• Escheated property must be claimed by heir within 5 years

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    Persida Acosta

    Dear PAO,
    My best friend, Romy, is an illegitimate child and his mother is dead. He told me that his putative father had passed away two years ago, and he left a certain farmland in the province. His father had no known relatives in the place where he lived for almost 20 years. The caretaker of his father’s farmland allegedly discovered that Romy existed after the government took possession of the property as a result of escheat proceedings.

    The caretaker immediately contacted Romy, and informed him that the farmland was owned by his father. Romy would like to claim the land but he has no means to hire a lawyer or money to go to the province since his only source of income is driving a tricycle. Is there a remedy available for Romy to claim the property?    
    Blake

    Dear Blake,
    Section 1, Rule 91 of the 1997 Revised Rules of Court provides: “When a person dies intestate, [with]seized or real or personal property in the Philippines, leaving no heir or person by law entitled to the same, the Solicitor General or his representative in behalf of the Republic of the Philippines, may file a petition in the Court of First Instance of the province where the deceased last resided or in which he had estate, if he resided out of the Philippines, setting forth the facts, and praying that the estate of the deceased be declared escheated.”

    In the case of Romy, he failed to file any opposition to the escheat [reversion of property to the State) because he was informed belatedly by the caretaker that the property was already escheated. It, however, does not mean that he does not have any legal remedy available. Section 4 of the above-stated rules provides:

    “If a devisee, legatee, heir, widow, widower or other person entitled to such estate appears and files a claim thereto with the court within five (5) years from the date of such judgment, such person shall have possession of and title to the same, or if sold, the municipality or city shall be accountable to him for the proceeds, after deducting reasonable charges for the care of the estate; but a claim not made within said time shall be forever barred.”

    Thus, Romy must file his claim to the property owned by his father within five (5) years from judgment in the escheat proceedings, otherwise his claim will be barred.

    Again, we find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. The opinion may vary when the facts are changed or elaborated.

    We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter.

    Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to dearpao@manilatimes.net

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