A Collection of Case Digests

Socorro Clemente v. Republic of the Philippines – On the Right of an Heir to Institute an Action on Behalf of the Co-Heirs Prior to Full Settlement of the Estate

G.R. No. 220008; 20 February 2019

31

Although an heir's right in the estate of the decedent which has not been fully settled and partitioned is merely inchoate, Article 493 of the Civil Code gives the heir the right to exercise acts of ownership...

Socorro T. Clemente, as substituted by Salvador T. Clemente, petitioner, v. Republic of the Philippines (Department of Public Works and Highways, Region IV-A), respondent; G.R. No. 220008; 20 February 2019

Facts:

Municipal Mayor Amado A. Clemente (Mayor Clemente), Dr. Vicente A. Clemente, Judge Ramon A. Clemente, and Milagros A. Clemente (Clemente Siblings) were the owners of a parcel of land covered by Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. T-50896. During their lifetime, they executed a Deed of Donation dated 16 March 1963 over a one-hectare portion of their property (Subject Property) in favor of the Republic of the Philippines. 

In 2004, almost forty-one (41) years after the Deed of Donation was executed, Socorro, as heir and successor-in-interest of Mayor Clemente, filed a Complaint, and subsequently an Amended Complaint, for Revocation of Donation, Reconveyance and Recovery of Possession alleging that the Republic of the Philippines failed to comply with the condition imposed on the Deed of Donation, which was to use the property “solely for hospital site only and for no other else, where a government hospital shall be constructed.

Ruling of the Regional Trial Court

On 24 September 2007, the RTC rendered its Decision dismissing the case on the ground of prematurity.

In a Resolution dated 4 April 2008, the RTC denied the Motion for Reconsideration filed by Socorro. Thus, Socorro appealed to the Court of Appeals.

Ruling of the Court of Appeals

In a Decision dated 17 October 2014, the CA denied the appeal, finding that while there may be basis for the recovery of the property, Socorro, as an heir of a deceased co-donor, cannot assert the concept of heirship to participate in the revocation of the property donated by her successor-in-interest. The CA held:

Prescinding simply from the hypothetical effect of succession for Socorro T. Clemente, neither was there any assertion on the initiatory pleading nor evidence from the plaintiff-appellant as to any judicial or extra-judicial settlement of the estate of her husband as co-donor. And without any representation from Socorro T. Clemente on the Amended Complaint as to previous determination of heirs, full liquidation of the estate and payment of estate debts, if any, it cannot be assumed, and the plaintiff’s representatives cannot assert heirship, that a portion of the property donated was still part of the estate of Socorro T. Clemente’s husband. Corollary thereto, Section 2, Rule 73 of the Revised Rules of Court illuminates that until liquidation of the property, neither the widow nor the heirs can sue for participation therein.

In a Resolution dated 14 August 2015, the CA denied the Motion for Partial Reconsideration.

Issue:

Whether the full settlement of the estate is required before the petitioner may institute  an action for revocation of donation, reconveyance, and recovery of possession of property.

Ruling:

No.

X x x x x there is no need for the settlement of the estate before one of the heirs can institute an action on behalf of the other co-heirs. Although an heir’s right in the estate of the decedent which has not been fully settled and partitioned is merely inchoate, Article 493 of the Civil Code gives the heir the right to exercise acts of ownership. Thus, even before the settlement of the estate, an heir may file an action for reconveyance of possession as a co-owner thereof, provided that such heir recognizes and acknowledges the other co-heirs as co-owners of the property as it will be assumed that the heir is acting on behalf of all the co-heirs for the benefit of the co-ownership.