FACTS: In 1979, respondent Cheryl S. Lim (Cheryl) married Edward Lim (Edward), son of petitioners. Cheryl bore Edward three children, respondents Lester Edward, Candice Grace and Mariano III. Cheryl, Edward and their children resided at the house of petitioners in Forbes Park, Makati City, together with Edwards. Edwards family business, which provided him with a monthly salary of P6,000, shouldered the family expenses. Cheryl had no steady source of income.
In 1990, Cheryl abandoned the Forbes Park residence, bringing the children with her (then all minors), after a violent confrontation with Edward whom she caught with the in-house midwife of his grandmother in what the trial court described a very compromising situation. Cheryl, for herself and her children, sued petitioners, Edward, Chua Giak and Mariano (defendants) in the Regional Trial Court of Makati City, Branch 140 (trial court) for support. The trial court ordered Edward to provide monthly support of P6,000 pendente lite.
In 1996, the trial court rendered judgment ordering Edward and petitioners to jointly provide P40,000 monthly support to respondents, with Edward shouldering P6,000 and petitioners the balance of P34,000 subject to Chua Giaks subsidiary liability. The defendants sought reconsideration, questioning their liability. The trial court, while denying reconsideration, clarified that petitioners and Chua Giak were held jointly liable with Edward because of the latters inability x x x to give sufficient support x x x. Petitioners appealed to the Court of Appeals assailing, among others, their liability to support respondents. Petitioners argued that while Edwards income is insufficient, the law itself sanctions its effects by providing that legal support should be in keeping with the financial capacity of the family under Article 194 of the Civil Code, as amended by Executive Order No. 209 (The Family Code of the Philippines).
In 2003, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court ordering petitioners Prudencio and Filomena Lim (petitioners) to provide legal support to respondents Cheryl, Lester Edward, Candice Grace and Mariano III, all surnamed Lim (respondents).
ISSUE: Whether petitioners are concurrently liable with Edward to provide support to respondents.
By statutory and jurisprudential mandate, the liability of ascendants to provide legal support to their descendants is beyond cavil. Petitioners themselves admit as much they limit their petition to the narrow question of when their liability is triggered, not if they are liable. Relying on provisions found in Title IX of the Civil Code, as amended, on Parental Authority, petitioners theorize that their liability is activated only upon default of parental authority, conceivably either by its termination or suspension during the childrens minority. Because at the time respondents sued for support, Cheryl and Edward exercised parental authority over their children, petitioners submit that the obligation to support the latters offspring ends with them.
Here, there is no question that Cheryl is unable to discharge her obligation to provide sufficient legal support to her children, then all school-bound. It is also undisputed that the amount of support Edward is able to give to respondents, P6,000 a month, is insufficient to meet respondents basic needs. This inability of Edward and Cheryl to sufficiently provide for their children shifts a portion of their obligation to the ascendants in the nearest degree, both in the paternal (petitioners) and maternal lines, following the ordering in Article 199. To hold otherwise, and thus subscribe to petitioners theory, is to sanction the anomalous scenario of tolerating extreme material deprivation of children because of parental inability to give adequate support even if ascendants one degree removed are more than able to fill the void.
However, petitioners partial concurrent obligation extends only to their descendants as this word is commonly understood to refer to relatives, by blood of lower degree. As petitioners grandchildren by blood, only respondents Lester Edward, Candice Grace and Mariano III belong to this category. Indeed, Cheryl’s right to receive support from the Lim family extends only to her husband Edward, arising from their marital bond. Unfortunately, Cheryl’s share from the amount of monthly support the trial court awarded cannot be determined from the records. Thus, we are constrained to remand the case to the trial court for this limited purpose.