Distinction Between A Joint And Several Debtor And A Surety

In the case of joint and several debtors, Article 1217 makes plain that the solidary debtor who effected the payment to the creditor “may claim from his co-debtors only the share which corresponds to each, with the interest for the payment already made.” Such solidary debtor will not be able to recover from the co-debtors the full amount already paid to the creditor, because the right to recovery extends only to the proportional share of the other co-debtors, and not as to the particular proportional share of the solidary debtor who already paid. In contrast, even as the surety is solidarily bound with the principal debtor to the creditor, the surety who does pay the creditor has the right to recover the full amount paid, and not just any proportional share, from the principal debtor or debtors. Such right to full reimbursement falls within the other rights, actions and benefits which pertain to the surety by reason of the subsidiary obligation assumed by the surety. (Escaño, et al. v. Ortigas, Jr., G.R. No. 151953, June 29, 2007, Tinga, J).

Article 2047 itself specifically calls for the application of the provisions on solidary obligations to suretyship contracts. Article 1217 of the Civil Code thus comes into play, recognizing the right of reimbursement from a co-debtor (the principal debtor, in case of suretyship) in favor of the one who paid (i.e., the surety). However, a significant distinction still lies between a joint and several debtor, on one hand, and a surety on the other. Solidarity signifies that the creditor can compel any one of the joint and several debtors or the surety alone to answer for the entirety of the principal debt. The difference lies in the respective faculties of the joint and several debtor and the surety to seek reimbursement for the sums they paid out to the creditor.

A guarantor who binds himself in solidum with the principal debtor under the provisions of the second paragraph does not become a solidary co-debtor to all intents and purposes. There is a difference between a solidary co-debtor and a fiador in solidum (surety). The latter, outside of the liability he assumed to pay the debt before the property of the principal debtor has been exhausted, retains all the other rights, actions and benefits which pertain to him by reason of the fiansa; while a solidary so-debtor has no other rights than those bestowed upon him in Section 4, Chapter 3, Title I, Book IV of the Civil Code.

The second paragraph of [Article 2047] is practically equivalent to the contract of suretyship. The civil law suretyship is, accordingly, nearly synonymous with the common law guaranty; and the civil law relationship existing between the co-debtors liable in solidum is similar to the common law suretyship. (Tolentino, Civil Code of the Phils. (1992 ed.).