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[ GR No. 112127, Jul 17, 1995 ]



316 Phil. 616


[ G.R. No. 112127, July 17, 1995 ]




CENTRAL PHILIPPINE UNIVERSITY filed this petition for review on certiorari of the decision of the Court of Appeals which reversed that of the Regional Trial Court of Iloilo City directing petitioner to reconvey to private respondents the property donated to it by their predecessor-in-interest.

Sometime in 1939, the late Don Ramon Lopez, Sr., who was then a member of the Board of Trustees of the Central Philippine College (now Central Philippine University [CPU]), executed a deed of donation in favor of the latter of a parcel of land identified as Lot No. 3174-B-1 of the subdivision plan Psd-1144, then a portion of Lot No. 3174-B, for which Transfer Certificate of Title No. T-3910-A was issued in the name of the donee CPU with the following annotations copied from the deed of donation -

1.   The land described shall be utilized by the CPU exclusively for the establishment and use of a medical college with all its buildings as part of the curriculum;

2.   The said college shall not sell, transfer or convey to any third party nor in any way encumber said land;

3.   The said land shall be called "RAMON LOPEZ CAMPUS", and the said college shall be under obligation to erect a cornerstone bearing that name.  Any net income from the land or any of its parks shall be put in a fund to be known as the "RAMON LOPEZ CAMPUS FUND" to be used for improvements of said campus and erection of a building thereon."[1]

On 31 May 1989, private respondents, who are the heirs of Don Ramon Lopez, Sr., filed an action for annulment of donation, reconveyance and damages against CPU alleging that since 1939 up to the time the action was filed the latter had not complied with the conditions of the donation.  Private respondents also argued that petitioner had in fact negotiated with the National Housing Authority (NHA) to exchange the donated property with another land owned by the latter.

In its answer petitioner alleged that the right of private respondents to file the action had prescribed; that it did not violate any of the conditions in the deed of donation because it never used the donated property for any other purpose than that for which it was intended; and, that it did not sell, transfer or convey it to any third party.

On 31 May 1991, the trial court held that petitioner failed to comply with the conditions of the donation and declared it null and void.  The court a quo further directed petitioner to execute a deed of reconveyance of the property in favor of the heirs of the donor, namely, private respondents herein.

Petitioner appealed to the Court of Appeals which on 18 June 1993 ruled that the annotations at the back of petitioner's certificate of title were resolutory conditions breach of which should terminate the rights of the donee thus making the donation revocable.

The appellate court also found that while the first condition mandated petitioner to utilize the donated property for the establishment of a medical school, the donor did not fix a period within which the condition must be fulfilled, hence, until a period was fixed for the fulfillment of the condition, petitioner could not be considered as having failed to comply with its part of the bargain.  Thus, the appellate court rendered its decision reversing the appealed decision and remanding the case to the court of origin for the determination of the time within which petitioner should comply with the first condition annotated in the certificate of title.

Petitioner now alleges that the Court of Appeals erred:  (a) in holding that the quoted annotations in the certificate of title of petitioner are onerous obligations and resolutory conditions of the donation which must be fulfilled non-compliance of which would render the donation revocable; (b) in holding that the issue of prescription does not deserve "disquisition;" and, (c) in remanding the case to the trial court for the fixing of the period within which petitioner would establish a medical college.[2]

We find it difficult to sustain the petition.  A clear perusal of the conditions set forth in the deed of donation executed by Don Ramon Lopez, Sr., gives us no alternative but to conclude that his donation was onerous, one executed for a valuable consideration which is considered the equivalent of the donation itself, e.g., when a donation imposes a burden equivalent to the value of the donation.  A gift of land to the City of Manila requiring the latter to erect schools, construct a children's playground and open streets on the land was considered an onerous donation.[3] Similarly, where Don Ramon Lopez donated the subject parcel of land to petitioner but imposed an obligation upon the latter to establish a medical college thereon, the donation must be for an onerous consideration.

Under Art. 1181 of the Civil Code, on conditional obligations, the acquisition of rights, as well as the extinguishment or loss of those already acquired, shall depend upon the happening of the event which constitutes the condition.  Thus, when a person donates land to another on the condition that the latter would build upon the land a school, the condition imposed was not a condition precedent or a suspensive condition but a resolutory one.[4] It is not correct to say that the schoolhouse had to be constructed before the donation became effective, that is, before the donee could become the owner of the land, otherwise, it would be invading the property rights of the donor.  The donation had to be valid before the fulfillment of the condition.[5] If there was no fulfillment or compliance with the condition, such as what obtains in the instant case, the donation may now be revoked and all rights which the donee may have acquired under it shall be deemed lost and extinguished.

The claim of petitioner that prescription bars the instant action of private respondents is unavailing. The condition imposed by the donor, i.e., the building of a medical school upon the land donated, depended upon the exclusive will of the donee as to when this condition shall be fulfilled. When petitioner accepted the donation, it bound itself to comply with the condition thereof.  Since the time within which the condition should be fulfilled depended upon the exclusive will of the petitioner, it has been held that its absolute acceptance and the acknowledgment of its obligation provided in the deed of donation were sufficient to prevent the statute of limitations from barring the action of private respondents upon the original contract which was the deed of donation.[6]

Moreover, the time from which the cause of action accrued for the revocation of the donation and recovery of the property donated cannot be specifically determined in the instant case. A cause of action arises when that which should have been done is not done, or that which should not have been done is done.[7] In cases where there is no special provision for such computation, recourse must be had to the rule that the period must be counted from the day on which the corresponding action could have been instituted.  It is the legal possibility of bringing the action which determines the starting point for the computation of the period.  In this case, the starting point begins with the expiration of a reasonable period and opportunity for petitioner to fulfill what has been charged upon it by the donor.

The period of time for the establishment of a medical college and the necessary buildings and improvements on the property cannot be quantified in a specific number of years because of the presence of several factors and circumstances involved in the erection of an educational institution, such as government laws and regulations pertaining to education, building requirements and property restrictions which are beyond the control of the donee.

Thus, when the obligation does not fix a period but from its nature and circumstances it can be inferred that a period was intended, the general rule provided in Art. 1197 of the Civil Code applies, which provides that the courts may fix the duration thereof because the fulfillment of the obligation itself cannot be demanded until after the court has fixed the period for compliance therewith and such period has arrived.[8]

This general rule however cannot be applied considering the different set of circumstances existing in the instant case.  More than a reasonable period of fifty (50) years has already been allowed petitioner to avail of the opportunity to comply with the condition even if it be burdensome, to make the donation in its favor forever valid.  But, unfortunately, it failed to do so.  Hence, there is no more need to fix the duration of a term of the obligation when such procedure would be a mere technicality and formality and would serve no purpose than to delay or lead to an unnecessary and expensive multiplication of suits.[9] Moreover, under Art. 1191 of the Civil Code, when one of the obligors cannot comply with what is incumbent upon him, the obligee may seek rescission and the court shall decree the same unless there is just cause authorizing the fixing of a period.  In the absence of any just cause for the court to determine the period of the compliance, there is no more obstacle for the court to decree the rescission claimed.

Finally, since the questioned deed of donation herein is basically a gratuitous one, doubts referring to incidental circumstances of a gratuitous contract should be resolved in favor of the least transmission of rights and interests.[10] Records are clear and facts are undisputed that since the execution of the deed of donation up to the time of filing of the instant action, petitioner has failed to comply with its obligation as donee.  Petitioner has slept on its obligation for an unreasonable length of time. Hence, it is only just and equitable now to declare the subject donation already ineffective and, for all purposes, revoked so that petitioner as donee should now return the donated property to the heirs of the donor, private respondents herein, by means of reconveyance.

WHEREFORE, the decision of the Regional Trial Court of Iloilo, Br. 34, of 31 May 1991 is REINSTATED and AFFIRMED, and the decision of the Court of Appeals of 18 June 1993 is accordingly MODIFIED. Consequently, petitioner is directed to reconvey to private respondents Lot No. 3174-B-1 of the subdivision plan Psd-1144 covered by Transfer Certificate of Title No. T-3910-A within thirty (30) days from the finality of this judgment.

Costs against petitioner.


Quiason and Kapunan, JJ., concur.
Padilla, J., (Chairman), join J. Davide, Jr. in his dissenting opinion.

[1] Rollo, p. 23.

[2] Rollo, p. 8.

[3] City of Manila v. Rizal Park Co., 53 Phil. 515 (1929).

[4] Parks v. Province of Tarlac, 49 Phil. 142 (1926).

[5] lbid.

[6] Osmeña v. Rama, 14 Phil. 99 (1909).

[7] Arturo M. Tolentino, The Civil Code of the Philippines, 1986 Ed., Vol. IV, p. 42.

[8] Concepcion v. People, 74 Phil. 63 (1942).

[9] Tiglao v. Manila Railroad Co., 52 O.G., p. 179.

[10] Art. 1378, Civil Code.