Principal's death; agent's lack of knowledge; third person's good faith

Is the general rule provided for in Article 1919 that the death of the principal or of the agent extinguishes the agency, subject to any exception, and if so, is the instant case within that exception?

That is the determinative point in issue in this litigation. It is the contention of respondent corporation which was sustained by respondent court that notwithstanding the death of the principal, Concepcion Rallos, the act of the attorney-in-fact, Simeon Rallos, in selling the former's share in the property is valid and enforceable inasmuch as the corporation acted in good faith in buying the property in question.

Articles 1930 and 1931 of the Civil Code of the Philippines provide the exceptions to the general rule aforementioned.

ART. 1930. The agency shall remain in full force and effect even after the death of the principal, if it has been constituted in the common interest of the latter and of the agent, or in the interest of a third person who has accepted the stipulation in his favor.

ART. 1931. Anything done by the agent, without knowledge of the death of the principal or of any other cause which extinguishes the agency, is valid and shall be fully effective with respect to third persons who may have contracted with him in good faith.

Article 1930 is not involved because admittedly the special power of attorney executed in favor of Simeon Rallos was not coupled with an interest.

It appears that Article 1931 is the applicable law. Under this provision, an act done by the agent after the death of his principal is valid and effective only under two conditions, viz: (1) that the agent acted without knowledge of the death of the principal and (2) that the third person who contracted with the agent himself acted in good faith. Good faith here means that the third person was not aware of the death of the principal at the time he contracted with said agent. These two requisites must concur the absence of one will render the act of the agent invalid and unenforceable.
In the instant case, it cannot be questioned that the agent, Simeon Rallos, knew of the death of his principal at the time he sold the latter's share in Lot No. 5983 to respondent corporation. The knowledge of the death is clearly to be inferred from the pleadings filed by Simon Rallos before the trial court. That Simeon Rallos knew of the death of his sister Concepcion is also a finding of fact of the court a quo and of respondent appellate court when the latter stated that Simon Rallos must have known of the death of his sister, and yet he proceeded with the sale of the lot in the name of both his sisters Concepcion and Gerundia Rallos without informing appellant (the realty corporation) of the death of the former.

On the basis of the established knowledge of Simon Rallos concerning the death of his principal Concepcion Rallos, Article 1931 of the Civil Code becomes inapplicable. The law expressly requires for its application lack of knowledge on the part of the agent of the death of his principal; it is not enough that the third person acted in good faith.

Thus, in Buason & Reyes v. Panuyas, the Court, applying Article 1738 of the old Civil Code (now Art. 1931 of the new Civil Code), sustained the validity of a sale made after the death of the principal because it was not shown that the agent knew of his principal's demise. To the same effect is the case of Herrera, et al., v. Luy Kim Guan, et al., 1961, where in the words of Justice Jesus Barrera the Court stated:

... even granting arguendo that Luis Herrera did die in 1936, plaintiffs presented no proof and there is no indication in the record, that the agent Luy Kim Guan was aware of the death of his principal at the time he sold the property. The death of the principal does not render the act of an agent unenforceable, where the latter had no knowledge of such extinguishment of the agency. (1 SCRA 406, 412; G.R. No. L-24332. January 31, 1978)