calls for the interpretation of Article 559 of the Civil Code
when a person may be deemed to have been "unlawfully deprived" of movable property in the hands of another.
a person identifying himself as Professor Jose Cruz placed an order by telephone with the petitioner company for 406 books, payable on delivery
EDCA prepared the corresponding invoice and delivered the books as ordered, for which Cruz issued a personal check covering the purchase price
Cruz sold 120 of the books to private respondent Leonor Santos who, after verifying the seller's ownership from the invoice he showed her, paid him
EDCA having become suspicious over a second order placed by Cruz even before clearing of his first check, made inquiries with the De la Salle College where he had claimed to be a dean and was informed that there was no such person in its employ. Further verification revealed that Cruz had no more account or deposit with the Philippine Amanah Bank, against which he had drawn the payment check
then went to the police, which set a trap and arrested Cruz
Investigation disclosed his real name as Tomas de la Peña and his sale of 120 of the books he had ordered from EDCA to the private respondents
EDCA sought the assistance of the police in Precinct 5 at the UN Avenue, which forced their way into the store of the private respondents and threatened Leonor Santos with prosecution for buying stolen property. They seized the 120 books without warrant, loading them in a van belonging to EDCA, and thereafter turned them over to the petitioner
Protesting this high-handed action, the private respondents sued for recovery of the books after demand for their return was rejected by EDCA
the petitioner was successively rebuffed in the three courts below
the private respondents have not established their ownership of the disputed books because they have not even produced a receipt to prove they had bought the stock
his is unacceptable. Precisely, the first sentence of Article 559 provides that "the possession of movable property acquired in good faith is equivalent to a title," thus dispensing with further proof.
Leonor Santos first ascertained the ownership of the books from the EDCA invoice showing that they had been sold to Cruz, who said he was selling them for a discount because he was in financial need.
Private respondents are in the business of buying and selling books and often deal with hard-up sellers who urgently have to part with their books at reduced prices. To Leonor Santos, Cruz must have been only one of the many such sellers she was accustomed to dealing with.
It is hardly bad faith for any one in the business of buying and selling books to buy them at a discount and resell them for a profit.
whether the petitioner has been unlawfully deprived of the books because the check issued by the impostor in payment therefor was dishonored.
The petitioner argues that it was, because the impostor acquired no title to the books that he could have validly transferred to the private respondents. Its reason is that as the payment check bounced for lack of funds, there was a failure of consideration that nullified the contract of sale between it and Cruz.
It is clear from the above provisions, particularly the last one quoted, that ownership in the thing sold shall not pass to the buyer until full payment of the purchase only if there is a stipulation to that effect. Otherwise, the rule is that such ownership shall pass from the vendor to the vendee upon the actual or constructive delivery of the thing sold even if the purchase price has not yet been paid.
Non-payment only creates a right to demand payment or to rescind the contract, or to criminal prosecution in the case of bouncing checks. But absent the stipulation above noted, delivery of the thing sold will effectively transfer ownership to the buyer who can in turn transfer it to another.
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