G.R. No. 57062, Jan. 24, 1992
This is a case for partition of several pieces of land belonging to Lupo Mariategui, who died without a will.
During his lifetime, Lupo contracted three (3) marriages. The first wife died, so he contracted a second marriage. The second wife also passed away so he contracted a third marriage. The third wife also preceded Lupo in death.
The issue in this case arose because at the time of his death, Lupo left certain properties which he acquired when he was still unmarried. Later, Lupo’s descendants by his first and second marriages executed a deed of extrajudicial partition whereby they adjudicated unto themselves a certain lot of the Muntinglupa Estate and title was issued. Now, Lupo’s children by his third marriage filed a complaint with the lower court, contending that since they were co-heirs of Lupo’s estate they were deprived of their respective shares in the lot mentioned. In answer, the other party said that the complaint was not really for annulment of the deed of extrajudicial partition but for recognition of natural children.
The lower court ruled in favor of Lupo’s heirs from the first and second marriage. Thus, the case was elevated to the CA, where they raised the issue of their parents’ lawful marriage and their legitimacy as children.
CA ruled that all the heirs of Lupo were entitled to equal shares in the estate. Hence, this petition.
- Whether or not the action for partition has prescribed
- Whether or not the private respondents are entitled to successional rights over the said lot
The case is really one for partition. The question of the status of the private respondents was raised only collaterally to assert their rights in the estate of the deceased.
Existence of the Marriage
Lupo and Felipa were alleged to have been lawfully married in or about 1930. This fact is based on the declaration communicated by Lupo to his son who testified that “when his father was still living, he was able to mention to him that he and his mother were able to get married before a Justice of the Peace of Taguig, Rizal.” The spouses deported themselves as husband and wife, and were known in the community to be such. Although no marriage certificate was introduced to this effect, no evidence was likewise offered to controvert these facts. Moreover, the mere fact that no record of the marriage exists does not invalidate the marriage, provided all the requisites for its validity are present.
Under these circumstances, a marriage may be presumed to have taken place between Lupo and Felipa. The laws presume that a man and a woman, deporting themselves as husband and wife, have entered into a lawful contract of marriage; that a child born in lawful wedlock, there being no divorce, absolute or from bed and board is legitimate; and that things have happened according to the ordinary course of nature and the ordinary habits of life.
Courts look upon the presumption of marriage with great favor as it is founded on the following rationale:
“The basis of human society throughout the civilized world is that of marriage. Marriage in this jurisdiction is not only a civil contract, but it is a new relation, an institution in the maintenance of which the public is deeply interested. Consequently, every intendment of the law leans towards legalizing matrimony. Persons dwelling together in apparent matrimony are presumed, in the absence of any counterpresumption or evidence special to that case, to be in fact married. The reason is that such is the common order of society and if the parties were not what they thus hold themselves out as being, they would be living in the constant violation of decency and of law.”
So much so that once a man and a woman have lived as husband and wife and such relationship is not denied nor contradicted, the presumption of their being married must be admitted as a fact.
Evidence on record proves the legitimate filiation of the private respondents. Jacinto’s birth certificate was a record of birth referred to in Article 172 of the Code. Again, no evidence which tends to disprove facts contained therein was adduced before the lower court. In the case of the two other private respondents, Julian and Paulina, they may not have presented in evidence any of the documents required by Article 172 but they continuously enjoyed the status of children of Lupo in the same manner as their brother Jacinto.
Prescription of Action for Partition
In view of the foregoing, there can be no other conclusion than that private respondents are legitimate children and heirs of Lupo and therefore, the time limitation prescribed in Article 285 for filing an action for recognition is inapplicable to this case. Corollarily, prescription does not run against private respondents with respect to the filing of the action for partition so long as the heirs for whose benefit prescription is invoked, have not expressly or impliedly repudiated the co-ownership. In other words, prescription of an action for partition does not lie except when the co-ownership is properly repudiated by the co-owner.