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Honey, your liability is not our liability.

Bobby filed a complaint for damages against Nicole with the Regional Trial Court of Bacoor, Cavite, Branch 19. The action originated from Nicole's civil liability arising from the criminal offense of slander filed against her by Bobby.

RTC Branch 19 rendered a decision ordering Nicole to pay moral and exemplary damages, and as attorney's fees and litigation expenses. The decision became final and executory.

As expected, the trial court issued a writ of execution commanding the implementation and satisfaction of the above judgment. The personal properties of Nicole were found insufficient to satisfy the judgment.

Thus, the Deputy Sheriff issued a notice of levy on a real property owned by Nicole and her husband, Romy. The notice of levy was annotated on the pertinent transfer certificate of title. A notice of sheriff's sale was thereafter issued.

The auction sale proceeded with Bobby as the highest bidder. A certificate of sale was issued in favor of Bobby.

Almost a year later, Romy, husband of Nicole, filed a complaint for annulment of certificate of sale and damages with preliminary injunction against Bobby and the deputy sheriff. The case was raffled to RTC of Imus, Cavite, Branch 21.

Q: Does the RTC of Imus, Cavite, Branch 21 have the power and authority to hear the complaint filed by Romy given that it was in the RTC of Bacoor, Cavite, Branch 19, where the subject judgment originated and which issued the order of execution, writ of execution, notice of levy and notice of sheriff's sale?

A: The RTC of Imus, Cavite, Branch 21 is empowered to hear and determine the complaint filed by Romy.

Verily, the question of jurisdiction could be resolved through a proper interpretation of Section 16, Rule 39 of the Rules of Court which reads:

Sec. 16. Proceedings where property claimed by third person. If the property levied on is claimed by any person other than the judgment obligor or his agent, and such person makes an affidavit of his title thereto or right to the possession thereof, stating the grounds of such right or title, and serves the same upon the officer making the levy and a copy thereof upon the judgment obligee, the officer shall not be bound to keep the property, unless such judgment obligee, on demand of the officer, files a bond approved by the court to indemnify the third-party claimant in a sum not less than the value of the property levied on.

In case of disagreement as to such value, the same shall be determined by the court issuing the writ of execution.

No claim for damages for the taking or keeping of the property may be enforced against the bond unless the action therefor is filed within one hundred twenty (120) days from the date of the filing of the bond. The officer shall not be liable for damages for the taking or keeping of the property, to any third-party claimant if such bond is filed.

Nothing herein contained shall prevent such claimant or any third person from vindicating his claim to the property in a separate action, or prevent the judgment obligee from claiming damages in the same or a separate action against a third-party claimant who filed a frivolous or plainly spurious claim.

When the writ of execution is issued in favor of the Republic of the Philippines, or any officer duly representing it, the filing of such bond shall not be required, and in case the sheriff or levying officer is sued for damages as a result of the levy, he shall be represented by the Solicitor General and if held liable therefor, the actual damages adjudged by the court shall be paid by the National Treasurer out of such funds as may be appropriated for the purpose.

From the above, a third party claimant or a stranger to the foreclosure suit may avail of the following remedies:

The remedy of terceria is available to a third-party claimant or to a stranger to the foreclosure suit against the sheriff or officer effecting the writ by serving on him an affidavit of his title and a copy thereof upon the judgment creditor, and

A third-party claimant may also resort to an independent separate action, the object of which is the recovery of ownership or possession of the property seized by the sheriff, as well as damages arising from wrongful seizure and detention of the property.

If a separate action is the recourse, the third-party claimant must institute in a forum of competent jurisdiction an action, distinct and separate from the action in which the judgment is being enforced, even before or without need of filing a claim in the court that issued the writ.

Q: Is Romy, who was not a party to the suit Bobby filed against Nicole, but whose conjugal property is being executed on account of Nicole's liability as a judgment obligor, be considered a 'stranger?'

A: Yes, he is deemed a stranger. It is true that there are Supreme Court pronouncements that held that the husband of the judgment debtor cannot be deemed a 'stranger' to the case prosecuted and adjudged against his wife for an obligation that has redounded to the benefit of the conjugal partnership.

It is equally, true however, that there are Supreme Court rulings that provide that a spouse is deemed a stranger to the action wherein the writ of execution was issued and is therefore justified in bringing an independent action to vindicate her right of ownership over his exclusive or paraphernal property.

For the above, therefore, two matters must be considered before a husband can be deemed a stranger to the suit and thus can file an independent civil action: (a) whether the obligation of the judgment debtor spouse redounded to the benefit of the conjugal partnership or not; and (b) the character of the property must be taken into account.

Q: Is the obligation of Nicole arising from her criminal liability chargeable to the conjugal partnership.

A: No.

There is no dispute that contested property is conjugal in nature. Article 122 of the Family Code explicitly provides that payment of personal debts contracted by the husband or the wife before or during the marriage shall not be charged to the conjugal partnership except insofar as they redounded to the benefit of the family.

Unlike in the system of absolute community where liabilities incurred by either spouse by reason of a crime or quasi-delict is chargeable to the absolute community of property, in the absence or insufficiency of the exclusive property of the debtor-spouse, the same advantage is not accorded in the system of conjugal partnership of gains. The conjugal partnership of gains has no duty to make advance payments for the liability of the debtor-spouse.

By no stretch of imagination can it be concluded that the civil obligation arising from the crime of slander committed by Nicole redounded to the benefit of the conjugal partnership.

To reiterate, conjugal property cannot be held liable for the personal obligation contracted by one spouse, unless some advantage or benefit is shown to have accrued to the conjugal partnership.

(Sources: Spouses Buado vs. CA, G.R. No. 145222, April 24, 2009; Mariano v. CA, G.R. No. 51283, 7 June 1989; Spouses Ching v. CA, G.R. No. 124642, 23 February 2004; Naguit v. CA, G.R. No. 7675, December 5, 2000; and Sy v. Discaya, G.R. No. 86301, January 23, 1990)
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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Jun 17, 2017
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