Presumptions re: Divisibility, Indivisibility of Obligations

Article 1225. For the purposes of the preceding articles, obligations to give definite things and those which are not susceptible of partial performance shall be deemed to be indivisible.

When the obligation has for its object the execution of a certain number of days of work, the accomplishment of work by metrical units, or analogous things which by their nature are susceptible of partial performance, it shall be divisible.

However, even though the object or service may be physically divisible, an obligation is indivisible if so provided by law or intended by the parties.

In obligations not to do, divisibility or indivisibility shall be determined by the character of the prestation in each particular case. (Civil Code of the Philippines)

In effect, this Article establishes the presumptions on divisibility and indivisibility. It also expands on the kinds of divisibility and indivisibility.

What does the first paragraph mean?

The first paragraph tells us that if the thing to be given is something definite and can only be delivered or given, wholly, totally or completely, not partially, the same shall be deemed indivisible. The author respectfully submits that this Paragraph will seem circular in reasoning if not viewed as the Legislature’s attempt to define what an indivisible obligation to give is. This is because indivisible thing is not susceptible of partial performance regardless of its being definite or indefinite.

What does the second paragraph mean?

The second paragraph tells us that if the thing to be done can be measured by the number of days of work, by measurement by metrical units or by other things which by the very nature of things establishes the fact that it can be performed partially, the same shall be deemed divisible. Again, the Paragraph will seem redundant if not viewed as a definition. Nevertheless, it must be pointed out that the Paragraph also put up some standards in determining with precision whether or not an obligation is divisible or otherwise.

Examples must be given at this point. A is obliged to deliver four (4) gallons of water. B is obliged to take care of X’s children for three (3) days. C is obliged to construct a road that will stretch a full kilometer. A, B and C’s obligations are divisible.

Just a question, however: What if D is obliged to construct a bridge that will connect two (2) islands. Furthermore, it has been estimated that the bridge will be 500 meters long. Is this an indivisible obligation because by the nature of things, half a bridge is not a bridge at all or is it a divisible obligation because it can be measured by metric units (500 meters)?

What does the third paragraph mean?

The third paragraph provides the exception to natural or absolute indivisibility. We remember that if by the very nature of the object of the obligation, it must be deemed divisible. However, according to this Paragraph, the express provision of law or the express stipulation of the parties may render what an otherwise physically divisible thing indivisible.

Let’s have an example. A is obliged to deliver two (2) boxes of pad paper to B. It is stipulated that the object of the obligation shall be deemed indivisible. Are the two (2) boxes of pad paper divisible? No.

What does the fourth paragraph mean?

If a person is obliged not to do something, whether or not the object of the obligation not to do is divisible or indivisible shall be determined on a case-to-case basis. The character of the prestation shall be determinative of its divisibility or indivisibility.
Again, what are obligation deemed indivisible?

An obligation to give a definite thing is indivisible. The same is true for those which, by the very their very nature, can only be performed wholly, totally or completely, those which, despite their physical divisibility, are deemed indivisible by law and those which, although actually divisible, are deemed indivisible by the intention of the parties.

Mnemonics: definite things, naturally indivisible, indivisible by law, indivisible by stipulation

Again, what are the obligations deemed divisible?

An obligation to do something within a period of days is deemed divisible. So is the obligation to accomplish something measurable by metrical units. The same goes for the obligation to a certain amount in installments and the obligation to do something which can be done partially.

What if a part of the divisible contract is illegal?

If in a divisible contract one of the terms is illegal, those which are not so may still be enforced. Thus, if A is obliged to deliver ten (10) boxes, one of which contains prohibited drugs, he is still obliged to deliver the remaining nine (9) boxes.

Article 1420: “"In case of a divisible contract, if the illegal terms can be separated from the legal ones, the latter may be enforced."

Note: But apart from the [invalid/illegal] stipulation in the [agreement], other provisions are valid and shall be enforced, or shall be respected [xxx]. Invalid stipulations that are independent of, and divisible from, the rest of the agreement and which can easily be separated therefrom without doing violence to the manifest intention of the contracting minds do not nullify the entire contract. (Conjuanco, Jr. vs. Republic [G.R. No. 180705, November 27, 2012])