Oral partition through deed of donation

IS ORAL PARTITION THROUGH A DEED OF DONATION VALID? This question was answered in Givero v. Givero (G.R. No. 157476; March 16, 2011).

The petitioners submit that the respondents did not preponderantly establish that the oral partition by Teodorico had actually taken place; that had the partition been really made, there would have been no need for Severina to still convey the disputed portion through donation; that the CA’s finding that the Barangay Balocawe properties had remained under co-ownership discredited its pronouncement on the validity of the oral partition by Teodorico.

The petition for review lacks merit.

Firstly, what the petitioners assail in this appeal is the evaluation of the credibility of the testimonies of Luciano and Maria, Venancio’s brother and sister, who affirmed their own participation in the oral partition by Teodorico. Furthermore, the petitioners insist that the respondents did not preponderantly establish the existence of the oral partition.

The petitioners thereby raise factual issues. However, the Court may not review all over again the findings of fact of the RTC, especially as such findings were affirmed by the CA. This appeal is brought under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, whose Section 1 restricts the review only to questions of law, viz:

Section 1. Filing of petition with Supreme Court. — A party desiring to appeal by certiorari from a judgment or final order or resolution of the Court of Appeals, the Sandiganbayan, the Regional Trial Court or other courts whenever authorized by law, may file with the Supreme Court a verified petition for review on certiorari.1├ówphi1 The petition shall raise only questions of law which must be distinctly set forth. (1a, 2a)

The restriction of the review to questions of law emanates from the Court’s not being a trier of facts. As such, the Court cannot determine factual issues in appeals taken from the lower courts. As the consequence of the restriction, the Court accords high respect, if not conclusive effect, to the findings of fact by the RTC, when affirmed by the CA, unless there exists an exceptional reason to disregard the findings of fact, like the following, namely:

[a] When the findings are grounded entirely on speculation, surmises, or conjectures;
[b] When the inference made is manifestly mistaken, absurd, or impossible;
[c] When there is grave abuse of discretion;
[d] When the judgment is based on a misapprehension of facts;
[e] When the findings of facts are conflicting;
[f] When in making its findings the CA went beyond the issues of the case, or its findings are contrary to the admissions of both the appellant and the appellee;
[g] When the CA’s findings are contrary to those by the trial court;
[h] When the findings are conclusions without citation of specific evidence on which they are based;
[i] When the facts set forth in the petition as well as in the petitioner’s main and reply briefs are not disputed by the respondent;
[j] When the findings of fact are premised on the supposed absence of evidence and contradicted by the evidence on record; or
[k] When the CA manifestly overlooked certain relevant facts not disputed by the parties, which, if properly considered, would justify a different conclusion.

None of the exceptions has any application herein. Besides, the findings of fact upheld by the CA are entirely consistent with the established facts.And, secondly, the contention of the petitioners, that the respondents were inconsistent and self-contradictory by reason of their insistence, on the one hand, on the donation of the property from Severina, and, on the other hand, on the oral partition by Teodorico, has no substance and merit.

The supposed inconsistency and self-contradiction are imaginary, not real. In this regard, the CA rendered the following erudite and irrefutable explanation, to wit:

In the case at bar, it is clear from the testimonies of Maria and Luciano Givero, sister and brother, respectively, of appellant Venancio Givero, that the properties were assigned to each of the 11 children even prior to their father’s death, with their parents pointing to them their respective shares. With respect to the shares of the younger children, however, it appears from Maria’s testimony that the properties were administered by their mother, Severina, while they were not yet old enough to handle the same. This was the reason why Severina appeared to be the one who delivered and conveyed to the other children their shares to the inheritance, which included the share of the youngest son, Rufino, which share was actually delivered to the latter’s heirs as he predeceased Severina. Clearly, therefore, the fact that it was Severina who actually conveyed the properties to the said heirs of Rufino does not in anyway contradict the fact that the partition was actually made by Teodorico prior to his demise. The basis of their ownership to the property is indubitably the right vested on their said predecessor-in-interest at the time of Teodorico’s death. The existence of the Deed of Donation is evidently a mere surplusage which does not affect the right of Rufino’s heirs to the property.

The foregoing explanation by the CA was appropriate. It recognized a practical solution to the suspended implementation of the oral partition. The use of the deed of donation to implement the oral partition was a matter of choice on the part of the parties to the transaction, for there might have been other feasible ways under our laws by which Severina as the family matriarch could have implemented the delivery of Rufino’s share just as effectively and efficiently. What was important was that the just intention behind the delivery ensured the validity of the implementation. Thus, whether or not Severina had the right to transfer the share was a matter too inconsequential for consideration by the Court. In this instance, substance, not form, was held to prevail by the CA. Besides, we, as a Court of law, justice and equity, cannot permit prolonged unfairness and uncertainty to be suffered by the respondents and the family of their deceased brother Juan as the ultimate heirs of Rufino. The avoidance of that unfairness and uncertainty was visibly the reason for the intervention of their uncle Luciano and aunt Maria as witnesses testifying against Venancio, their own brother, to favor the respondents on the question of the oral partition. Plainly, therefore, the CA committed no reversible error.

WHEREFORE, we deny the petition for review on certiorari, and affirm the decision promulgated on October 4, 2002.