Lex Rex Ph

Gibbs v. Government Digest


Mr. Allison and Mrs. Eva Gibbs were citizens of California USA and were domiciled therein. During their marriage, they acquired lands in the Philippines including the the three titles mentioned in this case. In 1929, Eva died intestate. CFI Manila appointed Allison as the administrator of her estate and later ruled that he is the absolute owner of the said lands applying section 1401 of the Civil Code of California. Allison presented the CFI’s decree, but RoD refused because of non-payment of inheritance tax. Allison filed a petition before CFI and CFI reaffirmed its ruling. 

Before the SC, Allison contends that the California law should govern the nature and extent of Eva’s title to her lands, not the Philippine’s. Under the California law, the community property of Californian spouses belong absolutely to the husband, the wife’s interest is only inchoate, and therefore, upon the death of the wife, administration is not necessary and that the husband is the absolute owner.

Even the Ph laws govern, it should be the California law that must govern successional rights citing Article 10 of the Spanish Civil Code.


Was Eva Gibbs the owner of a descendible interest in the said properties in the Philippines?


Yes, Eva had descendible interest equal to her husband with regard to the properties they acquired in the Philippines.

  • Descendible interest is the right of ownership over a thing that has descended by legal or intestate succession, transfer, or alienation.
  • If the wife only had an inchoate or expectancy interest, it would be lead to a dilemma. How can Article 10 of the OCC be invoked? Since Article 10 par. 2 which Allison invoked is providing exemptions “but the order, extent, and validity shall be governed by xxx.” This just shows that there has been a descendable interest on the community properties of Allison and Eva in the Philippines and the California law must only be consulted in regard to the (a) order, (b) extent, and (c.) intrinsic validity of successional rights. Therefore, Article 10 can only be invoked when there existed a descendible interest in property in the first place.
  • What will determine the nature and extent of the title of the lands of Mrs. Gibbs at the time of the acquisition of the lands? 
  • The lex rae sitae or the law of the place where the thing is situated which was provided for under Article 10 par. 1: “real property to the laws of the country in which it is situated.” (Spanish Civil Code of 1889, [December 18, 1889])
  • In Clarke v. Clarke, in the absence of antenputial contract, the respective rights of the husband and wife in a property shall be governed by lex rei sitae irrespective of the domicile of the parties or the place where marriage was celebrated.
  • Therefore, the lands that they acquired in the Philippines were governed by the laws of the Philippines and they are community properties under Article 1407 of the Spanish Civil Code, and not “absolute ownership of the husband” under the California Civil Code Section 1401. 
  • Allison himself even admitted her wife’s ownership/interest in TCT No. 28336, “the spouses Allison and Eva are the owners xxx of the conjugal lands described herein.”
  • As to the subject to governed by the US laws, only with regard to the order, extent and intrinsic validity.
    • In determining the law that will govern the “order, extent, and intrinsic validity of succession” of a deceased American, the Ph government is on the same footing as the US because of the Organic Act of the Philippines or the Jones Law, hence it may apply the US laws as a different territory.
  • Therefore, Eva had descendible interest which was transmitted to her heirs by virtue of inheritance, and therefore the tax on inheritances under Article XI of the Administrative Code must apply. The “order and extent of succession” under Article 10 would be unnecessary here.

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