Petitioners filed a complaint for Cancellation of Title and Reconveyance with Damages (subject complaint) against respondent. In their complaint, they alleged that Magdaleno Ypon (Magdaleno) died intestate and childless, leaving behind parcels of land. Claiming to be the sole heir of Magdaleno, Gaudioso, Respondent executed an Affidavit of Self-Adjudication and caused the cancellation of the aforementioned certificates of title, leading to their subsequent transfer in his name to the prejudice of petitioners who are Magdaleno’s collateral relatives and successors-in-interest.
In his Answer, Respondent alleged that he is the lawful son of Magdaleno as evidenced by: (a) his certificate of Live Birth; (b) two (2) letters from Polytechnic School; and (c) a certified true copy of his passport. Further, by way of affirmative defense, he claimed that: (a) petitioners have no cause of action against him; (b) the complaint fails to state a cause of action; and (c) the case is not prosecuted by the real parties-in-interest, as there is no showing that the petitioners have been judicially declared as Magdaleno’s lawful heirs.
The RTC issued an order, finding that the subject complaint failed to state a cause of action against Gaudioso. It observed that while the plaintiffs therein had established their relationship with Magdaleno in a previous special proceeding for the issuance of letters of administration, this did not mean that they could already be considered as the decedent’s compulsory heirs. Quite the contrary, Gaudioso satisfactorily established the fact that he is Magdaleno’s son – and hence, his compulsory heir – through the documentary evidence he submitted.
The plaintiffs therein filed a motion for reconsideration which was, however, denied.
Aggrieved, petitioners sought direct recourse to the SC through the instant petition.
Whether the RTC’s dismissal of the case on the ground that the subject complaint failed to state a cause of action was proper.
Yes, Jurisprudence dictates that the determination of who are the legal heirs of the deceased must be made in the proper special proceedings in court, and not in an ordinary suit for recovery of ownership and possession of property. This must take precedence over the action for recovery of possession and ownership. The Court has consistently ruled that the trial court cannot make a declaration of heirship in the civil action for the reason that such a declaration can only be made in a special proceeding. Under Section 3, Rule 1 of the 1997 Revised Rules of Court, a civil action is defined as one by which a party sues another for the enforcement or protection of a right, or the prevention or redress of a wrong while a special proceeding is a remedy by which a party seeks to establish a status, a right, or a particular fact. It is then decisively clear that the declaration of heirship can be made only in a special proceeding inasmuch as the petitioners here are seeking the establishment of a status or right.
Verily, while a court usually focuses on the complaint in determining whether the same fails to state a cause of action, a court cannot disregard decisions material to the proper appreciation of the questions before it. Thus, concordant with applicable jurisprudence, since a determination of heirship cannot be made in an ordinary action for recovery of ownership and/or possession, the dismissal of Civil Case was altogether proper.