DR. NIXON L. TREYES, PETITIONER, V. ANTONIO L. LARLAR, REV. FR. EMILIO L. LARLAR, HEDDY L. LARLAR, ET AL., RESPONDENTS.
G.R. No. 232579, September 08, 2020
Rosie Larlar Treyes died intestate and without a child. Rosie’s siblings sent a letter to Dr. Nixon Treyes, the husband of Rosie, inviting him for a conference for the settlement of estate of Rosie. Treyes ignored the letter and executed two affidavits of self-adjudication which he registered with the Registry of Deeds of Marikina, Rizal, and San Carlos, Negros Occidental, transferring unto himself 14 properties, as sole heir of his decedent-spouse. After sending a second letter, it was found out by the siblings that the properties of Rosie were already transferred to Treyes.
The siblings Larlar filed an action for annulment of the Affidavits, cancellation of TCTs, reconveyance of ownership
and possession, partition, and damages, before the RTC of Negros Occidental.
A first service of summons was served on Treyes, which he filed a motion to dismiss on the ground of lack of jurisdiction over the person of petitioner. A re-service of summons was served to Treyes which then he filed another Motion to Dismiss arguing that the private respondents’ Complaint should be dismissed on the following grounds: (1) improper venue; (2) prescription; and (3) lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter.
Treyes filed a Motion to Dismiss on the ground, among others, of lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter and, corollarily, lack of real parties in interest, arguing that the petitioners have not established their right to succession and thus lacking the personality to file the complaint; prescription on the ground that the action for recovery of properties of the heirs has prescribed, and improper venue for the complaint was filed before the RTC of San Carlos, Negros Occidental.
The RTC denied the Omnibus Motion, prompting Treyes to file before the Court of Appeals (CA) a petition for Certiorari under Rule 65. The CA, however, denied the same.
ISSUE and HOLDING:
1) Whether the action should be dismissed for improper venue
No, the action cannot be dismissed for improper venue. Invoking rule 73 to allege improper venue is entirely inconsistent with Treyes’ assertion that the complaint filed is not a special proceeding but an ordinary civil action. Rule 9, Section 1 of the rules provides that all defenses and objections not pleaded in the motion to dismiss or in an answer shall be deemed as a waiver with exception to the grounds of lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter, prescription, res judicata, litis pendentia. Likewise under Rule 15, Section 8, it provides that a motion attacking a pleading, order, judgment shall include all objections available, else such objection not raised shall be deemed waived (exception: the 4 grounds of motion to dismiss).
In this case, in the first motion to dismiss, Treyes only raised lack of jurisdiction over the petitioner. The defense for improper venue was very much available at the time of filing. Thus, raising the defense of improper venue although would not have been prejudicial to the petitioner, there is no valid justification for the failure to invoke such defense.
2) Whether the action has prescribed
No, the defense of prescription of the complaint has no merit. Treyes invoked prescription on the basis of Rule 74 is inconsistent with his main theory that the complaint is an ordinary civil action and not a special proceeding. The provisions of Rule 74, Section 4 barring distributees or heirs from objecting to an extrajudicial partition after the expiration of two years from such extrajudicial partition is applicable only:
- to persons who have participated or taken part or had notice of the extrajudicial partition, and
- when the provisions of Section 1 of Rule 74 have been strictly complied with, i.e., that all the persons or heirs of the decedent have taken part in the extrajudicial settlement or are represented by themselves or through guardians.
The court held that both requirements are absent in this case; thus, the prescriptive period on constructive trust under the Civil Code, particularly under implied constructive trust, applies, and not the prescription on Special Proceedings.
The Civil Code identifies 2 kinds of Trusts:
- Implied – by operation of law
- Express – by intention of the parties
Under Implied Trust, there are two more categories:
- Resulting Trust
– disposition of property which raises an inference that he does not intent the person holding the property to have any beneficial interest
- Constructive Trust
– subject to equitable duty to convey to another, on ground that he would be unjustly enriched if he were permitted to retain it
– The duty to acquire property arises because of fraud, duress, undue influence, mistake, wrongful disposition, breach of fiduciary duty.
In an action for reconveyance based on implied constructive trust, the law provides a prescription of 10 years from issuance of the torrens title over the property, which is based in article 1144 of the civil code. This issuance of title operates as a contructive notice to the whole world, which the discovery of fraud is deemed to have taken place at the time of such issuance.
3) Whether there is a need for prior determination of heirship in a special proceeding prior to filing an action for recovery of ownership and possession of property
No. Treyes contends that the petitioners have not established their right as legal heirs and is a prerequisite to an ordinary suit; hence, their action for reconveyance should be dismissed.
The court held that the establishment of right of the heirs is conferred by law and there is no need for judicial confirmation to establish petitioners as heirs. It was already established by the petitioners that they are heirs ipso facto jure, thus there is no need for any judicial confirmation. The complaint alleges that their rights over the properties is by virtue of their being siblings of the decedent.
In Article 777 of the Civil Code, it substantially provides that rights of succession is transmitted upon the moment of death of the decedent. This much to say that the title or rights is immediately passed to the heirs upon death. Thus, the heirs have legally been deemed to have acquired ownership over the estate of the decedent, without need of any declaration.
In partition, even before a property is judicially partitioned, heirs are already deemed owners and without need for prior separate judicial declaration of their heirship.
In a summary settlement of estates, heirs may undertake the extrajudicial settlement of estate of decedent amongst themselves through execution of a public instrument without prior declaration in separate judicial proceeding that they are heirs of the decedent.
Article 1001 likewise provides that brothers and sisters or their children who survive with the widow or widower are entitled to one-half of the inheritance, the other half to the surviving spouse.
Here, the petitioners have already established their filiation with the decedent and therefore there is no need for a declaration of heirship through special proceedings. The need to instittue a sperate special proceeding for determination of heirship may be dispensed with for the sake of practicaility as when parties in a civil case had voluntarily submitted the issue to the trial court and already presented evidence regarding the issue of heirship. Further, in this case, the plaintiffs do not really seek to establish their right as an heir but seek the enforcement of their rights brought about them being heirs by operation of law, as provided under Article 777, in relation to Article 1001 of the Civil Code.
Hence, the petition is denied.