Lex Rex Ph

Heirs of Teofilo Gabatan vs. CA Digest

Heirs of Teofilo Gabatan vs. CA, G.R. 150206, March 13, 2009

Facts

Lourdes Pacana filed a Complaint for Recovery of Property and Ownership and Possession,  alleging that she is the sole owner of a 1.1062 hectare land in Calinugan, Balulang, CDO, identified as Lot 3095 C-5, having inherited it from her deceased mother (Hermogena), which she claimed to be the only child of Juan Gabatan. 

  • the basis of Lourdes: The parents of the petitioners, Teofilo and his wife, were mere administrators or Trustee of Juan Gabatan. Teofilo Gabatan was also the brother of Juan Gabatan.
  • When the trustee died, the petitioners took possession of the disputed land and did not return to Lourdes and her mother despite demand to vacate the same.

The heirs of Teofilo denied that the mother of Lourdes, Hermogena, was the daughter of Juan Gabatan; that Juan died single and without issue/children; and Lourdes’ complaint has already prescribed and barred by laches.

RTC favored Lourdes Pacada. 

CA affirmed RTC. 

CA’s reason:

  • that Lourdes’ claim of filiation with Juan Gabatan was established during the trial (action for recovery)
  • CA:  a long line of jurisprudence established that the findings of the trial court are entitled to great weight and are not disturbed except for cogent reasons, such as when the findings are not supported by evidence. The CA gave weight to the Deed of Absolute Sale executed where the mother of Lourdes, Hermogena, was identified as an heir of Juan Gabatan.

Aggrieved, the heirs of Teofilo recoursed to the SC contending that CA committed reversible errors, among them are: (a) that Lourdes is the sole and surviving heir of Juan Gabatan, the only child of a certain Hermogena “Gabatan” and that the latter is the only child of Juan Gabatan.

Issue and Ruling

Was it proper for the RTC to declare the heirship of Lourdes?

No. Jurisprudence dictates that the determination of who the legal heirs of the deceased are must be made in proper special proceedings and not in an ordinary suit for recovery of ownership and possession of the property. Determination of ownership must take precedence over the action for recovery of possession and ownership. A trial court cannot make a declaration of heirship in a civil action because it can only be made in a special proceeding. Rule 1 Sec. 3(c) provides that “a special proceeding (a special form of civil action) is a remedy by which a party seeks to establish a status, a right, or a particular fact.” It is therefore clear that the declaration of heirship can only be made in a special proceeding since the petitioners are seeking to establish a status or right. (Court quoted Litam v. Rivera, Juaquino v. Lourdes Reyes)

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