Any physical or juridical being susceptible o frights and obligations, or of being the
subject of legal relations
Persons vs. Things
A person is the subject of legal relations
A things is the object of legal relations
Art. 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.
2 component elements of capacity:
1. Juridical capacity
There are no degrees of juridical capacity.
Juridical capacity is the same in every person. No one has more juridical
capacity than others. It is inherent in natural persons. On the other hand, it
arises in artificial persons when such artificial persons are created.
2. Capacity to act
Nobody has 100% capacity to act. The law imposes restrictions on capacity to
act. As long as one has contractual capacity (a.k.a. full civil capacity) one is
near 100% capacity to act. ―Full civil capacity‖ is not really 100% but close to
it. With contractual capacity, one is generally able to perform contracts and
dispose of property.
Nobody has 0% capacity to act. Infants are close to 0% but still have capacity
to act. For example, even fetus has the right to succeed and also have the
right to the integrity of body. Aliens cannot own colleges or broadcast media.
Art. 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.
Art. 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.
Articles 38 and 39 are really the same thing. They are redundant.
Insolvency – certain obligations cannot be performed (i.e., one cannot pay off debts
in favor of one creditor while excluding other creditors)
Trusteeship – one is placed in guardianship.
Prodigality – it is not by itself a restriction. It is a ground to be placed in
These restrictions don’t exempt incapacitated persons from certain obligations. Under
Article 1156, there are 5 sources of obligations:
Thus, Articles 38 and 39 prevent incapacitated persons from incurring contractual
obligations only. Thus, even though an insane person cannot be thrown in jail for a
criminal act, the insane person is still civilly liable (delict). An incapacitated person
must still pay income tax if income is earned.
Although Articles 38 and 39 don’t mention it, incapacitated persons may acquire
rights. For example, they have the right to accept donations or to succeed.
The enumeration in Articles 38 and 39 is not exclusive. There are others spread
throughout the code. (i.e., a lawyer cannot buy property in litigation – Article 1491
Article 39, last has been amended by R.A. No. 6809. 21 years is no longer the age
of majority but 18.
Article 39, last – What are the cases specified by law?