Threat to enforce one’s claim in court is legal

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Persida Acosta

Dear PAO,
Eden was indebted to me in the amount of P800,000. I demanded the payment of the said amount on several occasions, but she refused to pay and she kept on making alibis. I filed a complaint before the barangay (village) where we are both residing for the collection of the borrowed amount. During the confrontation in the barangay hall, Eden promised to pay after two months. I did not agree with her proposal, so I said that I would just file my complaint against her in court. This time, Eden changed her mind and offered her 300-square-meter lot in Taguig as collateral in the meantime. We signed a contract of mortgage and she also executed a special power of attorney authorizing me to sell her property if she cannot pay her debt. After a month, Eden is now claiming that the contract of mortgage is voidable, because it was executed under duress or intimidation. Allegedly, she was forced to sign the contract because I threatened to file a case against her. Is there duress or intimidation in this case?
Alice

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Dear Alice,
Article 1390 of the New Civil Code of the Philippines states that “the following contracts are voidable or annullable, even though there may have been no damage to the contracting parties:

“1. Xxx xxx
Those where the consent is vitiated by mistake, violence, intimidation, undue influence or fraud.
Xxx xxx xxx”.

Relative thereto, Article 1335 (2) of the same code also provides that:

“There is intimidation when one of the contracting parties is compelled by a reasonable and well-grounded fear of an imminent and grave evil upon his person or property, or upon the person or property of his spouse, descendants or ascendants, to give his consent.

To determine the degree of intimidation, the age, sex and condition of the person shall be borne in mind.

A threat to enforce one’s claim through competent authority, if the claim is just or legal, does not vitiate consent.”

From the facts that you have stated, it is our opinion that there is no intimidation in your case, because the above stated law specifically provides that a threat to enforce one’s claim through competent authority, if the claim is just or legal, does not vitiate consent.

Please be guided also by the decision of the Supreme Court in the case Spouses Binua vs Ong (GR 207176, June 18, 2014), penned by former associate justice Bienvenido Reyes, declaring that:

“In De Leon v Court of Appeals, the Court held that in order that intimidation may vitiate consent and render the contract invalid, the following requisites must concur: [1] that the intimidation must be the determining cause of the contract, or must have caused the consent to be given; [2] that the threatened act be unjust or unlawful; [3] that the threat be real and serious, there being an evident disproportion between the evil and the resistance which all men can offer, leading to the choice of the contract as the lesser evil; and [4] that it produces a reasonable and well-grounded fear from the fact that the person from whom it comes has the necessary means or ability to inflict the threatened injury.

In cases involving mortgages, a preponderance of the evidence is essential to establish its invalidity, and in order to show fraud, duress, or undue influence of a mortgage, clear and convincing proof is necessary.”

Applying the said decision in your case, Eden’s claim that the contract of mortgage is voidable because of your threat to file a case against her has no legal basis. Notably, Eden is indebted to you; hence, she has the obligation to pay the same and her failure to make good her obligation will give rise to your right to file a case against her. Thus, your telling her that you will file a case does not constitute a threat. The said threat is not unjust or unlawful which could vitiate consent. Eden must also present clear and convincing proof to support her claim that the mortgage is invalid.

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.

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