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49 Phil. 230

[ G. R. No. 25279, August 19, 1926 ]




This action was instituted in the Court of First Instance of  Nueva Ecija by Dolores,  Ines,  Candida,  and  Tomas Prades against felario Tecson, for the purpose of obtaining a judicial declaration to  the effect that the  plaintiffs are the owners  in  common  with the  defendant of  an undivided four-tenths  interest in three parcels of land  in the barrio of Pamacmacan, municipality of  Jaen,  Nueva  Ecija, and more particularly described in the complaint, and to obtain  a judicial  partition of  the same.  The  defendant answered, denying the right of the plaintiffs to the three parcels, and asserted that he had purchased the land from Felix Prades, the  father  of  the plaintiffs, and  that  the latter had sold the same as ganancial property pertaining to himself and a former  deceased  wife.   The  plaintiffs having  amended their original complaint,  the defendant, in addition to relying upon his previous answer, interposed a cross-complaint with a view to recovering  from the plaintiffs the value of the  produce of one of  the three parcels during  the  two years preceding the date  of the crosscomplaint,  alleging that the  plaintiffs  were  unlawfully detaining the same from  him.  Upon hearing  the  cause the trial court found that  the property had been acquired by the plaintiffs' father, Felix Prades, during the life of his first wife, Rufina Velazquez, that the same therefore pertained to the conjugal estate of Felix Prades and Rufina Velazquez,  and that Felix Prades, on June 14, 1920, had joined with his son Gaspar in selling it under contract of sale  with pacto de  retro to the defendant, Hilario Tecson, (Exhibit 1).   His Honor therefore concluded that the plaintiffs have no interest in the land and he accordingly gave judgment to the effect that the defendant be absolved from the complaint; and it further appearing that the plaintiffs Dolores, Candida, and Ines Prades have been  withholding one of the parcels from the defendant since  the beginning of the year  1923, his Honor sustained  the crosscomplaint and ordered said  plaintiffs to  surrender this parcel to the defendant and to pay him 385 cavans of palay for each agricultural year beginning with  the year mentioned and continuing until delivery of possession should be effected.   From this judgment the plaintiffs appealed.

It clearly appears from the evidence that the land concerned in this litigation was acquired by  Felix Prades,  the father of the plaintiffs, during the life  of his first wife, Rufina Velazquez,  who died several years before the outbreak of the  revolution against Spain.  Within  a  short while after the  death of  Rufina, Felix Prades married a second wife  and took up his  abode with her  in  another place, leaving his five children,  of  whom Dolores Prades was the oldest, in possession at least of the first and second parcels  described  in the complaint  and possibly  also in possession of the third.   From the time that he changed his abode, Felix Prades did not interfere with the management of the  property thus  placed in the possession of his children; and as the children reached maturity and married, a suitable  portion of this land was successively assigned to each.  About twenty-five years passed in this way, until on  June 14,  1920, Felix Prades and  his  son Gaspar,  a brother of the plaintiffs, united in the document Exhibit 1, conveying all three parcels to the defendant, Hilario Tecson^ under contract of sale with pacto de retro, for a purported consideration of P4,500.   The document referred to recites that said consideration  had been paid to the vendors; but if the testimony of  Dolores Prades is to be believed,  this consideration really  consisted of a debt which  Gaspar Prades had previously contracted to  Tecson.  At any rate Felix Prades and his son  Gaspar failed to redeem from this sale; and the property, so far  as they  had been able to convey it, consolidated in the defendant.  However, in order to get  possession Tecson was compelled to institute a  revindicatory action  against Felix Prades  and  Gaspar Prades, which action was  finally terminated  in favor of Tecson.  An  execution was then  sued out by Tecson upon this judgment against Felix Prades and  Gaspar  Prades; and possession of the second and third  parcels was  effectually delivered to Tecson, but the plaintiffs, or some of, them, being  in  possession of the other  parcel, refused to surrender  possession, and  this position  they  have maintained until the present.

It is contended for the plaintiffs that the half  interest of their  mother in  these lands  descended to them, with their  brother Gasp^i', and that therefore each of the four plaintiffs is entitled  to an undivided fifth of said  half, or all  together  to  four-tenths of the  whole.   On  the  other hand, the plaintiffs concede that the defendant Tecson is the owner of the undivided share of their brother Gaspar in the property, as well as of the half  which pertained to their father in his. right as member of  the  defunct conjugal partnership composed of himself and the plaintiffs' mother.

For the defendant it is maintained that  the  conjugal partnership has never been liquidated, that Felix Prades as the surviving husband had the power to convey the whole, and that therefore the defendant has acquired the entire property by  virtue of  the deed signed  by Felix Prades and his son Gaspar.  In this connection reliance is placed By the defendant upon Nable Jose vs. Nable Jose (41 Phil., 713), and Manuel arid Laxamana vs. Losano (41 Phil., 855), wherein  it is held that the surviving husband  has power to alienate the community property pertaining to the conjugal partnership.

In reply to this contention  the  plaintiffs point  to  the fact that Rufina Velazquez died more than  thirty  years ago, and that shortly after that  event  the  plaintiffs, with their brother  Gaspar,  were placed  in possession  of  the property now in question by their father, since which time they have treated it as an undivided property belonging to them in common with their father; while during the same period the father himself has refrained from exercising any actual authority over the property adverse to the plaintiffs.  As a result of this state of  affairs, so it is contended, the ganancial partnership has ceased to exist and in lieu thereof has been substituted a sort of conventional partnership between the plaintiffs and  their father, which has had  the effect of terminating  his power  as surviving husband  and administrator of the conjugal estate.

We are of the opinion that this contention  of the plaintiffs is well founded.   At the time of the execution of the deed  upon  which  the defendant relies Felix Prades had been out of possession for twenty-five years, during which time his  children had enjoyed the  fruits of the land and had exercised over it all the indicia of ownership.   These facts  could not have  been unknown to the defendant, for the possession exercised by the plaintiffs, with their brother Gaspar, was  open and notorious to  all persons in the community who were in any wise acquainted with the property and its antecedent history.   As a result of these facts it must  be considered  that Felix  Prades had abdicated, or waived, his authority as surviving spouse, and that a mere conventional  community of ownership had been established between him  and his  children in place of the interest that he had held as surviving husband.   In Borja vs. Addison (44 Phil., 895-906), this court  said: "There is no  reason in law why the heirs  of the deceased wife may not form a partnership with the surviving husband for the management   and control  of  the  community  property of  the marriage  and conceivably  such a  partnership, or  rather community of property, between the heirs and surviving husband might be formed  without a written  agreement. *  *   * "  We think that the facts before us justify the conclusion that precisely this sort of arrangement was made in this case;  and the  only question  about which any doubt can reasonably exist is whether the acts of the parties were sufficiently notorious  to affect a third person with notice of the changed status of the property.   But in view of the long continued and  exclusive possession of the children, we are of the opinion that this question must be answered in the affirmative.

In  stating this conclusion the court does  not mean to impair in its substance the doctrine  stated  in the cases of Nable Jose vs. Nable Jose, supra, and Manuel and Laxamana vs. Losano, supra.  We merely mean to hold  that a husband administrator can  waive the rights  conceded to him in these  cases and that long continued possession, on the part of  the children, of property pertaining  to the ganancial  estate may  establish  an  ownership in common between them and  their father in  the  place  of the  community interest previously vested exclusively in him.

It results that  the defendant  acquired by virtue of the deed Exhibit 1 only the shares of Felix Prades and Gaspar Prades in  the property in  question, notwithstanding the fact that said deed  purports to convey the entire estate.

We  note that Candida Prades affixed her signature to the deed Exhibit 1 and  Dolores Prades also placed her finger  mark thereon.  If it  were clearly proved that these two plaintiffs were fully aware of the exact tenor of this document and had known that their father  and brother intended by  said instrument to convey away  the  whole property, including the interest  of the two witnesses, they would  undoubtedly be estopped  to assert the claim  which they now make in  this action,  but  Dolores says that she was given  to understand, at the time this  instrument was executed, that it  was intended merely as a recognition of indebtedness owing by Gaspar and that she arid her sister were unaware of the  true nature of the  instrument.  In view of their ignorance such  a misunderstanding  might easily  have arisen,  and we are unwilling to hold upon the facts before us that they are estopped.

From what has been said it follows that the four plaintiffs must  be declared to be the owners in common, with the defendant Tecson,  of an undivided four-fifths of the half, or four-tenths of the whole, of parcels 1 and 2, and to this extent the  cause will be reversed and remanded to the court  of origin  in order  that partition of the same may be effected.  The  judgment entered against the plaintiffs upon  the cross-complaint of the defendant will also be  reversed; but in connection  with the partition of lots 1 and 2, the plaintiffs will be required to account  to the defendant  for his proper portion of the produce of lot No. 1, for the  agricultural year 1923-1924, and subsequently; and the defendant  will be required on his part to account to the plaintiffs  for their proper  share of the produce of lot 2 during the same period.  The judgment in favor of the defendant, so far as regards parcel 3, is  affirmed, inasmuch as it does not clearly appear that this parcel had been  under the exclusive control of the plaintiffs, as was the case with the other two.   So ordered,  without costs.?

Avanceña, C. J., Villamor,  Ostrand, Johns, Romualdez, and Villa-Real, JJ., concur.