G.R. No. 1293. February 23, 1904

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3 Phil. 360

[ G.R. No. 1293. February 23, 1904 ]




This action was instituted by the plaintiff, Don Ildefonso Doronila against
Jose Lopez as guardian of the minor children of Don Pablo Ledesma, deceased, for
the annulment of a certain contract entered into on the 22d day of December,
1900, by the plaintiff Senor Doronila and his wife, Senora Vicenta Jalbuena, and
Senor Gabriel Ledesma in capacity of. president of the family council of the
minor heirs of Don Pablo Ledesma, deceased, and is based upon article 1300 of
the Civil Code, which provides for the annulment of contracts affected by one of
the vices which invalidate them according to law.

It is alleged in the complaint that the consent of the plaintiff to the
contract was procured by violence and intimidation such as is defined by article
1267, Civil Code. The circumstances of the alleged intimidation occurring in the
execution of the contract are shown by the findings of facts made by the Court
of First Instance.

From these findings of facts it appears that in the year 1897 the family
council of the minor children of the deceased, Pablo Ledesma, nominated and
appointed the plaintiff, Ildefonso Doronila, as guardian of the minor children,
who afterwards entered on the discharge of his duties; that the property of the
estate consisted principally of documents of credit and book accounts and that
these were kept in an iron safe in the residence of Doronila at Jaro; that on
the 11th day of February, 1899, the American forces landed in the town of
Iloilo; that the plaintiff, Ildefonso Doronila, was connected with the
revolutionary government, at this time located at Jaro, a town about two miles
from the city of Iloilo; that being apprehensive of capture by the American
forces he fled from the town of Jaro, going into the interior of the country;
that his departure from Jaro being very sudden, he left his valuables in his
house at that place; that night, the American forces not having advanced into
Jaro, the plaintiff returned to his home and succeeded in possessing himself of
his valuables; but he states that his wife had failed to give him the key which
unlocked the safe in which the papers belonging to the guardianship were
contained; that the proof presented by Doronila tended to show it was impossible
to save the documents and money belonging to the estate by reason of his not
having the key to unlock the safe in which they were contained; while that of
the defendant, Lopez, tended to show that upon the occasion referred to Doronila
possessed himself of the documents of credit and money belonging to the estate
and carried them off on his return next morning; that Doronila also offered
proof to show he had requested by letter several persons during his absence from
Jaro to visit his residence and secure the documents, but they found it
impossible to comply with the request, and finally, upon his return to Jaro, lie
found the safe had been broken open and its contents removed. At the time of his
leaving Jaro on February 11,1899, Doronila, though he had executed his duties
satisfactorily, had never rendered any account of his guardianship; that after
his return to Jaro in January, 1900, lie was requested by the family council to
render his account as guardian, which he failed to do, under the excuse that all
the documents, books, etc., pertaining to the estate and its administration had
been lost under the circumstances above related.

On the 28th day of October, 1900, at a meeting of the family council, the
plaintiff was removed from the guardianship and Seilor Jose Lopez was appointed
in his stead. In the month of December, 1900, Señor Lopez, as guardian of said
minor children, presented an application to the superior provost court against
the plaintiff, Doronila, asking that he be removed as guardian and that he
should be required to deliver to him the testamentary effects. At this time the
superior provost court was exercising the powers of a Court of First Instance in
the Province of lloilo and was taking cognizance of suits in Iloilo. The
plaintiff, Doronila, was cited before the superior provost court to answer the
petition of Lopez as guardian of the children. The provost court removed
Doronila from his office as guardian, confirmed the nomination of Jose Lopez,
and ordered that Doronila should forthwith present his accounts as guardian, in
said court, and to deliver to Senor Lopez the books and documents and other
property of the estate of the minors. Doronila did not comply immediately with
this order, in view of which an order was made by the court that he should be
arrested and imprisoned for contempt of court. The prison in which he was
confined was small and damp and the fare was poor.

The plaintiff was placed in company with ordinary criminals and required to
submit to all the regulations of the prison and to perform menial labor in the
prison. He was informed that he would be kept in prison until he complied with
the order of the court. After being detained in prison for one day, he was
carried before the court, at which time a proposition of settlement was made by
Senor Lopez to him. Doronila requested that he should be given time to consider
the proposition, to which the court assented and he was set at liberty. He
afterwards entered into negotiations with Lopez to arrange a settlement of the
matters in question. An agreement between Lopez and Doronila was made, subject
to the approval of the family council. At a meeting of the family council,
Doronila and Lopez both being present, the family council made various changes
in the agreement the terms of which had been settled upon by Lopez and Doronila,
to which changes Doronila would not consent. The matters continued in this state
for some time until Lopez presented again to the court the motion to compel the
plaintiff to obey the former order made by the court. Doronila was again
arrested by order of the court and placed in prison. He afterwards assented to
the contract as modified by the family council, and was again released.

On the 22d day of December, 1900, Doronila executed the contract in question.
In this contract it is recited that for the purpose of settling the question and
coming to a final approval of accounts with the family council it was necessary
that Señor Doronila should renew the documents of credit and be personally
responsible for those which he might fail to renew, and to this end it was
agreed that Doronila should pay 12,000 pesos in the period of six months or
renew the documents of credit which were lost while in his possession, deducting
from said amount such sums as might be paid to the family council. It was
further agreed that certain indebtedness, amounting to the sum of 4,000 pesos,
due by the estate to Juan Cassell, should be assumed by Doronila and that he
should pay the amount to the estate in case he failed to pay the same to
Cassell. To secure the performance of this agreement, Doronila, joined by his
wife, Seilora Vicenta Jalbuena, who owned in her separate right a part of the
property encumbered, mortgaged to Gabriel Ledesma as president of the family
council of said minors several tracts of real estate.

The judge in his findings of fact found that Doronila was induced to sign the
contract through fear that he would be again imprisoned by the court for his
failure to obey the order to render an account as guardian and to deliver the
property of the estate to his successor, but that there was no intimidation or
fear, except the fear that he would be punished if he did not obey the orders of
the court formerly made; and as a conclusion of law found that the facts stated
were not sufficient to constitute duress such as would invalidate the document
in question, and the petition of the plaintiff was dismissed, with costs.

There is no question raised as to the legality of the order directing the
imprisonment of the plaintiff for failure to render his account as guardian and
to deliver the property of the estate to his successor.

The provost court may have disbelieved and rejected the statement of Doronila
to the effect that the papers of the estate were lost, as claimed by him; or it
may have reached the conclusion that it was within the power of Doronila to
render such accounting as was required of him, or at least to make some
accounting of his guardianship. We will not presume that the court required the
performance of an impossible act. All presumptions must be indulged in favor of
the validity of the order and the sufficiency of the proof made before the
provost court to justify the making of the order.

It is unnecessary to determine whether under the Spanish codes then in force
it was the practice to enforce such orders by contempt proceedings, or whether
the practice, if otherwise, was changed by General Orders, No. 23, of date June
24, 1899, of the Military Governor of the Philippines, creating the provost
courts for Iloilo, in which it is provided that such courts are “vested with
civil jurisdiction coextensive with that exercised by Courts of First Instance
and of the peace heretofore administered for such places,” and that “these
provost courts in the exercise of the civil jurisdiction conferred, will
formulate their own procedure, which will be simple and brief;” and in the
decisions rendered will be guided by “principles of equity and justice.” As
before stated, no question has been raised either in the Court of First Instance
or by the assignment of error on appeal, as to the validity of the order of the
court. The case below was tried upon the theory that the order for the
accounting was properly made, as well as the order directing the

The question then for our determination is whether Doronila being in contempt
of court for failure to comply with its order for an accounting as guardian and
for the delivery of the property of the estate of the minors to the guardian,
Jose Lopez, the contract by which a compromise was effected was made under
intimidation and violence of the character described in article 1267 of the
Civil Code.

Had Doronila, under the order for accounting, through fear of imprisonment
for failure to comply with such order, rendered an account, clearly an account
rendered under such circumstances would not be subject to annulment as procured
by intimidation and violence. If an accounting under direct fear of imprisonment
for failure to account would not be subject to annulment, then it seems evident
that an accounting and adjustment of the matters in controversy and an agreement
entered into in pursuance of such between the parties to the litigation, in
order to avoid such an accounting, should not have this effect.

Nor can the intimidation and fear in the latter case be attributed to the
fear that if he did not execute the particular contract he would suffer
imprisonment, because the court had not imposed upon him any such conditions.
The conditions were that he should render an account and not that he should
execute the contract in question. The compliance with the order of the court
would have relieved him from imprisonment without regard to whether he should
execute the contract or not. And notwithstanding the execution of this
contract, the court might still have required a compliance with its orders and
inflicted a new imprisonment upon him for the failure to comply, though it is
hardly probable that such a course would have been pursued after the parties to
the controversy had reached an agreement in the case.

We concur in the conclusions of the Court of First Instance, that the facts
contained in its findings did not constitute such duress as to invalidate the
document in question, and affirm the judgment of the lower court, with costs
adjudged against appellants. It is so ordered and directed.

Torres and McDonough, JJ., concur.

Willard, J.:

I concur in the result.

Date created: January 17, 2019


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