[ G.R. No. L-5711, December 29, 1953 ]
PEDRO PAESTE AND FELIX CARPIO, PLAINTIFFS AND APPELLANTS, VS. RUSTICO JAURIGUE, DEFENDANT AND APPELLEE.
D E C I S I O N
On motion of the defendant, the court dismissed the case on the grounds that plaintiffs' action had already prescribed, since "Under Article 1301 of the Spanish Civil Code of 1889 as well as under Section 43, Paragraph 3, of the Code of Civil Procedure and Article 1391 of the new Civil Code, an action for nullity in cases of intimidation or duress must be brought within 4 years from the date the cause of action accrued."
Plaintiffs asked for a reconsideration of the order of dismissal and, to meet the defense of prescription, also filed an amended complaint alleging that since the execution of the pacto de retro deed of May 3, 1945 by Felix Carpio, "defendant, with aid of armed men has continuously committed and employed threat, intimidation and duress against plaintiffs1 and with warning to the latter not to bring this incident and matter to the proper authorities under pain of death."
But the court denied reconsideration and disallowed the amended complaint whereupon plaintiffs brought the case to the Supreme Court by way of appeal, alleging that the appeal involves a purely legal question.
Appellants contend that the lower court erred in not admitting their amended complaint and in holding that their action had already prescribed. Appellants are right on both counts.
Amendments to pleadings are favored and should be liberally allowed in the furtherance of justice. (Torres vs. Tomacruz, 49 Phil. 913). Moreover, under section 1 of Rule 17, Rules of Court, a party may amend his pleading once as a matter of course, that is, without leave of court, at any time before a responsive pleading is served. A motion to dismiss is not a "responsive pleading." (Moran on the Rules of Court, vol. I, 1952 ed., p. 376). As plaintiffs amended their complaint before it was answered, the motion to admit the amendment should not have been denied. It is true that the amendment was presented after the original complaint had been ordered dismissed. But that order was not yet final for it was still under reconsideration.
As to the question of prescription, it is evident that, with the allegations in the amended complaint that the plaintiffs had executed the documents in question through force and intimidation, that defendant had been threatening plaintiffs with death if they took the matter to the authorities, and that these threats lasted until 1951, plaintiff's action does not appear to have prescribed, for, in these cases prescription does not begin to run until the party affected is perfectly free to go to court as he wishes. As Manresa says:
"El principio fundamental es, que comience la prescripcion cuando el vicio cesa, y, o se recobra la libertad cohibida, o se conoce la realidad ignorada o falseada. Por eso, tratandose de la violencia o intimidation, comienza el plazo cuando cesan estas, cuando la libertad del contratante reaparece; de donde se deduce que si despues de cesar la intimidacion o violencia que arranco el consentimiento, se emplean otras para impedir el ejercicio de la action de nulidad solo cuando estas fuerzas o amenazas posteriores desaparecen, comienza a transcurrir el plazo, y que al ejercerse aquellas (cuya prueba siempre incumbe al que las sufre), se interrumpe la prescription comenzada." (8 Comentarios al Codigo Civil Español, Manresa, pags. 797-798).
We also observe that the original complaint claims damages for fruits gathered from 1945 to 1951 from land held by defendant but different from the one covered by the documents in question. Not all of this claim is barred by prescription.
In view of the foregoing, the order dismissing the case and rejecting the amended complaint is hereby set aside and the case remanded to the court below for further proceedings. With costs. So ordered.
Paras, C. J., Pablo, Bengzon, Padilla, Tuason, Jugo, Bautista Angelo and Labrador, JJ., concur.