Republic of the Phils. vs. CA (GR: 143483)
Escheat is a proceeding, unlike that of succession or assignment, whereby the state, by virtue of its sovereignty, steps in and claims the real or personal property of a person who dies intestate leaving no heir. In the absence of a lawful owner, a property is claimed by the state to forestall an open “invitation to self-service by the first comers.” Since escheat is one of the incidents of sovereignty, the state may, and usually does, prescribe the conditions and limits the time within which a claim to such property may be made. The procedure by which the escheated property may be recovered is generally prescribed by statue, and a time limit is imposed within which such action must be brought.
In this jurisdiction, a claimant to an escheated property must file his claim “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 the estate; but a claim not made shall be barred forever.” The 5-year period is not a device capriciously conjured by the state to defraud any claimant; on the contrary, it is decidedly prescribed to encourage would-be claimants to be punctilious in asserting their claims, otherwise they may lose them forever in a final judgment.