Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Not innocent buyer for value - G.R. No. 180683

G.R. No. 180683

"x x x.

Indeed, the lack of a plausible explanation why a co-owner would gratuitously cede a very substantial portion of his rightful share to another co-owner in partition renders the foregoing testimonies more credible as against the plain general denial of Atty. Tecson. On this point, We find no reversible error on the part of the Court of Appeals.

The established facts have several legal consequences:

First. The Second Plan, having been prepared without the knowledge and consent of any of the co-owners of Lot 2189, have no binding effect on them.

Second. The Second Partition Agreement is null and void as an absolute simulation,[80] albeit induced by a third party. The fraud perpetrated by Atty. Tecson did more than to vitiate the consent of Waldetrudes and the respondents. It must be emphasized that Waldetrudes and the respondents never had any intention of entering into a new partition distinct from the First Partition Agreement. The established facts reveal that Waldetrudes and the respondents assented to the Second Partition Agreement because Atty. Tecson told them that the instrument was merely required to expedite the sale of Waldetrudes’ share.[81]

In other words, the deceit employed by Atty. Tecson goes into the very nature of the Second Partition Agreement and not merely to its object or principal condition. Evidently, there is an absence of a genuine intent on the part of the co-owners to be bound under a new partition proposing a new division of Lot 2189. The apparent consent of Waldetrudes and the respondents to the Second Partition Agreement is, in reality, totally wanting. For that reason, the Second Partition Agreement is null and void.

Third. The Second Partition Agreement being a complete nullity, it cannot be ratified either by the lapse of time or by its approval by the guardianship court.[82]

Fourth. The First Plan and the First Partition Agreement remain as the valid and binding division of Lot 2189. Hence, pursuant to the First Partition Agreement, Waldetrudes is the absolute owner of Lot 2189-A with an area of only five hundred seven (507) square meters. Atty. Fausto, on the other hand, has dominion over Lot 2189-B with an area of five hundred eight (508) square meters.

Fifth. Inevitably, Waldetrudes can only sell her lawful share of five hundred seven (507) square meters. The sales in favor of Aurora and, subsequently, Atty. Tecson, are thereby null and void insofar as it exceeded the 507 square meter share of Waldetrudes in Lot 2189. Nemo dat quod non habet.[83]

Atty. Tecson is not an innocent purchaser for value

The remaining bar to the recovery by the respondents of the excess area held by Atty. Tecson is the principle of an innocent purchaser for value of land under the Torrens System of Registration.

The petitioners claim that they are bona fide purchasers of the entire nine hundred sixty-four (964) square meters of land covered by Lot 2189-B—with Aurora merely relying on the strength of TCT No. T-4,336 in the name of Waldetrudes, while Atty. Tecson placing confidence in TCT No. T-4,338 in the name of Aurora. Both TCT Nos. T-4,336 and T-4,338 define the area of Lot 2189-B as nine hundred sixty-four (964) square meters.[84] The petitioners allege that at the time they made their respective purchase, they did not know of the existing partition of Lot 2189 per the First Plan and the First Partition Agreement.[85]

We disagree. The proven facts indicate that Atty. Tecson knew or, at the very least, should have known that Atty. Fausto and Waldetrudes were co-owners in equal share of Lot 2189. We must be reminded of the following circumstances:

1. Atty. Tecson was a long-time friend and neighbor of the Faustos.[86] Atty. Tecson himself testified that he considered Atty. Fausto as a good friend and even admitted that he would sometimes visit the latter in his house to play mahjong.[87] By this, Atty. Tecson knew that Atty. Fausto has an actual interest in Lot 2189.

2. Atty. Tecson was the one who presented the Second Partition Agreement to Waldetrudes and the respondents;[88]

3. Waldetrudes and the respondents were not involved in the preparation of the Second Partition Agreement and, at the time they signed the said agreement, had no knowledge of the existence of the Second Plan;[89] and

4. The Second Partition Agreement failed to state the specific areas allotted for each component of Lot 2189 and made no mention of the division proposed by the Second Plan.[90]

Being the one behind the execution of the Second Partition Agreement, there is no doubt that Atty. Tecson knew that Lot 2189 was owned in common by Waldetrudes and Atty. Fausto. This, taken together with the instrument’s unusual silence as to the definite area allotted for each component lot and the Second Plan, reveals a deliberate attempt on the part of Atty. Tecson to conceal from Waldetrudes and the respondents the unequal division of Lot 2189.

The necessity to conceal the disproportionate division of Lot 2189 can only be explained by Atty. Tecson’s prior knowledge that such a partition is inherently defective for being contrary to the actual sharing between Waldetrudes and Atty. Fausto. Atty. Tecson is clearly in bad faith.

Verily, Atty. Tecson cannot be considered as an innocent purchaser of the excess area of Lot 2189-B. Based on the facts and circumstances prevailing in this case, Atty. Tecson may be charged with actual notice of the defect plaguing the Second Partition Agreement. The respondents may, therefore, recover.

x x x."