On the issue of whether the defense of
prescription is a question of fact or law, the distinction is settled that
there is a question of fact when the doubt or difference arises as to the truth
or falsehood of the alleged facts. On the other hand, a question of law exists
when there is a doubt or controversy as to what the law is on a certain state
of facts. For a question to be one of law, the same must not involve an
examination of the probative value of the evidence presented by the litigants
or any of them. The resolution of the issue must rest solely on what the
law provides on the given set of circumstances. Once it is clear that the issue
invites a review of the evidence presented, the question posed is one of fact.
The test of whether a question is one of law or of fact is not the appellation given to such question by the party raising the same; rather, it is whether the appellate court can determine the issue raised without reviewing or evaluating the evidence, in which case, it is a question of law; otherwise it is a question of fact.
In the case of Santos, et al. v. Aranzanso, this Court has held that the question of prescription of the action involves the ascertainment of factual matters such as the date when the period to bring the action commenced to run. In Lim v. Chan, this Court has again decreed that prescription is a factual matter when it held that without conducting trial on the merits, the trial court cannot peremptorily find the existence of estoppel, laches, fraud or prescription of actions as these matters require presentation of evidence and determination of facts.
At first glance, applying these jurisprudence as bases, it may seem that the Court of Appeals acted correctly in denying the petition. However, while we agree with the Court of Appeals that the issue of prescription is a factual matter, we deem it erroneous on its part to have dismissed the petition on this ground. The Court of Appeals could have squarely ruled if the trial court committed grave abuse of discretion in denying the motion to dismiss the Complaint filed by the petitioners considering that the facts from which the issue of prescription can be adduced are available to the appellate court, they being extant from the records.
The records disclose that the date of registration of the subject property in the name of the petitioners was 16 November 1993 while the Deed of Sale executed in favor of the respondent was dated 24 September 1986. The complaint for the reconveyance and cancellation of TCT was filed by the respondent on 20 June 2002.
Moreover, a motion to dismiss based on prescription hypothetically admits the truth of the facts alleged in the complaint. Such hypothetical admission is limited to the facts alleged in the complaint which relate to, and are necessary for, the resolution of the grounds stated in the motion to dismiss as preliminary matters involving substantive or procedural laws, but not to the other facts of the case. As applied herein, the hypothetical admission extends to the date of execution of the Deed of Sale in favor of the respondent and to the date of registration of title in favor of the petitioners.
The foregoing considered, the Court of Appeals was properly equipped with the tools to determine if the trial court abused its discretion in ruling that respondent’s cause of action had not prescribed. Nevertheless, instead of remanding this case to the Court of Appeals which is concededly a costly endeavor in terms of the parties’ resources and time, we shall rule on the issue of prescription.
Petitioners’ allegation that an action for the reconveyance of real property on the ground of fraud must be filed within four years from the discovery of the fraud is without basis.
The four-year prescriptive period relied upon by the petitioners apply only if the complaint seeks to annul a voidable contract under Article 1390 of the Civil Code. In such case, the four-year prescriptive period under Article 1391 begins to run from the time of discovery of the mistake, violence, intimidation, undue influence or fraud.
Generally, an action for reconveyance of real property based on fraud prescribes in four years from the discovery of fraud; such discovery is deemed to have taken place upon the issuance of the certificate of title over the property. Registration of real property is a constructive notice to all persons and, thus, the four-year period shall be counted therefrom.
In the case at bar, respondent’s action which is for Reconveyance and Cancellation of Title is based on an implied trust under Art. 1456 of the Civil Code since he averred in his complaint that through fraud petitioners were able to obtain a Certificate of Title over the property. He does not seek the annulment of a voidable contract whereby Articles 1390 and 1391 of the Civil Code would find application such that the cause of action would prescribe in four years.
Art. 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.
Thus, it was held that when a party uses fraud
or concealment to obtain a certificate of title of property, a constructive
trust is created in favor of the defrauded party.
Constructive trusts are “created by the construction of equity in order to satisfy the demands of justice and prevent unjust enrichment. They arise contrary to intention against one who, by fraud, duress or abuse of confidence, obtains or holds the legal right to property which he ought not, in equity and good conscience, to hold.”
When property is registered in another’s name, an implied or constructive trust is created by law in favor of the true owner. The action for reconveyance of the title to the rightful owner prescribes in 10 years from the issuance of the title.
An action for reconveyance based on implied or constructive trust prescribes in ten years from the alleged fraudulent registration or date of issuance of the certificate of title over the property.
It is now well-settled that the prescriptive period to recover property obtained by fraud or mistake, giving rise to an implied trust under Art. 1456 of the Civil Code, is 10 years pursuant to Art. 1144. This ten-year prescriptive period begins to run from the date the adverse party repudiates the implied trust, which repudiation takes place when the adverse party registers the land.
Clearly, the applicable prescriptive period is ten years under Art. 1144 and not four years under Arts. 1389 and 1391.
Applying the law and jurisprudential declaration above-cited to the allegations of fact in the complaint, it can clearly be seen that respondent has a period of 10 years from the registration of the title within which to file the action. Since the title was registered in the name of the petitioners on 16 November 1993, respondent had a period of 10 years from the time of the registration within which to file the complaint. Since the complaint was filed on 20 June 2002, the action clearly has not prescribed and was timely-filed.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the instant petition is:
(1) GRANTED, with respect to the petitioners’ prayer that the
Court of Appeals should have resolved the petition on the merits.
(2) DENIED, with respect to the prayer for the dismissal of Civil Case No. C-20128 before the Regional Trial Court of Caloocan City, Branch 121.
The case is ordered remanded to the trial court which is directed to continue with the hearing and proceed with Civil Case No. C-20128 with deliberate dispatch. No costs.
SOURCE: [ G.R. NO. 164787, January 31, 2006 ]MARLENE CRISOSTOMO & JOSE G. CRISOSTOMO, PETITIONERS, VS. FLORITO M. GARCIA, JR., RESPONDENT. Tags: conversion hearing trial illegal drugs trial lawyer business corporate lawyer labor lawyer immigration law bureau of immigration cebu 9g visa search warrant warrant of arrest motion to quash information complaint police officers buy bust physical suffering shocked horrified mental anguish fright serious anxiety besmirched reputation sleepless nights wounded feelings moral shock social humiliation similar injuries Real Estate Broker nominal damages Sales Agent Properties for Sale Looking for Buyers Design Build House and Lot for Sale for Rent Talisay City Mandaue City Lapu Lapu Lapu-Lapu City Yncierto Sesante Villanueva Ruz Jan Edmond Marc Tim Timothy temperate damages Luz liquidated damages Kristin tct transfer certificate of title tax declaration birth certificate relocation survey surveying judicial titling administrative titling patent title denr cenro foreshore lease ecc environmental compliance certificate design build architect cebu engineer interior design designer residential commercial cebu property warehouse for rent for lease marc Christian yncierto ruz jan Edmond yncierto ruz Kristin Villanueva ruz Edmond mabalot ruz marriage certificate timber land forest land watershed agricultural lot land use Alcantara Alcoy moral damages Alegria actual damages Aloguinsan Argao Asturias Badian Balamban Bantayan Barili Boljoon Borbon Carmen Catmon Compostela Consolacion Cordova Daanbantayan Dumaguete Bais Sibulan Tampi Bacong Negros Bacolod Separation pay Resign Resignation Back wages Backwages Length of service pay benefit employee employer relationship Silay Kabankalan Daan Bantayan Dalaguete Dumanjug Ginatilan Liloan compensatory damages Madridejos Malabuyoc Medellin Minglanilla Moalboal Oslob Pilar Pinamungajan Poro Ronda Samboan San Fernando San Francisco San Remigio Sante Fe Santander Sibonga Sogod Tabogon Tabuelan Tuburan attorney’s fees Tudela exemplary damages Camotes General Luna Siargao Cagayan Davao Kidapawan Attorney Abogado Lawyer Architect