Petitioners claim that they are the heirs of Domingo Valientes who, before his death, was the owner of a parcel of land in Gabay, Margosatubig, Zamboanga del Sur. Domingo Valientes mortgaged the subject property to secure his loan to the spouses Leon Belen and Brigida Sescon. Through an allegedly forged document, the spouses Belen obtained Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. T-5,427 in their name. The legitimate children of the late Domingo Valientes, had their Affidavit of Adverse Claim duly entered in the Memorandum of Encumbrances at the back of TCT No. T-5,427. Upon the death of the spouses Belen, their surviving heirs Brigida Sescon Belen and Maria Lina Belen executed an extra-judicial settlement with partition and sale in favor of private respondent Vilma Valencia-Minor, the present possessor of the subject property. The action for reconveyance, sought for by the petitioners, was denied by the RTC. The CA likewise denied the petition on the grounds of prescription and laches.
WON the cancellation of transfer certificate of title no. T-5,427, reconveyance and etc. is barred by prescription and laches.
Yes. The case cannot prosper because an action for reconveyance is a legal remedy granted to a landowner whose property has been wrongfully or erroneously registered in another’s name, which must be filed within ten years from the issuance of the title since such issuance operates as a constructive notice (Declaro vs. Court of Appeals, 346 SCRA 57). Where a party has neglected to assert his rights over a property in question for an unreasonably long period, he is estopped from questioning the validity of another person’s title to the property (Ibid.) Long inaction and passivity in asserting one’s rights over a disputed property precludes him from recovering said property (Po Lam vs. Court vs. Court of Appeals, 347 SCRA 86).
The cause of action of petitioners in Civil Case No. 98-021, wherein they claim that private respondent Minor’s predecessor-in-interest acquired the subject property by forgery, can indeed be considered as that of enforcing an implied trust. In particular, Article 1456 of the Civil Code provides:
Art. 1456. If property is acquired through mistake or fraud, the person obtaining it is, by force of law, considered a trustee of an implied trust for the benefit of the person from whom the property comes.
The right to seek reconveyance based on an implied or constructive trust is not absolute nor is it imprescriptible. An action for reconveyance based on an implied or constructive trust must prescribe in ten years from the issuance of the Torrens title over the property. Furthermore, when the plaintiff in such action is not in possession of the subject property, the action prescribes in ten years from the date of registration of the deed or the date of the issuance of the certificate of title over the property. When the plaintiff is in possession of the subject property, the action, being in effect that of quieting of title to the property, does not prescribe. In the case at bar, petitioners (who are the plaintiffs in Civil Case No. 98-021) are not in possession of the subject property. Civil Case No. 98-021, if it were to be considered as that of enforcing an implied trust, should have therefore been filed within ten years from the issuance of TCT No. T-5,427 on December 22, 1969. Civil Case No. 98-021 was, however, filed on August 20, 1998, which was way beyond the prescriptive period.
* Case digest by Suzeyne Garcia, LLB-1, Andres Bonifacio Law School, SY 2017-2018