Civil Law

Jose Aruego, Jr. vs Court of Appeals

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G.R. No. 112193 – 254 SCRA 711 – Civil Law – Persons and Family Relations – Preliminary Title – Application of Laws – No retroactive effect if vested rights are impaired

During his lifetime, Jose Aruego, Sr. had an illicit relationship with Luz Fabian. They had two children: Antonia and Evelyn Aruego. Aruego Sr. never denied Antonia and Evelyn. In fact, he openly acknowledged and financially supported them.

In March 1982, Aruego Sr. died. In March 1983, Antonia and Evelyn who were still minors were assisted by Luz in filing a petition for recognition and enforcement of successional rights. The petition was based on Art. 285 of the Old Civil Code which provides: The action for the recognition of natural children may be brought only during the lifetime of the presumed parents, except in the following cases: (1) If the father or mother died during the minority of the child, in which case the latter may file the action before the expiration of four years from the attainment of his majority. The defendants named in the petition were Jose Aruego, Jr. and the other legitimate children of Aruego Sr.

In 1992, the Regional Trial Court partially granted the petition as it only ruled that only Antonia was proven to be the illegitimate child of Aruego Sr. and Luz.

Aruego Jr. moved for reconsideration as he now invoked the Family Code which became law in August 1988. Aruego Jr. averred that under Art. 172 of the new Family Code, filiation based on “open and continuous possession of the status of a legitimate child” such as the instant case may only be filed within the lifetime of the alleged parent. So, since Antonia’s petition was filed only after the death of Aruego Sr., the same should be dismissed. Aruego Jr. further argued that the Family Code is applicable because Art. 256 thereof explicitly provides that it has retroactive effect.

ISSUE: Whether or not Aruego, Jr.’s arguments are correct.

HELD: No. The Supreme Court ruled that the Family Code cannot be given retroactive effect in so far as the instant case is concerned as its application will prejudice the vested rights of Antonia to have her case be decided under Article 285 of the Civil Code. It is a well settled reception that laws shall have a retroactive effect unless it would impair vested rights. This is even explicitly stated as a precondition in the retoractive application of the Family Code which states in full: This Code shall, have retroactive effect insofar as it does not prejudice or impair vested or acquired rights in accordance with the Civil Code or other laws. Therefore, the Family Code in this case cannot be given a retroactive effect.

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