Chapter 1. General Provisions (Title I, Book III, Civil Code)

Note: The following are annotations or notes on legal provisions. They are intended to be as a helping guide to better understanding the law. They are, however, not sources of law nor authorities. (Please refer to our full Disclaimer.)

Article 37. Juridical capacity, which is the fitness to be the subject of legal relations, is inherent in every natural person and is lost only through death. Capacity to act, which is the power to do acts with legal effect, is acquired and may be lost.


1) Definitions.

a. Juridical capacity – “is the fitness to be the subject of legal relations.” (Article 37, Civil Code)

b. Capacity to act – “is the power to do acts with legal effects.” (Ibid.)

2) Contrast: Juridical Capacity v. Capacity to Act. Juridical capacity is passive in the sense that a person may be the subject/recipient under the law without necessarily having the legal capacity. On the other hand, capacity to act is active in the sense that a persons’ act or omission may produce legal effects. For example, minors are not able to enter into contracts but they may be the recipient if there are stipulations in their favor – because they have juridical capacity. When they become adults, they can enter into contracts which will produce legal effects– because they now have capacity to act.

3) Cross-reference. Article 37 should be read with Article 40. (See further discussions below.)

Article 38. Minority, insanity or imbecility, the state of being a deaf-mute, prodigality and civil interdiction are mere restrictions on capacity to act, and do not exempt the incapacitated person from certain obligations, as when the latter arise from his acts or from property relations, such as easements.


1) The operative clause in the article is: “do not exempt the incapacitated person from certain obligations…” Thus, those listed above are subject only to restrictions or limitations on their capacity, and thus does not necessarily exempt from certain obligations.

2) For example, while minors are generally not allowed to contract, they may be held liable if they misrepresent themselves and benefit from a contractual arrangement. Under the Civil Code, Article 9 provides: “Every person must, in the exercise of his rights and in the performance of his duties, act with justice, give everyone his due, and observe honesty and good faith.” Further, Article 20 states: “Every person who, contrary to law, wilfully or negligently causes damage to another, shall indemnify the latter for the same.” Thus, while there is a restriction on their capacity to act in terms of entering into a contract, minors are not exempt from legal obligations imposed upon them in certain situations.

Article 39. The following circumstances, among others, modify or limit capacity to act: age, insanity, imbecility, the state of being a deaf-mute, penalty, prodigality, family relations, alienage, absence, insolvency and trusteeship. The consequences of these circumstances are governed in this Code, other codes, the Rules of Court, and in special laws. Capacity to act is not limited on account of religious belief or political opinion.
A married woman, twenty-one years of age or over, is qualified for all acts of civil life, except in cases specified by law.


1) Circumstances that modify/limit capacity to act. The following circumstances modify/limit capacity to act:

(a) Age

(b) Insanity

(c) Imbecility

(d) The state of being a deaf-mute

(e) Penalty

(f) Prodigality

(g) Family relations

(h) Alienage

(i) Absence

(j) Insolvency; and

(k) Trusteeship.

2) Religious belief or political opinion. The article shows that religious belief or political opinion do not limit a person’s capacity to act.

3) Married women. For married women, the article states that only those 21 years old or over are “qualified for all acts of civil life.” Thus, by its wording, it seems to suggest that married women who are 18 years old to 20 years old are not.

Disclaimer: All information is for educational and general information only. These should not be taken as professional legal advice or opinion. Please consult a competent lawyer to address your specific concerns. Any statements or opinions of the author are solely his own and do not reflect that of any organization he may be connected.

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