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UNIVERSITY OF THE PHILIPPINES

COLLEGE OF LAW
Malcolm Hall, Diliman, Quezon City

EXTINCTIVE PRESCRIPTION
(Articles 1106-1155, New Civil Code)

Submitted By:

Apalla, Vincent John P.


Barroga, Augustus Caesar D.
Belenzo, Ritzchelle C.
Castillo, Antonio Ramon L.
De Guzman, Robby Brian R.
de los Reyes, Maria Cristina D.
Marmeto, Gabriel R.
Tan, Candace Beatrice P.
Velez, Ramon Francisco R.
Group 3

Submitted To:
Professor Rommel J. Casis
LAW 101: Obligations and Contracts
2nd Semester, A.Y. 2017-2018
TABLE OF CONTENTS
EXTINCTIVE PRESCRIPTION
Introduction …………………………………………………………………………………. 1
Definition Prescription……………………………………………………………………..... 2
Kinds of Prescription……………………………………………………………………….... 2
Against whom prescription runs……………………………………………………………..7
In whose favor prescription runs…………………………………………………………… 10
Prescription of Action……………………………………………………………………….. 11
Prescription of Actions to Recover Movables…………………………………………….... 16
Possession through Good Faith………………………………………………………. 17
Possession through Crime……………………………………………………………. 19
Possession through Loss by Owner or Unlawful Deprivation……………………….. 20
Possession through Sale by a Person Who is not the Owner…………………............ 21
Prescription of Actions over Immovables…………………………………………….......... 22
Prescription of Mortgage Action……………………………………………………............ 23
Actions with 10 year prescription period………………………………………….............. 24
Action upon a written contract………………………………………………............. 24
Action upon an obligation created by law…………………………………................ 25
Action upon a judgment………………………………………………………........... 29
Actions with 6 year prescription period…………………………………………………… 30
Action upon an oral contract………………………………………………………… 30
Action upon a quasi-contract………………………………………………………... 30
Actions with 4 year prescription period…………………………………………………… 31
Action upon an injury to the rights of the plaintiff …………………………………. 32
Action upon quasi-delict…………………………………………………………….. 33
Actions with 1 year prescription period…………………………………………………… 34
Action forcible entry and detainer…………………………………………………… 35
Action for defamation……………………………………………………………....... 35
Other Actions………………………………………………………………………………... 35
How prescription period is counted………………………………………………………... 36
General Rule………………………………………………………………………………….. 36
For Obligations with Interest….……………………………………………………………… 38
For Action to Enforce Judgment……………………………………………………………… 38
For Action to Demand Accounting………………………………………………............ 39
Effect of Fortuitous Event on Prescription………………………………………………… 43
Interruption of Prescription………………………………………………………………… 44
Rights which do not prescribe……………………………………………………………… 47
Governing Law on Prescription……………………………………………………………. 48
INTRODUCTION
At present, the laws on prescription, which provides for its definition, scope, rules and
exceptions, are found in Articles 1106 to 1155 of Title V, Book 3 of the New Civil Code. From
1889 to 1901, prescription was governed by the provisions found in Title XVIII of the (Old)
Philippine Civil Code. Later on, Sections 38 to 50 of Act No. 190 or the Code of Civil Procedure
of the Philippine Islands provided for the rules on prescription for civil actions in the country. Act
No. 1901, formally known as “An Act Providing a Code of Procedure in Civil Actions in the
Philippine Islands,” was enacted by the Philippine Commission on August 7, 1901. Upon the
enactment of Republic Act No. 386 in 1950, said provisions on prescription were deemed repealed
by those provided under Title V of the New Civil Code.

The discussion in this treatise, while concentrated to the topic of prescription, is not limited
to Title V, Book 3 of the New Civil Code. As with most provisions under the Code, to fully
appreciate the extent of how prescription affects obligations and contracts, it is best discussed with
provisions found elsewhere, be it in other parts of the Code, the Family Code, Code of Commerce
or Philippine jurisprudence. Furthermore, this treatise discusses the subject matter thematically
and in relation to other relevant topics under the Code such as Property, Special Contracts, Trusts
and others. It aims to make the highly-technical topic of prescription easier to understand and more
interesting to its readers.

To better understand how this treatise was written, the reader should take note of the
following:

First, this treatise focuses on the principles that can be gleaned from the specific provisions
on prescription. Some of these provisions have been digested so that it will be easier to understand.

Second, the relevant provisions in other parts of the Code are also discussed to find out
how it affects the application of the law on prescription. These are incorporated in the body of the
text and more likely than not, paraphrased to fit the topic. Similarly, the original provisions are
either indicated, reworded, or found in the footnotes of this treatise.

1
Third, case law is used to show how these principles are interpreted and applied by the
Court. The cases are cited and the names, dates and other facts relevant to the discussion are kept.
For some provisions, examples are provided to illustrate the application of such principles.

Lastly, the Code is contrasted from the provisions under the Spanish Civil Code and
supplemented by the different commentaries of those considered to be authorities in Civil Law.

A. DEFINITION
Prescription, as defined by Article 1106 of the Civil Code of the Philippines, is when one
acquires ownership and other real rights through the lapse of time in the manner and under the
conditions laid down by law. In the same way, rights and conditions are lost by prescription.

According to Tolentino,1 by abandonment, negligence or carelessness, owners provided


with the most perfect titles may be deprived and dispossessed of their properties by usurpers who,
by the lapse of time specified by law, acquire the same by prescription.

The case of Morales v. Court of First Instance of Misamis Occidental 2 compared and
contrasted the two kinds of prescription.

Extinctive Prescription Acquisitive Prescription


Basis of Prescription
Paragraph 1 of Article 1106 Paragraph 2 of Article 1106
Also known as adverse possession and
Also known as limitation of action.
usucapcion.
Rights and actions are lost by the lapse of time.
This refers to the when the action should be
The acquisition of rights by the lapse of time
filed in the court from the time the action has
are under the conditions laid down by law,
accrued. Failure to file the action in within the
which may be ordinary or extra-ordinary.
timeframe bars the action due to the lapse of
the prescribed time.
Prescription as a Matter of Defense
It must be expressly relied upon in the
If the defense is that the occupant of property
pleadings. It cannot be availed of, unless
is the absolute owner because of acquisitive
specifically pleaded in the answer and it must
prescription, the plea of ownership would be
be proved or established with the same degree
sufficient to justify proof thereof, even if there
of certainty as any essential allegation in the
is no allegation of prescription of action.
civil action.

1
TOLENTINO IV, COMMENTARIES AND JURISPRUDENCE ON THE CIVIL CODE OF THE PHILIPPINES 2 (2002).
2
Morales v. Court of First Instance of Misamis Occidental, G.R. No. L-52278, May 29, 1980.

2
It is an error for the court to permit proof of
prescription if it’s not defensively pleaded and
the proof id objected to. However, when
plaintiff’s own allegations clearly show that
the action has prescribed, the Court may
dismiss the complaint on the ground of
prescription.
Ordinarily, the defense of the extinctive
prescription must be pleaded before trial.
However, it may be pleaded later as soon as the
true nature of the claim is discovered, if before
the trial a party has no means of knowing the
opponent’s claim is barred.
Difference
A way of extinguishing a cause of action for
A mode of acquiring ownership.
failure to file it within the required period.
One party is liberated from the obligation or A party becomes the owner of a property by
liability if the other party is barred to file an prescription while the previous owner loses the
action because of prescription. property.
Applies to all kinds of actions whether civil or
Applies to civil cases.
criminal. However, there are exceptions.3

In the case of Cutanda vs Heirs of Cutanda,4 Roberto Cutanda owned two parcels of land
located in Bohol. Upon his death, his five children (Doque, Diego, Pedro, Andres, and Anastacia)
inherited these two parcels of land. All of Roberto’s children established their residences in Leyte,
except for Doque who stayed in Bohol and administered the land. In 1987, they returned to Bohol
in order to personally work on the inherited parcels of land, but they discovered that they were
being occupied by the heirs of their uncles and aunts who refused to leave. They argued that the
land in question was owned by their late uncle, Anastacio Cutanda, who had died without children,
and left the parcels of land to his siblings, one of which Roberto Cutanda was. Moreover, they
claim that they have been in open, contiguous, adverse, and uninterrupted possession for 55 years
and claim rightful ownership of the lands.

3
Article 1143 and Article 1410 of the Civil Code of the Philippines.
4
Cutanda v. Heirs of Cutanda, G.R. No. 109215, July 11, 2000.

3
The Trial Court and the Court of Appeals both held that the private respondents’ action for
recovery of possession was already barred relying upon different grounds. The Trial Court ruled
that the ground was based on extinctive prescription, based on Paragraph 7, which states that:

7. Consequent to laches, plaintiffs right to the land having allowed the


defendants to possess, cultivate and claim as owners since 1933 up to
1987, their rights if any are lost by extinctive prescription and, therefore,
defendants have acquired the rights over the parcels of land by acquisitive
prescription.

On the other hand, the Court of Appeals held that the ground was based on laches. The
failure of the predecessors in interest of the Plaintiff-Appellants to assert their claim over the
disputed properties beginning when Anastacio Cutanda allegedly usurped the land bars the action
for recovery of possession of the land because of the 55-year period which constitutes laches.

The alleged tax declaration in Honorario Cutanda’s name that covered the seven-hectare
land was never presented in evidence, thus the ruling of the Court of Appeals that no sufficient
evidence as to ownership was affirmed. It is settled that the remedy for an action for recovery of
possession of land must be availed of within 10 years from dispossession.

Acquisitive Prescription
Acquisitive prescription of real rights may be ordinary or extraordinary. Ordinary
acquisitive prescription requires possession in good faith and with just title for 10 years. In
extraordinary prescription, ownership and other real rights over immovable property are acquired
through uninterrupted adverse possession for 30 years without need of title or of good faith. 5

Effect of Acquisitive Prescription


Tolentino6 believes that the view of Merlin, Dalloz, and Pothier that a natural obligation to
return the thing subsists. Our law considers an obligation barred by extinctive prescription as a
natural one (Art. 14247) and the same consideration can be given to the duty to return the thing to

5
Tan v. Ramirez, G.R. No. 158929, August 3, 2010.
6
TOLENTINO, supra note 1 at 2-3
7
Article 1424. When a right to sue upon a civil obligation has lapsed by extinctive prescription, the obligor who
voluntarily performs the contract cannot recover what he has delivered or the value of the service he has rendered.

4
its true owner after it has been acquired by prescription. Whatever is paid or delivered due to the
promptings of conscience, while equally strong and incessant, cannot be recovered. The voluntary
return of the property can be regarded as tacit renunciation of prescription. 8

The case of De Morales v. CFI9 discussed the difference between acquisitive and extinctive
prescription as follows: 10

Prescription was a statute of limitations. Whereas usucapcion expressly


'vests the property' and raised a new title in the occupant, prescription
did nothing more than bar the right of action. The concept most
fundamental to a system of title by possession is that the relationship
between the occupant and he land in terms of possession is capable of
producing legal consequences. In other words, it is the possessor who
is the actor. Under a statute of stations, however, one does not look to
the act of the possessor but to the neglect of the owner. In the former
the important feature is the claimant in possession, and in the latter it is
the owner out of possession which controls.

The case involved the recovery of possession, ownership, unpaid rentals and damages of
one-half of a piece of land and one-half of the house build in Ozamis City. Due to the fact that the
subject matter involved real or immovable property, it is extinctive prescription. The action had
not yet prescribed because less than thirty years11 had elapsed from August 12, 1963 to May 7,
1978. The respondent judge, relying on paragraph 2 of Article 1141 of the Civil Code, ruled that
the action was barred because defendants had acquired the subject matter through acquisitive
prescription of 10 years.12 However, this was a manifest error because the defendants did not claim
acquisitive prescription in their answer as the law requires the one who asserts ownership by

8
Article 1112. Persons with capacity to alienate property may renounce prescription already obtained, but not the
right to prescribe in the future.
9
De Morales v. CFI, G.R. No. L-52278, May 29, 1980.
10
Montgomery, Prescriptive Acquisition of land Titles, XXVI, Philippine Law Journal, 353, 356-357 [195].
11
Article 1141. Real actions over immovables prescribe after thirty years.
This provision is without prejudice to what is established for the acquisition of ownership and other real rights by
prescription.
12
Article 1136. Possession in wartime, when the civil courts are not open, shall not be counted in favor of the
adverse claimant.

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adverse possession to prove the presence of essential elements of ordinary acquisitive
prescription.13 On the contrary, this was not done by defendants before the judge dismissed the
complaint against them.

Prescription and Laches


The case of Maneclang v. Baun14 distinguished prescription from laches. While
prescription is concerned with the fact of delay, laches, on the other hand, is concerned with the
effects of delay. The former is a matter of time, while the latter is a question of inequity permitting
a claim to be enforced founded on some change in the condition of the property or the relation of
the parties.

In the said case, it was held that the proper ground for holding private respondents’ action
was barred by prescription. Article 1106 of the Civil Code of the Philippines provides that by
prescription, one acquires ownership and other real rights through the laps of time, in the manner
and under the conditions laid down by law, as provided by the Code. There are two kinds of
prescription, namely: acquisitive prescription and extinctive prescription. In acquisitive
prescription, one acquires the right by the lapse of time. In extinctive prescription, one loses the
right of action because of the lapse of time. Private respondents did not assert ownership over the
land until 1988 which was 55 years later, when they filed their complaint for recovery of
possession. It is settled that the remedies of accion publiciana (action for recovery of possession)
or accion reivindicatoria must be availed of within 10 years from dispossession. The Court set
aside the decision of the Court of Appeals and declared the petitioners to be the true and lawful
owners of the parcel of land.

Retroactivity of Prescription
The acquisition of ownership or other real rights through prescription is retroactive; once
the period is completed, the new owner is considered as having acquired the thing or right from
the moment the period began to run

13
a) good faith, b) just title which is never presumed but must be proved, according to Article 1131, Civil Code, and
c) the lapse of time fixed by law (Article 1117, paragraph 2).
14
Maneclang v. Baun, 208 SCRA 179, 193 (1992)

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B. AGAINST WHOM/ IN WHOSE FAVOR
Article 110815 clarifies that incapacity, absence, being overseas, and being a juridical
person are not absolute bars for prescription, acquisitive or extinctive.

In the case of the first three, the Code provides that prescription runs against natural persons
who are incapacitated, absent, or abroad, when they have lawful representatives or administrators
who can act on their behalf. Further, juridical persons are not exempt from prescription, unless it
is the State or its subdivisions, in which case prescription will not run.

Minors and other incapacitated persons are subject to the Code of Civil Procedure, which
provides for title to land by prescription. Here, Tolentino 16 points to Sections 4217 and 45.18 Such
persons may bring such action despite the lapse of the 10-year prescription period within three
years after such disability is removed.

The Code of Civil Procedure also provides that if the same such persons are entitled to
bring any action subject to extinctive prescription aside from suits on title to land, then they may
bring action within two years after the disability is removed. The New Civil Code modifies the
rule. When the minor or other incapacitated person has a legal representative, Article 1108 of the
New Civil Code may apply; on the other hand, if the minor or other incapacitated person has no
such legal representative, then the provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure may apply.

15
Article 1108. Prescription, both acquisitive and extinctive, runs against:
(1) Minors and other incapacitated persons who have parents, guardians or other legal representatives;
(2) Absentees who have administrators, either appointed by them before their disappearance, or appointed by the
courts;
(3) Persons living abroad, who have managers or administrators;
(4) Juridical persons, except the State and its subdivisions.
Persons who are disqualified from administering their property have a right to claim damages from their legal
representatives whose negligence has been the cause of prescription.
16
TOLENTINO, supra note 1 at 5-6.
17
Sec. 42. If the person entitled to bring the action mentioned in the preceding sections of this chapter (title to land
by prescription) is, at the time the cause of the action accrues, within the age of minority, of unsound mind, or in
prison, such person may, after the expiration of ten years (the period of prescription provided for title to lands) from
the time the cause of the action accrues, bring such action within three years after such disability is removed.
18
Sec. 45. If a person entitled to bring any action mentioned in either of the two last preceding sections (extinctive
prescriptions in all other civil actions aside from suits on title of land) is, at the time the cause of action accrues,
within the age of minority, or unsound mind, or in prison, such person may bring such action within two years after
the disability is removed.

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Additionally, the latter Code applies only when the incapacitated person is so disabled at the time
the period of prescription began.

In Vda. De Alberto v. Court of Appeals,19 the Court held that where an illegitimate child,
who had a living natural mother, filed a petition for acknowledgment and partition past the four-
year prescription period (as in Article 285(1), New Civil Code) after the death of the father,
prescription indeed had set in. The illegitimate child fell squarely under the present Article.

Absentees are generally exempt from prescription. This exemption is invalid when the
absentee leaves an administrator, or the court appoints one for him. Further, Sta. Maria 20 adds that
where it is shown that the absentee is able to return to his domicile and resume managing his
affairs, yet refuses to do so, prescription also runs against him. The same goes for a person who is
abroad.

Lastly, juridical persons are generally the subject of prescription. However, as the Court
said in Republic v. Grijaldo,21 “Under paragraph 4 of Article 1108 of the Civil Code prescription,
both acquisitive and extinctive, does not run against the State” (emphasis in the original). Here, it
is important to note whether or not the State or any of its subdivisions is acting in its sovereign
capacity. If, in fact, an instrumentality of the Government was acting in a proprietary capacity, as
was the case for the GOCC petitioner in National Development Company v. Tobia,22 then
prescription will run against it.

In Article 1109,23 the Code exempts civil actions from prescribing as between husband and
wife; parents and children, during the minority or insanity of the latter; and guardian and ward,
during the guardianship.

19
Vda. De Alberto v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 29759, May 18, 1989.
20
STA. MARIA, JR., OBLIGATIONS AND CONTRACTS: TEXT AND CASES 5 (2003).
21
Republic v. Grijaldo, G.R. No. L-20240, December 31, 1965.
22
National Development Company v. Tobia, G.R. No. L-17467, April 23, 1963.
23
Article 1109. Prescription does not run between husband and wife, even though there be a separation of property
agreed upon in the marriage settlements or by judicial decree.
Neither does prescription run between parents and children, during the minority or insanity of the latter, and between
guardian and ward during the continuance of the guardianship.

8
Prescription between spouses is not allowed during marriage. The reason behind this is the
close relationship between them, which engenders “influence or affection,” 24 even when there
exists a separation of property between them. However, the law may provide for a period of
prescription in actions between spouses, like actions for legal separation (Article 57, Family Code),
actions for annulment (Article 47, Family Code) or objections to the husband’s decisions in the
administration and enjoyment of common property (Articles 96 and 124, Family Code).

A similar reason can be supplied as basis for the law regarding parent and child. Filiation
is a strong natural tie that involves the same degree of influence or affection. Again, the law may
specifically provide otherwise. For example, the Family Code provides the following: 25

The action to impugn the legitimacy of the child shall be brought within
one year from the knowledge of the birth or its recording in the civil
register, if the husband or, in a proper case, any of his heirs, should
reside in the city or municipality where the birth took place or was
recorded.

The bases of the above are absent in exempting prescription between guardian and ward.
Instead, the Code here aims to protect the ward from abuses of the guardian in managing the ward’s
affairs.

Article 111026 extends the rules on prescription to run against, or in favor of, married
women. The New Civil Code provides expressly for these women to enhance their rights and
clarify their attendant obligations, to address the poor status of married women under the Spanish
Civil Code and Old Civil Code. In a paper submitted to the Louisiana Law Review, Lucy
Sponsler27 explicated the systematic restriction of the rights of married women under 19 th century
Spanish law, on which the Old Civil Code was heavily based. She summarizes:

If previous reasons for restricting the rights and duties of married


women included [the courts’] lack of experience, the modified laws of

24
STA. MARIA, JR. supra note 20 at 7.
25
Article 170, Family Code of the Philippines.
26
Article 1110. Prescription, acquisitive and extinctive, runs in favor of, or against a married woman.
27
Sponsler, The Status of Married Women Under the Legal System of Spain, 42 La. L. Rev. (1982), p. 1628.

9
the Spanish Codigo Civil should permit them to overcome such
inexperience, a situation in effect created by the limitations upon their
actions imposed for centuries by the legal system.

By way of proof, there are many provisions in the present code to which to point. The
second paragraph of Article 39 provides, “A married woman, twenty-one years of age or over, is
qualified for all acts of civil life, except in cases specified by law.” A married woman may also
dispose of her paraphernal property without consent of her husband and appear for the purpose in
court alone (Article 140, New Civil Code). Such civil actions expressly opened to married women
by the Code, the rules on prescription, acquisitive or extinctive, must likewise apply.

Article 111128 provides that prescription benefits all co-owners or co-proprietors, even if
only one obtained the prescription. There is co-ownership when an undivided thing or right belongs
to more than one person. On its face, the Code appears not to require the other co-owners to ratify
possession of the thing or right for the Article to operate. Tolentino 29 reconciles this Article with
another provision, Article 532, saying that only when the prescription relates to the thing or right
owned in common is ratification unnecessary. This seems to go without saying, as Article 532
itself points out that “possession [of that thing or right] shall not be considered as acquired until
the person in whose name the act of possession was executed has ratified the same;” that is, before
which ratification, the other persons are not yet legally in possession of the thing or right nominally
co-owned. In fine, the controversy is imagined.

In Sunga v. De Guzman30, six of nine sibling co-owners of a fishpond resisted the claims
of their three other siblings over their shares of the harvest therefrom, by way of prescription. On
contesting the non-dismissal of the case for the non-inclusion of indispensable parties, the Court
has occasion to say:

Even by virtue of express provisions of law, representative suits that


need not be joined by all parties in the same status or condition, and
linked together with a common interest, are permissible. Thus anyone

28
Article 1111. Prescription obtained by a co-proprietor or a co-owner shall benefit the others.
29
TOLENTINO supra note 1 at 7.
30
Sunga v. De Guzman, G.R. No. L-25847, June 19, 1979.

10
of the co-owners may bring an action for ejectment (Article 487, Civil
Code), while prescription obtained by a co-proprietor or a co-owner
shall benefit the others (Article 1111, Civil Code). Moreover, non-
joinder of parties, is not a ground to dismiss an action.

Article 111431 confers upon creditors and other persons interested in the effectivity of the
prescription the right to avail thereof. This provision applies particularly to extinctive prescription.
The Article permits this even as against the debtor’s or proprietor’s renunciation, express or
implied. This is so because while rights may be waived, third persons with a right recognized by
law should not be prejudiced.

To illustrate: A owes B a plot of land worth P480,000. C guarantees A’s indebtedness with
the cash equivalent. A fails to deliver the land by the time payment has prescribed, but A waives
the prescription so that B can still collect the land from her. A’s failure again to deliver prompts B
to demand the cash equivalent guaranteed by C. Under Article 1114, guarantor C can validly resist
payment and claim that the payment has prescribed, since he is not to be prejudiced by A’s waiver
of the prescription.

C. PRESCRIPTION OF ACTIONS
Prescription is mode of extinguishment of an obligation provided by the Code. 32

The obligation in question typically involves a creditor with a cause of action against a
debtor for the recovery of property. As it works by operation of law, it necessarily affects the rights
of both the creditor and the debtor. Generally, when an action prescribes, the creditor loses any
right to recover and the debtor enjoys full possession of the object of the prestation.

31
Article 1114. Creditors and all other persons interested in making the prescription effective may avail themselves
thereof notwithstanding the express or tacit renunciation by the debtor or proprietor.
32
Article 1231. Obligations are extinguished:
(1) By payment or performance:
(2) By the loss of the thing due:
(3) By the condonation or remission of the debt;
(4) By the confusion or merger of the rights of creditor and debtor;
(5) By compensation;
(6) By novation.
Other causes of extinguishment of obligations, such as annulment, rescission, fulfillment of a resolutory condition,
and prescription, are governed elsewhere in this Code.

11
The Code sets the rules and the conditions in which prescription applies.

How Actions Prescribe:


Art. 1139 of the Code sets the rule that “actions prescribe by the mere lapse of time fixed
by law.” The law fixes the time within which an action may be filed.

What the article contemplates is that the lapse of the period of prescription provided by law
has the effect of extinguishing the action. It follows then that there is no extinctive prescription
unless the period provided by law expires. The period must lapse first before it prescribes,
otherwise, an action may be filed.

In cases where there is a mere delay in the enforcement of a claim, it does not result in any
reduction or loss of right, unless the full period required by law for prescription has expired.

If the period prescribed by law lapses, the action cannot be filed anymore. This set of
provisions33 dealing with prescription of actions is known as the Statute of Limitations.

Creditors May Plead Prescription


A creditor can still plead the prescription and resist payment, even if a person bound by the
obligation renounces the prescription. 34 However, prescription pleaded by one creditor does not
inure to the benefit of another creditor.35

Prescription as a Defense
Prescription is primarily used as a defense against actions as the effect is that if the period
has already prescribed, the action filed will be dismissed outright. However, there are certain
requirements before the defense of prescription can be availed of.

First it must be specially pleaded in the answer.

33
Book 3, Title V, Chapter 1, New Civil Code.
34
STA. MARIA, JR. supra note 20 at 44.
35
TOLENTINO supra note 1 at 13.

12
Second, it must be proven with the same degree of certainty by which any essential
allegation in the pleadings is established.36

This defense is a unique one which the debtor alone can plead, as he stands to be compelled
to reconvey an object as long as the obligation subsists until the prescription period provided by
law lapses.37

The courts of justice cannot supply the defense if the debtor himself does not do so. 38 It is
thus erroneous for the Court to permit proof of prescription, if it has not been defensively pleaded
and such proof is objected to.39

However, in cases that the complaint was dismissed on some other ground but as long as
the defendant raised the defense of prescription in his answer to the complaint, he can still set up
in his brief in the appellate court in an appeal by the plaintiff from the decision of the trial court. 40

Interesting to note is that the Court held that if the issue of prescription can be decided from
the averments of the pleadings, more particularly from the plaintiff’s complaint, there is no
necessity of receiving evidence on the matter, before the Court may dismiss the complaint on the
ground of prescription.41

As stated in the case of Antonio, Jr. v. Morales,42 the statute of limitation was devised to
operate primarily against those who slept on their rights and not against those desirous to act but
could not do so for causes beyond their control.

Basing his argument on Article 1145 of the Civil Code, that provides that actions based on
oral contracts prescribe in six years, petitioner Antonio, Jr. had filed a motion to dismiss the
complaint on the ground of prescription based on the ground of the oral contract for a sum of
money. Seven years had elapsed between August 14, 1995, when he received the respondent’s last

36
Calma v. Calma, G.R. No. 34004. September 12, 1931; Hodges v. Salas, G.R. No. L-42958. October 21, 1936;
and Montilla v. Pacific Commercial, G.R. No. L-8223, December 20, 1955.
37
King v. Hicky, 2 La. Ann. 367.
38
Supra note 37.
39
National Bank v. Escudero, G.R. No. L-47921, April 30, 1941.
40
Lapuz v. Sy Uy, G.R. No. L-10079, May 17, 1957.
41
Bambao, et al. v. Lednicky, et al., G.R. No. L-15495, January 28, 1961.
42
Antonio, Jr. v. Morales, G.R. No. 165552, January 23, 2007.

13
letter of demand, and September 23, 2002, when respondent had filed the civil case. The court
held that the petition lacked merit based on Articles 1139, 43 1145,44 and 115545 of the Civil Code.

In this jurisdiction, the common law definition of prescription as a mere lapse of time does
not apply here. In order to abandon a lawful claim or cause of action, there must be a categorical
showing that due to the plaintiff’s negligence, inaction, lack of interest, or intent to abandon,
allowing the statute of limitations to bar any subsequent suit.

In the case at bar, the fact that the respondent had filed with the Regional Trial Court
showed his intention to enforce his rights. Respondent acted swiftly after the dismissal of his case
and filed with the Court of Appeals. Although the Court of Appeals acted after one year, causing
the delay of filing his new complaint, this was beyond his control. There was no inaction or lack
of interest on the part of Morales. The court denied the petition.

Waiver of Prescription
The right to prescription may be waived or renounced. 46

In MD Transit and Taxi Co. v. Estrella,47 the Court deemed that prescription is waived if
not timely raised or pleaded before or during the hearing of the case.

However, the Court held in later cases 48 that even if not pleaded, if it is apparent on the
face of the complaint, it may be favorably considered, even after evidence is adduced. To add, the
defense of prescription is not deemed waived for failure to allege the same in an answer or a motion
to dismiss.49

43
Article 1139. Actions prescribe by the mere lapse of time fixed by law.
44
Article 1145. The following actions must be commenced within six years:
(1) Upon an oral contract;
(2) Upon a quasi-contract.
45
Article 1155. The prescription of actions is interrupted when they are filed before the court, when there is a
written extrajudicial demand by the creditors, and when there is any written acknowledgment of the debt by the
debtor.
46
Development Bank of the Philippines v. Adil, G.R. No. L-48889, May 11, 1989; and Bustarga v. Navo, G.R. No.
L-48153, April 30, 1984.
47
MD Transit and Taxi Co, Inc. v. Estrella, G.R. No. L-52188, March 30, 1982.
48
Aznar III v. Bernad, G.R. No. 81190, May 9, 1988; Pascua v. Florendo, G.R. No. L-39047, April 30, 1985; Vda.
de Portugal v. Intermediate Appellate Court, G.R. No. 73564, March 25, 1988.
49
Ferrer v. Ericta, G.R. No. L-41767, August 23, 1978.

14
In the case of Vda de Rigonan v. Derecho,50 it was held that since petitioners had been in
continuous possession and enjoyment of the disputed land for a length of time that had never been
questioned, there can be no doubt that they obtained title to it by acquisitive prescription.

The right to prescription may be renounced or waived. It is deemed waived if not timely
raised or pleaded before or during the hearing of the case. As held in the case of DBP v. Adil,51 a
party waives the benefit of prescription when he acknowledges the correctness of a debt and
promises to pay it after the same has prescribed with full knowledge of the prescription. Even if
not pleaded, if it is apparent on the face of the complaint it may be favorably considered, even after
evidence is adduced.

The rationale behind prescription of actions is to prevent fraudulent and stale claims from
springing up at great distances of time, thus surprising the parties or their representatives when the
facts have become obscure due to the lapse of time or the defective memory or death or removal
of the witness.52 In the case of US v. Serapio53 the Supreme Court held that the prescription of an
action refers to the time within which an action must be brought after the right of action has
accrued. Prescriptive statutes are meant to protect those who are diligent and vigilant, not those
who sleep on their rights.

Effect of Death on Prescription


In Martir, et al. v. Trinidad.54 the Court was tasked to determine if a father who had a cause
of action against a stranger but died before the end of the prescriptive period continues to run even
if his children are still minors.

The Court held that the prescriptive period continued because the cause of action accrued
in favor of the father himself, and not directly in favor of the children. Except where a statute
provides otherwise, one disability (like the father’s death) cannot be tacked to another’s disability
(like the children’s minority). Nor can a party avail himself of several disabilities, unless they all
existed at the time when the right of action accrued. This is in obedience to the universal rule that

50
Vda de Rigonan v. Derecho, G. R. No. 159571, July 15, 2005.
51
Supra note 46.
52
Antonio Jr. v. Morales, G.R. No. 165552, January 23, 2007.
53
US v. Serapio, G.R. No. L-7557, December 7, 1912.
54
Martir, et al. v. Trinidad, G.R. No. L-12057, May 20, 1959.

15
when a Statute begins to run, no subsequent disability can stop its operation unless specially so
provided in the statute.

Conflicts of Foreign and Local Law Re: Prescription


As prescription is provided by law, there are instances where prescription laws of different
jurisdictions come into conflict.

One such case is D’Almeida v Hagedorn55 which involves both debtor and creditor who
were residing in Hong Kong until liberation. An action was brought in 1954 in the Philippines on
two demand notes executed in 1942 and 1943 in Hong Kong. The Court, in applying the rule that
the moratorium law suspended the running of the prescriptive period and that therefore the action
had not prescribed, ruled that prescription is governed by the law of the forum. It would seem from
this ruling that even if the cause of action accrued in Hong Kong and has already prescribed under
Hong Kong law, it has not yet prescribed under Philippine law.

This seems to lose sight of a section of Act 190 (Code of Civil Procedure) which states that
“if, by the laws of the State or country where the cause of action arose, the action is barred, it is
also barred in the Philippines.” In the instant case however, there was no proof that the claim was
barred under Hong Kong law, and it is well-settled that in the absence of proof of the foreign law,
it is presumed to be the same as Philippine law.

Periods of Prescription
The Code provides different periods in which actions prescribes corresponding to different
actions. For the purpose of computing the prescriptive period where there is a leap year involved,
the 28th and 29th of February should be counted as separate days, not as one day. 56

1. ACTIONS TO RECOVER MOVABLES


The Code provides that when a person loses possession of a movable property, his action
to recover such shall prescribe after eight years. 57

55
D’Almeida v. Hagedorn, G.R. No. L-10804, May 22, 1957.
56
People of the Philippines v. Socorro C. Ramos, G.R. No. L-25265, May 9, 1978.
57
Article 1140. Actions to recover movables shall prescribe eight years from the time the possession thereof is lost,
unless the possessor had acquired the ownership by prescription for a less period, according to Article 1132, and
without prejudice to the provisions of Articles 559, 1505 and 1133.

16
A precursor to this provision, Article 1962a of the Spanish Civil Code provides:

Real actions in respect to personal property are prescribed by the lapse


of six years after the loss of the possession., unless the possessor has,
during a shorter term, gained the ownership in accordance with Art
1955, and with the exception of the cases of loss and public sale, and
those of theft and robbery, in which cases the provision of paragraph
third of said article shall rule.

The period has been extended to eight years and like its predecessor, it comes with some
modifications and exceptions.

1.a. Possession through Good Faith (Ordinary Prescription)


Although the general rule is that the prescription period for recovery of movable property
is eight years, the Code provides some modifications.

First of which is Art.1140 which provides the clause “unless the possessor had acquired
the ownership by prescription for a less period, according to Article 1132.” Meaning that assuming
all the requisites of an ordinary acquisitive prescription of movable property are present, the
possessor of the same becomes the owner of the movable property after only four years
uninterrupted possession in good faith.58

For this to apply, possession must likewise be in the concept of an owner, public, peaceful
and uninterrupted.59

Possession in the concept of an owner meant that it must be in concepto de dueño.60 This
means that the possessor asserts dominion on the property to the exclusion of all others. It must be
an adverse possession.61

58
Article 1132. The ownership of movables prescribes through uninterrupted possession for four years in good faith.
The ownership of personal property also prescribes through uninterrupted possession for eight years, without need
of any other condition.
59
Article 1118.
60
Harden v. Harde, G.R. No. L-22174, July 21, 1967.
61
Cuayong v. Benedicto, G.R. No. 9989, March 13, 1918.

17
Public possession means that there must be a notorious holding of the property.

Peaceful possession means that for the period of years required by law for acquisitive
prescription to apply, there must be no valid interference from others claiming or asserting their
rights to the property.

Uninterrupted possession means that it must not be of a surreptitious character because it


must be in the concept of an owner.

The possessor in good faith is characterized to be of the “belief that the person from whom
he received the thing was its owner and could transfer valid title thereto.” 62

Article 1128 provides that “The conditions of good faith required for possession in Articles
526, 527, 528, and 529 of this Code are likewise necessary for the determination of good faith in
the prescription of ownership and other real rights.”

He is deemed a possessor in good faith who is not aware that there exists in his title or
mode of acquisition any flaw which invalidates it. 63 He is deemed a possessor in bad faith who
possesses in any case contrary to the foregoing. Mistake upon a doubtful or difficult question of
law may be the basis of good faith. Good faith is always presumed, and upon him who alleges bad
faith on the part of a possessor rests the burden of proof. 64 Possession acquired in good faith does
not lose this character except in the case and from the moment facts exist which show that the
possessor is not unaware that he possesses the thing improperly or wrongfully 65 and it is presumed
that possession continues to be enjoyed in the same character in which it was acquired, until the
contrary is proved.66

62
Article 1127. The good faith of the possessor consists in the reasonable belief that the person from whom he
received the thing was the owner thereof, and could transmit his ownership.
63
Article 526. He is deemed a possessor in good faith who is not aware that there exists in his title or mode of
acquisition any flaw which invalidates it. He is deemed a possessor in bad faith who possesses in any case contrary
to the foregoing. Mistake upon a doubtful or difficult question of law may be the basis of good faith.
64
Article 527. Good faith is always presumed, and upon him who alleges bad faith on the part of a possessor rests
the burden of proof.
65
Article 528. Possession acquired in good faith does not lose this character except in the case and from the moment
facts exist which show that the possessor is not unaware that he possesses the thing improperly or wrongfully.
66
Article 529. It is presumed that possession continues to be enjoyed in the same character in which it was acquired,
until the contrary is proved.

18
This would follow that if the possessor had the movable property in question through bad
faith, it would follow the rule as indicated by Art 1132(2), which provides, “The ownership of
personal property also prescribes through uninterrupted possession for eight years, without need
of any other condition.”

Necessary to point out is that this reverting back to eight years is not limited to cases where
bad faith is present. The clause “without need of any other condition” refers to extraordinary
prescription which encompasses other situations where a possessor acquires a property not in good
faith. However, this has an exception under Article 1133.

1.b. Possession through Crime


When a possessor acquires the movable property through a crime, the general rule is that
he is barred from availing the benefit of prescription.67

No one must benefit from an evil act. Hence, if A stole B’s car, A cannot acquire title to it
even if the prescriptive period has already lapsed and even if B did not make a demand for the
return of the car. This is true in ordinary and extraordinary prescriptions.

However, in the case of Tan v. Court of Appeals,68 where the petitioner claimed that,
through bad faith and fraud, he was led to assign his shares of stocks in 1977 to three corporate
entities, and where the case to reconvey the same was filed only in 1987, the Supreme Court ruled
that the action was barred by prescription by stating, among others, that Article 1133 did not apply,
thus:

Where, however, the thing was acquired through a crime, the offender
cannot acquire ownership by prescription under Article 1133, which we
quote:

Art. 1133. Movables possessed through a crime can never be acquired


through prescription by the offender.

67
Article 1133. Movables possessed through a crime can never be acquired through prescription by the offender.
68
Tan v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 90356, March 18, 1991.

19
Please note that under the above Article, the benefits of prescription are
denied to the offender; nonetheless, if the thing was in the meanwhile
passed to a subsequent holder, prescription begins to run (four or eight
years, depending on the existence of good faith).

From this decision we glean the following:

1. Only the offender is barred from availing of the benefit of prescription.


2. Subsequent acquirers from the “offender” may acquire the property from prescription.

It is difficult to say, in this regard, that the petitioners’ action is after all, imprescriptible
pursuant to the provisions of Article 1133 of the Civil Code, governing actions to recover loss by
means of a crime. For one thing, the complaint was not brought upon this theory. For another,
there is nothing there that suggests that the loss of the shares was indeed made possible by a
criminal act, other than simple bad faith and probably abuse of right.

1.c. Possession through Loss by Owner or Unlawful Deprivation


In the case Dizon v. Suntay69, The owner of a diamond ring entrusted the same to Clarita
Sison for the latter to sell upon promise of a commission. Instead of selling, Clarita pledged the
ring to a pawnshop. As soon as he learned of the pledge, the owner tried to get back the ring from
the pawnshop owner, but the latter refused. The issue here was whether or not the owner
successfully get the ring back? If so, does the owner have to pay the pawnshop owner the amount
borrowed by Clarita? Under Art. 559 of the Civil Code, the owner can successfully get back the
ring, and he does not have to reimburse the pawnshop owner the money lent to Clarita. This is
because the ring owner had been “unlawfully deprived” of the same, and this right to recover
cannot be defeated even if the pawnshop had acquired possession of the ring in good faith.

Article 559 of the Code provides, “The possession of movable property acquired in good
faith is equivalent to a title. Nevertheless, one who has lost any movable or has been unlawfully
deprived thereof may recover it from the person in possession of the same.”

69
Dizon v. Suntay, G.R. No. L-30817, September 29, 1972.

20
From the provision, mere possession of the movable property does not automatically confer
title to the possessor. In fact, it sets that if the possessor is in bad faith or if the true owner lost or
has been unlawfully deprived from his property, it necessarily means that he does not have a title
to the said property. One needs to be a possessor in good faith to be considered to have a title but
it is by no means permanent and the true owner can still recover it.

This distinction is important because it affects the action for recovery as in the case above.
A true owner who tries to recover from a possessor in good faith cannot without reimbursing first
the amount that the latter has paid to acquire the property, as he is considered to have a “title.” On
the other hand, if he is a possessor in bad faith, or he has acquired it through the loss of the true
owner or by unlawfully depriving the same, then the owner can recover without reimbursing the
possessor.

However, if another person acquires the movable property in good faith even if it was
originally possessed through loss by the true owner or through unlawful deprivation, then the
ordinary prescription period of four years for a possessor in good faith applies. The same goes for
extraordinary prescription of eight years for any other case like bad faith and loss except for those
possessed through unlawful deprivation which are imprescriptible.

1. d. Possession through Sale of an Object by a Person Who is Not the Owner Thereof
The general rule under Article 1505 is that when a person buys goods from a person who
is not the owner of the said goods, then the buyer acquires no better title to the goods.

No one can give what he does not have –– nemo dat quod non habet. Therefore, even if a
person be a bona fide purchaser, he succeeds only to the rights of the vendor. 70 If the seller is not
the owner, the sale is null and void.71 Thus, also, if a vendee buys a parcel of land the certificate
of title to which contains an inscription requiring his seller to execute a deed of sale of a portion
of the lot in favor of another person, he merely acquires all the rights which his seller may have
over the land subject to the right of such third person. He cannot claim otherwise for he cannot

70
U.S. v. Sotelo, G.R. No. L-9791, October 3, 1914.
71
Arnido v. Francisco, G.R. No. L-6764, June 30, 1954.

21
acquire more than what his seller can convey.72 If an illegitimate mother sells her children’s land
to another, the buyer does not become the owner because the seller was not. 73

The exception is that if the seller is given authority to dispose of such or if the object was
sold with the owner’s consent. Another exception is that, this provision does not affect:

1. The provisions of any factors’ act, recording laws or any other provision of law enabling
the apparent owner of goods to dispose of them as if he were the true owner thereof;

2. The validity of any contract of sale under statutory power of sale or under the order of a
court of competent jurisdiction;

3. Purchases made in a merchant’s store, or in fairs, or markets, in accordance with the Code
of Commerce and special laws.74

Apart from the three enumerated above, the same ordinary and extraordinary prescription
periods indicated in Articles 1140 and 1132 still apply.

2. REAL ACTIONS OVER IMMOVABLES


Under the Spanish Civil Code, Article 1963 states:

Real actions in respect to real property are prescribed after thirty years.

This provision is understood without prejudice to what is provided in


respect to the acquisition of ownership or of real rights by prescription.

This is similar to the Code which sets the prescriptive period in connection with
immovables to be thirty years.75 This refers to extraordinary prescription for immovables.

However if within the thirty-year period, all the requisites for ordinary acquisitive
prescription are already present in favor of the possessor, then the possessor shall be considered

72
Bacolod Murcia Milling Co., Inc. v. De Leon, et al., G.R. No. L-11587, September 17, 1958.
73
Bustamante v. Azarcon, G.R. No. L-8939, May 28, 1957.
74
Article 1505. Subject to the provisions of this Title, where goods are sold by a person who is not the owner
thereof, and who does not sell them under authority or with the consent of the owner, the buyer acquires no better
title to the goods than the seller had, unless the owner of the goods is by his conduct precluded from denying the
seller's authority to sell.
75
Article 1141. Real actions over immovables prescribe after thirty years.

22
the owner of the property after ten years of uninterrupted, adverse, public possession of the
property in the concept of an owner in good faith. 76 In extraordinary acquisitive prescription, if the
immovable property is adversely in the possession of the possessor for thirty years, the right to sue
prescribes with the acquisition of the title.

In De Jesus v. Court of Appeals: 77

Under the present Civil Code, the prescriptive period required for the
acquisition of immovable property is 10 years if the possession is in good
faith, and 30 years if in bad faith. Such open, continuous, exclusive and
notorious occupation of the disputed property for 30 years must be
conclusively established.

Reckoned from the time she executed the affidavit of adjudication in 1961, eleven years
after the New Civil Code had taken effect, private respondent’s possession of the contested lot is
far too short of the prescriptive period of 30 years, considering that her possession is in bad faith.
The filing of the petition for recovery of ownership and possession and quieting of title by
petitioners on Apr. 27, 1973 was well below the acquisitive prescriptive period for private
respondent, which is 30 years under Art. 1141 of the present Civil Code. In this case, the statutory
period of prescription is deemed to have commenced when petitioners were made aware of a claim
adverse to them, i.e., when the affidavit of adjudication was duly registered with the Registry of
Deeds which, at the earliest may be considered to be in 1974, when private respondent was able to
secure a tax declaration in her name.

3. MORTGAGE ACTION
However for mortgages, it only prescribes after ten years. 78

76
Article 1134. Ownership and other real rights over immovable property are acquired by ordinary prescription
through possession of ten years.
77
De Jesus v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 57092, January 21, 1993.
78
Article 1142. A mortgage action prescribes after ten years.

23
In Nabong v. Luzon Surety Co, Inc, the Court was asked from what moment must the 10-
year period be counted and the Court decreed that it should be counted from the day on which it
could have been brought. (Art. 1150, Civil Code).79

In Buhat v Besana80 and DBP v Tomeldan81 the Court was asked if registering a mortgage
prevents the action from prescribing and the Court said that the fact that a mortgage is registered
does not make the action to foreclose it imprescriptible, the action to foreclose upon it may still
prescribe.

In Soriano v. Enriquez82, the Court also said that if a mortgage debt had already prescribed, so
also has the action to recover interest thereon. A mortgage is an accessory contract. It is constituted
to secure a debt so that if the debtor fails to pay the principal obligation, the creditor can foreclose
on the mortgage by selling the same in a public sale or bidding and the proceeds thereof are used
to pay off the principal debt and interest if any. If there is any deficiency, the creditor can still go
against the principal debtor to collect such deficiency.

In Development Bank of the Philippines v. Tomeldan83 where the creditor, after extra-judicially
foreclosing the property of the debtor on September 15, 1967, filed on March 14, 1977 a civil case
to claim the deficiency, the Supreme Court rejected the contention that the action had prescribed
considering that the prescriptive period was 10 years from the time the cause of action accrued
which was on September 16, 1967, to wit:

A suit for the recovery of the deficiency after the foreclosure of a mortgage
is in the nature of a mortgage action because its purpose is precisely to
enforce the mortgage contract.

Such being the case, Article 1142 of the Civil Code is likewise applicable
to the instant case. Said provision reads: “Art. 1142. A mortgage action
prescribes after ten years.”

79
Nabong v. Luzon Surety Co, Inc., G.R. No. L-100034, May 17, 1957.
80
Buhat v. Besana, G.R. No. L-6746, August 31, 1954.
81
Development Bank of the Philippines v. Tomeldan, G.R. No. 51269, November 17, 1980.
82
Soriano v. Enriquez, G.R. No. L-7708, March 29, 1913.
83
See supra at note 81; See also Caltex v. Intermediate Appellate Court, G.R. No. 74730, August 25, 1989.

24
4. ACTIONS WITHIN 10 YEARS
Article 1144 of the Code states:

The following actions must be brought within ten years from the time the action
accrues:
(1) Upon a written contract;
(2) Upon an obligation created by law;
(3) Upon a judgment. (n)

4.a. Upon a Written Contract


For a contract to fall under this article, the agreement must be in writing. For example, a
purchaser of a real estate evidenced by a written contract of sale may file a case for delivery of the
property to him. Barring the applicability of laches, the purchaser has ten years within which to
file the case for delivery. The cause of action on a written contract accrues when a breach or
violation thereof occurs.84 A passenger of a ship, or his heirs, can bring an action based on culpa
contractual within a period of 10 years because the ticket issued for the transportation is by itself
a complete written contract.85

Can receipts of payments be considered a written contract? In the case of Bucton, et al. v.
Gabar, et al.,86 Villarin sold in 1946 to Gabar a parcel of land on the installment plan. Gabar in
turn had an oral agreement with Bucton that the latter would pay half of the price, and thus own
half of the land. In 1946, Bucton paid her share to Gabar and was given receipts acknowledging
the payment. In 1947, Villarin executed a formal deed of sale in favor of Gabar, who immediately
built a house on half of the lot. Bucton took possession of the other half and built improvements
thereon. When Bucton asked for a separate title, she was refused, and so, in 1968, she filed a
complaint to compel Gabar to execute a formal deed of sale in her favor. The Court of Appeals
ruled that the action had already prescribed because this was an action to enforce a written contract
and should have been brought within 10 years from 1946, under Art. 1144 of the Civil Code. Has
the action really prescribed?

84
Lim Tay v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 126891, August 5, 1998.
85
Peralta de Guerrero v. Madrigal Shipping Co., G.R. No. L-12951, November 17, 1959.
86
Bucton, et al. v. Gabar, et al., G.R. No .L-36359, January 31, 1974.

25
The Court held that:

No, it has not really prescribed. The error of the Court of Appeals is
that it considered the execution of the receipt (in 1946) as the basis of
the action. The real basis of the action is Bucton’s ownership (and
possession of the property). No enforcement of the contract of sale is
needed, because the property has already been delivered to Bucton, and
ownership thereof has already been transferred by operation of law
under Art. 1434, referring to property sold by a person (Gabar) who
subsequently becomes the owner thereof. The action here therefore is
one to quiet title, and as Bucton is in possession, the action is
imprescriptible.

4.b. Upon an obligation created by law


The obligation to pay indemnity for a legal right of way, if the right of way of a public road
was acquired in 1914, the claim for payment of the same brought to the Auditor- General only in
1955 has prescribed, especially where, due to the loss of the papers during the war, the Government
cannot be sure that no payment has been made.87

An action to recover compensation for the death of a worker or employee, being an action
based on law, prescribes in 10 years, in the absence of any specific provision of law on the matter. 88
In the case, the death occurred on Dec. 25, 1945. The claim was filed with the Workmen’s
Compensation Division of the Bureau of Labor on Feb. 11, 1949. The Bureau then ordered the
employer to pay compensation on September 9, 1950, but on Jun. 20, 1952, the Workmen’s
Compensation Commission was created and it took cognizance of the case. On Feb. 3, 1955,
decision was rendered on the claim which was subsequently affirmed by the Commissioner, but
the employer raised the defense of prescription, on the ground that when the Commission assumed
jurisdiction over the case on Jun. 20, 1952, the six years’ prescription period provided for in Act
190 had already expired. The Supreme Court affirmed the ruling of the Commission that the period
of prescription had been extended by Art. 1144(2) of the Civil Code to 10 years from the accrual

87
Rosario v. Auditor-General, G.R. No. L-11817, April 30, 1958.
88
Pan Phil. Corp. v. Workmen’s Compensation Com. and Frias, G.R. No. L-9807, April 17, 1957.

26
of the action and that the 10-year period did not expire until Dec. 25, 1965. On the claim that Art.
1144 could not be applied because Art. 2252 of the Code provides that changes made and new
provisions and rules laid down by this Code which may prejudice or impair vested or acquired
rights in accordance with the old legislation shall have “no retroactive effect” and that the
application of Art. 1144 would impair vested rights of the employer, the Court held that the
employer had no vested right when the period of 6 years provided in Act 190 did not expire until
Dec. 15, 1951.

In Espanol v. Philippine Veterans Administration 89 where the pension of a veteran’s


widow, which was received by her pursuant to Republic Act No. 65, was cancelled on November
1, 1951 by the Philippine Veterans Administration (PVA) on the basis of a doubtful administrative
policy which however was struck down as invalid on June 27, 1973 by the Supreme Court in
another case, and where the said widow, on February 25, 1974 filed a complaint against the PVA
for the collection of the said pension, the Supreme Court rejected the contention of the PVA that
the action had prescribed by thus ruling:

The contention of appellant PVA that the action of appellee Maria U.


Espanol to compel the restoration of her monthly pension and that of
her children, effective from the date of cancellation on November 1,
1951, has already prescribed, inasmuch as the same was filed more than
10 years from the date of cancellation, is without merit.

Article 1144 of the New Civil Code provides that actions based on an
obligation created by law shall be brought within 10 years from the
time the right of action accrues. It is important to reckon the date, when
the right of action accrues, as the same is the beginning for counting
the 10-year prescriptive period.

The right of action accrues when there exists a cause of action, which
consists of three elements, namely: a) a right in favor of the plaintiff by

89
Espanol v. Philippine Veterans Administration, G.R. No. L-44616, June 29, 1985.

27
whatever means and under whatever law it arises or is created; b) an
obligation on the part of such defendant to respect such right; and c) an
act or omission on the part of such defendant violative of the right of
the plaintiff. x x x It is only when the last element occurs or takes place
that it can be said in law that a cause of action has arisen. x x x

The appellee cannot be said to have a cause of action, in compelling the


appellant to continue paying her monthly pension on November 1,
1951, because appellant’s act of cancellation, being pursuant to an
administrative policy, cannot be considered a violation of appellee’s
right to receive her monthly pension. x x x x

It is only when this Court declared invalid the questioned


administrative policy in the Del Mar v. Philippine Veterans
Administration, x x x, promulgated on June 27, 1973, can the appellee
be said to have a cause of action to compel appellant to resume her
monthly pension; because it is at that point in time, when the
presumption of legality of the questioned administrative policy had
been rebutted and thus it can be said with certainty that appellant’s act
was in violation of appellee’s right to receive her monthly pension.

The 10-year prescriptive period, therefore, should be counted from


June 27, 1973 when the case of Del Mar v. The Philippine Veterans
Administration, x x x, was promulgated, and not from November 1,
1951, the date of the cancellation by appellant of appellee’s pension.
The action of appellee, which was brought on February 25, 1974, is
therefore well within the 10-year prescriptive period.

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

28
prescribes in ten years from the issuance of the title.90 But if fraud has been committed, and this is
the basis of action, not implied trust, the action will be barred after four years.

In Huang v. Court of Appeals91 the Supreme Court ruled that an implied trust, whether a
constructive or resulting trust, is normally not subject to prescription. However, if the trustee
openly and adversely repudiates the trust, it is only from that time when prescription can set in.
The Supreme Court said:

The prescriptive period is ten (10) years from the repudiation of the
trust. It is ten (10) years because just as a resulting trust is an offspring
of the law, so is the corresponding obligation to convey the property
and the title thereto to the true owner. In this context, and vis-a-vis
prescription, Art. 1144 of the New Civil Code, which is the law
applicable provides: “The following actions must be brought within 10
years from the time the right of action accrues: (a) Upon a written
contract; (b) Upon obligations created by law; (c) Upon a judgment.”

Thus, the reckoning point is repudiation of the trust by the trustee


because from that moment his possession becomes adverse, which in
the present case gave rise to a cause of action by Dolores against the
Huang spouses. However, before the period of prescription may start,
it must be shown that: (a) the trustee has performed unequivocal acts
of repudiation amounting to an ouster of the cestui que trust; (b) such
positive acts of repudiation have been made known to the cestui que
trust; and (c) the evidence thereon is clear and conclusive.

4.c. Action Based on a Judgment


Here, the judgment referred to must be a final and executory one. That is, on appeal, the
judgment was confirmed, or that no appeal was ever made within the proper period.

90
Balani v. Intermediate Appellate Court, G.R. No. L-69537, June 20, 1986; Cañete v. Benedicto, G.R. No. L-55222,
March 14, 1988; Vda. de Portugal v. Intermediate Appellate Court, G.R. No. 73564, March 25, 1988; and Infante v.
Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 77202, June 22, 1988.
91
Huang v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. L-108525, September 13, 1994.

29
Parenthetically, the validity of a judgment or order of a court which has become final and
executory, may be attacked generally only by a direct action, or proceeding to annul the same.

Under the Rules of Court, a judgment becomes dormant after 5 years. This means that the
judgment may be enforced only within 5 years by writ of execution. Thereafter, since the judgment
has become dormant, it can be enforced only by another action, within 10 years from the time
there was final judgment on the first action. (See Sec. 6, Rule 39, Revised Rules of Court). It
necessarily follows that the action to enforce the judgment must be filed within 10 years. The time,
however, that a moratorium law affecting the obligation was in force should be deducted from the
10-year prescriptive period for the reason that moratorium laws have the effect of tolling
(suspending) the prescriptive period.92

In Heirs of Sindiong v. Committee93, it was held that an action to enforce a decision (or to
revive a court judgment) prescribes upon the expiration of ten years from the date the decision
became final.

5. ACTIONS WITHIN 6 YEARS


The Code provides that an action must be commenced within 6 years when based: 94
 upon an oral contract; or
 upon a quasi-contract.

Actions based on enforceable oral contracts - that is, oral contracts which are executory
and whose terms do not fall subject to the Statute of Frauds 95 - must be commenced within 6 years.

92
PNB v. Aboitiz and Pascual, G.R. No. L-9500, April 11, 1957; and Tioseco v. Day, G.R. No. L-9944, April 30,
1957
93
Heirs of Sindiong v. Committee, G.R. No. L-15975, April 30, 1964.
94
Article 1145.
95
Article 1403 par. 2. Those that do not comply with the Statute of Frauds as set forth in this number. In the
following cases an agreement hereafter made shall be unenforceable by action, unless the same, or some note or
memorandum, thereof, be in writing, and subscribed by the party charged, or by his agent; evidence, therefore, of
the agreement cannot be received without the writing, or a secondary evidence of its contents:
(a) An agreement that by its terms is not to be performed within a year from the making thereof;
(b) A special promise to answer for the debt, default, or miscarriage of another;
(c) An agreement made in consideration of marriage, other than a mutual promise to marry;
(d) An agreement for the sale of goods, chattels or things in action, at a price not less than five hundred pesos, unless
the buyer accept and receive part of such goods and chattels, or the evidences, or some of them, of such things in
action or pay at the time some part of the purchase money; but when a sale is made by auction and entry is made by
the auctioneer in his sales book, at the time of the sale, of the amount and kind of property sold, terms of sale, price,
names of the purchasers and person on whose account the sale is made, it is a sufficient memorandum;

30
The rule is illustrated in the case of Ilagan v. Adame96 where the Court applied the 6-year period
of prescription to an action to enforce an oral contract of tenancy.

In the case, petitioner had been dispossessed of the subject parcel of land for 5 years, 11
months, and 18 days when he filed an action praying for his reinstatement as a tenant. It was ruled
by the Court of Agrarian Relations that the action was filed out of time as the claim for
reinstatement was supposedly based on a provision in Republic Act No. 1189 which provided no
period and thus would follow the rule under Article 1149. The Court found otherwise since the
action was based upon an oral contract of tenancy between the parties.

Actions based upon quasi-contracts, which are those obligations which arise from lawful,
voluntary, and unilateral acts to prevent unjust enrichment, 97 also follow this rule.

In the case of Belman Compania, Inc. v. Central Bank98 it was held that an action to recover
a foreign exchange tax erroneously collected by the Central Bank is one based on the quasi-
contract of solutio indebiti99 and the action therefore prescribes in six years. In the similar case of
Municipality of Opon v. Caltex100 the rules was also applied as there is a quasi-contract of solutio
indebiti where a taxpayer has mistakenly paid an amount which was not due.

6. ACTIONS WITHIN 4 YEARS


The Code provides that an action must be instituted within 4 years when based 101

 upon an injury to the rights of the plaintiff; or


 upon quasi-delict.

(e) An agreement for the leasing for a longer period than one year, or for the sale of real property or of an interest
therein;
(f) A representation as to the credit of a third person.
96
Ilagan v. Adame, G.R. No. L-19619, March 31, 1964.
97
Article 1157 and Article 2142.
98
Belman Compania, Inc. v. Central Bank, G.R. No. L-15044, July 14, 1960.
99
Article 2154. If something is received when there is no right to demand it, and it was unduly delivered through
mistake, the obligation to return it arises.
100
Municipality of Opon v. Caltex, G.R. No. L-21853, February 26, 1968.
101
Article 1146.

31
Other rights of action provided for in the Code that also have a prescriptive period of 4
years according to Paras are the following: 102

1. In an action for the revocation or reduction of donations based on birth, appearance, or


adoption of a child.103 Paras notes that this is actually only for reduction.
2. In an action to revoke a donation for non-compliance with conditions imposed by donor
upon donee, the period to be counted from the non-compliance with the said
condition.104
3. In an action for rescission of contracts based on Art. 1389, par. 1. 105 Paras notes that
in case of persons under guardianship and in the case of absentees, the period of
prescription shall not begin until the termination of the former’s incapacity, or until the
domicile of the latter is known.
4. In an action for the annulment of a contract under Art. 1391, par. 1. 106 Paras notes that
in cases of intimidation, violence, or undue influence, the period is counted from the
time the vitiation ceases. In case of mistake or fraud, it is counted from the time of
discovery of the same. In cases of contracts entered into by minors or other
incapacitated persons, from the time the guardianship ceases.

An action based on fraud is an example of action based upon injury to the rights of the
plaintiff. The period of prescription for actions based on fraud is 4 years from the discovery of the
fraud. This rule was clarified in the case of Insurance of the Philippine Islands Corp. v. Sps.
Gregorio107 where the petitioners extended several loans to respondents with the securities for
such loans being real estate mortgages over several parcels of land. The properties were foreclosed
in 1969, but the lands were later registered and TCTs issued in the name of third persons in 1970,
1973, and 1989. It was only in 1995 that the petitioner learned that the respondents had
misrepresented their ownership over the properties and it was 1996 when it filed a claim for

102
EDGARDO PARAS, CIVIL CODE OF THE PHILIPPINES ANNOTATED VOLUME FOUR 58 (2008).
103
Article 763.
104
Article 764.
105
Article 1389.
106
Article 1391.
107
Insurance of the Philippine Islands Corp. v. Sps. Gregorio, G.R. No. 174104, February 14, 2011.

32
damages. As this claim was filed within a year of the discovery of the petitioner of the fraud, the
right of action had not yet prescribed.

Another example of an injury to the rights of the plaintiff is unjustified separation from
employment. The case of Callanta v. Carnation Philippines, Inc.108 is instructive, where the Court
described the injury to the plaintiff’s rights and its application of Article 1146 thusly:

As this Court stated in Bondoc v. People’s Bank and Trust Co.,109 when
a person has no property, his job may possibly be his only possession
or means of livelihood, hence he should be protected against any
arbitrary and unjust deprivation of his job. Unemployment, said the
Court in Almira v. B.F. Goodrich Philippines,110 brings ‘untold
hardships and sorrows on those dependent on the wage earners.’ The
misery and pain attendant on the loss of jobs thus could be avoided if
there be acceptance of the view that under all circumstances of this
case, petitioners should not be deprived of their means of livelihood. It
is a principle in American jurisprudence, which undoubtedly, is well-
recognized in this jurisdiction that one’s employment, profession, trade
or calling is a “property right,” and the wrongful interference therewith
is an actionable wrong. The right is considered to be property within
the protection of a constitutional guaranty of due process of law.
Clearly then, when one is arbitrarily and unjustly deprived of his job or
means of livelihood, the action instituted to contest the legality of one’s
dismissal from employment constitutes, in essence, an action
predicated “upon injury to the rights of the plaintiff,” as contemplated
under Art. 1146 of the New Civil Code, which must be brought within
4 years.

108
Callanta v. Carnation Philippines, Inc., G.R. No. L-70615, October 28, 1986.
109
Bondoc v. People’s Bank and Trust Co., G.R. No. L-43835, March 31, 1981.
110
Almira v. B.F. Goodrich Philippines, G.R. No. L-34974, July 25, 1974.

33
The Code provides that a quasi-delict is such fault or negligence that causes damage
to another if there is no pre-existing contractual relation between the parties. 111 An example
of a quasi-delict is the fault or negligence resulting in the liability of manufacturers and
processors of foodstuffs, drinks, toilet articles and similar goods. They shall be liable for
death or injuries caused by any noxious or harmful substances used, although no
contractual relations exists between them and the consumer. 112 The rule saw application in
one such case Coca-Cola Bottlers Philippines, Inc. v. Court of Appeals 113 where a
complaint was filed due to the reckless and negligent manufacture of “adulterated food
items intended to be sold for public consumption” in that the soft drinks sold to the private
respondent which “contained fiber-like matter and other foreign substances or particles”
which caused damage to the private respondent’s business when the soft drinks were sold
to students who suffered sickness.

In this case, the Court rejected the contention of the petitioner that the action had
prescribed pursuant to Article 1571 of the Civil Code, which provides a period of six
months from the date of delivery within which to bring actions that are based upon warranty
against hidden defects or of encumbrances upon the thing sold. The Court ruled that the
allegations in the complaint clearly established a quasi-delict which prescribes in 4 years.

Similarly, in cases where the parties have a contractual relation but the damage is
caused not during the performance of the obligation, this rule applies. This is illustrated in
the case of Philippine Airlines, Inc. v. Savillo,114 wherein there was a complaint for
damages filed due to petitioner and his companions being refused accommodation on a
Singapore Airlines flight which was a part of a travel package PAL had sold to them.
Singapore Airlines had refused the tickets presented by petitioner due to an alleged lack of
endorsement from PAL. This allegedly caused the petitioner to be stranded as PAL’s
offices were already closed, forcing him to purchase tickets from a different airline, and
the emotional toll left him too ill to participate in the competition which he had travelled

111
Article 2176. Whoever by act or omission causes damage to another, there being fault or negligence, is obliged to
pay for the damage done. Such fault or negligence, if there is no pre-existing contractual relation between the
parties, is called a quasi-delict and is governed by the provisions of this Chapter.
112
STA MARIA, JR. supra note 20 at 53.
113
Coca-Cola Bottlers Philippines, Inc. v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. L-110295, October 18, 1993.
114
Philippine Airlines, Inc. v. Savillo, G.R. No. 149547, July 4, 2008.

34
to. The Court ruled that because the complaint was not for claims incident to delays in
transporting the passengers, but rather based on the alleged gross negligence of PAL when
it failed to endorse the passengers’ tickets, the action was not time-barred under Article 29
of the Warsaw Convention as argued by PAL but that Article 1146 applied.

7. ACTIONS WITHIN 1 YEAR


The Code provides that an action must be filed within 1 year when it is: 115
 for forcible entry and detainer; or
 for defamation.

Other rights of action provided for in the Code that also have a prescriptive period of 1 year
according to Paras are the following:116

 In an action for the revocation of a donation on the ground of ingratitude, the period to
be counted from the time the donor had knowledge of the fact, and it was possible for
him to bring the action.117
 In an action for rescission or for damages for sale of immovable encumbered with any
non-apparent burden or servitude, the period to be counted from the execution of the
deed.118
 In an action for damages, without rescission, for sale of immovable encumbered with
any non-apparent burden or servitude, the one year after the execution of the deed
having lapsed, said period to be counted from the date on which the burden or servitude
is discovered.119

The rule in case of forcible entry is that the period of prescription is counted from date of
unlawful deprivation or withholding of possession. 120 In unlawful detainer, the one year period
within which to file an ejectment case is to be counted from the last demand. This is seen in the
case of Development Bank of the Philippines v. Canonoy121 which cited Sy Oh v. Garcia, where

115
Article 1147.
116
E. PARAS supra note 102 at 61-62.
117
Article 169.
118
Article 1560, par. 3.
119
Article 1560, par. 4.
120
Rule 70, 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure.
121
Development Bank of the Philippines v. Canonoy, G.R. No. L-29422, September 30, 1970.

35
the Court had already reaffirmed in categorical language the controlling principle that "the one-
year period is to be counted from the last letter of demand."

The rule in case of libel [defamation] according to jurisprudence 122 is that the libelous
matter must first be exhibited to the person libeled before the action can be brought. Hence, the
one-year period runs from the time the offended party knows of the libelous matter. This is because
a person defamed can hardly be expected to institute proceedings for damages arising from libel
when he has no knowledge of the said libel.

8. OTHER ACTIONS
The Code provides that all other actions whose prescriptive periods are not fixed in the
Civil Code or in other laws must be brought within five years from the time the right of action
accrues.123

Under this general provision, actions with unspecified prescriptive periods prescribe in 5
years and cannot be imprescriptible. The Court explained the rule in Tolentino v. Court of
Appeals124 saying that unless the law makes an action imprescriptible, it is subject to bar by
prescription and the period of prescription is 5 years from the time the right of action accrues when
no other period is prescribed by law.

In the case, an action was brought against a woman who had been legally divorced from
her husband, by the latter’s present wife, seeking to enjoin the former wife from using the surname
of her former husband. Neither the Civil Code nor special law provides for imprescriptibility of
the right of the petitioner. The Court explained that right of action accrued when petitioner had
knowledge of breach of right. The action must have been brought upon knowledge of the breach
or within 5 years from that moment and not beyond that period. This is the rule regardless if there
was a continuous violation of the right of petitioner.

122
Alcantara v. Amoranto, G.R. No. L-12493, February 29, 1960.
123
Article 1149.
124
Tolentino v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. L-41427, June 10, 1988.

36
However, an exception was provided in the case of Commissioner v. Ayala125 wherein the
Court held that in the absence of express statutory provision, the right of the government to assess
unpaid taxes is imprescriptible.

D. HOW COUNTED
1. IN GENERAL
The Code provides that in determining the effects and consequences of prescription of
actions it is essential to determine the exact period for the extinguishment of the cause of action.
The general rule in determining this is that the period is counted from the moment in which the
corresponding action could have been instituted.126 Simply put, the moment of the legal possibility
of the action to be instituted marks the point of which the period begins. The exception to this rule
is if there are special provisions that provide for a different calculation.

The Court, in PLDT v Pingol,127 ruled that a cause of action arises when a breach of right
or duty occurs, citing the elements of a cause of action as follows:

(1) a right in favor of the plaintiff by whatever means and under


whatever law it arises or is created; (2) an obligation on the part of the
named defendant to respect or not to violate such right; and (3) an act
or omission on the part of such defendant violative of the right of the
plaintiff or constituting a breach of the obligation of the defendant to
the plaintiff.

This means once these elements are fulfilled, the period of prescription begins. In the case
of Tolentino v Court of Appeals128 for example, the issue of whether the cause of action prescribed
was ruled on the affirmative by the Supreme Court. The action has long prescribed since the
petitioner filed her petition on November 23, 1971, twenty years after she became aware of the
controversy. She should have filed her complaint the moment she learned of the private respondent

125
Commissioner of Internal Revenue v. Ayala Securities Corp., G.R. No. L-29485, November 21, 1980.
126
Art 1150. The time for prescription for all kinds of actions, when there is no special provision which ordains
otherwise, shall be counted from the day they may be brought.
127
PLDT v. Pingol, G.R. No 182622, September 8, 2010.
128
Supra note 124.

37
using the surname Tolentino, which is when the period of prescription began. As stated succinctly
by the Supreme Court:

Where the plaintiff fails to go to the Court within the prescriptive


period, he loses his cause, but not because the defendant had acquired
ownership by adverse possession over his name but because the
plaintiffs cause of action had lapsed thru the statute of limitations.

Paras129 expands on this article by citing specific examples which further illustrate when
the period of prescription may begin based on certain factors, as follows:

(1) In an action based on a quasi-delict because of a traffic collision, from the day of the
collision.130
(2) In a promissory note with a maturity date, from the date of such maturity. 131
(3) In a collection for the unpaid balance of subscribed corporation shares, from the date of
demand or call by the Board of Directors.132
(4) In an action to compel the registration of an assigned membership certificate in a non-stock
corporation, the period runs not from the date of assignment, but from the date of denial
of registration. Reason: The existence of a right is one thing; right to have is another. It
was only from the time of denial of registration that the cause of action accrued. 133
(5) In an action to recover payment of the difference between the wages paid an employee and
that fixed by the Minimum Wage Law, every monthly payment of salaries made by
defendant employer gives the employee a separate and independent cause of action to
recover the underpayment; hence, the period provided for by law is to be counted from the
date of each and every monthly payment. 134

2. OBLIGATIONS WITH INTEREST


The Code defines that the period of prescription of obligations with interest commences
from the last payment of interest. However, it is only applicable in cases where the principal debt

129
E. PARAS supra note 102 at 66-67.
130
Paulan, et al. v. Sarabia, et al., G.R. No. L-10542, July 3, 1958.
131
Varela v. Marajas, et al., G.R. No. L-10215, April 30, 1958.
132
Garcia v. Suarez, G.R. No. 45493, April 21, 1939.
133
Lee E. Won v. Wack Wack Golf and Country Club, G.R. No. L-10122, August 30, 1958.
134
Abrasaldo, et al. v. Compania Maritima, G.R. No. L-11918, July 31, 1958.

38
is already due since the prescription period starts at the maturity of the debt. Otherwise, payment
of interest at the stipulated intervals does not cause the running of the period of prescription. 135

However, if the existence of a past due mortgage was recognized by payments of interest, the
prescriptive period begins not from the date of maturity, but from the last payment of said interest.
As held in the case of Obras Pias v. Devera Ignacio:136

However, that by virtue of the fact that the defendants in the purchase
of the property in question did not assume, so far as the record shows,
the payment of the said mortgage, they (the defendants) are not
responsible in any way for the payment of any sum which may remain
due after the sale of said land. The defendants are not responsible for
the payment of any deficiency which may result from the sale of the
property in question.

3. ACTION TO ENFORCE JUDGMENT


The Code provides that the period for prescription of actions to demand the fulfillment of
an obligation declared by a judgment starts from the time the said judgment became final. 137

A judgment becomes final when it finally disposes of the pending action, the court has
nothing left to do, and upon the lapse of the reglementary period to appeal if no appeal was
perfected.138 As provided by this Code, the prescription period for actions to enforce judgment is
10 years.139

Furthermore, the Rules of Court provides that the date of finality of the judgment or final
order shall be the date of its entry in the book of entries of judgment by the clerk of court pursuant

135
Article 1151. The time for the prescription of actions which have for their object the enforcement of obligations to
pay principal with interest or annuity runs from the last payment of the annuity or of the interest.
136
Obras Pias v. Devera Ignacio, G.R. No. 5052, September 16, 1910.
137
Article 1152.
138
PLDT Employees' Union v. PLDT Co. Free Tel. Workers' Union, G.R. No. L-8138, August 20, 1955 citing
Moran Comments 1952 Ed. Vol. I, pp. 894-895; Nico v. Blanco, G.R. No. L-2036, June 30, 1948; Hodges v.
Villanueva, G.R. No. L-4134, October 25, 1951, and City of Manila v. Hon. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 100626,
November 29, 1991.
139
Article 1144. The following actions must be brought within ten years from the time the right of action accrues:
(1) Upon a written contract;
(2) Upon an obligation created by law;
(3) Upon a judgment.

39
to the dispositive part of the judgment when no appeal or motion for new trial or reconsideration
is filed within the time provided in the Rules.140

In Luzon Surety Company Inc., v. Intermediate Appellate Court, 141 the Court clarified that
the period of 10 years prescribed in the statute of limitations should be counted from the date of
the finality of the original judgment and not from the date of the finality of the revival judgment.

In this case, the petitioner cited the case of People v. Bondoc and maintained that the 10-
year prescriptive period commences to run only from the finality of the revived judgment.
However, the Court explained that this decision was practically abandoned by the PNB v. Deloso
decision where the Court cited and affirmed the ruling in Gutierrez Hermanos v. De La Riva that
the ten-year prescriptive period commences to run from the date of the finality of the judgment not
from the expiration of the 5 years thereafter. The Court said that the ruling made in the latter case
was the later and better interpretation of the law.

The case of Villeza v. German Management and Services, Inc.,142 provided rules in the
application of the Article 1152, read together with Article 1144 and Section 6, Rule 39 of the Rules
of Court, stating that:

Once a judgment becomes final and executory, the prevailing party can
have it executed as a matter of right by mere motion within five years
from the date of entry of judgment. If the prevailing party fails to have
the decision enforced by a motion after the lapse of five years, the said
judgment is reduced to a right of action which must be enforced by the
institution of a complaint in a regular court within ten years from the
time the judgment becomes final.

In this case, the petitioner filed complaint to revival of judgment in the forcible entry case
which he won against the respondent. However, the respondent moved for the dismissal of the
complaint as it is beyond the period provided for in Article 1144. The Court ruled in favor of the
respondent as it was proved that the date of the finality of the Court’s decision was October 5,

140
Section 2, Rule 36, Rules of Court.
141
Luzon Surety Company Inc., v. Intermediate Appellate Court, G.R. No. 72645, June 30, 1987.
142
Villeza v. German Management and Services, Inc.,G.R. No. 182937, August 8, 2010.

40
1989 and the complaint was instituted on October 3, 2000 which was clearly beyond the 10-year
period.

4. ACTION TO DEMAND ACCOUNTING


The provision on the prescription of action in relation with accounting is divided into two
types of action but the period of prescription is the same which is 5 years from the time of right of
action accrues.143

Paras,144 citing jurisprudence, stated that there is no difference between accounting and
reliquidation, both of which involve the determination and settlement of what is due to the parties
under the provisions of the law. However, the Court in deciding a case later than those cited by
Paras145 that the two were different, ruled that:

This provision refers, however, to the right to demand a written


accounting, which — petitioners maintain — is different from
a reliquidation. Indeed, an accounting between a landowner and an
agricultural tenant is a statement made by the former of the
contributions made by both, the expenses incurred, the incurred, the
amount harvested, the sharing system followed by the parties and the
share actually received by each. Upon the other hand, a reliquidation
involved the determination, based either upon the facts as determined
by the court, of the share to which each party is entitled.

With regards to the actions referred to in the provision, the first one deals with the demand
for accounting. It was provided that the period of prescription runs from the day that the person
who should give the account cease in their function.146

Jurisprudence provides that in case of partnership, for as long as the partnership exists, any
of the partners may demand an accounting of the business. And the prescription of the action to

143
Article 1149. All other actions whose periods are not fixed in this Code or in other laws must be brought within
five years from the time the right of action accrues.
144
E. PARAS, supra note 102 at 71.
145
Benson v. Ocampo, G.R. No. L-18189, December 29, 1962.
146
Article 1153, par. 1. The period for prescription of actions to demand accounting runs from the day the persons
who should render the same cease in their functions.

41
demand such accounting runs only upon the dissolution of a partnership when the final accounting
is done.147

In Dira v. Tinga,148 the appellant and the appellee entered into a partnership with another
individual to engage in a printing press business. The appellant claimed that appellee, who was the
business manager-treasurer, never paid him his salary for serving as the President and as the editor
of their newspaper. According to the appellant, since 1947, the appellee ignored him and did not
him any participation in the business but he did not demand an immediate accounting of the
business. It was only 1961 when the appellant brought the matter to the court and filed an action
of partnership accounting.

In this case, the Supreme Court ruled that to hold that appellant could still sue appellee
after almost 14 years since the latter took over exclusive control of the partnership business would
be giving premium to the inaction and indifference. The Court also stated that:

On the other hand, under Article 1153 of the Civil Code, a demand for
"accounting runs from the day the persons who should render the same
ceases in their functions," which in this case as in 1947, when the
appellee began to operate the businesses as exclusively his own.

The second action provided by Article 1153 149 deals with the period for the action arising
from the result of the accounting. It is said to run from the date when said result was recognized
by agreement of the interested parties.

In Yap Tico & Co., vs Lopez Vito,150 a distinction was made as to the time when the period
of prescription begins to run in mutual current account and simple current open accounts. In the
former, the bar of the statute of limitations does not begin to run until the date of the last item,
while in the latter the statute begins to run from the date of each particular item.

147
Emnace v. CA, G.R. No. 126334, November 23, 2001 citing Fue Leung v. Intermediate Appellate Court, G.R.
No. 70926, January 31, 1989.
148
Dira v. Tinga, G.R. No. L-23232, June 17, 1970.
149
Article 1153, par. 2. The period for the action arising from the result of the accounting runs from the date when
said result was recognized by agreement of the interested parties.
150
Yap Tico & Co., v. Lopez Vito, G.R. No. L-24988, March 25, 1926.

42
The Court cited Ruling Case Law, volume 17, page 730 which stated that:

91. Actions on accounts. — Where there is mutual open account


between two parties it is said that it implies that they have mutually
consented that each item shall not constitute an independent debt due
immediately, to be paid or enforced at once, but that the items occuring
from time to time, in favor of the respective parties, shall operate as
mutual set-offs, and that the shifting balance, when either or both shall
call for it, shall be the debt, and for this reason the statute of limitations
does not run during such a state of mutual dealings, but only from the
date of the last item. Where there has been a delay for the statutory
period in making or adding any new items to an old mutual account, it
may operate as a bar, but if the hiatus is less than the period of
limitations, it will not have this effect, and if the last item is within the
statutory period, it draws after the items beyond that time

Applying this principle, in the case of Matute vs Banzali151, it was ruled that account
referred to is a current account guaranteed by a mortgage executed in a public deed. And since the
last payment made by the defendant was on September 27, 1925 and the complaint was docketed
on June 2, 1932, the Court said that the period had not yet lapsed when the complaint was filed
since the prescriptive period of ten years commenced to run from the date of the last payment.

E. EFFECT OF FORTUITOUS EVENTS

The Code provides that when the obligee is prevented by a fortuitous event from enforcing
his right, the period of prescription shall not be enforced against him. 152 This means that a
fortuitous event shall suspend the period of prescription.

A fortuitous event is an unforeseen event or, if foreseen, inevitable. It is also called an act
of God (if due to a natural occurrence such as earthquake, flood, storm, or other natural calamity)
and force majeure if caused by man, such as war. There are ordinary fortuitous events, which are

151
Matute v. Banzali, G.R. No. L-39443, October 8 1935.
152
Article 1154.

43
events that although normally happen and reasonably foreseeable, but inevitable like flooding
during a typhoon. There are also extraordinary fortuitous events, which can't be
foreseen/reasonably foreseen and don't usually happen like war. 153

The Court, in España v Lucido154 and reiterated in Morales v Arguelles,155 explained that
the fortuitous event must be to such extent that court cannot be open and are not within the reach
of the people. There will be no suspension of prescription in areas where the court continued
functioning regularly during the duration of the fortuitous event. In Tan v Court of Appeals,156 the
Court affirmed this by ruling against the petitioner which contended that the martial law during
the Marcos administration suspended the period of prescription. Even though petitioner Vicente
Tan could not have acted during the period of martial rule, there is nothing which would remotely
suggest that his co-petitioners could not have similarly acted during the martial law regime and
shortly thereafter.

Furthermore, in Francisco, et al. v Borja,157 the Supreme Court held that the same effect
shall apply when the judicial records were destroyed due to the fortuitous event. Even if the courts
are still functioning but the judicial records of the case were destroyed, the period of prescription
shall be suspended until the date when the parties or the counsel is notified that the records have
been reconstituted.

F. INTERRUPTIONS
The Code provides that the period of prescription of action is interrupted when: 158
1) Action is filed before the court
2) There is written extra judicial demand by the creditors
3) There is any written acknowledgement of the debt of the debtor

On the first mode, once an action has been filed in court, the extinctive prescription is
interrupted for the purposes of the parties that serve as the defendants. 159 Such interruption lasts

153
TOLENTINO, supra note 1 at 126-127.
154
España v. Lucido, G.R. No. L-3568, August 23, 1907.
155
Morales v. Arguelles, 49 Off. Gaz. 5481.
156
Tan v. CA, G.R. No. 90365, March 18, 1991.
157
Francisco, et al. v. Borja, G.R. No. L-1854, January 18, 1951.
142
Article 1155.
159
Lichauco v. Soriano, G.R. No. 11413, October 28, 1916.

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during the pendency of said action. Actions that suspend this period include Revival of
Judgment160 or a Motion for Reconsideration.161 In these examples, the period runs again after
their dismissal or termination of the court proceedings.

Historically, the Court arrived at different conclusions as to the effect of the cessation of
interruption of the prescriptive period. The Court resolved this conflict in the case of Ledesma v.
Court of Appeals:162

On the foregoing considerations, we are convinced and so hold that the correct
interpretations of Article 1155 of the Civil Code are reflected in and furnished by
the doctrinal pronouncements in Overseas Bank of Manila and Philippine National
Railways Company, not only because they are later in point of time but because the
issue is squarely resolved in a decisive and logical manner therein.

Following this, the correct interpretation of the effect- that the prescriptive period is
restarted, not just resumed, upon cessation of the interruption- was upheld in Overseas Bank of
Manila v. Geraldez:163

The interruption of the prescriptive period by written extrajudicial demand means


that the said period would commence anew from the receipt of the demand. That is
the correct meaning of interruption as distinguished from mere suspension or tolling
of the prescriptive period. xxx xxx xxx

A written extrajudicial demand wipes out the period that has already elapsed and
starts anew the prescriptive period. . . . xxx xxx xxx

That same view as to the meaning of interruption was adopted in Florendo v.


Organo, 90 Phil 483, 488, where it was ruled that the interruption of the ten-year
prescriptive period through a judicial demand means that "the full period of
prescription commenced to run anew upon the cessation of the suspension." When

160
Board of Liquidators v. Zulueta, G.R. No. L-30738, July 30, 1982
161
Cañiza v. People, G.R. No. L-53776, March 18, 1988
162
Ledesma v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 106646, June 30, 1993.
163
Overseas Bank of Manila v. Geraldez, G.R. No. L-46541, December 28, 1979.

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prescription is interrupted by a judicial demand, the full time for the prescription
must be reckoned from the cessation of the interruption.

Furthermore, the Court, in the case of Intercontinental Broadcasting v. Panganiban164


reiterated instances wherein there is no suspension of period

The Court ruled that although the commencement of a civil action stops the running
of the statute of prescription or limitations, its dismissal or voluntary abandonment
by plaintiff leaves the parties in exactly the same position as though no action had
been commenced at all.

On the second mode, the law requires that such extra-judicial demand made by the creditor
be in writing. A verbal demand is not enough to interrupt the running of the period of
prescription.165

The third mode, similarly, requires that an acknowledgement of the debt of the debtor be
in writing.

For Tolentino,166 while said acknowledgement has to be in writing, it need not to be


express. As the law does not require the express acknowledgment, there is no juridical obstacle to
this conclusion. Jurisprudence would not refute this view, as the court would only subject
prescription interruptions through the written requirement. 167

Tolentino also notes that not all references to debt are considered such acknowledgement
that would interrupt prescription. As an example, an offer to compromise upon a debt is not an
admission and cannot interrupt the period of prescription. 168

164
Intercontinental Broadcasting v. Panganiban, G.R. No. 151407, February 06, 2007.
165
Pelaez v. Abreu, G.R. No. 8021, December 29, 1913.
166
TOLENTINO, supra note 1 at 50.
167
Philippine National Bank v. Osete, G.R. No. L-24997, July 18, 1968.
168
Lichauco v. Limjuco, G.R. No. L-6189, March 11, 1911.

46
The law does not require specifically who acknowledges the debt, as such, a legal
representative like guardian, executor or administrator 169 or an agent170 can make the required
acknowledgment to interrupt said period.

Tolentino171 further states that mere acknowledgment of the debt after the obligation has
already prescribed does not renew the period of prescription. In connection with Article 1112,
there must be renunciation of the prescription already acquired.

The effect of such acknowledgment is the renewal of the obligation, as such the
prescription period runs only from the date of the acknowledgment. 172

Furthermore, in the case of PNB v. Court of Appeals,173 the issue is whether or not partial
payment serves as an acknowledgment that would toll the prescription period. The Court cited
Tolentino’s commentary directly by saying that:

Part payment of a debt, therefore, cannot interrupt the period of prescription. A


partial payment before the period has elapsed is undoubtedly an implied
acknowledgment of the debt. This has been recognized under the old Civil Code. It
has been so held in Louisiana. But our present Civil Code requires that the
acknowledgment, in order to interrupt prescription, must be written, unlike the old
Civil Code which did not require a writing; hence, the legal impossibility of
considering payment as an acknowledgment sufficient to interrupt prescription.

Since partial payment was not the written acknowledgement required by our code, there
was no action for revival of judgment in the period of 10 years from when the decision of the
Municipal Court presumably became final and executory, and there was no written extra-judicial
demand of the said judgment, the Court held that the period was not interrupted and, as such, an
action for revival of judgment beyond the 10 years has already prescribed.

169
Executors of Morga v. Metayer, 14 La. Ann. 612; Succession of Patrick, 30 La. Ann. 7071.
170
Mohan v. Dana, 2 Rob 80; Greg v Muggah, 5 Rob 473; Clarksen v Williams, 29 La Ann. 247.
171
TOLENTINO, supra note 1 at 52.
172
Buard v Lemee, 12 Rob. 243.
173
Philippine National Bank v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. L-27117, July 30, 1969.

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G. RIGHTS WHICH DO NOT PRESCRIBE
In general, actions prescribe by mere lapse of time fixed by law 174. However, Article 1143
enumerates rights, among others specified elsewhere in the Code, that are exempted to this general
rule and does not prescribe at all. These are the right (1) to demand a right of way, regulated in
Article 649 and (2) to bring an action to abate a public or private nuisance. The right to demand a
compulsory or legal easement of drainage 175 would seem to be covered by the right to demand a
right of way.176 The action to demand partition a property among co-heirs under Article 494 is also
imprescriptible, but only if it is admitted or presumed that co-ownership exists. The rule cannot be
invoked when one of the co-heirs has possessed the property as an exclusive owner for a period
sufficient to acquire it by prescription. 177

Other actions that do not prescribe can also be found in other parts of the Code such as an
action by the government or a government entity (Article 1108, par. 4), an action to enforce an
express trust, as long as the trustee does not repudiate the trust, 178 an action to quiet title to property
in one’s possession,179 an action or defense to declare a contract as inexistent (Article 1410), an
action of the registered owner to recover his land, 180 and the right to demand support (present and
future).181 For Paras,182 the reason why these rights do not prescribe is because of public policy.

H. GOVERNING LAW ON PRESCRIPTION.

The Code established a general rule in cases where other parts of the Civil Code, the Code
of Commerce or special laws provides for a prescription period different from those specified in
Articles 1106 to 1155 of the Civil Code. Articles 1115 and 1148 states that the prescriptive periods
set by articles found under Title V of the Code has to be understood and applied without prejudice

174
Article 1139.
175
Article 676. Whenever the yard or court of a house is surrounded by other houses, and it is not possible to give an
outlet through the house itself to the rain water collected thereon, the establishment of an easement of drainage can
be demanded, giving an outlet to the water at the point of the contiguous lands or tenements where its egress may be
easiest, and establishing a conduit for the drainage in such manner as to cause the least damage to the servient estate,
after payment of the property indemnity.
176
E. PARAS, supra note 102 at 47-48.
177
Article 494. No co-owner shall be obliged to remain in the co-ownership. Each co-owner may demand at any
time the partition of the thing owned in common, insofar as his share is concerned.
178
Enriquez v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. L-48978, May 27, 1981.
179
Sapto, et al. v. Fabiana, G.R. No. L-11285, May 6, 1958.
180
Gallardo v. Intermediate Appellate Court, G.R. No. L-67742, October 29, 1987.
181
Florencio v Organo, G.R. No. L-4037, November 29, 1951.
182
E. PARAS, supra note 102 at 48.

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to those that are for specific cases of prescription and found in sections other than the said Title
of the Code.183

The phrase “without prejudice” found in both articles means that the prescriptive period
provided in this Title may be availed of notwithstanding other special provisions in other parts of
the Code, the Code of Commerce, or special laws.184 As an effect, the provisions covered by
Articles 1115 and 1148 shall be enforced only when they are not in conflict with those specified
in other parts of the Civil Code, the Code of Commerce or special laws; or in other words, they
are merely supplementary in nature and effect.

Despite the similarities between the two articles, the following distinctions has to be noted:

(1) Article 1115 is taken and reproduced, albeit reworded, from Article 1938 under Title
XVIII (Prescription) of the Old Civil Code.185 On the other hand, Article 1148 is a new
provision included in the New Civil Code when it was enacted into law in 1950. 186

(2) Article 1115 covers the provisions under Chapter 1, Title V of the Civil Code or
Articles 1106 to 1116, while Article 1148 provides the periods for prescription of
actions mentioned in its preceding Articles 1140 to 1142, and 1144 to 1147.

As a rule, where the Civil Code, the Code of Commerce, or special laws specifically
provide for period of prescription for particular actions, said provisions on prescription must first
govern over the provisions found in Title V of the Civil Code. The deficiency of specific provisions
and special laws, if any, shall be supplied by the more general provisions of said Title of the Civil
Code.187

For example, Art. 1391 of the Civil Code provides that the prescriptive period for annulling
a contract, whether written or oral, in case it is defective due to fraud perpetuated by one of the

183
Article 1115. The provisions of the present Title are understood to be without prejudice to what in this Code or in
special laws is established with respect to specific cases of prescription.
Article 1148. The limitations of action mentioned in Articles 1140 to 1142, and 1144 to 1147 are without prejudice
to those specified in other parts of this Code, in the Code of Commerce, and in special laws.
184
STA. MARIA, JR., supra note 20 at 53.
185
TOLENTINO, supra note 1 at 13.
186
TOLENTINO, supra note 1 at 43.
187
Article 18.

49
parties is 4 years from the time of discovery of the fraud. However, Article 1144 of the same Code
provides that an action on a written contract prescribes in 10 years while Article 1145 sets the
prescriptive period for oral contracts at 6 years.

In this case, the prescriptive period of 4 years based from Article 1391 shall apply since it
provides for a specific case on fraud. Articles 1144 and 1145 applies generally on written and oral
contracts while Article 1391 specifically provides for action on contracts rendered void due to
fraud. The rule is clear that in case of conflict between two provisions of the Code, the more
specific provision will prevail over the more general one.

This rule applies similarly when statutes provide for prescriptive periods for certain actions
that may be different from those provided by the Code. In these situations, the Court has ruled that
special law prevails over the general rule provided by articles in the Civil Code.

In Francisco et al. v. Borja,188 the counsel for defendant contends that since the interruption
of the running of prescription mentioned in Act No. 3110 is not contained in Article 1155 of the
New Civil Code, the former cannot apply to the defendant’s case. The Supreme Court ruled that
since Article 1155 is only the general law on interruption of prescription of actions while Sec. 41
of Act No. 3110 is a special law on the same subject, the special law prevails over the general law.

The same ruling was upheld in recent labor cases of Rivera v. United Laboratories, Inc.189
and Anabe v. Asian Construction et al.190 It was held that actions prescribe by the mere lapse of
time prescribed not only by the Civil Code, but by special laws as mandated by Article 1148 of
the Civil Code. The Court, considering how Article 291 of the Labor Code specifically provides
that actions for money claims arising from employer-employee relations shall be filed within 3
years from the time the cause of action accrued; otherwise, they shall be barred forever., applied
the special law over the general rule on prescription found in the Civil Code.

However, if the different prescriptive periods and cause of actions contemplated by two
statutes are apparently conflicting, the Court ruled that they do not exclude each other from being
availed of by the aggrieved parties. As discussed earlier, in the case of Callanta v. Carnation

188
Supra note 157.
189
Rivera v. United Laboratories, Inc., G.R. No. 155639, April 22 2009.
190
Anabe v. Asian Construction et al, G.R. No. 183233, December 23, 2009.

50
Philippines, Inc.,191 the Court ruled that while a claim for money in labor cases prescribes in 3
years under the Labor Code, it will not bar the aggrieved party from availing of the 4 year
prescriptive period for “injury to the plaintiff” because the illegal and unlawful dismissal of the
plaintiff in the said case falls within the ambit of “injury to the rights of the plaintiff” as
contemplated in Art. 1146 of the New Civil Code.

Special provisions which stipulate for specific periods of prescription different from those
provided in Articles 1106 to 1155 of the Civil Code include, but not limited to, those listed
below:192

(1) A legitimate child may bring an action to claim legitimacy as long as he is alive. 193

(2) An illegitimate child may bring an action to establish illegitimate filiation during his
lifetime.194

(3) The real right of possession for real property is lost at the end of 10 years. 195

(4) Proceeding for the probate of a will never prescribes. 196

(5) Proceeding for deportation of an alien must be brought within 5 years from the date the
cause for deportation arose.197

(6) Easements may be acquired through the prescription of 10 years. 198

191
Callanta v. Carnation Philippines, Inc., G.R. No. 70615, October 28, 1986.
192
E. PARAS, supra note 102 at 21.
193
Article 173, Family Code.
194
Article 175, Family Code.
195
Article 555, par. 4.
196
Guevara v. Guevara, et al., G.R. No. L-5404, January 31, 1956.
197
Section 37, Commonwealth Act No. 613 or The Philippine Immigration Act of 1940.
198
Article 620.

51