by Amie Perez

ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF JARO v. GREGORIO DE LA PEÑA, GR No. 6913, 1913-11-21

Facts:

plaintiff is the trustee of a charitable bequest made for the construction of a leper hospital and that Father Agustin de la Peña was the duly authorized representative of the plaintiff to receive the legacy.  The defendant is... the administrator of the estate of Father De la Peña.

1898 the books of Father De la Peña, as trustee, showed that he had on hand as such trustee the sum of P6,641

In the same year he deposited in his personal account P19,000 in the Hongkong and Shanghai

Bank at Iloilo.

Shortly thereafter and during the war of the revolution, Father De la Peña was arrested by the military authorities as a political prisoner, and while thus detained made an order on said bank in favor of the United States Army officer under whose charge he... then was for the sum thus deposited in said bank.  The arrest of Father De la Peña and the confiscation of the funds in the bank were the result of the claim of the military authorities that he was an insurgent and that the funds thus deposited had been collected by him for... revolutionary purposes.  The money was taken from the bank by the military authorities by virtue of such order, was confiscated and turned over to the Government.

In this jurisdiction, therefore, Father De la Peña's liability is determined by those portions of the Civil Code which... relate to obligations.

Issues:

WON Father dela Pena (or his estate) is liable for the funds lost while in trust.... trust funds

Ruling:

By placing the money in the bank and mixing it with his personal funds De la Peña did not thereby assume an obligation different from that under which he would have lain if such deposit had not been made,  nor  did he thereby make himself liable to repay the money at... all hazards.  If the money had been forcibly taken from his pocket or from his house by the military forces of one of the combatants during a state of war, it is clear that under the provisions of the Civil Code he would have been exempt from responsibility.  The fact... that he placed the trust fund in the bank in his personal account does not add to his responsibility.  Such deposit did not make him a debtor who must respond at all hazards.

We regard such discussion as  substantially fruitless, inasmuch as the precise question is not one of negligence.  There was no law prohibiting him from depositing it as he did and... there was no law which changed his responsibility by reason  of the deposit.

The court, therefore, finds and declares that the money which is the subject matter of this action was deposited by Father De la Peña in the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation of Iloilo; that said money was forcibly taken from the bank by the armed forces of the United

Sates during the war of the insurrection; and that said Father De la Peña was not responsible for its loss.  The judgment is therefore reversed, and it is decreed that the plaintiff shall take nothing by his complaint.

DISSENTING OPINION, TRENT... when De la Peña mixed this trust fund with his own and deposited the whole in the bank to his personal account or credit, he by this act stamped on the said fund... his own private marks and unclothed it of all the protection it had.  If this money had been deposited in the name of De la Peña as trustee or agent of the plaintiff, I think that it may be presumed that the military authorities would not have confiscated it for the reason... that they were looking for insurgent funds only.  Again, the plaintiff had no reason to suppose that De la Peña would attempt to strip the fund of its identity, nor had he said or done anything which tended to relieve De la Peña from the legal responsibility which pertains... to the care and custody of trust funds.

Principles:

Although the Civil Code states that "a person obliged to give something is also bound to preserve it with the diligence pertaining to a good father of a family" (art. 1094), it also provides, following the principle of the Roman law, major casus est, cui humana infirmitas... resistere non potest, that "no one shall be liable for events which could not be foreseen, or which having been foreseen were inevitable, with the exception of the cases expressly mentioned in the law or those in which the obligation so declares."  (Art. 1105.)