Treyes vs. Larlar

G.R. No. 232579. September 8, 2020.


Rosie, the wife of petitioner Treyes, passed away. Rosie, who did not bear any children with petitioner Treyes, died without any will. Rosie also left behind seven siblings, i.e., the private respondents Antonio, Emilio, Heddy, Rene, Celeste, Judy, and Yvonne. At the time of her death, Rosie left behind 14 real estate properties, situated in various locations in the Philippines, which she owned together with petitioner Treyes as their conjugal properties (subject properties). Petitioner Treyes executed two Affidavits of Self-Adjudication which transfers the estate of Rosie unto himself, claiming that he was the sole heir of his deceased spouse, Rosie. 

Private respondents filed before the RTC a Complaint for annulment of the Affidavits of Self-Adjudication, cancellation of TCTs, reconveyance of ownership and possession, partition, and damages against petitioner Treyes and the Registry of Deeds. They alleged that petitioner Treyes fraudulently caused the transfer of the subject properties to himself and refused to reconvey the shares of the private respondents who, being the brothers and sisters of Rosie, are legal heirs of the deceased.

Treyes argued that Complaint should be dismissed on the following grounds: 

  1. Improper venue;  Citing Rule 73, Section 1 of the Rules, petitioner Treyes posits that the correct venue for the settlement of a decedent’s estate is the residence of the decedent at the time of her death which is RTC QC and not  at San Carlos City, Negros Occidental. 
  2. Prescription; Citing Rule 74, Section 4 of the Rules, which states that an heir or other persons unduly deprived of lawful participation in the estate may compel the settlement of the estate in the courts at any time within two years after the settlement and distribution of an estate.
  3. Lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter; Since the private respondents have yet to establish in a special proceeding their status as legal heirs of Rosie, then the ordinary civil action they instituted must be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.


1. Whether the RTC has no jurisdiction over the subject matter because the determination of the status of the legal heirs in a separate special proceeding is a prerequisite to an ordinary suit for recovery of ownership and possession of property instituted by the legal heirs.

2. Whether the  Complaint can be dismissed on the ground of improper venue. 

3.  Whether the action is prescribed on the basis of Rule 74.


1. NO.  The rights of the heirs to the inheritance vest immediately at the precise moment of the decedent’s death even without judicial declaration of heirship, and the various Court En Banc’s and Division’s decisions holding that no prior judicial declaration of heirship is necessary before an heir can file an ordinary civil action to enforce ownership rights acquired by virtue of succession through the nullification of deeds divesting property or properties forming part of the estate and reconveyance thereof to the estate or for the common benefit of the heirs of the decedent, the Court hereby resolves to clarify the prevailing doctrine.

The plaintiff seeks the enforcement of his/her right brought about by his/her being an heir by operation of law. The party does not seek to establish his/her right as an heir because the law itself already establishes that status. What he/she aims to do is to merely call for the nullification of a deed, instrument, or conveyance as an enforcement or protection of that right which he/she already possesses by virtue of law. Ordinary civil actions for declaration of nullity of a document, nullity of title, recovery of ownership of real property, or reconveyance are actions in personam.

Any judgment therein is binding only upon the parties properly impleaded.  Hence, any decision in the private respondents’ ordinary civil action would not prejudice nonparties.

Hence, subject to the required proof, without any need of prior judicial determination, the private respondents siblings of Rosie, by operation of law, are entitled to one-half of the inheritance of the decedent. Thus, in filing their Complaint, they do not seek to have their right as intestate heirs established, for the simple reason that it is the law that already establishes that right. What they seek is the enforcement and protection of the right granted to them under Article 1001 in relation to Article 777 of the Civil Code by asking for the nullification of the Affidavits of Self-Adjudication that disregard and violate their right as intestate heirs. No judicial declaration of heirship is necessary in order that an heir may assert his or her right to the property of the deceased. The right to assert a cause of action as an heir, although he has not been judicially declared to be so, if duly proven, is well-settled in this jurisdiction. This is upon the theory that the property of a deceased person, both real and personal, becomes the property of the heir by the mere fact of the death of his predecessor-in-interest, and as such he can deal with it in precisely the same way in which the deceased could have dealt, subject only to the limitations which by law or by contract may be imposed upon the deceased himself.

2. No. The Court finds and holds that the Complaint cannot be dismissed on the ground of improper venue on the basis of Rule 73 because such Rule refers exclusively to the special proceeding of settlement of estates and NOT to ordinary civil actions. Invoking Rule 73 to allege improper venue is entirely inconsistent with petitioner Treyes’ assertion in the instant Petition that the Complaint is not a special proceeding but an ordinary civil action.

Under the Omnibus Motion Rule, when the grounds for the dismissal of a Complaint under Rule 16, Section 1 are not raised in a motion to dismiss, such grounds, except the grounds of lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter, litis pendentia, res judicata, and prescription, are deemed waived. Stated differently, as the issue of improper venue was not raised in the first Motion to Dismiss, then this ground is deemed already waived and could no longer be raised in the second Motion to Dismiss.

3. NO.  The argument of petitioner Treyes invoking prescription on the basis of Rule 74 is wholly inconsistent with his main theory that the instant Complaint is not a special proceeding but an ordinary civil action for annulment of the Affidavits of Self-Adjudication, cancellation of TCTs, reconveyance of ownership and possession, and damages. In Sampilo, et al. v. Court of Appeals, et al., 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: (1) to persons who have participated or taken part or had notice of the extrajudicial partition, and (2) 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. Both requirements are absent here as it is evident that not all the legal heirs of Rosie participated in the extrajudicial settlement of her estate as indeed, it was only petitioner Treyes who executed the Affidavits of Self-Adjudication.
In this regard, it is well to note that it is the prescriptive period pertaining to constructive trusts which finds application in the instant case. In this situation, it has been settled in a long line of cases that “an action for reconveyance based on an implied or constructive trust prescribes in [10] years from the issuance of the Torrens title [in the name of the trustee] over the property.” The 10-year prescriptive period finds basis in Article 1144 of the Civil Code, which states that an action involving an obligation created by law must be brought within 10 years from the time the right of action accrues. In cases wherein fraud was alleged to have been attendant in the trustee’s registration of the subject property in his/her own name, the prescriptive period is 10 years reckoned from the date of the issuance of the original certificate of title or TCT since such issuance operates as a constructive notice to the whole world, the discovery of the fraud being deemed to have taken place at that time. Accordingly, it is clear here that prescription has not set in as the private respondents still have until 2021 to file an action for reconveyance, given that the certificates of title were issued in the name of petitioner Treyes only in 2011. Therefore, considering the foregoing discussion, the ground of prescription raised by petitioner Treyes is unmeritorious.


Prior jurisprudence, held that the determination of a decedent’s lawful heirs should be made in the corresponding special proceeding, precluding the RTC in an ordinary action for cancellation of title and reconveyance from making the same. The purpose of a special proceeding is to establish a status, right, or particular  fact. Distinction of action  and a special proceeding – Ordinary action is a formal demand of a right by one against another, while the special proceeding is but a petition for a declaration of a status, right or fact. 

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