Ante-Nuptial Agreement Causes Husband to Lose Rights over Urdaneta Condo

January 15, 2020

“True love compels people to move heaven and earth just to win the affection of their beloved.” Thus held the Supreme Court (SC) Second Division through the ponencia of Justice Alfredo Benjamin S. Caguioa in declaring that the petitioner, Francisco C. Delgado, has waived his interest over a condominium unit at the Urdaneta Apartments Condominium by virtue of an Ante-Nuptial Agreement he had executed with his late wife, Victoria Quirino Gonzales.

In a 17-page decision, the SC denied the Rule 45 appeal filed by Francisco, represented by his son Jose Mari, which in effect affirmed the Court of Appeals Decision dated March 22, 2018 and Resolution dated July 24, 2018 declaring Francisco’s claim of implied trust over a unit in the Urdaneta Apartments Condominium waived through the execution of the Ante-Nuptial Agreement.

In denying the appeal, the High Court found that Francisco and Victoria entered into an Ante-Nuptial Agreement five days before they got married on June 20, 1987. The Agreement, drafted by Francisco’s own counsel, Romulo Mabanta Law Offices, stated, among others, that the spouses’ properties would be governed by complete separation of properties. Moreover, it also stipulated that “during his lifetime, [Francisco] agrees that the maintenance, support and care of [Victoria] shall be borne solely by him and any gift which [Francisco] may have bestowed or shall bestow on [Victoria] shall become her exclusive property. Any gift which [Victoria], on the other hand, may have given or may give to [Francisco] shall revert to her after his death for her to dispose of as she may wish.”

GQ Realty Development Corp., a family corporation, was established in 1984 after the death of Victoria’s first husband, Luis Gonzales, for the sole purpose of holding Victoria’s properties. Francisco, 76, and Victoria, 56, were a widower and a widow when they married each other in 1987, after two years of courtship. As claimed by Francisco, he purchased a unit in the Urdaneta Apartments Condominium so “that he could effectively express his support for the ailing [Victoria.]” Francisco further declared that “[t]he best [way to provide for Victoria] that he conceived of was to acquire real properties, although to have them registered in the name of [GQ Realty.]” The SC found that the very animus behind the purchase of the subject property was Victoria, who wanted to live next door to her daughter. “[I]t is clear that Francisco bought the subject property for the purpose of accommodating Victoria’s desire to live beside her daughter, Rosario.”

Hence, the High Court ruled that when Francisco purchased the said condominium unit and registered the same under the name of GQ Realty it was for all intents and purposes, a gift bestowed upon Victoria. “[T]he waiver of Francisco’s alleged interests over the subject property — again only hypothetically admitting this to be true — is completely fathomable and understandable, given his professed true love and affection for Victoria.”

On Francisco’s argument that the condominium unit was not within the coverage of the Ante-Nuptial Agreement because GQ Realty was the registered owner and not Victoria, the SC explained that the interest of GQ Realty in the subject property is purely in name. “[A]s respondent GQ Realty is a mere holding company and alter ego of Victoria, the sheer fact that the subject property was registered in its name does not denigrate the fact that the subject property was really the property of Victoria. Hence, hypothetically admitting the material allegations of Francisco in his Complaint, when Francisco executed the Ante-Nuptial Agreement and waived any and all rights and interests over the properties of Victoria, the subject property was deemed included therein.”

The SC also revealed that it was undisputed that GQ Realty never really operated as a legitimate real estate corporation, except with Victoria’s daughter, Rosario, i.e., when she mortgaged the subject property with a bank in 2001 and when the subject property was eventually transferred in her name. However, since Victoria’s death in 2006, Rosario and her siblings were prohibited to enter the subject property.

Neither did it escape the Court’s attention that Francisco was not able to provide any shred of evidence, aside from his mere say-so, that he was the one who actually bought the subject property using his own funds and that the subject property was merely held in trust by Victoria and GQ Realty. “Assuming that Francisco really used his own funds to buy the subject property and that he intended to preserve his interest in the subject property, Francisco’s failure to reduce such into writing and place protective measures to secure his alleged interest over the subject property in the Ante-Nuptial Agreement and in any other document is clearly contrary to human experience. It must be stressed that the Condominium Certificate Title (CCT) covering the subject property, which is currently under the name of Rosario, is the best proof of ownership of the property and it requires more than the bare allegation of Francisco to defeat the face value of the certificate of title which enjoys a legal presumption of regularity of issuance.”

Lastly, the SC pointed out that the Ante-Nuptial Agreement was not drafted by Victoria and her children, but was drafted by Francisco through his counsel, Romulo Mabanta Law Offices, and that he could have easily included a provision to the effect in the agreement in order to eradicate any ambiguity and misinterpretation. “It is elementary that any ambiguity in a contract whose terms are susceptible of different interpretations must be read against the party who drafted it,” the SC explained.

Victoria was the daughter of former President Elpidio R. Quirino and Doña Alicia Syquia-Quirino. She was first married to Luis Gonzalez, the former Philippine Ambassador to Spain, and son of the wealthy Don Manuel Gonzalez of Pangasinan and Doña Paz Tuason of Marikina. Victoria and Luis had four children, including Rosario. Meanwhile, Francisco was married to Carmencita Chuidian-Delagado; and they had five children — among them is petitioner Jose Mari.

(G.R. No. 241774, Delgado v. GQ Realty Development Corp., et al, September 25, 2019)