Determining the absolute community to which a marriage belongs

Persida Acosta

Persida Acosta

Dear PAO,
My father met and married his second wife in 2004 and they lived in a house at Bato-bato, Sulu, which was bought during the first marriage of my father, but is unregistered. After my father died in 2008, we talked to our stepmother that we would like to recover possession of the house but she refused and claimed that the house belongs to the second marriage. She even presented a certificate of title showing that the house was registered in the name of our father married to her. Is that certificate of title sufficient to prove that the house belongs to the absolute community of the second marriage?

Dear Federico,
Article 91 of the Family Code of the Philippines states, “Unless otherwise provided in this Chapter or in the marriage settlements, the community property shall consist of all the property owned by the spouses at the time of the celebration of the marriage or acquired thereafter.”

In your situation, the house was bought during the first marriage; thus, it belongs to the absolute community of property in the absence of any proof that it is an exclusive property of your father.

The certificate of title showing that the house is registered in the name of your father married to the second wife is not sufficient to arrive at a conclusion that the house belongs to the absolute community of property of the second marriage. This finds support in the case entitled Estonina vs CA (G.R. No. 111547. January 27, 1997), where the Supreme Court said:

“Xxx It has been repeatedly held by this court that the presumption under Article 160 of the Civil Code that all property of the marriage belong to the conjugal partnership applies only when there is proof that the property was acquired during the marriage. Otherwise stated, proof of acquisition during the marriage is a condition sine qua non for the operation of the presumption in favor of the conjugal partnership. In the case at bench, the petitioners have been unable to present any proof that the property in question was acquired during the marriage of Santiago and Consuelo. They anchor their claim solely on the fact that when the title over the land in question was issued, Santiago was already married to Consuelo as evidenced by the registration in the name of “Santiago Garcia married to Consuelo Gaza.” This, according to the spouses Estonina, suffices to establish the conjugal nature of the property. The foregoing contention has no merit. In the case of Jocson v. Court of Appeals we held that:

The certificates of title, however, upon which petitioner rests his claim is insufficient. The fact that the properties were registered in the name of ‘Emilio Jocson, married to Alejandra Poblete’ is no proof that the properties were acquired during the spouses’ coverture. Acquisition of title and registration thereof are two different acts. It is well settled that registration does not confer title but merely confirms one already existing x x x. It may be that the properties under dispute were acquired by Emilio Jocson when he was still a bachelor but were registered only after his marriage to Alejandra Poblete, which explains why he was described in the certificates of title as married to the latter.”

Again, we find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. The opinion may vary when the facts are changed or elaborated.

We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter.

Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to


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