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195670 dec 3 respondent sought the dismissal of the petition

2012 for dissolution as well as payment for
attorney’s fees and litigation expenses.11
During trial, petitioner testified that while Lots
Petitioner, a Dutch National, and respondent, a 1, 2142, 5845 and 4 were registered in the
Filipina, married in March 29, 1980. After name of respondent, these properties were
several years, the RTC of Negros Oriental, acquired with the money he received from the
Branch 32, declared the nullity of their Dutch government as his disability
marriage in the Decision5 dated November 10, benefit12 since respondent did not have
2000 on the basis of the former’s psychological sufficient income to pay for their acquisition.
incapacity as contemplated in Article 36 of the He also claimed that the joint affidavit they
Family Code. submitted before the Register of Deeds of
Consequently, petitioner filed a Petition for Dumaguete City was contrary to Article 89 of
Dissolution of Conjugal Partnership6 dated the Family Code, hence, invalid.13
December 14, 2000 praying for the distribution For her part, respondent maintained that the
of the following described properties claimed to money used for the purchase of the lots came
have been acquired during the subsistence of exclusively from her personal funds, in
their marriage, to wit: particular, her earnings from selling jewelry as
By Purchase: well as products from Avon, Triumph and
Tupperware.14 She further asserted that after
a. Lot 1, Block 3 of the consolidated survey of she filed for annulment of their marriage in
Lots 2144 & 2147 of the Dumaguete Cadastre, 1996, petitioner transferred to their second
covered by Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) house and brought along with him certain
No. 22846, containing an area of 252 square personal properties, consisting of drills, a
meters (sq.m.), including a residential house welding machine, grinders, clamps, etc. She
constructed thereon. alleged that these tools and equipment have a
total cost of P500,000.00.
b. Lot 2142 of the Dumaguete Cadastre,
covered by TCT No. 21974, containing an area Issue: WON Petitioner should be reimbursed
of 806 sq.m., including a residential house based on the ground with equity. NO
constructed thereon.
c. Lot 5845 of the Dumaguete Cadastre,
covered by TCT No. 21306, containing an area The issue to be resolved is not of first
of 756 sq.m. impression. In In Re: Petition For Separation of
Property-Elena Buenaventura Muller v. Helmut
d. Lot 4, Block 4 of the consolidated survey of Muller23 the Court had already denied a claim
Lots 2144 & 2147 of the Dumaguete Cadastre, for reimbursement of the value of purchased
covered by TCT No. 21307, containing an area parcels of Philippine land instituted by a
of 45 sq.m. foreigner Helmut Muller, against his former
Filipina spouse, Elena Buenaventura Muller. It
By way of inheritance:
held that Helmut Muller cannot seek
e. 1/7 of Lot 2055-A of the Dumaguete reimbursement on the ground of equity where
Cadastre, covered by TCT No. 23567, it is clear that he willingly and knowingly
containing an area of 2,635 sq.m. (the area bought the property despite the prohibition
that appertains to the conjugal partnership is against foreign ownership of Philippine
376.45 sq.m.). land24enshrined under Section 7, Article XII of
the 1987 Philippine Constitution which reads:
f. 1/15 of Lot 2055-I of the Dumaguete
Cadastre, covered by TCT No. 23575, Section 7. Save in cases of hereditary
containing an area of 360 sq.m. (the area that succession, no private lands shall be
appertains to the conjugal partnership is 24 transferred or conveyed except to individuals,
sq.m.).7 corporations, or associations qualified to
acquire or hold lands of the public domain.
In defense,8 respondent averred that, with the
exception of their two (2) residential houses on Undeniably, petitioner openly admitted that he
Lots 1 and 2142, she and petitioner did not "is well aware of the above-cited constitutional
acquire any conjugal properties during their prohibition"25 and even asseverated that,
marriage, the truth being that she used her because of such prohibition, he and respondent
own personal money to purchase Lots 1, 2142, registered the subject properties in the latter’s
5845 and 4 out of her personal funds and Lots name.26 Clearly, petitioner’s actuations showed
2055-A and 2055-I by way of inheritance.9 She his palpable intent to skirt the constitutional
submitted a joint affidavit executed by her and prohibition. On the basis of such admission, the
petitioner attesting to the fact that she Court finds no reason why it should not apply
purchased Lot 2142 and the improvements the Muller ruling and accordingly, deny
thereon using her own money.10 Accordingly, petitioner’s claim for reimbursement.
As also explained in Muller, the time-honored The provision is expressed in the maxim:
principle is that he who seeks equity must do "MEMO CUM ALTERIUS DETER DETREMENTO
equity, and he who comes into equity must PROTEST" (No person should unjustly enrich
come with clean hands. Conversely stated, he himself at the expense of another). An action
who has done inequity shall not be accorded for recovery of what has been paid without just
equity. Thus, a litigant may be denied relief by cause has been designated as an accion in rem
a court of equity on the ground that his verso. This provision does not apply if, as in
conduct has been inequitable, unfair and this case, the action is proscribed by the
dishonest, or fraudulent, or deceitful.27 Constitution or by the application of the pari
delicto doctrine. It may be unfair and unjust to
In this case, petitioner’s statements regarding bar the petitioner from filing an accion in rem
the real source of the funds used to purchase verso over the subject properties, or from
the subject parcels of land dilute the veracity recovering the money he paid for the said
of his claims: While admitting to have properties, but, as Lord Mansfield stated in the
previously executed a joint affidavit that early case of Holman v. Johnson: "The objection
respondent’s personal funds were used to that a contract is immoral or illegal as between
purchase Lot 1,28 he likewise claimed that his the plaintiff and the defendant, sounds at all
personal disability funds were used to acquire times very ill in the mouth of the defendant. It
the same. Evidently, these inconsistencies is not for his sake, however, that the objection
show his untruthfulness. Thus, as petitioner is ever allowed; but it is founded in general
has come before the Court with unclean hands, principles of policy, which the defendant has
he is now precluded from seeking any the advantage of, contrary to the real justice,
equitable refuge. as between him and the plaintiff."34(Citations
In any event, the Court cannot, even on the omitted)
grounds of equity, grant reimbursement to Nor would the denial of his claim amount to an
petitioner given that he acquired no right injustice based on his foreign
whatsoever over the subject properties by citizenship.35 Precisely, it is the Constitution
virtue of its unconstitutional purchase. It is itself which demarcates the rights of citizens
well-established that equity as a rule will follow and non-citizens in owning Philippine land. To
the law and will not permit that to be done be sure, the constitutional ban against
indirectly which, because of public policy, foreigners applies only to ownership of
cannot be done directly.29 Surely, a contract Philippine land and not to the improvements
that violates the Constitution and the law is built thereon, such as the two (2) houses
null and void, vests no rights, creates no standing on Lots 1 and 2142 which were
obligations and produces no legal effect at properly declared to be co-owned by the
all.30 Corollary thereto, under Article 1412 of parties subject to partition. Needless to state,
the Civil Code,31 petitioner cannot have the the purpose of the prohibition is to conserve
subject properties deeded to him or allow him the national patrimony36 and it is this policy
to recover the money he had spent for the which the Court is duty-bound to protect.
purchase thereof. The law will not aid either
party to an illegal contract or agreement; it
leaves the parties where it finds
them.32 Indeed, one cannot salvage any rights
from an unconstitutional transaction knowingly
entered into.

Neither can the Court grant petitioner’s claim

for reimbursement on the basis of unjust
enrichment.33 As held in Frenzel v. Catito, a
case also involving a foreigner seeking
monetary reimbursement for money spent on
purchase of Philippine land, the provision on
unjust enrichment does not apply if the action
is proscribed by the Constitution, to wit:

Futile, too, is petitioner's reliance on Article 22

of the New Civil Code which reads:

Art. 22. Every person who through an act of

performance by another, or any other means,
acquires or comes into possession of
something at the expense of the latter without
just or legal ground, shall return the same to