Sunday, October 23, 2011

Selanova v Mendoza (1975)

Selanova v Mendoza
May 19,1975

Administrative Complaint in the Supreme Court. Gross Ignorance of the Law.
Saturino Selanova charged Judge Alejandro  Mendoza with gross ignorance of the law for preparing and ratifying a document  (November 21, 1972) extrajudicially liquidating the conjugal partnership of the complainant and his wife, Avelina Ceniza.
The conditions of the liquidation were 
1.  Either spouse would withdraw the complaint for adultery or concubinage which each had filed against the other and
2. Waiver of the right to prosecute each other for whatever acts of infidelity either one would commit against the other
In his judgment, respondent relied on Par. 4, Art 191 of the old Civil Code that states:
“the husband and wife may agree upon the dissolution of the conjugal partnership during the marriage, subject to judicial approval.”
While the judge claimed that he asked the CFI of Negros (where the couple resided) for judicial approval, the Judicial Consultant confirmed that there was no affirmation from the same court. He still ratified the document.

WON the extrajudicial dissolution of the conjugal partnership without judicial approval is void.

Yes, it is void.
Precedents (Quintana vs. Lerma, De Luna vs. Linatoc, De La Rosa vs. Barruga)
Under Art. 221 of the Civil Code, the following shall be void:
1. Any contract for personal separation between husband and wife;
2. Every extrajudicial agreement during marriage, for the dissolution of the conjugal partnership of gains or of the absolute community property between husband and wife.
Moreover, while adultery and concubinage are private crimes, they are crimes punishable by the RPC, and a contract legalizing their commission is “contrary to law, morals and public order”, and as a consequence not judicially recognizable.
Respondent  severely censured. 
A. Respondent Judge claimed that prohibition of the extrajudicial liquidation of the conjugal partnership during the marriage made article 191 of the Civil Code nugatory. He cited Lacson vs. San Jose-Lacson case to show that subsequent approval of the court can render the marriage dissolved.
The SC argued that the judicial sanction should be secured before the separation.
 B. Disciplinary action had been taken against notaries who authenticated agreements for the personal separation of spouses wherein either spouse was permitted to commit acts of infidelity.
For instance, in Panganiban vs. Borromeo, the notary was rebuked for authorizing a document that permitted both spouses to take in concubines without opposition from either spouse.
 In Biton vs. Momongon, a document entitled “Legal Separation” was executed by a notary. The husband and wife were separated mutually and voluntarily, renouncing their rights and obligations in the process, and given the authorization to remarry while not being witnesses against one another. The lawyer was also rebuked.
In In re Santiago, a lawyer/ respondent prepared a document that gave a married couple the authorization to marry again while giving them assurance of renouncement of rights one would have against the other. He was suspended from practice.
C. The judge was truly unaware of the legal prohibition in contracts for the personal separation of spouses.

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