Moreno v. Wolf
SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED
Moreño-Lentfer vs. Wolff G.R. No. 152317. November 10, 2004.* VICTORIA MOREÑO-LENTFER,** GUNTER LENTFER and JOHN CRAIGIE YOUNG CROSS, petitioners, vs. HANS JURGEN WOLFF, respondent. Donations; Words and Phrases; A donation is a simple act of liberality where a person gives freely of a thing or right in favor of another, who accepts it, but when a large amount of money is involved, the Court is constrained to take the donee’s purported claim of liberality of the donor with more than a grain of salt; A donation of money equivalent to P3,297,800 as well as its acceptance should be in writing.—Petitioner Moreño-Lentfer’s claim of either cash or property donation rings hollow. A donation is a simple act of liberality where a person gives freely of a thing or right in favor of another, who accepts it. But when a large amount of money is involved, equivalent to P3,297,800, based on the exchange rate in the year 1992, we are constrained to take the petitioners’ claim of liberality of the donor with more than a grain of salt. Petitioners could not brush aside the fact that a donation must comply with the mandatory formal requirements set forth by law for its validity. Since the subject of donation is the purchase money, Art. 748 of the New Civil Code is applicable. Accordingly, the donation of money equivalent to P3,297,800 as well as its acceptance should have been in writing. It was not. Hence, the donation is invalid for non-compliance with the formal requisites prescribed by law. Same; Unjust Enrichment; Solutio Indebiti; The quasi-contract of solutio indebiti harks back to the ancient principle that no one shall enrich himself unjustly at the expense of another.—The quasi-contract of solutio indebiti harks back to the ancient principle that no one shall enrich himself unjustly at the expense of another. It applies where (1) a payment is made when there exists no binding relation between the payor, who has no duty to pay, and the person who received the payment, and (2) the payment is made through mistake, and not through liberality or some other cause. In the _______________ *
FIRST DIVISION. Also Moreno-Lentfer in the Records.
VOL. 441, NOVEMBER 10, 2004 585 Moreño-Lentfer vs. Wolff instant case, records show that a bank-to-bank payment was made by respondent Wolff to petitioner Cross in favor of co-petitioner MoreñoLentfer. Respondent was under no duty to make such payment for the benefit of Moreño-Lentfer. There was no binding relation between respondent and the beneficiary, Moreño-Lentfer. The payment was clearly a mistake. Since Moreño-Lentfer received something when there was no right to demand it, she had an obligation to return it. Following Article 22 of the New Civil Code, two conditions must concur to declare that a person has unjustly enriched himself or herself, namely: (a) a person is unjustly benefited, and (b) such benefit is derived at the expense of or to the damage of another. Constitutional Law; Land Titles; Aliens; The constitutional prohibition against aliens owning land in the Philippines has no actual bearing in a case which merely involves a lease of land where the foreigner’s house stands.—The Court of Appeals held that respondent was not entitled to the reconveyance of the properties because, inter alia, of the express prohibition under the Constitution that non-Filipino citizens cannot acquire land in the Philippines. We note, however, that subject properties consist of a beach house and the lease right over the land where the beach house stands. The constitutional prohibition against aliens from owning land in the Philippines has no actual bearing in this case. A clear distinction exists between the ownership of a piece of land and the mere lease of the land where the foreigner’s house stands. Thus, we see no legal reason why reconveyance could not be allowed.
PETITION for review on certiorari of the decision and resolution of the Court of Appeals. The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court. Rodrigo C. Dimayacyac for petitioners. Pacito M. Pineda, Jr. for respondent. 586
SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED Moreño-Lentfer vs. Wolff
QUISUMBING, J.: For review on certiorari are the Decision1 dated June 14, 2001, and Resolution2 dated February 22, 2002, of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 48272. The decision reversed the judgment3 of the Regional Trial Court of Calapan City, Oriental Mindoro, Branch 39, in Civil Case No. R-4219. The facts are as follows: The petitioners are Gunter Lentfer, a German citizen; his Filipina wife, Victoria Moreño-Lentfer; and John Craigie Young Cross, an Australian citizen, all residing in Sabang, Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro. Respondent Hans Jurgen Wolff is a German citizen, residing in San Lorenzo Village, Makati City. Petitioners alleged that with respondent, on March 6, 1992, they engaged the notarial services of Atty. Rodrigo C. Dimayacyac for: (1) the sale of a beach house owned by petitioner Cross in Sabang, Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro, and (2) the assignment of Cross’ contract of lease on the land where the house stood. The sale of the beach house and the assignment of the lease right would be in the name of petitioner Victoria Moreño-Lentfer, but the total consideration of 220,000 Deutschmarks (DM) would be paid by respondent Hans Jurgen Wolff. A promissory note was executed by said respondent in favor of petitioner Cross. According to respondent, however, the Lentfer spouses were his confidants who held in trust for him, a time deposit account in the amount of DM 200,0004 at Solid Bank Corporation. Apprised of his interest to own a house along a beach, _______________ 1 Rollo, pp. 21-28. Penned by Associate Justice Juan Q. Enriquez, Jr., with Associate Justices Presbitero J. Velasco, Jr., and Bienvenido L. Reyes concurring. 2 Id., at pp. 29-30. 3 Id., at pp. 31-37. 4 Id., at pp. 108-109.
VOL. 441, NOVEMBER 10, 2004 587 Moreño-Lentfer vs. Wolff the Lentfer couple urged him to buy petitioner Cross’ beach house and lease rights in Puerto Galera. Respondent agreed and through a bank-to-bank transaction, he paid Cross the amount of DM 221,7005 as total consideration for the sale and assignment of the lease rights. However, Cross, Moreño-Lentfer and Atty. Dimayacyac surreptitiously executed a deed of sale whereby the beach house was made to appear as sold to Moreño-Lentfer for only P100,000.6 The assignment of the lease right was likewise made in favor of Moreño-Lentfer.7 Upon learning of this, respondent filed a Complaint docketed as Civil Case No. R-4219 with the lower court for annulment of sale and reconveyance of property with damages and prayer for a writ of attachment. After trial, the court a quo dismissed the complaint for failure to establish a cause of action, thus: “ACCORDINGLY, judgment is hereby rendered in favor of the defendants and against the plaintiff, dismissing the complaint for the reason that plaintiff has not established a cause of action against the defendants with costs against the plaintiff. SO ORDERED.”8
Aggrieved, respondent appealed to the Court of Appeals.!