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585

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

Moreo-Lentfer vs. Wolff


G.R. No. 152317. November 10, 2004.*
VICTORIA MOREO-LENTFER,** GUNTER LENTFER and
JOHN CRAIGIE YOUNG CROSS, petitioners, vs. HANS
JURGEN WOLFF, respondent.
Donations; Words and Phrases; A donation is a simple act of
liberality where a person gives freely of a thing or right in favor of
another, who accepts it, but when a large amount of money is involved, the
Court is constrained to take the donees purported claim of liberality of the
donor with more than a grain of salt; A donation of money equivalent to
P3,297,800 as well as its acceptance should be in writing.Petitioner
Moreo-Lentfers claim of either cash or property donation rings hollow. A
donation is a simple act of liberality where a person gives freely of a thing
or right in favor of another, who accepts it. But when a large amount of
money is involved, equivalent to P3,297,800, based on the exchange rate in
the year 1992, we are constrained to take the petitioners claim of liberality
of the donor with more than a grain of salt. Petitioners could not brush
aside the fact that a donation must comply with the mandatory formal
requirements set forth by law for its validity. Since the subject of donation
is the purchase money, Art. 748 of the New Civil Code is applicable.
Accordingly, the donation of money equivalent to P3,297,800 as well as its
acceptance should have been in writing. It was not. Hence, the donation is
invalid for non-compliance with the formal requisites prescribed by law.
Same; Unjust Enrichment; Solutio Indebiti; The quasi-contract of
solutio indebiti harks back to the ancient principle that no one shall enrich
himself unjustly at the expense of another.The quasi-contract of solutio
indebiti harks back to the ancient principle that no one shall enrich himself
unjustly at the expense of another. It applies where (1) a payment is made
when there exists no binding relation between the payor, who has no duty
to pay, and the person who received the payment, and (2) the payment is
made through mistake, and not through liberality or some other cause. In
the
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*

FIRST DIVISION.
Also Moreno-Lentfer in the Records.

**

VOL. 441, NOVEMBER 10, 2004


585
Moreo-Lentfer vs. Wolff
instant case, records show that a bank-to-bank payment was made by
respondent Wolff to petitioner Cross in favor of co-petitioner MoreoLentfer. Respondent was under no duty to make such payment for the
benefit of Moreo-Lentfer. There was no binding relation between
respondent and the beneficiary, Moreo-Lentfer. The payment was clearly
a mistake. Since Moreo-Lentfer received something when there was no
right to demand it, she had an obligation to return it. Following Article 22
of the New Civil Code, two conditions must concur to declare that a person
has unjustly enriched himself or herself, namely: (a) a person is unjustly
benefited, and (b) such benefit is derived at the expense of or to the damage
of another.
Constitutional Law; Land Titles; Aliens; The constitutional
prohibition against aliens owning land in the Philippines has no actual
bearing in a case which merely involves a lease of land where the
foreigners house stands.The Court of Appeals held that respondent was
not entitled to the reconveyance of the properties because, inter alia, of the
express prohibition under the Constitution that non-Filipino citizens cannot
acquire land in the Philippines. We note, however, that subject properties
consist of a beach house and the lease right over the land where the beach
house stands. The constitutional prohibition against aliens from owning
land in the Philippines has no actual bearing in this case. A clear distinction
exists between the ownership of a piece of land and the mere lease of the
land where the foreigners house stands. Thus, we see no legal reason why
reconveyance could not be allowed.

PETITION for review on certiorari of the decision and resolution


of the Court of Appeals.
The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court.
Rodrigo C. Dimayacyac for petitioners.
Pacito M. Pineda, Jr. for respondent.
586

58
6

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED


Moreo-Lentfer vs. Wolff

587

QUISUMBING, J.:
For review on certiorari are the Decision1 dated June 14, 2001,
and Resolution2 dated February 22, 2002, of the Court of Appeals
in CA-G.R. CV No. 48272. The decision reversed the judgment3
of the Regional Trial Court of Calapan City, Oriental Mindoro,
Branch 39, in Civil Case No. R-4219.
The facts are as follows:
The petitioners are Gunter Lentfer, a German citizen; his
Filipina wife, Victoria Moreo-Lentfer; and John Craigie Young
Cross, an Australian citizen, all residing in Sabang, Puerto Galera,
Oriental Mindoro. Respondent Hans Jurgen Wolff is a German
citizen, residing in San Lorenzo Village, Makati City.
Petitioners alleged that with respondent, on March 6, 1992,
they engaged the notarial services of Atty. Rodrigo C.
Dimayacyac for: (1) the sale of a beach house owned by
petitioner Cross in Sabang, Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro, and
(2) the assignment of Cross contract of lease on the land where
the house stood. The sale of the beach house and the assignment
of the lease right would be in the name of petitioner Victoria
Moreo-Lentfer, but the total consideration of 220,000
Deutschmarks (DM) would be paid by respondent Hans Jurgen
Wolff. A promissory note was executed by said respondent in
favor of petitioner Cross.
According to respondent, however, the Lentfer spouses were
his confidants who held in trust for him, a time deposit account in
the amount of DM 200,0004 at Solid Bank Corporation. Apprised
of his interest to own a house along a beach,
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1 Rollo, pp. 21-28. Penned by Associate Justice Juan Q. Enriquez, Jr., with
Associate Justices Presbitero J. Velasco, Jr., and Bienvenido L. Reyes
concurring.
2 Id., at pp. 29-30.
3 Id., at pp. 31-37.
4 Id., at pp. 108-109.

VOL. 441, NOVEMBER 10, 2004


587
Moreo-Lentfer vs. Wolff
the Lentfer couple urged him to buy petitioner Cross beach house
and lease rights in Puerto Galera. Respondent agreed and through
a bank-to-bank transaction, he paid Cross the amount of DM
221,7005 as total consideration for the sale and assignment of the
lease rights. However, Cross, Moreo-Lentfer and Atty.
Dimayacyac surreptitiously executed a deed of sale whereby the
beach house was made to appear as sold to Moreo-Lentfer for
only P100,000.6 The assignment of the lease right was likewise
made in favor of Moreo-Lentfer.7 Upon learning of this,
respondent filed a Complaint docketed as Civil Case No. R-4219
with the lower court for annulment of sale and reconveyance of
property with damages and prayer for a writ of attachment.
After trial, the court a quo dismissed the complaint for failure
to establish a cause of action, thus:
ACCORDINGLY, judgment is hereby rendered in favor of the defendants
and against the plaintiff, dismissing the complaint for the reason that
plaintiff has not established a cause of action against the defendants with
costs against the plaintiff.
SO ORDERED.8

Aggrieved, respondent appealed to the Court of Appeals.!