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PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

FIRST DIVISION

[G.R. Nos. L-8562-8563. December 17, 1955. ]

Intestate Estate of Claro Bustamante, deceased. JOSEFA MENDOZA, Petitioner-Appellant, v. TEODORA CAYAS, Oppositor-Appellee.

Miguel Tolentino for Appellant.

Saturnino D. Ramirez for Appellee.


SYLLABUS


1. NATURAL CHILDREN; ACKNOWLEDGMENT UNDER CIVIL CODE OF 1989; REQUISITES. — Under the Code of 1889 (Arts. 131, 135, 136), an acknowledgment or recognition in order to confer any rights to the natural child, must indispensably appear either as a record of birth, in a will (testament) in a public document, or in a final judgment rendered in an action brought to compel recognition. A private document and evidence of acts indicating possession of status of a natural child do not per se constitute a legal and operative acknowledgment and do not confer upon the child any of the rights (to paternal surname, support and succession) granted by Article 134 of the Code. At most, they constitute grounds upon which the child might have based an action to compel recognition.

2. ID.; ID.; ID.; ACTION TO COMPEL RECOGNITION; WHEN TO BE COMMENCED. — Under article 137 of the Code, the action to compel recognition must be commenced during the lifetime of the natural parent, unless the latter does while the claimant was a minor, or unless a document of recognition, previously unknown, is discovered after the parent’s death.

3. ID.; ID.; ID.; ID.; DOCUMENT OF RECOGNITION PREVIOUSLY UNKNOWN. — These terms, as used in article 137 of the old Civil Code of 1889, do not include documents that the claimant once possessed and subsequently lost or mislaid, and the period for the filing of the action to compel recognition cannot be counted from rediscovery of the lost writing.

4. SUBSTANTIVE LAW; RETROACTIVE APPLICATION DISTURBING VESTED RIGHTS NOT PERMITTED. — The new Civil Code cannot be retroactively applied to disturb already vested rights.


D E C I S I O N


REYES, J. B. L., J.:


Appeal from an order of the Court of First Instance of Manila dismissing the petition of Josefa Mendoza to be declared the acknowledged natural daughter of the late Claro Bustamante and seeking the appointment of an administrator of his estate.

Born in 1893, allegedly begotten out of wedlock by Claro Bustamante, widower, and Paula Mendoza, single, the claimant Josefa Mendoza was supported and reared by said Claro Bustamante and was openly introduced as his daughter to his acquaintances. Shortly before his death in March 1929, Claro delivered to Josefa a private document (Exhibit G) signed by him and attesting that she was his natural daughter. This document Josefa kept until the outbreak of the second world war in 1941; then, in the confusion caused by the hostilities, she lost the paper, and did not find it again until 1953. In the meantime, Claro Bustamante’s widow by a second marriage, Teodora Cayas, and his legitimate son, Nicasio Bustamante, had extrajudicially partitioned his estate, composed of lots 1776, 1777, 1778 and 1806 of the Naic Friar Lands.

On May 6, 1953, the natural child, Josefa Mendoza, instituted these proceedings against Teodora Cayas and Monica Nazareno (heir of the late Nicasio Bustamante), for the judicial administration and settlement of the estate of her natural father, Claro Bustamante, and for the recovery of her corresponding share therein as his acknowledged natural child; but the defendants-oppositors resisted her claims, alleging that she was never duly acknowledged, and that her action for acknowledgment was instituted too late. The court below having sustained the defense, Josefa Mendoza appealed to the Court of Appeals. The latter certified the case to us because only questions of law are involved.

The first question to be decided is whether appellant Josefa Mendoza was properly recognized by Claro Bustamante as his natural daughter. The Court below correctly ruled that she was not. Having been born in 1893, her recognition had to be governed by the Spanish Civil Code of 1889, which abolished the implied recognizations permitted by the Law XI of Toro. 1 Under the Code of 1889 (Arts. 131, 135, 136), an acknowledgment or recognition, in order to confer any rights to the natural child, must indispensably appear either in a record of birth, in a will (testament), in a public document, or in a final judgment rendered in an action brought to compel recognition. Appellant Josefa has none of these in her favor; all that she was able to show was a private (not public) document (Exhibit G) and evidence of acts indicating possession of status of a natural child of Claro Bustamante. These document and acts do not per se constitute a legal and operative acknowledgment, and do not confer upon appellant any of the rights (to paternal surname, support and succession) granted by Article 134 of the Code. At most, they constituted grounds upon which Josefa might have based an action to ask the Court to compel her father (or his heirs) to grant her recognition. 2

But, and here lies the second issue in this appeal, the action to compel recognition is expressly conditioned by law upon its being commenced during the lifetime of the natural parent, unless the latter dies while the claimant was a minor, or unless a document of recognition, previously unknown, is discovered after the parent’s death (Art. 137).

"Articulo 137. Las acciones para el reconocimiento de hijos naturales solo podran ejercitarse en vida de los presuntos padres, salvo en los casos siguientes:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

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