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Brown vs.

Yambao, 102 Phil 168 (October 18, 1957)


Plaintiff Appellant:
William H. Brown
Defendant Appellee:
Juanita Yambao
Ponente:
Justice JBL Reyes
APPEAL from a judgment of the Court of First Instance of Manila
FACTS OF THE CASE:
William H. Brown filed a petition for legal separation from his wife, Juanita Yambao, before the Court of First Instance
of Manila on the ground of adultery.
According to Brown, while he was interned by the Japanese invaders from 1942 to 1945 at the University of Santo
Tomas internment camp, his wife engaged in adulterous relations with a certain Carlos Field of whom she begot a
baby girl. Brown said that he learned of his wifes misconduct only in 1945 upon his release from internment and that
they have lived separately thereafter.
Brown is now praying for the confirmation of their liquidation agreement; for custody of the children issued of the
marriage; and that the defendant be declared disqualified to succeed the plaintiff and for other remedy as might be
just and equitable.
Now, because Juanita Yambao failed to file her answer to the petition in due time, the trial court declared her in
default and ordered the City Fiscal to represent the state and investigate, in accordance with Article 101 of the New
Civil Code, if collusion exists between the parties.
During the cross-examination of the plaintiff by Assistant City Fiscal Rafael Jose, it was found out that after the
liberation, Brown had lived martially with another woman and had begotten children by her. Because of this fact, the
trial court denied the petition for legal separation on the ground that, while his wifes adultery was established, Brown
had incurred a misconduct of similar nature that barred his right of action under Article 100 of the new Civil Code, and
that there had been consent and connivance in addition to Browns action for filing a petition for legal separation
prescribing.
Brown is now appealing the decision of the lower court before the Supreme Court.
ISSUES:
1. Whether or not the court erred in allowing Assistant Fiscal Rafael Jose to act as counsel for the defendant,
who defaulted?
2. Whether or not the petition for legal separation should be granted?
DECISION:
No. No. Decision appealed from affirmed.
RATIONALE:
ISSUE #1: According to the Supreme Court, Collusion in matrimonial cases is defined as the act of married of
persons in procuring a divorce by mutual consent, whether by pre-concerted commission by one of a matrimonial
offense, or by failure, in pursuance of agreement to defend divorce proceedings
In the case at bar, the SC said that it was legitimate for the fiscal to bring to light any circumstances that could give
rise to the inference that the wifes default was calculated, or agreed upon, to enable the appellant to obtain the
decree of legal separation that he sought without regard to the legal merits of his case.

The fact that there was evidence of misconduct on the part of the husband and the failure of the wife to set it up by
way of defense, were proper subject of inquiry as they may justifiably be considered circumstantial evidence of
collusion between the spouses.
The SC also said that the requirement of intervention of the state attorney in case of uncontested proceedings for
legal separation (and of annulment of marriages), is to emphasize that marriage is more than a mere contract; that it
is a social institution in which the state is vitally interested, so that its continuation or interruption cannot be made to
depend upon the parties themselves.
It is consonant with this policy that the inquiry by the Fiscal should be allowed to focus upon any relevant matter that
may indicate whether the proceedings for separation or annulment are fully justified or not.
--------------------------------------------------------ISSUE #2: In the case at bar, the SC said that the petition for legal separation should not be granted it being evident
that Brown is also guilty of co-habiting with a woman other than his wife. This misconduct bars him from claiming
legal separation in accordance with the express provision of Article 100 of the new Civil Code.
Another reason why the petition for legal separation cannot be granted is that the action for legal separation in the
case at bar has already prescribed, since Brown did not institute the proceeding until 10years after he learned of his
wifes adultery in 1945 (he filed it on 1955) and Article 102 of the new Civil Code states that an action for legal
separation cannot be filed except within 1year from and after the plaintiff became cognizant of the cause and within
5years from and after the date when such cause occurred
[It is true that the wife has not interposed prescription as a defense. Nevertheless, the courts can take cognizance
thereof, because actions seeking a decree of legal separation, or annulment of marriage, involve public interest, and
it is the policy of our law that no such decree be issued if any legal obstacles thereto appear upon the record]