Alternative Obligations

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What constitutes an alternative obligation – An alternative obligation is one wherein the debtor is permitted to complete his obligation by performing either one of the different prestations which he is alternatively bound.[1] However, the creditor cannot be required to receive partial performance of one undertaking and on another – i.e. the debtor must complete performance of either one of the alternative obligations.[2]

Right of choice with debtor by default – The debtor has the right of choice in selecting which obligation to perform except if there is a contrary stipulation.[3] The debtor cannot select prestations that are: (a) impossible; (b) unlawful; or (c) which could not have been the object of the obligation.[4] The debtor’s choice produces legal effect reckoned from when the choice has been communicated to the creditor.[5]

Same; Cessation of right – The debtor’s right of choice ceases when only one remained practicable from the prestations whereby he could have been alternatively bound.[6]

Same; Rescission by debtor if prevented by creditor to choose – If the debtor cannot make a choice according to the terms of the obligation due to the acts of the creditor, the debtor has the right to rescind the contract with damages.[7]

When all alternative obligations were lost or became impossible due to fault of debtor – The creditor has the right to indemnity for damages against the debtor, including those other than the value of the last thing or service, if all of the alternative obligations have been lost or compliance becoming impossible due to the fault of the debtor.[8] The indemnity is determined using as basis the value of the last thing which disappeared, or that of the service which last became impossible.[9]

Responsibility of debtor before creditor chooses from alternative obligations – If the right of choice is with the creditor, the obligation[10] ceases to be alternative from the day when the selection has been communicated to the debtor.[11] Until then, the debtor’s responsibility is governed by the following rules:[12]

  • If one of the things is lost through a fortuitous event, he is to perform the obligation by delivering that which the creditor should choose from among the remainder, or that which remains if only one subsists;[13]
  • If the loss of one of the things occurs through the fault of the debtor, the creditor may claim any of those subsisting, or the price of that which, through the fault of the former, has disappeared, with a right to damages;[14]
  • If all the things are lost through the fault of the debtor, the choice by the creditor falls upon the price of any one of them, also with indemnity for damages.[15]

What constitutes a facultative obligation – A facultative obligation is one wherein the debtor is permitted to render a prestation in substitution of the only obligation agreed upon with the creditor.[16]

Debtor not liable for loss or deterioration of intended substitute thing – The debtor is not liable for the loss or deterioration of the thing intended as a substitute even if the latter was the result of his negligence.[17] However, the debtor is liable thereof once the substitution has been made and he is guilty of delay, negligence or fraud.[18]


[1] CIVIL CODE. Paragraph 1, Article 1199.

[2] Ibid. Paragraph 2, Article 1199.

[3] Ibid. Paragraph 1, Article 1200.

[4] Ibid. Paragraph 2, Article 1200.

[5] Ibid. Article 1201.

[6] Ibid. Article 1202.

[7] Ibid. Article 1203.

[8] Ibid. Paragraphs 1 and 3, Article 1204.

[9] CIVIL CODE. Paragraph 2, Article 1204.

[10] The obligation contemplated herein covers to give, to do or not to do. See Article 1205, Civil Code.

[11] CIVIL CODE. Paragraph 1, Article 1205.

[12] Ibid. Paragraph 2, Article 1205.

[13] Ibid. Paragraph 2, Article 1205 (1).

[14] Ibid. Paragraph 2, Article 1205 (2).

[15] Ibid. Paragraph 2, Article 1205 (3).

[16] Ibid. Paragraph 1, Article 1206.

[17] Ibid. Paragraph 2, Article 1206.

[18] Id at 120.

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