G.R. No. 72078, 27 June 1994
Respondent Bibiana filed action for Judicial Declaration of Filiation, Annulment of Partition, Support and Damages against Eutiquio. Bibiana was born on December 1926 allegedly of Eutiquio and in that time was single. It was alleged that the Marquino family personally knew her since she was hired as domestic helper in their household at Dumaguete. She likewise received financial assistance from them hence; she enjoyed continuous possession of the status of an acknowledged natural child by direct and unequivocal acts of the father and his family. The Marquinos denied all these. Respondent was not able to finish presenting her evidence since she died on March 1979 but the suit for compulsory recognition was done while Eustiquio was still alive. Her heirs were ordered to substitute her as parties-plaintiffs.
Petitioners, legitimate children of Eutiquio, assailed decision of respondent court in holding that the heirs of Bibiana, allegedly a natural child of Eutiquio, can continue the action already filed by her to compel recognition and the death of the putative parent will not extinguish such action and can be continued by the heirs substituting the said deceased parent.
1. Whether or not, the right of action for acknowledgment as a natural child be transmitted to the heirs and;
2. Whether or not Article 173 can be given retroactive effect.
The first issue to be resolved is whether or not the right of action to compel recognition is in transmissible in character.
Article 285 of the Civil Code provides that an action for recognition of natural children may be brought only during the lifetime of the presumed parents, except in the following cases:
(1) If the father or mother died during the minority of the child, in which case the latter may file the action before the expiration of four years from the attainment of his majority;
(2) If after the death of the father or of the mother a document should appear of which nothing had been heard and in which either or both parents recognize the child.
In this case, the action must be commenced within four years from discovery of the document. The rationale for the rule is to give the alleged parents opportunity to be heard. The reason for the exceptions is to protect the heirs.
Our law providing for the intransmissibility of an action for recognition, however, has been superseded by the New Family Code which took effect on August 3, 1988. Under Article 173 of the Family Code, it is now provided:
Article 173 of the Family Code states that “The action to claim legitimacy may be brought by the child during his or her lifetime and shall be transmitted to the heirs should the child die during minority or in a state of insanity. In these cases, the heirs shall have a period of five (5) years within which to institute the action.”
The action commenced by the child shall survive notwithstanding the death of either or both of the parties. Pursuant to this provision, the child can bring the action during his or her entire lifetime (not during the lifetime of the parents) and even after the death of the parents. In other words, the action does not prescribe as long as he lives.
The ruling of the second issue is with Article 173 of the Family Code states that it cannot be given retroactive effect so as to apply to the case at bench because it will prejudice the vested rights of petitioners transmitted to them at the time of the death of their father, EutiquioMarquino. “Vested right” is a right in property which has become fixed and established and is no longer open to doubt or controversy. It expresses the concept of present fixed interest, which in right reason and natural justice should be protected against arbitrary State action.
* Case digest by Daisy Mae O. Tambolero, LLB-1, Andres Bonifacio Law School, SY 2017-2018