Elements of an obligation, A1156 Civil Code


Article 1156. An obligation is a juridical necessity to give, to do or not to do. (n) (CIVIL CODE)

Obligation – refers to “a juridical necessity to do or not to do.” (CIVIL CODE, Article 1156)

Juridical necessity – refers to legal obligation or compulsion.

Under this Article, the obligation being defined is a legal obligation as opposed to other obligations, such as moral, ethical, spiritual obligations. The main difference between a legal obligation and these other forms of obligations is that a legal obligation can be enforced via legal processes and/or through competent authorities.

1. Elements of an obligation

The elements of an obligation:

1) The vinculum juris or juridical tie;

2) The object; and

3) The subject-persons. (The Wellex Group, Inc. v. U-Land Airlines, Co., Ltd., G.R. No. 167519, 14 January 2015, Per Leonen, J.)

1) Vinculum juris

Vinculum juris or juridical tie – refers to “the efficient cause established by the various sources of obligations (law, contracts, quasi-contracts, delicts and quasi-delicts),” (Asuncion v. CA, En Banc, G.R. No. 109125, December 2, 1994, Per Vitug, J.)

The cause is the vinculum juris or juridical tie that essentially binds the parties to the obligation. This linkage between the parties is a binding relation that is the result of their bilateral actions, which gave rise to the existence of the contract. (The Wellex Group, Inc. v. U-Land Airlines, Co., Ltd. [2015], supra.)

Vinculum juris – refer to the “legal bond.” (See Leung Ben v. P.J. O’Brien, En Banc, G.R. No. L-13602, April 6, 1918, Per Street, J.)

De Leon v.  The Manufacturers Life Insurance Company (Phils.) Inc., G.R. No. 243733, January 12, 2021, Per Carandang, J.)

• This case has its origins from a complaint for interpleader filed by respondent Manufacturers Life Insurance Company (Phils.) Inc. (Manulife) on August 12, 2004, before the RTC to determine the rightful recipients of the proceeds of three life insurance policies issued to the late Edgar H. Sarte (Sarte), who passed away on December 23, 2003.

• Petitioners [or the beneficiaries] protest that the RTC and CA erred in disposing the case based on Manulife’s internal rules. They argue that said rules are not binding upon either Sarte or the petitioners.

• The written instrument in which a contract of insurance is set forth, is called a policy of insurance.

• Upon a careful examination of the subject policies, We find that nothing in their provisions require the observance of Manulife’s internal rules. As such, the policies themselves do not require either that the insured designate a trustee if his chosen beneficiaries are minors or that the BDFs be processed and registered into Manulife’s records. Neither does the Insurance Code (or any statute) or its implementing rules and regulations require the same.

• In this case, the vinculum juris between Sarte and Manulife are the subject policies themselves. Since the terms of the policies do not mention anything about Manulife’s internal rules, there is no juridical tie that binds Sarte to said internal rules. As such, the policies do not obligate the insured to designate trustees for minor beneficiaries. Neither was it legally necessary for the July 31, 2002 BDFs to be registered in Manulife’s internal records so that Lara and Renzo may acquire a vested interest in the subject policies. Simply put, Manulife’s internal rules are not a legal norm that has any relevance in the resolution of the issues of this case. Such internal rules are merely for the guidance of the personnel, employees, and officers of Manulife.

Sps. Tibay v. CA, G.R. No. 119655, May 24, 1996, Per Bellosillo, J.:

• [T]he Policy provides for payment of premium in full. Accordingly, where the premium has only been partially paid and the balance paid only after the peril insured against has occurred, the insurance contract did not take effect and the insured cannot collect at all on the policy.

• Thus, no vinculum juris whereby the insurer bound itself to indemnify the assured according to law ever resulted from the fractional payment of premium. The insurance contract itself expressly provided that the policy would be effective only when the premium was paid in full. It would have been altogether different were it not so stipulated. Ergo, petitioners had absolute freedom of choice whether or not to be insured by FORTUNE under the terms of its policy and they freely opted to adhere thereto.

2) Object

Object – refers to “the prestation or conduct, required to be observed (to give, to do or not to do).” (Asuncion v. CA [1994], supra.)

Prestation – is ”the object of the contract; i.e., it is the conduct (to give, to do or not to do) required of the parties.” (Sps. Poon v. Prime Savings Bank, G.R. No. 183794, June 13, 2016, Per Sereno, C.J.)

NB: Object and prestation are synonymous.

a) Obligation to do or not do

Obligations to do have as their object a prestation consisting of a performance of a certain activity which, in turn, cannot be exacted without exercising violence against the person of the debtor. Accordingly, the debtor’s failure to fulfill the prestation gives rise to the creditor’s right to obtain from the latter’s assets the satisfaction of the money value of the prestation. (The Mercantile Insurance Co., Inc. v. DMCI-Lang Construction, Inc., G.R. No. 205007, September 16, 2019, Per Caguioa, J.)

An obligation “to do” includes all kinds of work or service. (Philippine National Construction Corporation v. CA, G.R. No. 116896, May 5, 1997, Per Davide, Jr., J.)

b) Obligation to deliver

[W]hile an obligation “to give” is a prestation which consists in the delivery of a movable or an immovable thing in order to create a real right, or for the use of the recipient, or for its simple possession, or in order to return it to its owner. (Philippine National Construction Corporation v. CA [1997], supra.)

Nuñez v. Moises-Palma, G.R. No. 224466, March 27, 2019, Per Caguioa, J.:

• Pursuant to Article 1458 of the Civil Code, a contract of sale is a reciprocal obligation to give; and the prestation or obligation of the seller or vendor is “to transfer the ownership of and to deliver a determinate thing” while the prestation or obligation of the buyer or vendee is “to pay therefor a price certain in money or its equivalent.” The full payment of the purchase price is the buyer’s prestation.

• The non-payment of the purchase price by the buyer after the seller has delivered the object of the sale to the buyer constitutes a breach of the buyer’s prestation in a contract of sale. The buyer has contravened the very tenor of the contract.

3) Subject-persons

Subject—persons – refer to the parties, “who, viewed from the demandability of the obligation, are the active (obligee) and the passive (obligor) subjects. (Asuncion v. CA [1994], supra.)

a) Active subject

The “active subject” – refers to the person who has the right to demand the performance of an obligation against another person.

The active subject may be:

1) A creditor; or

2) An obligee.

b) Passive subject

The “passive subject” – refers to the person who is under an obligation to give, to do or not to do, in favor of another person.

The passive subject may be:

1) A debtor; or

2) An obligor.


Chapter 1 – General Provisions, Title I, Book IV, Republic Act No. 386, Civil Code

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