gains subsists until terminated for any of various causes of termination enumerated in Article 175 of the Civil Code, viz:

Article 175. The conjugal partnership of gains terminates:

(1) Upon the death of either spouse;

(2) When there is a decree of legal separation;

(3) When the marriage is annulled;

(4) In case of judicial separation of property under Article 191.


The mere execution of the Agreement by Atty. Luna and Eugenia did not per se dissolve and liquidate their conjugal partnership of gains. The approval of the Agreement by a competent court was still required under Article 190 and Article 191 of the Civil Code, as follows:

Article 190. In the absence of an express declaration in the marriage settlements, the separation of property between spouses during the marriage shall not take place save in virtue of a judicial order. (1432a)

Article 191. The husband or the wife may ask for the separation of property, and it shall be decreed when the spouse of the petitioner has been sentenced to a penalty which carries with it civil interdiction, or has been declared absent, or when legal separation has been granted.

After dissolution of the conjugal partnership, the provisions of articles 214 and 215 shall apply. The provisions of this Code concerning the effect of partition stated in articles 498 to 501 shall be applicable. (1433a)


Atty. Luna’s marriage with Soledad, being bigamous, was void; properties acquired during their marriage were governed by the rules on co-ownership.


The petitioner, as the party claiming the co-ownership, did not discharge her burden of proof. 


The SC affirmed the decision of the CA. 


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