Civil Law

Ernestina Bernabe vs Carolina Alejo

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G.R. No. 140500 – 374 SCRA 180 – Civil Law – Preliminary Title – Application of Laws – No retroactive effect if vested rights are impaired

The late Fiscal Ernesto Bernabe allegedly fathered a son with Carolina Alejo. The son was born on September 18, 1981 and was named Adrian Bernabe. Fiscal Bernabe died on August 13, 1993 leaving Ernestina as the sole surviving heir. Therafter, Carolina in behalf of Adrian filed the aforesaid complaint praying that Adrian be declared as acknowledged illegitimate son of Fiscal Bernabe.

The RTC dismissed the complaint ruling that under the provision of the Family Code, the death of the putative father had barred the action. On appeal, the Court of Appeals ruled that in the interest of justice, Adrian should be allowed to prove that he was the illegitimate son of Fiscal Bernabe since the boy was born in 1981; his rights are governed by Article 283 of the Civil Code. Hence, appeal was interposed in the Supreme Court.

ISSUE: Whether or not the Family Code shall have retroactive effect.

HELD: Applying recent jurisprudence, the Supreme Court hold that Article 285 of the Civil Code is a substantive law as it gives Adrian the right to file his petition for recognition within 4 years from attaining majority age. Therefore, the Family Code cannot impair or take Adrian’s right to file an action for recognition because that right had already vested prior to its enactment.

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