Wife Can Claim Property Acquired During Marriage

Persida Acosta

Dear PAO,
I found out that my husband and my sister engaged in an illicit relationship. I also discovered that my husband had a vacation of two months every year but these vacations were actually spent in the company of my sister. My husband bought a house and lot and it was registered under the name of my sister to make it appear that she is the real buyer. The latter has no financial capability to acquire this property because she is jobless.
After the death of my husband last month, I demanded from my sister to vacate the house and lot and surrender its possession to me but she answered that she is the absolute owner of the property and the Torrens Title is her proof. I felt that I am helpless because I am already aggrieved by their relationship, and yet I cannot claim the said property. Please advise me on what to do about this.

Dear Warlita,
For your information, you need preponderance of evidence in order to establish that the house and lot covered by a Torrens Title in the name of your sister was actually bought by your husband during the existence of your marriage to him. It is presumed that the property acquired by the spouses during the marriage belongs to the Absolute Community of Property. This finds support under Article 91 of the Family Code of the Philippines which provides that:
“Unless otherwise provided in this Chapter or in the marriage settlements, the community property shall consist of all the property owned by the spouses at the time of the celebration of the marriage or acquired thereafter.”
Your sister cannot use the Torrens Title to deprive you of your valid claim over the property acquired by your husband. In the case of Joaquino vs. Reyes, et al. (G.R. No. 154645, July 13, 2004), the Supreme Court through Honorable former Chief Justice Artemio V. Panganiban stated that:
“Regarding the registration of the property in petitioner’s name, it is enough to stress that a certificate of title under the Torrens system aims to protect dominion; it cannot be used as an instrument for the deprivation of ownership. It has been held that property is conjugal if acquired in a common-law relationship during the subsistence of a preexisting legal marriage, even if it is titled in the name of the common-law wife. In this case, a constructive trust is deemed created under Article 1456 of the Civil Code, which we quote:
“Art. 1456. If property is acquired through mistake or fraud, the person obtaining it is, by force of law, considered a trustee of an implied trust for the benefit of the person from whom the property comes.”
The registration of the property in petitioner’s name was clearly designed to deprive Rodolfo’s legal spouse and compulsory heirs of ownership. By operation of law, petitioner is deemed to hold the property in trust for them. Therefore, she cannot rely on the registration in repudiation of the trust, for this case is a well-known exception to the principle of conclusiveness of a certificate of title.”
Applying the abovementioned decision in your situation, the registration of the property in the name of your sister, but was actually bought by your husband, is clearly intended to deprive you of whatever claim you have over the property. Pursuant to Article 1456 of the New Civil Code of the Philippines, your sister is merely holding the property in trust for the benefit of your husband or his heirs. The right of your husband over the said property is transmitted to you upon his death pursuant to Article 777 of the said law. Your sister cannot use then the conclusiveness of a Certificate of Title to deprive you of your claim over the property acquired by your husband.
We find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. Thus, the opinion may vary when the facts are changed or further elaborated. We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter.

Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to dearpao@manilatimes.net.

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