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SETTLEMENT OF ESTATE

G.R. No. 128781

August 6, 2002

TERESITA N. DE LEON, ZENAIDA C. NICOLAS and


the HEIRS OF ANTONIO NICOLAS, petitioners,
vs. HON. COURT OF APPEALS, HON. PABLO P.
INVENTOR and RAMON NICOLAS, respondents.
AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ, J.:
Before us is a petition for review on certiorari under Rule
45 of the Rules of Court which prays that the Decision
dated February 28, 1997 and the Resolution dated April 3,
1997 issued by the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No.
42958,1 be set aside; and, that another judgment be
entered ordering the Presiding Judge of Branch 123 of the
Regional Trial Court of Caloocan City to give due course to
petitioners notice of appeal, to approve their record on
appeal and to elevate the records of Sp. Proc. No. C-1679
to respondent appellate court for further proceedings.
The factual background:
Herein petitioner Teresita N. de Leon was appointed
administratrix of the estate of Rafael C. Nicolas in
Sp. Proc. No. C-1679, entitled, "In the Matter of the
Intestate Estate of Rafael C. Nicolas". Said case was
subsequently consolidated with Sp. Proc No. C-18102 and
Civil Case No. C-17407.3 Deceased spouses Rafael and
Salud Nicolas were the parents of petitioner Teresita
N. de Leon, Estrellita N. Vizconde, Antonio Nicolas

(deceased husband of petitioner Zenaida Nicolas and


predecessor of the petitioners Heirs of Antonio Nicolas),
Ramon Nicolas and Roberto Nicolas.
On September 19, 1994, private respondent Ramon G.
Nicolas, an oppositorapplicant in the intestate
proceedings, filed a "Motion for Collation," claiming
that deceased Rafael Nicolas, during his lifetime,
had given the following real properties to his
children by gratuitous title and that administratrixpetitioner Teresita failed to include the same in the
inventory of the estate of the decedent:
"1. Title No. T-36734 Title No. T-40333 Title No. T-36989
Title No. T-36987 T-33658 T-68554 T-10907
On September 27, 1994, the RTC issued an Order directing
Ramon "to submit pertinent documents relative to the
transfer of the properties from the registered owners
during their lifetime for proper determination of the court
if such properties should be collated, and set it for hearing
with notice to the present registered owners to show cause
why their properties may not be included in the collation
of properties."5
On October 10, 1994, respondent Ramon filed an
Amended Motion for Collation specifying the properties to
be collated and attaching to said motion, the documents
in support thereof, to
A comparison with the original motion for collation reveals
that the amended motion refers to the same real

properties enumerated in the original except Nos. 6 and 7


above which are not found in the original motion.
On November 11, 1994, the RTC issued an Order, to wit:
"Acting on the Amended Motion for Collation filed by
oppositor-applicant Ramon G. Nicolas and the comment
thereto filed by petitioner-administratrix, the Court finds
the following properties to be collated to the estate
properties under present administration,
"Accordingly, the Administratrix is hereby ordered to
include the foregoing properties which were received from
the decedent for collation in the instant probate
proceedings.
"Amended Motion for Collation" were ordered included for
collation.
On November 18, 1994, petitioner Teresita N. de Leon
filed a Motion for Reconsideration alleging that the
properties subject of the Order "were already titled
in their names years ago"8 and that titles may not
be collaterally attacked in a motion for collation. On
February 23, 1995, the RTC issued an Order denying
said motion, ruling that it is within the jurisdiction
of the court to determine whether titled properties
should be collated,9citing Section 2, Rule 90 of the
Rules of Court which provides that the final order
of the court concerning questions as to
advancements made shall be binding on the person
raising the question and on the heir.

Petitioner Teresita N. de Leon filed a Motion for


Reconsideration of the Order dated February 23,
199510 which respondent opposed.11
On July 18, 1995, the RTC issued an Order "that the issue
of collation of the properties of the deceased Rafael
Nicolas which were disposed by the latter long before his
death. The oppositor-applicant Ramon Nicolas should
prove to the satisfaction of the Court whether the
properties disposed of by the late Rafael Nicolas before
the latters death was gratuitous or for valuable
consideration. The Court believes that he or she who
asserts should prove whether the disposition of the
properties was gratuitously made or for valuable
consideration.
On November 4, 1996, the RTC removed petitioner
from her position as administratrix on ground of
conflict of interest considering her claim that she
paid valuable consideration for the subject
properties acquired by her from their deceased
father and therefore the same should not be
included in the collation;13 and, ordered the
hearing on the collation of properties covered by
TCT No. T-V-1211 and T-V-1210 only.14
On November 28, 1996, acting on the impression that the
collation of the real properties enumerated in the Order
dated November 11, 1994 is maintained by the RTC,
petitioner Teresita N. de Leon filed a Motion for
Reconsideration praying that her appointment as
administratrix be maintained; and that the
properties covered by TCT Nos. T-36989, T-33658,

T-36987, T-40333, T-10907 and a portion of TCT


No. T-13206 described as Lot 4-A with 4,009
square meters be declared and decreed as the
exclusive properties of the registered owners
mentioned therein and not subject to collation.15
The RTC denied said motion in its Order dated December
23, 1996.16
Whether or not the decision of the RTC on collating the properties has already become final for failure of petitioners to appeal

Whether the RTC & CA erred in finding that respondent is not unsuitable for appointment as guardian of the
persons and property of Julieta;

Petitioners claim that: private respondent never presented


any document to prove that the properties transferred by
their deceased parents to petitioners are by gratuitous
title; private respondent never notified petitioner of any
hearing on said documents to give them opportunity to
show cause why their properties should not be collated;
the assailed Order dated November 11, 1994 is arbitrary,
capricious, whimsical, confiscatory, depriving them of due
process; the said order is interlocutory in nature and
therefore non-appealable; the properties acquired by
petitioner Teresita N. de Leon and her deceased brother
Antonio Nicolas, married to petitioner Zenaida C. Nicolas
and their children, were sold to them as evidenced by
public documents; and, the properties were already titled
in their respective names or sold to third persons.
Private respondent contends that: due process has been
afforded the petitioners when the RTC resolved the issue
of collation of the subject properties after hearing;
petitioner deliberately omitted certain material facts in the

petition to mislead the Court because petitioners were


actually given at least three (3) times the opportunity to
ventilate and oppose the issue of collation; as stated by
the appellate court in the Resolution promulgated on
February 10, 1997, both parties affirmed that the RTC had
proceeded to conduct hearings on January 21 and 28,
1997 as originally scheduled; presentation of evidence had
been terminated and the twin issues of the appointment
of a new administratrix and the collation of two (2)
properties covered by TCT No. T-V-1210 and T-V-1211
were already submitted for resolution to the court
below;20 subject properties are collatable under Articles
1601 and 1071 of the Civil Code and Section 2 of Rule 90
of the Rules of Court and the ruling in Guinguing v. Abuton
and Abuton, 48 Phil. 144; petitioner failed to present
evidence that there was valuable consideration for these
properties and failed to rebut the evidence that petitioners
do not have the financial capability to pay for these
properties as evidenced by the testimony of credible
witnesses who are relatives of spouses decedents.
We find the petition partly meritorious.
Contrary to the finding of the Court of Appeals that the
Order of November 11, 1994 had become final for failure
of petitioners to appeal therefrom in due time, we hold
that said Order is interlocutory in nature. Our
pronouncement in Garcia v. Garcia supports this ruling:
"The court which acquires jurisdiction over the
properties of a deceased person through the filing
of the corresponding proceedings, has supervision
and control over the said properties, and under the
said power, it is its inherent duty to see that the

inventory submitted by the administrator


appointed by it contains all the properties, rights
and credits which the law requires the
administrator to set out in his inventory. In
compliance with this duty the court has also
inherent power to determine what properties,
rights and credits of the deceased should be
included in or excluded from the inventory. Should
an heir or person interested in the properties of a
deceased person duly call the courts attention to
the fact that certain properties, rights or credits
have been left out in the inventory, it is likewise the
courts duty to hear the observations, with power
to determine if such observations should be
attended to or not and if the properties referred to
therein belong prima facie to the intestate, but no
such determination is final and ultimate in nature
as
to
the
ownership
of
the
said
21
properties." (Emphasis supplied)
A probate court, whether in a testate or intestate
proceeding,22 can only pass upon questions of title
provisionally.23 The rationale therefor and the
proper recourse of the aggrieved party are
expounded in Jimenez v. Court of Appeals:
"The patent reason is the probate courts limited
jurisdiction and the principle that questions of title
or ownership, which result in inclusion or exclusion
from the inventory of the property, can only be
settled in a separate action.

"All that the said court could do as regards said


properties is determine whether they should or
should not be included in the inventory or list of
properties to be administered by the administrator.
If there is a dispute as to the ownership, then the
opposing parties and the administrator have to
resort to an ordinary action for a final
determination of the conflicting claims of title
because the probate court cannot do so."24
Further, In Sanchez v. Court of Appeals, we held:
"[A] probate court or one in charge of proceedings
whether testate or intestate cannot adjudicate or
determine title to properties claimed to be a part of
the estate and which are claimed to belong to
outside parties. All that the said court could do as
regards said properties is to determine whether they
should or should not be included in the inventory or list of
properties to be administered by the administrator. If
there is no dispute, well and good, but if there is, then the
parties, the administrator, and the opposing parties have
to resort to an ordinary action for a final determination of
the conflicting claims of title because the probate court
cannot do so."25
Guided by the above jurisprudence, it is clear that
the Court of Appeals committed an error in
considering the assailed Order dated November 11,
1994 as final or binding upon the heirs or third
persons who dispute the inclusion of certain

properties in the intestate estate of the deceased


Rafael Nicolas. Under the foregoing rulings of the
Court, any aggrieved party, or a third person for
that matter, may bring an ordinary action for a final
determination of the conflicting claims.
Private respondents reliance on Section 2, Rule 90 of the
Rules of Court, to wit:
"SEC. 2. Questions as to advancement to be determined.
Questions as to advancement made, or alleged to have
been made, by the deceased to any heir may be heard and
determined by the court having jurisdiction of the estate
proceedings; and the final order of the court thereon shall
be binding on the person raising the question and on the
heir."
in support of his claim that the assailed Order is a final
order and therefore appealable and that due to petitioners
failure to appeal in due time, they are now bound by said
Order, is not feasible.
What seems to be a conflict between the above-quoted
Rule and the aforediscussed jurisprudence that the
Order in question is an interlocutory and not a final
order is more apparent than real. This is because
the questioned Order was erroneously referred to
as an order of collation both by the RTC and the
appellate court. For all intents and purposes, said
Order is a mere order including the subject
properties in the inventory of the estate of the
decedent.
The Court held in Valero Vda. de Rodriguez v. Court of
Appeals26 that the order of exclusion (or inclusion) is not

a final order; that it is interlocutory in the sense


that it did not settle once and for all the title to the
subject lots; that the prevailing rule is that for the
purpose of determining whether a certain property
should or should not be included in the inventory,
the probate court may pass upon the title thereto
but such determination is not conclusive and is
subject to the final decision in a separate action
regarding ownership which may be instituted by
the parties.
In the Rodriguez case, the Court distinguished between an
order of collation and an order of exclusion from or
inclusion in the estates inventory, thus:
"We hold further that the dictum of the Court of Appeals
and the probate court that the two disputed lots are not
subject to collation was a supererogation and was not
necessary to the disposition of the case which merely
involved the issue of inclusion in, or exclusion from, the
inventory of the testators estate. The issue of collation
was not yet justiciable at that early stage of the testate
proceeding. It is not necessary to mention in the order of
exclusion the controversial matter of collation.
"Whether collation may exist with respect to the two lots
and whether Mrs. Rustias Torrens titles thereto are
indefeasible are matters that may be raised later or may
not be raised at all. How those issues should be resolved,
if and when they are raised, need not be touched upon in
the adjudication of this appeal.

"The intestate and testate proceedings for the settlement


of the estates of the deceased Valero spouses were
consolidated, as ordered by the lower court on November
21, 1974, so that the conjugal estate of the deceased
spouses may be properly liquidated, as contemplated in
section 2, Rule 73 of the Rules of Court and Act No. 3176.
"We have examined the expedientes of the two cases. We
found that the proceedings have not yet reached the stage
when the question of collation or advancement to an heir
may be raised and decided. The numerous debts of the
decedents are still being paid. The net remainder
(remanente liquido) of their conjugal estate has not yet
been determined. On the other hand, up to this time, no
separate action has been brought by the appellants to
nullify Mrs. Rustias Torrens titles to the disputed lots or to
show that the sale was in reality a donation.
"In this appeal, it is not proper to pass upon the question
of collation and to decide whether Mrs. Rustias titles to
the disputed lots are questionable. The proceedings below
have not reached the stage of partition and distribution
when the legitimes of the compulsory heirs have to be
determined."27
In the light of the foregoing, Section 2, Rule 90 should be
interpreted in the context of Section 1 of the same Rule,
to wit:
"Section 1. When order for distribution of residue made.
When the debts, funeral charges, and expenses of
administration, the allowance to the widow, and
inheritance tax, if any, chargeable to the estate in
accordance with law, have been paid, the court, on the
application of the executor or administrator, or of a person

interested in the estate, and after hearing upon notice,


shall assign the residue of the estate to the persons
entitled to the same, naming them and the proportions, or
parts, to which each is entitled, and such person may
demand and recover their respective shares from the
executor or administrator, or any other person having the
same in his possession. If there is a controversy before the
court as to who are the lawful heirs of the deceased person
or as to the distributive shares to which each person is
entitled under the law, the controversy shall be heard and
decided as in ordinary cases.
No distribution shall be allowed until the payment
of the obligations above mentioned has been made
or provided for, unless the distributes, or any of
them, give a bond, in a sum to be fixed by the court,
conditioned for the payment of said obligations
within such time as the court directs."
Based thereon, we find that what the parties and the lower
courts have perceived to be as an Order of Collation is
nothing more than an order of inclusion in the inventory
of the estate which, as we have already discussed, is an
interlocutory order. The motion for collation was filed with
the probate court at the early stage of the intestate estate
proceedings. We have examined the records of the case
and we found no indication that the debts of the decedents
spouses have been paid and the net remainder of the
conjugal estate have already been determined, and the
estates of the deceased spouses at the time filing of the
motion for collation were ready for partition and
distribution. In other words, the issue on collation is still
premature.

And even if we consider, en arguendo, that said assailed


Order is a collation order and a final order, still, the same
would have no force and effect upon the parties. It is a
hornbook doctrine that a final order is appealable. As such,
the Order should have expressed therein clearly and
distinctly the facts and the laws on which it is based as
mandated by Section 14, Article VIII of the 1987
Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines, which
provides:
"SEC. 14. No decision shall be rendered by any court
without expressing therein clearly and distinctly the facts
and the law on which it is based.
No petition for review or motion for reconsideration of a
decision of the court shall be refused due course or denied
without stating the legal basis therefore."
An examination of the subject Order as quoted
earlier,28 readily reveals that the presiding Judge failed to
comply with the said constitutional mandate. The assailed
Order did not state the reasons for ordering the collation
of the properties enumerated therein. The Order simply
directed the inclusion of certain real properties in the
estate of the deceased. It did not declare that the
properties enumerated therein were given to the children
of the deceased gratuitously, despite the title in the
childrens names or deeds of sale in their favor. Moreover,
in his Comment, private respondent makes mention of the
testimonies of his witnesses but these were not even
mentioned in the Order of November 11, 1994. Petitioner
would have been deprived of due process as they would
be divested of the opportunity of being able to point out
in a motion for reconsideration or on appeal, any errors of

facts and/or law considering that there were no facts or


laws cited in support of the assailed Order of collation. As
a final Order, it is, on its face patently null and void. It
could have never become final. A void judgment is not
entitled to the respect accorded to a valid judgment, but
may be entirely disregarded or declared inoperative by any
tribunal in which effect is sought to be given to it.29 For it
to be considered as a valid final order, the RTC must then
first rule and state in its order whether the properties
covered by TCT Nos. T-36734, T-36989, T-33658, T36987, T-40333, T-10907 and the 4,009 square meter lot
were acquired by petitioners from the deceased parents of
the parties by onerous or gratuitous title; and must
specifically state in its order the reasons why it ordered
the subject properties collated. It is only then that the
order of collation may be the subject of a motion for
reconsideration and/or appeal within the 15-day
reglementary period. Until and unless the constitutional
mandate is complied with, any appeal from said Order
would have been premature.
Either way therefore, whether the Order in question is a
final or interlocutory order, it is a reversible error on the
part of the appellate court to rule that the so-called order
of collation dated November 11, 1994 had already attained
finality.
As to the prayer of petitioners that the RTC be ordered to
give due course to their notice of appeal from the Orders
dated November 4, 1996 and December 23, 1996
removing petitioner Teresita N. de Leon as administratrix
of the estate of private parties deceased parents,30 to
approve their record on appeal31 and to elevate the

records of Special Proceeding No. C-1679 to the Court of


Appeals It is not disputed by the parties that said Orders
are appealable. In fact, the Court of Appeals had correctly
directed the RTC to give due course to petitioners appeal
and this is not assailed by the private respondent.
But, the approval or disapproval of the record on appeal is
not a proper subject matter of the present petition for
review on certiorari as it is not even a subject-matter in
CA-G.R. SP No. 42958. Whether or not the record on
appeal should be approved is a matter that is subject to
the sound discretion of the RTC, provided that Sections 6
to 9, Rule 41 of the Rules of Court are observed by
appellant.
Finally, the elevation of the records of Special Proceedings
No. C-1679 to the Court of Appeals for the purpose of
petitioners appeal from the order removing the
administratrix is unnecessary where a record on appeal is
allowed under the Rules of Court. The court a quo loses
jurisdiction over the subject of the appeal upon the
approval of the record on appeal and the expiration of the
time to appeal of the other parties; but retains jurisdiction
over the remaining subject matter not covered by the
appeal.32
WHEREFORE, the petition is partly GRANTED. The assailed
Decision dated February 28, 1997 and Resolution dated
April 3, 1997 of the Court of Appeals are MODIFIED. The
Order dated November 11, 1994 issued by the Regional
Trial Court and all other orders of said court emanating
from said Order which involve the properties enumerated
therein are considered merely provisional or interlocutory,
without prejudice to any of the heirs, administrator or

approving parties to resort to an ordinary action for a final


determination of the conflicting claims of title.
The Regional Trial Court of Caloocan City (Branch 123) is
directed to immediately act, without further delay, on
petitioners appeal from the Orders dated November 4,
1996 and December 23, 1996, subject to Sections 6 to 9,
Rule 41 of the Rules of Court.1wphi1.nt
No costs.
SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 133743

February 6, 2007

EDGAR SAN LUIS, Petitioner, vs. FELICIDAD SAN


LUIS, Respondent.
x ---------------------------------------------------- x
G.R. No. 134029

February 6, 2007

RODOLFO SAN LUIS, Petitioner, vs. FELICIDAD


SAGALONGOS
alias
FELICIDAD
SAN
LUIS, Respondent.

DECISION
YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.:
Before us are consolidated petitions for review assailing
the February 4, 1998 Decision 1 of the Court of Appeals in
CA-G.R. CV No. 52647, which reversed and set aside the

September 12, 1995 2 and January 31, 1996 3Resolutions


of the Regional Trial Court of Makati City, Branch 134 in
SP. Proc. No. M-3708; and its May 15, 1998
4
Resolution
denying
petitioners
motion
for
reconsideration.
The instant case involves the settlement of the estate of
Felicisimo T. San Luis (Felicisimo), who was the former
governor of the Province of Laguna. During his lifetime,
Felicisimo contracted three marriages. His first marriage
was with Virginia Sulit on March 17, 1942 out of which
were born six children, namely: Rodolfo, Mila, Edgar,
Linda, Emilita and Manuel. On August 11, 1963, Virginia
predeceased Felicisimo.
Five years later, on May 1, 1968, Felicisimo married Merry
Lee Corwin, with whom he had a son, Tobias. However,
on October 15, 1971, Merry Lee, an American citizen, filed
a Complaint for Divorce 5 before the Family Court of the
First Circuit, State of Hawaii, United States of America
(U.S.A.), which issued a Decree Granting Absolute Divorce
and Awarding Child Custody on December 14, 1973. 6
On June 20, 1974, Felicisimo married respondent Felicidad
San Luis, then surnamed Sagalongos, before Rev. Fr.
William Meyer, Minister of the United Presbyterian at
Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, California, U.S.A. 7 He
had no children with respondent but lived with her for 18
years from the time of their marriage up to his death on
December 18, 1992.
Thereafter, respondent sought the dissolution of their
conjugal partnership assets and the settlement of
Felicisimos estate. On December 17, 1993, she filed a
petition for letters of administration 8 before the Regional

Trial Court of Makati City, docketed as SP. Proc. No. M3708 which was raffled to Branch 146 thereof.
Respondent alleged that she is the widow of Felicisimo;
that, at the time of his death, the decedent was residing
at 100 San Juanico Street, New Alabang Village, Alabang,
Metro Manila; that the decedents surviving heirs are
respondent as legal spouse, his six children by his first
marriage, and son by his second marriage; that the
decedent left real properties, both conjugal and exclusive,
valued at P30,304,178.00 more or less; that the decedent
does not have any unpaid debts. Respondent prayed that
the conjugal partnership assets be liquidated and that
letters of administration be issued to her.
On February 4, 1994, petitioner Rodolfo San Luis, one of
the children of Felicisimo by his first marriage, filed a
motion to dismiss 9 on the grounds of improper venue and
failure to state a cause of action. Rodolfo claimed that the
petition for letters of administration should have been filed
in the Province of Laguna because this was Felicisimos
place of residence prior to his death. He further claimed
that respondent has no legal personality to file the petition
because she was only a mistress of Felicisimo since the
latter, at the time of his death, was still legally married to
Merry Lee.
On February 15, 1994, Linda invoked the same grounds
and joined her brother Rodolfo in seeking the
dismissal10 of the petition. On February 28, 1994, the trial
court issued an Order 11 denying the two motions to
dismiss.
Unaware of the denial of the motions to dismiss,
respondent
filed
on
March
5,
1994
her

opposition 12 thereto. She submitted documentary


evidence showing that while Felicisimo exercised the
powers of his public office in Laguna, he regularly went
home to their house in New Alabang Village, Alabang,
Metro Manila which they bought sometime in 1982.
Further, she presented the decree of absolute divorce
issued by the Family Court of the First Circuit, State of
Hawaii to prove that the marriage of Felicisimo to Merry
Lee had already been dissolved. Thus, she claimed that
Felicisimo had the legal capacity to marry her by virtue of
paragraph 2, 13 Article 26 of the Family Code and the
doctrine laid down in Van Dorn v. Romillo, Jr. 14
Thereafter, Linda, Rodolfo and herein petitioner Edgar San
Luis, separately filed motions for reconsideration from the
Order denying their motions to dismiss. 15 They asserted
that paragraph 2, Article 26 of the Family Code cannot be
given retroactive effect to validate respondents bigamous
marriage with Felicisimo because this would impair vested
rights in derogation of Article 256 16 of the Family Code.
On April 21, 1994, Mila, another daughter of Felicisimo
from his first marriage, filed a motion to disqualify Acting
Presiding Judge Anthony E. Santos from hearing the case.
On October 24, 1994, the trial court issued an
Order 17 denying the motions for reconsideration. It ruled
that respondent, as widow of the decedent, possessed the
legal standing to file the petition and that venue was
properly laid. Meanwhile, the motion for disqualification
was deemed moot and academic 18 because then Acting
Presiding Judge Santos was substituted by Judge Salvador
S. Tensuan pending the resolution of said motion.

Mila filed a motion for inhibition 19 against Judge Tensuan


on November 16, 1994. On even date, Edgar also filed a
motion for reconsideration 20 from the Order denying their
motion for reconsideration arguing that it does not state
the facts and law on which it was based.
On November 25, 1994, Judge Tensuan issued an
Order 21 granting the motion for inhibition. The case was
re-raffled to Branch 134 presided by Judge Paul T.
Arcangel.
On April 24, 1995, 22 the trial court required the parties to
submit their respective position papers on the twin issues
of venue and legal capacity of respondent to file the
petition. On May 5, 1995, Edgar manifested 23 that he is
adopting the arguments and evidence set forth in his
previous motion for reconsideration as his position paper.
Respondent and Rodolfo filed their position papers on June
14, 24 and June 20, 25 1995, respectively.
On September 12, 1995, the trial court dismissed the
petition for letters of administration. It held that, at the
time of his death, Felicisimo was the duly elected governor
and a resident of the Province of Laguna. Hence, the
petition should have been filed in Sta. Cruz, Laguna and
not in Makati City. It also ruled that respondent was
without legal capacity to file the petition for letters of
administration because her marriage with Felicisimo was
bigamous, thus, void ab initio. It found that the decree of
absolute divorce dissolving Felicisimos marriage to Merry
Lee was not valid in the Philippines and did not bind
Felicisimo who was a Filipino citizen. It also ruled that
paragraph 2, Article 26 of the Family Code cannot be

retroactively applied because it would impair the vested


rights of Felicisimos legitimate children.
Respondent moved for reconsideration 26 and for the
disqualification 27 of Judge Arcangel but said motions were
denied. 28
Respondent appealed to the Court of Appeals which
reversed and set aside the orders of the trial court in its
assailed Decision dated February 4, 1998, the dispositive
portion of which states:
WHEREFORE, the Orders dated September 12, 1995 and
January 31, 1996 are hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE;
the Orders dated February 28 and October 24, 1994 are
REINSTATED; and the records of the case is REMANDED
to the trial court for further proceedings. 29
The appellante court ruled that under Section 1, Rule 73
of the Rules of Court, the term "place of residence" of the
decedent, for purposes of fixing the venue of the
settlement of his estate, refers to the personal, actual or
physical habitation, or actual residence or place of abode
of a person as distinguished from legal residence or
domicile. It noted that although Felicisimo discharged his
functions as governor in Laguna, he actually resided in
Alabang, Muntinlupa. Thus, the petition for letters of
administration was properly filed in Makati City.
The Court of Appeals also held that Felicisimo had legal
capacity to marry respondent by virtue of paragraph 2,
Article 26 of the Family Code and the rulings in Van Dorn
v. Romillo, Jr. 30 and Pilapil v. Ibay-Somera. 31 It found
that the marriage between Felicisimo and Merry Lee was
validly dissolved by virtue of the decree of absolute divorce

issued by the Family Court of the First Circuit, State of


Hawaii. As a result, under paragraph 2, Article 26,
Felicisimo was capacitated to contract a subsequent
marriage with respondent. Thus
With the well-known rule express mandate of paragraph
2, Article 26, of the Family Code of the Philippines, the
doctrines in Van Dorn, Pilapil, and the reason and
philosophy behind the enactment of E.O. No. 227, there
is no justiciable reason to sustain the individual view
sweeping statement of Judge Arc[h]angel, that "Article
26, par. 2 of the Family Code, contravenes the basic policy
of our state against divorce in any form whatsoever."
Indeed, courts cannot deny what the law grants. All that
the courts should do is to give force and effect to the
express mandate of the law. The foreign divorce having
been obtained by the Foreigner on December 14,
1992,32 the Filipino divorcee, "shall x x x have capacity to
remarry under Philippine laws". For this reason, the
marriage between the deceased and petitioner should not
be denominated as "a bigamous marriage.
Therefore, under Article 130 of the Family Code, the
petitioner as the surviving spouse can institute the judicial
proceeding for the settlement of the estate of the
deceased. x x x 33
Edgar, Linda, and Rodolfo filed separate motions for
reconsideration 34 which were denied by the Court of
Appeals.
On July 2, 1998, Edgar appealed to this Court via the
instant petition for review on certiorari. 35 Rodolfo later
filed a manifestation and motion to adopt the said petition
which was granted. 36

In the instant consolidated petitions, Edgar and Rodolfo


insist that the venue of the subject petition for letters of
administration was improperly laid because at the time of
his death, Felicisimo was a resident of Sta. Cruz, Laguna.
They contend that pursuant to our rulings in Nuval v.
Guray 37 and Romualdez v. RTC, Br. 7, Tacloban
City, 38 "residence" is synonymous with "domicile" which
denotes a fixed permanent residence to which when
absent, one intends to return. They claim that a person
can only have one domicile at any given time. Since
Felicisimo never changed his domicile, the petition for
letters of administration should have been filed in Sta.
Cruz, Laguna.
Petitioners also contend that respondents marriage to
Felicisimo was void and bigamous because it was
performed during the subsistence of the latters marriage
to Merry Lee. They argue that paragraph 2, Article 26
cannot be retroactively applied because it would impair
vested rights and ratify the void bigamous marriage. As
such, respondent cannot be considered the surviving wife
of Felicisimo; hence, she has no legal capacity to file the
petition for letters of administration.
The issues for resolution: (1) whether venue was properly
laid, and (2) whether respondent has legal capacity to file
the subject petition for letters of administration.
The petition lacks merit.
Under Section 1, 39 Rule 73 of the Rules of Court, the
petition for letters of administration of the estate of
Felicisimo should be filed in the Regional Trial Court of the
province "in which he resides at the time of his death." In
the case of Garcia Fule v. Court of Appeals, 40 we laid down

the doctrinal rule for determining the residence as


contradistinguished from domicile of the decedent for
purposes of fixing the venue of the settlement of his
estate:
[T]he term "resides" connotes ex vi termini "actual
residence" as distinguished from "legal residence or
domicile." This term "resides," like the terms "residing"
and "residence," is elastic and should be interpreted in the
light of the object or purpose of the statute or rule in which
it is employed. In the application of venue statutes and
rules Section 1, Rule 73 of the Revised Rules of Court is
of such nature residence rather than domicile is the
significant factor. Even where the statute uses the word
"domicile" still it is construed as meaning residence and
not domicile in the technical sense. Some cases make a
distinction between the terms "residence" and "domicile"
but as generally used in statutes fixing venue, the terms
are synonymous, and convey the same meaning as the
term "inhabitant." In other words, "resides" should be
viewed or understood in its popular sense, meaning, the
personal, actual or physical habitation of a person, actual
residence or place of abode. It signifies physical presence
in a place and actual stay thereat. In this popular sense,
the term means merely residence, that is, personal
residence, not legal residence or domicile. Residence
simply requires bodily presence as an inhabitant in a given
place, while domicile requires bodily presence in that place
and also an intention to make it ones domicile. No
particular length of time of residence is required though;
however, the residence must be more than
temporary.41 (Emphasis supplied)

It is incorrect for petitioners to argue that "residence," for


purposes of fixing the venue of the settlement of the
estate of Felicisimo, is synonymous with "domicile." The
rulings in Nuval and Romualdez are inapplicable to the
instant case because they involve election cases. Needless
to say, there is a distinction between "residence" for
purposes of election laws and "residence" for purposes of
fixing the venue of actions. In election cases, "residence"
and "domicile" are treated as synonymous terms, that is,
the fixed permanent residence to which when absent, one
has the intention of returning. 42 However, for purposes of
fixing venue under the Rules of Court, the "residence" of
a person is his personal, actual or physical habitation, or
actual residence or place of abode, which may not
necessarily be his legal residence or domicile provided he
resides therein with continuity and consistency.43 Hence,
it is possible that a person may have his residence in one
place and domicile in another.
In the instant case, while petitioners established that
Felicisimo was domiciled in Sta. Cruz, Laguna, respondent
proved that he also maintained a residence in Alabang,
Muntinlupa from 1982 up to the time of his death.
Respondent submitted in evidence the Deed of Absolute
Sale 44 dated January 5, 1983 showing that the deceased
purchased the aforesaid property. She also presented
billing statements 45 from the Philippine Heart Center and
Chinese General Hospital for the period August to
December 1992 indicating the address of Felicisimo at
"100 San Juanico, Ayala Alabang, Muntinlupa."
Respondent also presented proof of membership of the
deceased in the Ayala Alabang Village Association 46 and
Ayala Country Club, Inc., 47 letter-envelopes 48 from 1988

to 1990 sent by the deceaseds children to him at his


Alabang
address,
and
the
deceaseds
calling
49
cards stating that his home/city address is at "100 San
Juanico, Ayala Alabang Village, Muntinlupa" while his
office/provincial address is in "Provincial Capitol, Sta. Cruz,
Laguna."
From the foregoing, we find that Felicisimo was a resident
of Alabang, Muntinlupa for purposes of fixing the venue of
the settlement of his estate. Consequently, the subject
petition for letters of administration was validly filed in the
Regional Trial Court 50 which has territorial jurisdiction
over Alabang, Muntinlupa. The subject petition was filed
on December 17, 1993. At that time, Muntinlupa was still
a municipality and the branches of the Regional Trial Court
of the National Capital Judicial Region which had territorial
jurisdiction over Muntinlupa were then seated in Makati
City as per Supreme Court Administrative Order No.
3. 51 Thus, the subject petition was validly filed before the
Regional Trial Court of Makati City.
Anent the issue of respondent Felicidads legal personality
to file the petition for letters of administration, we must
first resolve the issue of whether a Filipino who is divorced
by his alien spouse abroad may validly remarry under the
Civil Code, considering that Felicidads marriage to
Felicisimo was solemnized on June 20, 1974, or before the
Family Code took effect on August 3, 1988. In resolving
this issue, we need not retroactively apply the provisions
of the Family Code, particularly Art. 26, par. (2)
considering that there is sufficient jurisprudential basis
allowing us to rule in the affirmative.

The case of Van Dorn v. Romillo, Jr. 52 involved a marriage


between a foreigner and his Filipino wife, which marriage
was subsequently dissolved through a divorce obtained
abroad by the latter. Claiming that the divorce was not
valid under Philippine law, the alien spouse alleged that
his interest in the properties from their conjugal
partnership should be protected. The Court, however,
recognized the validity of the divorce and held that the
alien spouse had no interest in the properties acquired by
the Filipino wife after the divorce. Thus:
In this case, the divorce in Nevada released private
respondent from the marriage from the standards of
American law, under which divorce dissolves the
marriage. As stated by the Federal Supreme Court of the
United States in Atherton vs. Atherton, 45 L. Ed. 794, 799:
"The purpose and effect of a decree of divorce from the
bond of matrimony by a competent jurisdiction are to
change the existing status or domestic relation of husband
and wife, and to free them both from the bond. The
marriage tie, when thus severed as to one party, ceases
to bind either. A husband without a wife, or a wife without
a husband, is unknown to the law. When the law provides,
in the nature of a penalty, that the guilty party shall not
marry again, that party, as well as the other, is still
absolutely freed from the bond of the former marriage."
Thus, pursuant to his national law, private respondent is
no longer the husband of petitioner. He would have no
standing to sue in the case below as petitioners husband
entitled to exercise control over conjugal assets. As he is
bound by the Decision of his own countrys Court, which
validly exercised jurisdiction over him, and whose decision

he does not repudiate, he is estopped by his own


representation before said Court from asserting his right
over the alleged conjugal property. 53
As to the effect of the divorce on the Filipino wife, the
Court ruled that she should no longer be considered
married to the alien spouse. Further, she should not be
required to perform her marital duties and obligations. It
held:
To maintain, as private respondent does, that, under our
laws, petitioner has to be considered still married to
private respondent and still subject to a wife's
obligations under Article 109, et. seq. of the Civil
Code cannot be just. Petitioner should not be obliged to
live together with, observe respect and fidelity, and render
support to private respondent. The latter should not
continue to be one of her heirs with possible rights to
conjugal property. She should not be discriminated against
in her own country if the ends of justice are to be
served. 54 (Emphasis added)
This principle was thereafter applied in Pilapil v. IbaySomera 55 where the Court recognized the validity of a
divorce obtained abroad. In the said case, it was held that
the alien spouse is not a proper party in filing the adultery
suit against his Filipino wife. The Court stated that "the

severance of the marital bond had the effect of


dissociating the former spouses from each other, hence
the actuations of one would not affect or cast obloquy on
the other." 56

Likewise, in Quita v. Court of Appeals, 57 the Court stated


that where a Filipino is divorced by his naturalized foreign
spouse, the ruling in Van Dorn applies. 58 Although decided

on December 22, 1998, the divorce in the said case was


obtained in 1954 when the Civil Code provisions were still
in effect.
The significance of the Van Dorn case to the development
of limited recognition of divorce in the Philippines cannot
be denied. The ruling has long been interpreted as
severing marital ties between parties in a mixed marriage
and capacitating the Filipino spouse to remarry as a
necessary consequence of upholding the validity of a
divorce obtained abroad by the alien spouse. In his
treatise, Dr. Arturo M. Tolentino cited Van Dorn stating
that "if the foreigner obtains a valid foreign divorce, the
Filipino spouse shall have capacity to remarry under
Philippine law." 59 In Garcia v. Recio, 60 the Court likewise
cited the aforementioned case in relation to Article 26. 61
In the recent case of Republic v. Orbecido III, 62 the
historical background and legislative intent behind
paragraph 2, Article 26 of the Family Code were discussed,
to wit:
Brief Historical Background
On July 6, 1987, then President Corazon Aquino signed
into law Executive Order No. 209, otherwise known as the
"Family Code," which took effect on August 3, 1988. Article
26 thereof states:
All marriages solemnized outside the Philippines in
accordance with the laws in force in the country where
they were solemnized, and valid there as such, shall also
be valid in this country, except those prohibited under
Articles 35, 37, and 38.

On July 17, 1987, shortly after the signing of the original


Family Code, Executive Order No. 227 was likewise signed
into law, amending Articles 26, 36, and 39 of the Family
Code. A second paragraph was added to Article 26. As so
amended, it now provides:
ART. 26. All marriages solemnized outside the Philippines
in accordance with the laws in force in the country where
they were solemnized, and valid there as such, shall also
be valid in this country, except those prohibited under
Articles 35(1), (4), (5) and (6), 36, 37 and 38.

Where a marriage between a Filipino citizen and a


foreigner is validly celebrated and a divorce is thereafter
validly obtained abroad by the alien spouse capacitating
him or her to remarry, the Filipino spouse shall have
capacity to remarry under Philippine law. (Emphasis
supplied)
x

Legislative Intent

Records of the proceedings of the Family Code


deliberations showed that the intent of Paragraph 2 of
Article 26, according to Judge Alicia Sempio-Diy, a member
of the Civil Code Revision Committee, is to avoid the
absurd situation where the Filipino spouse remains
married to the alien spouse who, after obtaining a divorce,
is no longer married to the Filipino spouse.
Interestingly, Paragraph 2 of Article 26 traces its origin to
the 1985 case of Van Dorn v. Romillo, Jr. TheVan
Dorn case involved a marriage between a Filipino citizen
and a foreigner. The Court held therein that a divorce
decree validly obtained by the alien spouse is valid in the

Philippines, and consequently, the Filipino spouse is


capacitated to remarry under Philippine law. 63 (Emphasis
added)
As such, the Van Dorn case is sufficient basis in resolving
a situation where a divorce is validly obtained abroad by
the alien spouse. With the enactment of the Family Code
and paragraph 2, Article 26 thereof, our lawmakers
codified the law already established through judicial
precedent.1awphi1.net
Indeed, when the object of a marriage is defeated by
rendering its continuance intolerable to one of the parties
and productive of no possible good to the community,
relief in some way should be obtainable. 64 Marriage, being
a mutual and shared commitment between two parties,
cannot possibly be productive of any good to the society
where one is considered released from the marital bond
while the other remains bound to it. Such is the state of
affairs where the alien spouse obtains a valid divorce
abroad against the Filipino spouse, as in this case.
Petitioners cite Articles 15 65 and 17 66 of the Civil Code in
stating that the divorce is void under Philippine law insofar
as Filipinos are concerned. However, in light of this Courts
rulings in the cases discussed above, the Filipino spouse
should not be discriminated against in his own country if
the ends of justice are to be served. 67 In Alonzo v.
Intermediate Appellate Court, 68 the Court stated:
But as has also been aptly observed, we test a law by its
results; and likewise, we may add, by its purposes. It is a
cardinal rule that, in seeking the meaning of the law, the
first concern of the judge should be to discover in its
provisions the intent of the lawmaker. Unquestionably, the

law should never be interpreted in such a way as to cause


injustice as this is never within the legislative intent. An
indispensable part of that intent, in fact, for we presume
the good motives of the legislature, is to render justice.
Thus, we interpret and apply the law not independently of
but in consonance with justice. Law and justice are
inseparable, and we must keep them so. To be sure, there
are some laws that, while generally valid, may seem
arbitrary when applied in a particular case because of its
peculiar circumstances. In such a situation, we are not
bound, because only of our nature and functions, to apply
them just the same, in slavish obedience to their language.
What we do instead is find a balance between the word
and the will, that justice may be done even as the law is
obeyed.
As judges, we are not automatons. We do not and must
not unfeelingly apply the law as it is worded, yielding like
robots to the literal command without regard to its cause
and consequence. "Courts are apt to err by sticking too
closely to the words of a law," so we are warned, by
Justice Holmes again, "where these words import a policy
that goes beyond them."
xxxx
More than twenty centuries ago, Justinian defined justice
"as the constant and perpetual wish to render every one
his due." That wish continues to motivate this Court when
it assesses the facts and the law in every case brought to
it for decision. Justice is always an essential ingredient of
its decisions. Thus when the facts warrants, we interpret
the law in a way that will render justice, presuming that it

was the intention of the lawmaker, to begin with, that the


law be dispensed with justice. 69

in Garcia, however, the Court cannot take judicial notice


of foreign laws as they must be alleged and proved. 73

Applying the above doctrine in the instant case, the


divorce decree allegedly obtained by Merry Lee which
absolutely allowed Felicisimo to remarry, would have
vested Felicidad with the legal personality to file the
present petition as Felicisimos surviving spouse. However,
the records show that there is insufficient evidence to
prove the validity of the divorce obtained by Merry Lee as
well as the marriage of respondent and Felicisimo under
the laws of the U.S.A. In Garcia v. Recio, 70 the Court laid
down the specific guidelines for pleading and proving
foreign law and divorce judgments. It held that
presentation solely of the divorce decree is insufficient and
that proof of its authenticity and due execution must be
presented. Under Sections 24 and 25 of Rule 132, a writing
or document may be proven as a public or official record
of a foreign country by either (1) an official publication or
(2) a copy thereof attested by the officer having legal
custody of the document. If the record is not kept in the
Philippines, such copy must be (a) accompanied by a
certificate issued by the proper diplomatic or consular
officer in the Philippine foreign service stationed in the
foreign country in which the record is kept and (b)
authenticated by the seal of his office. 71

Therefore, this case should be remanded to the trial court


for further reception of evidence on the divorce decree
obtained by Merry Lee and the marriage of respondent and
Felicisimo.

With regard to respondents marriage to Felicisimo


allegedly solemnized in California, U.S.A., she submitted
photocopies of the Marriage Certificate and the annotated
text 72 of the Family Law Act of California which
purportedly show that their marriage was done in
accordance
with
the
said
law.
As
stated

Even assuming that Felicisimo was not capacitated to


marry respondent in 1974, nevertheless, we find that the
latter has the legal personality to file the subject petition
for letters of administration, as she may be considered the
co-owner of Felicisimo as regards the properties that were
acquired through their joint efforts during their
cohabitation.
Section 6, 74 Rule 78 of the Rules of Court states that
letters of administration may be granted to the surviving
spouse of the decedent. However, Section 2, Rule 79
thereof also provides in part:
SEC. 2. Contents of petition for letters of administration.
A petition for letters of administration must be filed by an
interested person and must show, as far as known to the
petitioner: x x x.
An "interested person" has been defined as one who would
be benefited by the estate, such as an heir, or one who
has a claim against the estate, such as a creditor. The
interest must be material and direct, and not merely
indirect or contingent. 75
In the instant case, respondent would qualify as an
interested person who has a direct interest in the estate
of Felicisimo by virtue of their cohabitation, the existence
of which was not denied by petitioners. If she proves the

validity of the divorce and Felicisimos capacity to remarry,


but fails to prove that her marriage with him was validly
performed under the laws of the U.S.A., then she may be
considered as a co-owner under Article 144 76 of the Civil
Code. This provision governs the property relations
between parties who live together as husband and wife
without the benefit of marriage, or their marriage is void
from the beginning. It provides that the property acquired
by either or both of them through their work or industry
or their wages and salaries shall be governed by the rules
on co-ownership. In a co-ownership, it is not necessary
that the property be acquired through their joint labor,
efforts and industry. Any property acquired during the
union is prima facie presumed to have been obtained
through their joint efforts. Hence, the portions belonging
to the co-owners shall be presumed equal, unless the
contrary is proven. 77
Meanwhile, if respondent fails to prove the validity of both
the divorce and the marriage, the applicable provision
would be Article 148 of the Family Code which has filled
the hiatus in Article 144 of the Civil Code by expressly
regulating the property relations of couples living together
as husband and wife but are incapacitated to
marry. 78In Saguid v. Court of Appeals, 79 we held that
even if the cohabitation or the acquisition of property
occurred before the Family Code took effect, Article 148
governs. 80 The Court described the property regime under
this provision as follows:
The regime of limited co-ownership of property governing
the union of parties who are not legally capacitated to
marry each other, but who nonetheless live together as

husband and wife, applies to properties acquired during


said cohabitation in proportion to their respective
contributions. Co-ownership will only be up to the extent
of the proven actual contribution of money, property or
industry. Absent proof of the extent thereof, their
contributions and corresponding shares shall be presumed
to be equal.
xxxx
In the cases of Agapay v. Palang, and Tumlos v.
Fernandez, which involved the issue of co-ownership of
properties acquired by the parties to a bigamous marriage
and an adulterous relationship, respectively, we ruled that
proof of actual contribution in the acquisition of the
property is essential. x x x
As in other civil cases, the burden of proof rests upon the
party who, as determined by the pleadings or the nature
of the case, asserts an affirmative issue. Contentions must
be proved by competent evidence and reliance must be
had on the strength of the partys own evidence and not
upon the weakness of the opponents defense. x x x 81
In view of the foregoing, we find that respondents legal
capacity to file the subject petition for letters of
administration may arise from her status as the surviving
wife of Felicisimo or as his co-owner under Article 144 of
the Civil Code or Article 148 of the Family Code.
WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The Decision of the
Court of Appeals reinstating and affirming the February 28,
1994 Order of the Regional Trial Court which denied
petitioners motion to dismiss and its October 24, 1994
Order which dismissed petitioners motion for

reconsideration is AFFIRMED. Let this case be REMANDED


to the trial court for further proceedings.
SO ORDERED.

AGTARAP VS. AGTARAP


G.R. No. 177099

The antecedent facts and proceedings


On September 15, 1994, Eduardo filed with the Regional Trial
Court (RTC), Branch 114, Pasay City, a verified petition for the
judicial settlement of the estate of his deceased father Joaquin
Agtarap (Joaquin). It was docketed as Special Proceedings No.
94-4055.
The petition alleged that Joaquin died intestate on
November 21, 1964 in Pasay City without any known debts or
obligations. During his lifetime, Joaquin contracted two
marriages, first with Lucia Garcia (Lucia),[5] and second with
Caridad Garcia (Caridad). Lucia died on April 24, 1924. Joaquin
and Lucia had three childrenJesus (died without issue),
Milagros, and Jose (survived by three children, namely,
Gloria,[6] Joseph, and Teresa[7]). Joaquin married Caridad on

February 9, 1926.They also had three childrenEduardo,


Sebastian, and Mercedes (survived by her daughter Cecile). At
the time of his death, Joaquin left two parcels of land with
improvements in Pasay City, covered by Transfer Certificates of
Title (TCT) Nos. 873-(38254) and 874-(38255). Joseph, a
grandson of Joaquin, had been leasing and improving the said
realties and had been appropriating for himself P26,000.00 per
month since April 1994.
Eduardo further alleged that there was an imperative
need to appoint him as special administrator to take possession
and charge of the estate assets and their civil fruits, pending the
appointment of a regular administrator. In addition, he prayed
that an order be issued (a) confirming and declaring the named
compulsory heirs of Joaquin who would be entitled to participate
in the estate; (b) apportioning and allocating unto the named
heirs their aliquot shares in the estate in accordance with law;
and (c) entitling the distributees the right to receive and enter
into possession those parts of the estate individually awarded to
them.
On September 26, 1994, the RTC issued an order setting
the petition for initial hearing and directing Eduardo to cause its
publication.

On December 28, 1994, Sebastian filed his comment,

only by her daughter Cecile, but also by him as her husband. He

generally admitting the allegations in the petition, and conceding


to the appointment of Eduardo as special administrator.

also averred that there is a need to appoint a special administrator


to the estate, but claimed that Eduardo is not the person best
qualified for the task.

Joseph,
Gloria,
and
Teresa
filed
their
answer/opposition. They alleged that the two subject lots belong
to the conjugal partnership of Joaquin with Lucia, and that, upon
Lucias death in April 1924, they became the pro indiviso owners
of the subject properties. They said that their residence was built
with the exclusive money of their late father Jose, and the
expenses of the extensions to the house were shouldered by
Gloria and Teresa, while the restaurant (Manongs Restaurant)
was built with the exclusive money of Joseph and his business
partner. They opposed the appointment of Eduardo as
administrator on the following grounds: (1) he is not physically
and mentally fit to do so; (2) his interest in the lots is minimal;
and (3) he does not possess the desire to earn. They claimed that
the best interests of the estate dictate that Joseph be appointed as
special or regular administrator.
On February 16, 1995, the RTC issued a resolution
appointing Eduardo as regular administrator of Joaquins
estate. Consequently, it issued him letters of administration.
On September 16, 1995, Abelardo Dagoro filed an
answer in intervention, alleging that Mercedes is survived not

After the parties were given the opportunity to be heard


and to submit their respective proposed projects of partition, the
RTC, on October 23, 2000, issued an Order of Partition,[8] with
the following disposition
In the light of the filing by the heirs of
their respective proposed projects of partition
and the payment of inheritance taxes due the
estate as early as 1965, and there being no claim
in Court against the estate of the deceased, the
estate of JOAQUIN AGTARAP is now
consequently ripe for distribution among the
heirs minus the surviving spouse Caridad Garcia
who died on August 25, 1999.
Considering that the bulk of the estate
property were acquired during the existence of
the second marriage as shown by TCT No.
(38254) and TCT No. (38255) which showed on
its face that decedent was married to Caridad
Garcia, which fact oppositors failed to contradict
by evidence other than their negative allegations,
the greater part of the estate is perforce accounted
by the second marriage and the compulsory heirs
thereunder.

The Administrator, Eduardo Agtarap


rendered a true and just accounting of his
administration from his date of assumption up to
the year ending December 31, 1996 per Financial
and Accounting Report dated June 2, 1997 which
was approved by the Court. The accounting
report included the income earned and received
for the period and the expenses incurred in the
administration, sustenance and allowance of the
widow. In accordance with said Financial and
Accounting Report which was duly approved by
this Court in its Resolution dated July 28, 1998
the deceased JOAQUIN AGTARAP left real
properties consisting of the following:
I LAND:
Two lots and two buildings with one garage
quarter located at #3030 Agtarap St., Pasay City,
covered by Transfer Certificate of Title Nos.
38254 and 38255 and registered with the
Registry of Deeds of Pasay City, Metro Manila,
described as follows:
WHEREFORE, the net assets of the estate of the
late JOAQUIN AGTARAP with a total value
of P14,177,500.00, together with whatever
interest from bank deposits and all other incomes
or increments thereof accruing after the
Accounting Report of December 31, 1996, after
deducting therefrom the compensation of the

administrator and other expenses allowed by the


Court, are hereby ordered distributed.
Eduardo, Sebastian, and oppositors Joseph and Teresa
filed their respective motions for reconsideration.
On August 27, 2001, the RTC issued a
resolution[10] denying the motions for reconsideration of
Eduardo and Sebastian, and granting that of Joseph and
Teresa. It also declared that the real estate properties belonged
to the conjugal partnership of Joaquin and Lucia. It also directed
the modification of the October 23, 2000 Order of Partition to
reflect the correct sharing of the heirs. However, before the RTC
could issue a new order of partition, Eduardo and Sebastian both
appealed to the CA.
On November 21, 2006, the CA rendered its Decision,
the dispositive portion of which reads
WHEREFORE, premises considered,
the instant appeals are DISMISSED for lack of
merit. The assailed Resolution dated August 27,
2001 is AFFIRMED and pursuant thereto, the
subject properties (Lot No. 745-B-1 [TCT No.
38254] and Lot No. 745-B-2 [TCT No. 38255])
and the estate of the late Joaquin Agtarap are
hereby partitioned as follows:
The two (2) properties, together with their
improvements, embraced by TCT No. 38254 and

TCT No. 38255, respectively, are first to be


distributed among the following:
Aggrieved, Sebastian and Eduardo filed their respective
motions for reconsideration.
In its Resolution dated March 27, 2007, the CA denied
both motions. Hence, these petitions ascribing to the appellate
court the following errors:
G.R. No. 177099
THE COURT OF APPEALS (FORMER
TWELFTH DIVISION) DID NOT ACQUIRE
JURISDICTION OVER THE ESTATE OF
MILAGROS G. AGTARAP AND ERRED IN
DISTRIBUTING HER INHERITANCE FROM
THE ESTATE OF JOAQUIN AGTARAP
NOTWITHSTANDING THE EXISTENCE OF
HER LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT IN
VIOLATION OF THE DOCTRINE OF
PRECEDENCE
OF
TESTATE
PROCEEDINGS
OVER
INTESTATE
PROCEEDINGS.

The general rule is that the jurisdiction of the trial court,


either as a probate or an intestate court, relates only to
matters having to do with the probate of the will and/or
settlement of the estate of deceased persons, but does not
extend to the determination of questions of ownership that
arise during the proceedings.[15] The patent rationale for this
rule is that such court merely exercises special and limited
jurisdiction.[16] As held in several cases,[17] a probate court or one
in charge of estate proceedings, whether testate or intestate,
cannot adjudicate or determine title to properties claimed to be
a part of the estate and which are claimed to belong to outside
parties, not by virtue of any right of inheritance from the
deceased but by title adverse to that of the deceased and his
estate. All that the said court could do as regards said properties
is to determine whether or not they should be included in the
inventory of properties to be administered by the
administrator. If there is no dispute, there poses no problem, but
if there is, then the parties, the administrator, and the opposing
parties have to resort to an ordinary action before a court
exercising general jurisdiction for a final determination of the
conflicting claims of title.

The Courts Ruling


As to Sebastians and Eduardos common issue on the ownership
of the subject real properties, we hold that the RTC, as an
intestate court, had jurisdiction to resolve the same.

However, this general rule is subject to exceptions as


justified by expediency and convenience.

First, the probate court may provisionally pass upon

alleged that the subject properties were owned by Joaquin and

in an intestate or a testate proceeding the question of


inclusion in, or exclusion from, the inventory of a piece of
property without prejudice to the final determination of
ownership in a separate action.[18] Second, if the interested
parties are all heirs to the estate, or the question is one of
collation or advancement, or the parties consent to the
assumption of jurisdiction by the probate court and the
rights of third parties are not impaired, then the probate
court is competent to resolve issues on ownership.[19] Verily,
its jurisdiction extends to matters incidental or collateral to
the settlement and distribution of the estate, such as the
determination of the status of each heir and whether the

Caridad since the TCTs state that the lots were registered in the
name of Joaquin Agtarap, married to Caridad Garcia. He also
admitted in his petition that Joaquin, prior to contracting
marriage with Caridad, contracted a first marriage with
Lucia. Oppositors to the petition, Joseph and Teresa, however,
were able to present proof before the RTC that TCT Nos. 38254
and 38255 were derived from a mother title, TCT No. 5239,
dated March 17, 1920, in the name of FRANCISCO VICTOR

property in the inventory is conjugal or exclusive property


of the deceased spouse.[20]

married to Lucia Garcia Mendietta).[21] When TCT No. 5239


was divided between Francisco Barnes and Joaquin Agtarap,

We hold that the general rule does not apply to the


instant case considering that the parties are all heirs of
Joaquin and that no rights of third parties will be impaired
by the resolution of the ownership issue. More importantly,
the determination of whether the subject properties are
conjugal is but collateral to the probate courts jurisdiction
to settle the estate of Joaquin.
It should be remembered that when Eduardo filed his
verified petition for judicial settlement of Joaquins estate, he

BARNES Y JOAQUIN AGTARAP, el primero casado con Emilia


Muscat,
y
el
Segundo
con
Lucia
Garcia
Mendietta (FRANCISCO VICTOR BARNES y JOAQUIN
AGTARAP, the first married to Emilia Muscat, and the second

TCT No. 10864, in the name of Joaquin Agtarap, married to


Lucia Garcia Mendietta, was issued for a parcel of land,
identified as Lot No. 745 of the Cadastral Survey of Pasay,
Cadastral Case No. 23, G.L.R.O. Cadastral Record No. 1368,
consisting of 8,872 square meters. This same lot was covered by
TCT No. 5577 (32184)[22] issued on April 23, 1937, also in the
name of Joaquin Agtarap, married to Lucia Garcia Mendietta.
The findings of the RTC and the CA show that Lucia
died on April 24, 1924, and subsequently, on February 9, 1926,

Joaquin married Caridad. It is worthy to note that TCT No. 5577

derivative of TCT No. 32184, now TCT Nos. 38254 and

(32184) contained an annotation, which reads

38255. And as found by both the RTC and the CA, Lucia was
survived by her compulsory heirs Joaquin, Jesus, Milagros, and
Jose.

Ap-4966 NOTA: Se ha enmendado el presente


certificado de titulo, tal como aparece, tanchando
las palabras con Lucia Garcia Mendiet[t]a y
poniendo en su lugar, entre lineas y en tinta
encarnada, las palabras en segundas nupcias con
Caridad Garcia, en complimiento de un orden de
fecha 28 de abril de 1937, dictada por el Hon.
Sixto de la Costa, juez del Juzgado de Primera
Instancia de Rizal, en el expediente cadastal No.
23, G.L.R.O. Cad. Record No. 1368; copia de
cual orden has sido presentada con el No.
4966 del Libro Diario, Tomo 6.0 y, archivada en
el Legajo T-No. 32184.
Pasig, Rizal, a 29 abril de 1937.[23]
Thus, per the order dated April 28, 1937 of Hon. Sixto de la
Costa, presiding judge of the Court of First Instance of Rizal, the
phrase con Lucia Garcia Mendiet[t]a was crossed out and
replaced by en segundas nuptias con Caridad Garcia, referring
to the second marriage of Joaquin to Caridad. It cannot be
gainsaid, therefore, that prior to the replacement of Caridads
name in TCT No. 32184, Lucia, upon her demise, already left,
as her estate, one-half (1/2) conjugal share in TCT No.
32184. Lucias share in the property covered by the said TCT was
carried over to the properties covered by the certificates of title

Section 2, Rule 73 of the Rules of Court provides that


when the marriage is dissolved by the death of the husband
or the wife, the community property shall be inventoried,
administered, and liquidated, and the debts thereof paid; in
the testate or intestate proceedings of the deceased spouse,
and if both spouses have died, the conjugal partnership shall
be liquidated in the testate or intestate proceedings of
either. Thus, the RTC had jurisdiction to determine whether
the properties are conjugal as it had to liquidate the conjugal
partnership to determine the estate of the decedent. In fact,
should Joseph and Teresa institute a settlement proceeding
for the intestate estate of Lucia, the same should be
consolidated with the settlement proceedings of Joaquin,
being Lucias spouse.[24] Accordingly, the CA correctly
distributed the estate of Lucia, with respect to the properties
covered by TCT Nos. 38254 and 38255 subject of this case,
to her compulsory heirs.
Therefore, in light of the foregoing evidence, as correctly found
by the RTC and the CA, the claim of Sebastian and Eduardo that
TCT Nos. 38254 and 38255 conclusively show that the owners

of the properties covered therein were Joaquin and Caridad by


virtue of the registration in the name of Joaquin Agtarap casado
con (married to) Caridad Garcia, deserves scant
consideration. This cannot be said to be a collateral attack on the
said TCTs. Indeed, simple possession of a certificate of title is
not necessarily conclusive of a holders true ownership of
property.[25] A certificate of title under the Torrens system
aims to protect dominion; it cannot be used as an instrument
for the deprivation of ownership.[26] Thus, the fact that the
properties were registered in the name of Joaquin Agtarap,
married to Caridad Garcia, is not sufficient proof that the
properties
were
acquired
during
the
spouses
[27]
coverture. The phrase married to Caridad Garcia in the TCTs
is merely descriptive of the civil status of Joaquin as the
registered owner, and does not necessarily prove that the realties
are their conjugal properties.[28]
Neither can Sebastians claim that Joaquins estate could have
already been settled in 1965 after the payment of the inheritance
tax be upheld. Payment of the inheritance tax, per se, does not
settle the estate of a deceased person. As provided in Section 1,
Rule 90 of the Rules of Court
SECTION 1. When order for distribution of
residue made. -- When the debts, funeral charges, and
expenses of administration, the allowance to the

widow, and inheritance tax, if any, chargeable to the


estate in accordance with law, have been paid, the
court, on the application of the executor or
administrator, or of a person interested in the estate,
and after hearing upon notice, shall assign the residue
of the estate to the persons entitled to the same,
naming them and the proportions, or parts, to which
each is entitled, and such persons may demand and
recover their respective shares from the executor or
administrator, or any other person having the same
in his possession. If there is a controversy before the
court as to who are the lawful heirs of the deceased
person or as to the distributive share to which each
person is entitled under the law, the controversy shall
be heard and decided as in ordinary cases.
No distribution shall be allowed until the
payment of the obligations above mentioned has been
made or provided for, unless the distributees, or any
of them, give a bond, in a sum to be fixed by the court,
conditioned for the payment of said obligations
within such time as the court directs.
Thus, an estate is settled and distributed among the heirs
only after the payment of the debts of the estate, funeral
charges, expenses of administration, allowance to the widow,
and inheritance tax. The records of these cases do not show
that these were complied with in 1965.
As regards the issue raised by Sebastian on the legitimacy of
Joseph and Teresa, suffice it to say that both the RTC and the

CA found them to be the legitimate children of Jose. The RTC

did not interpose any objection when the intervention was

found that Sebastian did not present clear and convincing

submitted to the RTC for resolution.[32]

evidence to support his averments in his motion to exclude


them as heirs of Joaquin, aside from his negative
allegations. The RTC also noted the fact of Joseph and
Teresa being the children of Jose was never questioned by
Sebastian and Eduardo, and the latter two even admitted
this in their petitions, as well as in the stipulation of facts in
the August 21, 1995 hearing.[29] Furthermore, the CA affirmed
this finding of fact in its November 21, 2006 Decision.[30]
Also, Sebastians insistence that Abelardo Dagoro and Walter de
Santos are not heirs to the estate of Joaquin cannot be

Indeed, this Court is not a trier of facts, and there appears


no compelling reason to hold that both courts erred in ruling that
Joseph, Teresa, Walter de Santos, and Abelardo Dagoro
rightfully participated in the estate of Joaquin. It was incumbent
upon Sebastian to present competent evidence to refute his and
Eduardos admissions that Joseph and Teresa were heirs of Jose,
and thus rightful heirs of Joaquin, and to timely object to the
participation of Walter de Santos and Abelardo
Dagoro.Unfortunately, Sebastian failed to do so. Nevertheless,
Walter de Santos and Abelardo Dagoro had the right to

sustained. Per its October 23, 2000 Order of Partition, the RTC
found that Gloria Agtarap de Santos died on May 4, 1995, and

participate in the estate in representation of the Joaquins


compulsory heirs, Gloria and Mercedes, respectively.[33]

was later substituted in the proceedings below by her husband


Walter de Santos. Gloria begot a daughter with Walter de
Santos, Georgina Samantha de Santos. The RTC likewise noted
that, on September 16, 1995, Abelardo Dagoro filed a motion
for leave of court to intervene, alleging that he is the surviving
spouse of Mercedes Agtarap and the father of Cecilia Agtarap
Dagoro, and his answer in intervention. The RTC later granted
the motion, thereby admitting his answer on October 18,
1995.[31] The CA also noted that, during the hearing of the
motion to intervene on October 18, 1995, Sebastian and Eduardo

This Court also differs from Eduardos asseveration that


the CA erred in settling, together with Joaquins estate, the
respective estates of Lucia, Jesus, Jose, Mercedes, and Gloria. A
perusal of the November 21, 2006 CA Decision would readily
show that the disposition of the properties related only to the
settlement of the estate of Joaquin. Pursuant to Section 1, Rule
90 of the Rules of Court, as cited above, the RTC was
specifically granted jurisdiction to determine who are the lawful
heirs of Joaquin, as well as their respective shares after the
payment of the obligations of the estate, as enumerated in the

said provision. The inclusion of Lucia, Jesus, Jose, Mercedes,

determination of the probate of her purported will, and that

and Gloria in the distribution of the shares was merely a


necessary consequence of the settlement of Joaquins estate, they
being his legal heirs.

Sebastian shall be represented by his compulsory heirs.

However, we agree with Eduardos position that the CA erred in


distributing Joaquins estate pertinent to the share allotted in
favor of Milagros. Eduardo was able to show that a separate
proceeding was instituted for the probate of the will allegedly
executed by Milagros before the RTC, Branch
108, Pasay City.[34] While there has been no showing that the
alleged will of Milagros, bequeathing all of her share from
Joaquins estate in favor of Eduardo, has already been probated

WHEREFORE, the petition in G.R. No. 177192


is DENIED for lack of merit, while the petition in G.R. No.
177099 is PARTIALLY GRANTED, such that the Decision
dated November 21, 2006 and the Resolution dated March 27,
2007 of the Court of Appeals are AFFIRMED with the
following MODIFICATIONS: that the share awarded in favor
of Milagros Agtarap shall not be distributed until the final
determination of the probate of her will, and that petitioner
Sebastian G. Agtarap, in view of his demise on January 15,
2010, shall be represented by his wife Teresita B. Agtarap and

and approved, prudence dictates that this Court refrain from


distributing Milagros share in Joaquins estate.

his children Joaquin Julian B. Agtarap and Ana Ma. Agtarap


Panlilio.

It is also worthy to mention that Sebastian died on January 15,


2010, per his Certificate of Death.[35] He is survived by his wife
Teresita B. Agtarap (Teresita) and his children Joaquin Julian B.
Agtarap (Joaquin Julian) and Ana Ma. Agtarap Panlilio (Ana
Ma.).

These cases are hereby remanded to the Regional Trial Court,


Branch 114, Pasay City, for further proceedings in the settlement
of the estate of Joaquin Agtarap. No pronouncement as to costs.

Henceforth, in light of the foregoing, the assailed November 21,


2006 Decision and the March 27, 2007 Resolution of the CA
should be affirmed with modifications such that the share of

G.R. No. 183053

Milagros shall not yet be distributed until after the final

SO ORDERED.
October 10, 2012

EMILIO A.M. SUNTAY III, Petitioner, vs. ISABEL


COJUANGCO-SUNTAY, Respondent.

RESOLUTION
PEREZ, J.:
The now overly prolonged, all-too familiar and too-muchstretched imbroglio over the estate of Cristina AguinaldoSuntay has continued. We issued a Decision in the dispute
as in Inter Caetera.1 We now find a need to replace the
decision.
Before us is a Motion for Reconsideration filed by
respondent Isabel Cojuangco-Suntay (respondent Isabel)
of our Decision2 in G.R. No. 183053 dated 16 June 2010,
directing the issuance of joint letters of administration to
both petitioner Emilio A.M. Suntay III (Emilio III) and
respondent. The dispositive portion thereof reads:
WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The Decision of
the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 74949 is
REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Letters of Administration over
the estate of decedent Cristina Aguinaldo-Suntay shall
issue to both petitioner Emilio A.M. Suntay III and
respondent Isabel Cojuangco-Suntay upon payment by
each of a bond to be set by the Regional Trial Court,
Branch 78, Malolos, Bulacan, in Special Proceeding Case
No. 117-M-95. The Regional Trial Court, Branch 78,
Malolos, Bulacan is likewise directed to make a
determination and to declare the heirs of decedent Cristina
Aguinaldo-Suntay according to the actual factual milieu as
proven by the parties, and all other persons with legal
interest in the subject estate. It is further directed to settle
the estate of decedent Cristina Aguinaldo-Suntay with
dispatch. No costs.3

We are moved to trace to its roots the controversy


between the parties.
The decedent Cristina Aguinaldo-Suntay (Cristina) died
intestate on 4 June 1990. Cristina was survived by her
spouse, Dr. Federico Suntay (Federico) and five
grandchildren: three legitimate grandchildren, including
herein respondent, Isabel; and two illegitimate
grandchildren, including petitioner Emilio III, all by
Federicos and Cristinas only child, Emilio A. Suntay
(Emilio I), who predeceased his parents.
The illegitimate grandchildren, Emilio III and Nenita, were
both reared from infancy by the spouses Federico and
Cristina. Their legitimate grandchildren, Isabel and her
siblings, Margarita and Emilio II, lived with their mother
Isabel Cojuangco, following the separation of Isabels
parents, Emilio I and Isabel Cojuangco. Isabels parents,
along with her paternal grandparents, were involved in
domestic relations cases, including a case for parricide
filed by Isabel Cojuangco against Emilio I. Emilio I was
eventually acquitted.
In retaliation, Emilio I filed a complaint for legal separation
against his wife, charging her among others with infidelity.
The trial court declared as null and void and of no effect
the marriage of Emilio I and Isabel Cojuangco on the
finding that:
From February 1965 thru December 1965 plaintiff was
confined in the Veterans memorial Hospital. Although at
the time of the trial of parricide case (September 8, 1967)
the patient was already out of the hospital, he continued
to be under observation and treatment.

It is the opinion of Dr. Aramil that the symptoms of the


plaintiffs mental aberration classified as schizophernia (sic)
had made themselves manifest even as early as 1955; that
the disease worsened with time, until 1965 when he was
actually placed under expert neuro-psychiatrist (sic)
treatment; that even if the subject has shown marked
progress, the remains bereft of adequate understanding of
right and wrong.
There is no controversy that the marriage between the
parties was effected on July 9, 1958, years after plaintiffs
mental illness had set in. This fact would justify a
declaration of nullity of the marriage under Article 85 of
the Civil Code which provides:
Art. 95. (sic) A marriage may be annulled for any of the
following causes after (sic) existing at the time of the
marriage:
xxxx
(3) That either party was of unsound mind, unless such
party, after coming to reason, freely cohabited with the
other as husband or wife.
There is a dearth of proof at the time of the marriage
defendant knew about the mental condition of plaintiff;
and there is proof that plaintiff continues to be without
sound reason. The charges in this very complaint add
emphasis to the findings of the neuro-psychiatrist handling
the patient, that plaintiff really lives more in fancy than in
reality, a strong indication of schizophernia (sic).4
Intent on maintaining a relationship with their
grandchildren, Federico and Isabel filed a complaint for
visitation rights to spend time with Margarita, Emilio II,

and Isabel in the same special lower court. The Juvenile


Domestic Relations Court in Quezon City (JDRC-QC)
granted their prayer for one hour a month of visitation
rights which was subsequently reduced to thirty minutes,
and ultimately stopped, because of respondent Isabels
testimony in court that her grandparents visits caused her
and her siblings stress and anxiety.5
On 27 September 1993, more than three years after
Cristinas death, Federico adopted his illegitimate
grandchildren, Emilio III and Nenita.
On 26 October 1995, respondent Isabel, filed before the
Regional Trial Court (RTC), Malolos, Bulacan, a petition for
the issuance of letters of administration over Cristinas
estate docketed as Special Proceeding Case No. 117-M-95.
Federico, opposed the petition, pointing out that: (1) as
the surviving spouse of the decedent, he should be
appointed administrator of the decedents estate; (2) as
part owner of the mass of conjugal properties left by the
decedent, he must be accorded preference in the
administration thereof; (3) Isabel and her siblings had
been alienated from their grandparents for more than
thirty (30) years; (4) the enumeration of heirs in the
petition was incomplete as it did not mention the other
children of his son, Emilio III and Nenita; (5) even before
the death of his wife, Federico had administered their
conjugal properties, and thus, is better situated to protect
the integrity of the decedents estate; (6) the probable
value of the estate as stated in the petition was grossly
overstated; and (7) Isabels allegation that some of the
properties are in the hands of usurpers is untrue.

Federico filed a Motion to Dismiss Isabels petition for


letters of administration on the ground that Isabel had no
right of representation to the estate of Cristina, she being
an illegitimate grandchild of the latter as a result of Isabels
parents marriage being declared null and void. However,
in Suntay v. Cojuangco-Suntay, we categorically declared
that Isabel and her siblings, having been born of a
voidable marriage as opposed to a void marriage based on
paragraph 3, Article 85 of the Civil Code, were legitimate
children of Emilio I, who can all represent him in the estate
of their legitimate grandmother, the decedent, Cristina.

(1) To make and return within three (3) months, a true


and complete inventory;

Undaunted by the set back, Federico nominated Emilio III


to administer the decedents estate on his behalf in the
event letters of administration issues to Federico.
Consequently, Emilio III filed an Opposition-InIntervention, echoing the allegations in his grandfathers
opposition, alleging that Federico, or in his stead, Emilio
III, was better equipped than respondent to administer
and manage the estate of the decedent, Cristina.

On appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed and set aside


the decision of the RTC, revoked the Letters of
Administration issued to Emilio III, and appointed
respondent as administratrix of the subject estate:

On 13 November 2000, Federico died.


Almost a year thereafter or on 9 November 2001, the trial
court rendered a decision appointing Emilio III as
administrator of decedent Cristinas intestate estate:
WHEREFORE, the petition of Isabel Cojuangco-Suntay is
DENIED and the Opposition-in-Intervention is GRANTED.
Accordingly, the Intervenor, Emilio A.M. Suntay, III (sic) is
hereby appointed administrator of the estate of the
decedent Cristina Aguinaldo Suntay, who shall enter upon
the execution of his trust upon the filing of a bond in the
amount of P 200,000.00, conditioned as follows:

(2) To administer the estate and to pay and discharge all


debts, legatees, and charge on the same, or dividends
thereon;
(3) To render a true and just account within one (1) year,
and at any other time when required by the court, and
(4) To perform all orders of the Court.
Once the said bond is approved by the court, let Letters of
Administration be issued in his favor.6

WHEREFORE, in view of all the foregoing, the assailed


decision dated November 9, 2001 of Branch 78, Regional
Trial Court of Malolos, Bulacan in SPC No. 117-M-95 is
REVERSED and SET ASIDE and the letters of
administration issued by the said court to Emilio A.M.
Suntay III, if any, are consequently revoked. Petitioner
Isabel
Cojuangco-Suntay
is
hereby
appointed
administratrix of the intestate estate of Cristina Aguinaldo
Suntay. Let letters of administration be issued in her favor
upon her filing of a bond in the amount of Two Hundred
Thousand (P 200,000.00) Pesos.7
As previously adverted to, on appeal by certiorari, we
reversed and set aside the ruling of the appellate court.
We decided to include Emilio III as co-administrator of
Cristinas estate, giving weight to his interest in Federicos

estate. In ruling for co-administration between Emilio III


and
Isabel, we considered that:
1. Emilio III was reared from infancy by the decedent,
Cristina, and her husband, Federico, who both
acknowledged him as their grandchild;
2. Federico claimed half of the properties included in the
estate of the decedent, Cristina, as forming part of their
conjugal partnership of gains during the subsistence of
their marriage;
3. Cristinas properties, forming part of her estate, are still
commingled with those of her husband, Federico, because
her share in the conjugal partnership remains
undetermined and unliquidated; and
4. Emilio III is a legally adopted child of Federico, entitled
to share in the distribution of the latters estate as a direct
heir, one degree from Federico, and not simply in
representation of his deceased illegitimate father, Emilio I.
In this motion, Isabel pleads for total affirmance of the
Court of Appeals Decision in favor of her sole
administratorship based on her status as a legitimate
grandchild of Cristina, whose estate she seeks to
administer.
Isabel contends that the explicit provisions of Section 6,
Rule 78 of the Rules of Court on the order of preference
for the issuance of letters of administration cannot be
ignored and that Article 992 of the Civil Code must be

followed. Isabel further asserts that Emilio III had


demonstrated adverse interests and disloyalty to the
estate, thus, he does not deserve to become a coadministrator thereof.
Specifically, Isabel bewails that: (1) Emilio III is an
illegitimate grandchild and therefore, not an heir of the
decedent; (2) corollary thereto, Emilio III, not being a
"next of kin" of the decedent, has no interest in the estate
to justify his appointment as administrator thereof; (3)
Emilio IIIs actuations since his appointment as
administrator by the RTC on 9 November 2001
emphatically demonstrate the validity and wisdom of the
order of preference in Section 6, Rule 78 of the Rules of
Court; and (4) there is no basis for joint administration as
there are no "opposing parties or factions to be
represented."
To begin with, the case at bar reached us on the issue of
who, as between Emilio III and Isabel, is better qualified
to act as administrator of the decedents estate. We did
not choose. Considering merely his demonstrable interest
in the subject estate, we ruled that Emilio III should
likewise administer the estate of his illegitimate
grandmother, Cristina, as a co-administrator. In the
context of this case, we have to make a choice and
therefore, reconsider our decision of 16 June 2010.

The general rule in the appointment of administrator of


the estate of a decedent is laid down in Section 6, Rule 78
of the Rules of Court:

kin and the creditors in the appointment of an


administrator, has been reinforced in jurisprudence.8

SEC. 6. When and to whom letters of administration


granted. If no executor is named in the will, or the
executor or executors are incompetent, refuse the trust,
or fail to give bond, or a person dies intestate,
administration shall be granted:

The paramount consideration in the appointment of an


administrator over the estate of a decedent is the
prospective administrators interest in the estate.9 This is
the same consideration which Section 6, Rule 78 takes into
account in establishing the order of preference in the
appointment of administrator for the estate. The rationale
behind the rule is that those who will reap the benefit of a
wise, speedy and economical administration of the estate,
or, in the alternative, suffer the consequences of waste,
improvidence or mismanagement, have the highest
interest and most influential motive to administer the
estate correctly.10 In all, given that the rule speaks of an
order of preference, the person to be appointed
administrator of a decedents estate must demonstrate not
only an interest in the estate, but an interest therein
greater than any other candidate.

(a) To the surviving husband or wife, as the case may be,


or next of kin, or both, in the discretion of the court, or to
such person as such surviving husband or wife, or next of
kin, requests to have appointed, if competent and willing
to serve;
(b) If such surviving husband or wife, as the case may be,
or next of kin, or the person selected by them, be
incompetent or unwilling, or if the husband or widow, or
next of kin, neglects for thirty (30) days after the death of
the person to apply for administration or to request that
administration be granted to some other person, it may be
granted to one or more of the principal creditors, if
competent and willing to serve;
(c) If there is not such creditor competent and willing to
serve, it may be granted to such other person as the court
may select.
Textually, the rule lists a sequence to be observed, an
order of preference, in the appointment of an
administrator. This order of preference, which
categorically seeks out the surviving spouse, the next of

To illustrate, the preference bestowed by law to the


surviving spouse in the administration of a decedents
estate presupposes the surviving spouses interest in the
conjugal partnership or community property forming part
of the decedents estate.11 Likewise, a surviving spouse is
a compulsory heir of a decedent12 which evinces as much,
if not more, interest in administering the entire estate of a
decedent, aside from her share in the conjugal partnership
or absolute community property.

It is to this requirement of observation of the order of


preference in the appointment of administrator of a
decedents estate, that the appointment of coadministrators has been allowed, but as an exception. We
again refer to Section 6(a) of Rule 78 of the Rules of Court
which specifically states that letters of administration may
be issued to both the surviving spouse and the next of kin.
In addition and impliedly, we can refer to Section 2 of Rule
82 of the Rules of Court which say that "x x x when an
executor or administrator dies, resigns, or is removed, the
remaining executor or administrator may administer the
trust alone, x x x."
In a number of cases, we have sanctioned the
appointment of more than one administrator for the
benefit of the estate and those interested therein.13 We
recognized that the appointment of administrator of the
estate of a decedent or the determination of a persons
suitability for the office of judicial administrator rests, to a
great extent, in the sound judgment of the court exercising
the power of appointment.14
Under certain circumstances and for various reasons wellsettled in Philippine and American jurisprudence, we have
upheld the appointment of co-administrators: (1) to have
the benefits of their judgment and perhaps at all times to
have different interests represented;15 (2) where justice
and equity demand that opposing parties or factions be
represented in the management of the estate of the
deceased; (3) where the estate is large or, from any cause,
an intricate and perplexing one to settle;16 (4) to have all

interested persons satisfied and the representatives to


work in harmony for the best interests of the estate;17 and
when a person entitled to the administration of an estate
desires to have another competent person associated with
him in the office.18
In the frequently cited Matias v. Gonzales, we dwelt on the
appointment of special co-administrators during the
pendency of the appeal for the probate of the decedents
will. Pending the probate thereof, we recognized Matias
special interest in the decedents estate as universal heir
and executrix designated in the instrument who should not
be excluded in the administration thereof. Thus, we held
that justice and equity demands that the two (2) factions
among the non-compulsory heirs of the decedent,
consisting of an instituted heir (Matias) and intestate heirs
(respondents thereat), should be represented in the
management of the decedents estate.19
Another oft-cited case is Vda. de Dayrit v. Ramolete,
where we held that "inasmuch as petitioner-wife owns
one-half of the conjugal properties and that she, too, is a
compulsory heir of her husband, to deprive her of any
hand in the administration of the estate prior to the
probate of the will would be unfair to her proprietary
interests."20
Hewing closely to the aforementioned cases is our ruling
in Ventura v. Ventura21 where we allowed the appointment
of the surviving spouse and legitimate children of the

decedent as co-administrators. However, we drew a


distinction between the heirs categorized as next of kin,
the nearest of kin in the category being preferred, thus:
In the case at bar, the surviving spouse of the deceased
Gregorio Ventura is Juana Cardona while the next of kin
are: Mercedes and Gregoria Ventura and Maria and Miguel
Ventura. The "next of kin" has been defined as those
persons who are entitled under the statute of distribution
to the decedents property (citations omitted). It is
generally said that "the nearest of kin, whose interest in
the estate is more preponderant, is preferred in the choice
of administrator. Among members of a class the strongest
ground for preference is the amount or preponderance of
interest. As between next of kin, the nearest of kin is to
be preferred." (citations omitted)
As decided by the lower court and sustained by the
Supreme Court, Mercedes and Gregoria Ventura are the
legitimate children of Gregorio Ventura and his wife, the
late Paulina Simpliciano. Therefore, as the nearest of kin
of Gregorio Ventura, they are entitled to preference over
the illegitimate children of Gregorio Ventura, namely:
Maria and Miguel Ventura. Hence, under the aforestated
preference provided in Section 6 of Rule 78, the person or
persons to be appointed administrator are Juana Cardona,
as the surviving spouse, or Mercedes and Gregoria Ventura
as nearest of kin, or Juana Cardona and Mercedes and
Gregoria Ventura in the discretion of the Court, in order to
represent both interests.22 (Emphasis supplied)

In Silverio, Sr. v. Court of Appeals,23 we maintained that


the order of preference in the appointment of an
administrator depends on the attendant facts and
circumstances. In that case, we affirmed the legitimate
childs appointment as special administrator, and
eventually as regular administrator, of the decedents
estate as against the surviving spouse who the lower court
found unsuitable. Reiterating Sioca v. Garcia24 as good
law, we pointed out that unsuitableness for appointment
as administrator may consist in adverse interest of some
kind or hostility to those immediately interested in the
estate.
In Valarao v. Pascual,25 we see another story with a
running theme of heirs squabbling over the estate of a
decedent. We found no reason to set aside the probate
courts refusal to appoint as special co-administrator Diaz,
even if he had a demonstrable interest in the estate of the
decedent and represented one of the factions of heirs,
because the evidence weighed by the probate court
pointed to Diazs being remiss in his previous duty as coadministrator of the estatein the early part of his
administration. Surveying the previously discussed cases
of Matias, Corona, and Vda. de Dayrit, we clarified, thus:
Respondents cannot take comfort in the cases of Matias v.
Gonzales, Corona v. Court of Appeals, and Vda. de Dayrit
v. Ramolete, cited in the assailed Decision. Contrary to
their claim, these cases do not establish an absolute right
demandable from the probate court to appoint special coadministrators who would represent the respective
interests of squabbling heirs. Rather, the cases constitute

precedents for the authority of the probate court to


designate not just one but also two or more special coadministrators for a single estate. Now whether the
probate court exercises such prerogative when the heirs
are fighting among themselves is a matter left entirely to
its sound discretion.
Furthermore, the cases of Matias, Corona and Vda. de
Dayrit hinge upon factual circumstances other than the
incompatible interests of the heirs which are glaringly
absent from the instant case. In Matias this Court ordered
the appointment of a special co-administrator because of
the applicant's status as the universal heir and executrix
designated in the will, which we considered to be a
"special interest" deserving protection during the
pendency of the appeal. Quite significantly, since the lower
court in Matias had already deemed it best to appoint more
than one special administrator, we found grave abuse of
discretion in the act of the lower court in ignoring the
applicant's distinctive status in the selection of another
special administrator.
In Corona we gave "highest consideration" to the
"executrix's choice of Special Administrator, considering
her own inability to serve and the wide latitude of
discretion given her by the testatrix in her will," for this
Court to compel her appointment as special coadministrator. It is also manifest from the decision in
Corona that the presence of conflicting interests among
the heirs therein was not per se the key factor in the
designation of a second special administrator as this fact

was taken into account only to disregard or, in the words


of Corona, to "overshadow" the objections to the
appointment on grounds of "impracticality and lack of
kinship."
Finally in Vda. de Dayrit we justified the designation of the
wife of the decedent as special co-administrator because
it was "our considered opinion that inasmuch as petitionerwife owns one-half of the conjugal properties and that she,
too, is a compulsory heir of her husband, to deprive her of
any hand in the administration of the estate prior to the
probate of the will would be unfair to her proprietary
interests." The special status of a surviving spouse in the
special administration of an estate was also emphasized in
Fule v. Court of Appeals where we held that the widow
would have more interest than any other next of kin in the
proper administration of the entire estate since she
possesses not only the right of succession over a portion
of the exclusive property of the decedent but also a share
in the conjugal partnership for which the good or bad
administration of the estate may affect not just the fruits
but more critically the naked ownership thereof. And in
Gabriel v. Court of Appeals we recognized the distinctive
status of a surviving spouse applying as regular
administrator of the deceased spouse's estate when we
counseled the probate court that "there must be a very
strong case to justify the exclusion of the widow from the
administration."
Clearly, the selection of a special co-administrator in
Matias, Corona and Vda. de Dayrit was based upon the

independent
proprietary
interests
and
moral
circumstances of the appointee that were not necessarily
related to the demand for representation being repeatedly
urged by respondents.26(Emphasis supplied)
In Gabriel v. Court of Appeals, we unequivocally declared
the mandatory character of the rule on the order of
preference for the issuance of letters of administration:
Evidently, the foregoing provision of the Rules prescribes
the order of preference in the issuance of letters of
administration, it categorically seeks out the surviving
spouse, the next of kin and the creditors, and requires that
sequence to be observed in appointing an administrator.
It would be a grave abuse of discretion for the probate
court to imperiously set aside and insouciantly ignore that
directive without any valid and sufficient reason therefor.27
Subsequently, in Angeles v. Angeles-Maglaya,28 we
expounded on the legal contemplation of a "next of kin,"
thus:
Finally, it should be noted that on the matter of
appointment of administrator of the estate of the
deceased, the surviving spouse is preferred over the next
of kin of the decedent. When the law speaks of "next of
kin," the reference is to those who are entitled, under the
statute of distribution, to the decedent's property; one
whose relationship is such that he is entitled to share in
the estate as distributed, or, in short, an heir. In resolving,
therefore, the issue of whether an applicant for letters of
administration is a next of kin or an heir of the decedent,

the probate court perforce has to determine and pass


upon the issue of filiation. A separate action will only result
in a multiplicity of suits. Upon this consideration, the trial
court acted within bounds when it looked into and passed
upon the claimed relationship of respondent to the late
Francisco Angeles.29
Finally, in Uy v. Court of Appeals,30 we took into
consideration the size of, and benefits to, the estate
should respondent therein be appointed as coadministrator. We emphasized that where the estate is
large or, from any cause, an intricate and perplexing one
to settle, the appointment of co-administrators may be
sanctioned by law.
In our Decision under consideration, we zeroed in on
Emilio IIIs demonstrable interest in the estate and glossed
over the order of preference set forth in the Rules. We
gave weight to Emilio IIIs demonstrable interest in
Cristinas estate and without a closer scrutiny of the
attendant facts and circumstances, directed coadministration thereof. We are led to a review of such
position by the foregoing survey of cases.
The collected teaching is that mere demonstration of
interest in the estate to be settled does not ipso facto
entitle an interested person to co-administration thereof.
Neither does squabbling among the heirs nor adverse
interests necessitate the discounting of the order of
preference set forth in Section 6, Rule 78. Indeed, in the

appointment of administrator of the estate of a deceased


person, the principal consideration reckoned with is the
interest in said estate of the one to be appointed as
administrator.31 Given Isabels unassailable interest in the
estate as one of the decedents legitimate grandchildren
and undoubted nearest "next of kin," the appointment of
Emilio III as co-administrator of the same estate, cannot
be a demandable right. It is a matter left entirely to the
sound discretion of the Court32 and depends on the facts
and the attendant circumstances of the case.33
Thus, we proceed to scrutinize the attendant facts and
circumstances of this case even as we reiterate Isabels
and her siblings apparent greater interest in the estate of
Cristina.
These considerations do not warrant the setting aside of
the order of preference mapped out in Section 6, Rule 78
of the Rules of Court. They compel that a choice be made
of one over the other.
1. The bitter estrangement and long-standing animosity
between Isabel, on the one hand, and Emilio III, on the
other, traced back from the time their paternal
grandparents were alive, which can be characterized as
adverse interest of some kind by, or hostility of, Emilio III
to Isabel who is immediately interested in the estate;
2. Corollary thereto, the seeming impossibility of Isabel
and Emilio III working harmoniously as co-administrators
may result in prejudice to the decedents estate, ultimately
delaying settlement thereof; and
3. Emilio III, for all his claims of knowledge in the
management of Cristinas estate, has not looked after the

estates welfare and has acted to the damage and


prejudice thereof.
Contrary to the assumption made in the Decision that
Emilio IIIs demonstrable interest in the estate makes him
a suitable co-administrator thereof, the evidence reveals
that Emilio III has turned out to be an unsuitable
administrator of the estate. Respondent Isabel points out
that after Emilio IIIs appointment as administrator of the
subject estate in 2001, he has not looked after the welfare
of the subject estate and has actually acted to the damage
and prejudice thereof as evidenced by the following:
1. Emilio III, despite several orders from the probate court
for a complete inventory, omitted in the partial
inventories34 he filed therewith properties of the
estate35 including several parcels of land, cash, bank
deposits, jewelry, shares of stock, motor vehicles, and
other personal properties, contrary to Section
1,36paragraph a, Rule 81 of the Rules of Court.
2. Emilio III did not take action on both occasions against
Federicos settlement of the decedents estate which
adjudicated to himself a number of properties properly
belonging to said estate (whether wholly or partially), and
which contained a declaration that the decedent did not
leave any descendants or heirs, except for Federico,
entitled to succeed to her estate.37
In compliance to our Resolution dated 18 April 2012
requiring Emilio III to respond to the following imputations
of Isabel that:
1. Emilio III did not file an inventory of the assets until
November 14, 2002;

2. The inventory Emilio III submitted did not include


several properties of the decedent;

to warn the prosecutor of a possible motu propio dismissal


of the cases.

3. That properties belonging to the decedent have found


their way to different individuals or persons; several
properties to Federico Suntay himself; and

While we can subscribe to Emilio IIIs counsels


explanation for the blamed delay in the filing of an
inventory and his exposition on the nature thereof, partial
as opposed to complete, in the course of the settlement of
a decedents estate, we do not find any clarification on
Isabels accusation that Emilio III had deliberately omitted
properties in the inventory, which properties of Cristina he
knew existed and which he claims to be knowledgeable
about.

4. While some properties have found their way to Emilio


III, by reason of falsified documents;38
Emilio III refutes Isabels imputations that he was
lackadaisical in assuming and performing the functions of
administrator of Cristinas estate:
1. From the time of the RTCs Order appointing Emilio III
as administrator, Isabel, in her pleadings before the RTC,
had vigorously opposed Emilio IIIs assumption of that
office, arguing that "the decision of the RTC dated 9
November 2001 is not among the judgments authorized
by the Rules of Court which may be immediately
implemented or executed;"
2. The delay in Emilio IIIs filing of an inventory was due
to Isabels vociferous objections to Emilio IIIs attempts to
act as administrator while the RTC decision was under
appeal to the Court of Appeals;
3. The complained partial inventory is only initiatory,
inherent in the nature thereof, and one of the first steps
in the lengthy process of settlement of a decedents estate,
such that it cannot constitute a complete and total listing
of the decedents properties; and
4. The criminal cases adverted to are trumped-up charges
where Isabel, as private complainant, has been unwilling
to appear and testify, leading the Judge of the Regional
Trial Court, Branch 44 of Mamburao, Occidental Mindoro,

The general denial made by Emilio III does not erase his
unsuitability as administrator rooted in his failure to "make
and return x x x a true and complete inventory" which
became proven fact when he actually filed partial
inventories before the probate court and by his inaction on
two occasions of Federicos exclusion of Cristinas other
compulsory heirs, herein Isabel and her siblings, from the
list of heirs.
As administrator, Emilio III enters into the office, posts a
bond and executes an oath to faithfully discharge the
duties of settling the decedents estate with the end in
view of distribution to the heirs, if any. This he failed to
do. The foregoing circumstances of Emilio IIIs omission
and inaction become even more significant and speak
volume of his unsuitability as administrator as it
demonstrates his interest adverse to those immediately
interested in the estate of the decedent, Cristina.
In this case, palpable from the evidence on record, the
pleadings, and the protracted litigation, is the inescapable
fact that Emilio III and respondent Isabel have a deep

aversion for each other.1awp++i1 To our mind, it


becomes highly impractical, nay, improbable, for the two
to work as co-administrators of their grandmothers
estate. The allegations of Emilio III, the testimony of
Federico and the other witnesses for Federico and Emilio
III that Isabel and her siblings were estranged from their
grandparents further drive home the point that Emilio III
bears hostility towards Isabel. More importantly, it appears
detrimental to the decedents estate to appoint a coadministrator (Emilio III) who has shown an adverse
interest of some kind or hostility to those, such as herein
respondent Isabel, immediately interested in the said
estate.
Bearing in mind that the issuance of letters of
administration is simply a preliminary order to facilitate the
settlement of a decedents estate, we here point out that
Emilio III is not without remedies to protect his interests
in the estate of the decedent. In Hilado v. Court of
Appeals,39 we mapped out as among the allowable
participation of "any interested persons" or "any persons
interested in the estate" in either testate or intestate
proceedings:
xxxx
4. Section 640 of Rule 87, which allows an individual
interested in the estate of the deceased "to complain to
the court of the concealment, embezzlement, or
conveyance of any asset of the decedent, or of evidence
of the decedents title or interest therein;"
5. Section 1041 of Rule 85, which requires notice of the
time and place of the examination and allowance of the
Administrators account "to persons interested;"

6. Section 7(b)42 of Rule 89, which requires the court to


give notice "to the persons interested" before it may hear
and grant a petition seeking the disposition or
encumbrance of the properties of the estate; and
7. Section 1,43 Rule 90, which allows "any person
interested in the estate" to petition for an order for the
distribution of the residue of the estate of the decedent,
after all obligations are either satisfied or provided for.44
In addition to the foregoing, Emilio III may likewise avail
of the remedy found in Section 2, Rule 82 of the Rules of
Court, to wit:
Sec. 2. Court may remove or accept resignation of
executor or administrator. Proceedings upon death,
resignation, or removal. If an executor or administrator
neglects to render his account and settle the estate
according to law, or to perform an order or judgment of
the court, or a duty expressly provided by these rules, or
absconds, or becomes insane, or otherwise incapable or
unsuitable to discharge the trust, the court may remove
him, or, in its discretion, may permit him to resign. When
an executor or administrator dies, resigns, or is removed,
the remaining executor or administrator may administer
the trust alone, unless the court grants letters to someone
to act with him. If there is no remaining executor or
administrator, administration may be granted to any
suitable person.
Once again, as we have done in the Decision, we exercise
judicial restraint: we uphold that the question of who are
the heirs of the decedent Cristina is not yet upon us. Article
992 of the Civil Code or the curtain bar rule is inapplicable

in resolving the issue of who is better qualified to


administer the estate of the decedent.

payment of said obligations within such time as the court


directs.45

Thus, our disquisition in the assailed Decision:

Lastly, we dispose of a peripheral issue raised in the


Supplemental Comment46 of Emilio III questioning the
Special Second Division which issued the 18 April 2012
Resolution. Emilio III asseverates that "the operation of
the Special Second Division in Baguio is unconstitutional
and void" as the Second Division in Manila had already
promulgated its Decision on 16 June 2010 on the petition
filed by him:

Nonetheless, it must be pointed out that judicial restraint


impels us to refrain from making a final declaration of
heirship and distributing the presumptive shares of the
parties in the estates of Cristina and Federico, considering
that the question on who will administer the properties of
the long deceased couple has yet to be settled.
Our holding in Capistrano v. Nadurata on the same issue
remains good law:
The declaration of heirs made by the lower court is
premature, although the evidence sufficiently shows who
are entitled to succeed the deceased. The estate had
hardly been judicially opened, and the proceeding has not
as yet reached the stage of distribution of the estate which
must come after the inheritance is liquidated.
Section 1, Rule 90 of the Rules of Court does not depart
from the foregoing admonition:
Sec. 1. When order for distribution of residue is made. - x
x x. If there is a controversy before the court as to who
are the lawful heirs of the deceased person or as to the
distributive shares to which each person is entitled under
the law, the controversy shall be heard and decided as in
ordinary cases.
No distribution shall be allowed until the payment of the
obligations above mentioned has been made or provided
for, unless the distributees, or any of them, give a bond,
in a sum to be fixed by the court, conditioned for the

7. The question is: who created the Special Second


Division in Baguio, acting separately from the Second
Division of the Supreme Court in Manila? There will then
be two Second Divisions of the Supreme Court: one acting
with the Supreme Court in Manila, and another Special
Second Division acting independently of the Second
Division of the Supreme Court in Manila.47
For Emilio IIIs counsels edification, the Special Second
Division in Baguio is not a different division created by the
Supreme Court.
The Second Division which promulgated its Decision on
this case on 16 June 2010, penned by Justice Antonio
Eduardo B. Nachura, now has a different composition, with
the advent of Justice Nachuras retirement on 13 June
2011. Section 7, Rule 2 of the Internal Rules of the
Supreme Court provides:
Sec. 7. Resolutions of motions for reconsideration or

clarification of decisions or signed resolutions and all other


motions and incidents subsequently filed; creation of a
Special Division. Motions for reconsideration or

clarification of a decision or of a signed resolution and all


other motions and incidents subsequently filed in the case
shall be acted upon by the ponente and the other Members
of the Division who participated in the rendition of the
decision or signed resolution.
If the ponente has retired, is no longer a Member of the
Court, is disqualified, or has inhibited himself or herself
from acting on the motion for reconsideration or
clarification, he or she shall be replaced through raffle by
a new ponente who shall be chosen among the new
Members of the Division who participated in the rendition
of the decision or signed resolution and who concurred
therein. If only one Member of the Court who participated
and concurred in the rendition of the decision or signed
resolution remains, he or she shall be designated as the
new ponente.
If a Member (not the ponente) of the Division which
rendered the decision or signed resolution has retired, is
no longer a Member of the Court, is disqualified, or has
inhibited himself or herself from acting on the motion for
reconsideration or clarification, he or she shall be replaced
through raffle by a replacement Member who shall be
chosen from the other Divisions until a new Justice is
appointed as replacement for the retired Justice. Upon the
appointment of a new Justice, he or she shall replace the
designated Justice as replacement Member of the Special
Division.
Any vacancy or vacancies in the Special Division shall be
filled by raffle from among the other Members of the Court
to constitute a Special Division of five (5) Members.

If the ponente and all the Members of the Division that


rendered the Decision or signed Resolution are no longer
Members of the Court, the case shall be raffled to any
Member of the Court and the motion shall be acted upon
by him or her with the participation of the other Members
of the Division to which he or she belongs.
If there are pleadings, motions or incidents subsequent to
the denial of the motion for reconsideration or clarification,
the case shall be acted upon by the ponente on record
with the participation of the other Members of the Division
to which he or she belongs at the time said pleading,
motion or incident is to be taken up by the Court.
(Emphasis supplied)
As regards the operation thereof in Baguio City, such is
simply a change in venue for the Supreme Court's summer
session held last April.48
WHEREFORE,
the
Motion
for
Reconsideration
is PARTIALLY GRANTED. Our Decision in G.R. No. 183053
dated 16 June 2010 is MODIFIED. Letters of
Administration over the estate of decedent Cristina
Aguinaldo-Suntay shall solely issue to respondent Isabel
Cojuangco-Suntay upon payment of a bond to be set by
the Regional Trial Court, Branch 78, Malolos, Bulacan, in
Special Proceeding Case No. 117-M-95. The Regional Trial
Court, Branch 78, Malolos, Bulacan is likewise directed to
settle the estate of decedent Cristina Aguinaldo-Suntay
with dispatch. No costs.
SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 146006. April 22, 2005


JOSE C. LEE AND ALMA AGGABAO, in their
capacities as President and Corporate Secretary,
respectively, of Philippine International Life
Insurance Company, and FILIPINO LOAN
ASSISTANCE GROUP, Petitioners, vs.REGIONAL
TRIAL COURT OF QUEZON CITY, BRANCH 85
presided by JUDGE PEDRO M. AREOLA, BRANCH
CLERK OF COURT JANICE Y. ANTERO, DEPUTY
SHERIFFS ADENAUER G. RIVERA and PEDRO L.
BORJA, all of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon
City Branch 85, MA. DIVINA ENDERES claiming to
be
Special
Administratrix,
and
other
persons/public officers acting for and in their
behalf, Respondents.
RESOLUTION
CORONA, J.:
For resolution is private respondent Ma. Divina OrtaezEnderes omnibus motion to cite petitioners in indirect
contempt of Court and for the disbarment and/or
imposition of disciplinary sanctions on petitioners
counsel1 for their refusal to comply with the final and
executory decision of this Court dated February 23, 2004.
This case began with a petition for letters of administration
of the intestate estate of Dr. Juvencio P. Ortaez filed 25
years ago on September 24, 1980. Forming part of the

inventory of the estate were 2,029 shares of stock in


Philippine International Life Insurance Company
(Philinterlife). During the pendency of these proceedings,
Juliana, Jose and Rafael (all surnamed Ortaez), the
surviving legitimate spouse and legitimate children of the
decedent respectively, executed an extrajudicial
settlement of the estate, partitioning it (including the
Philinterlife shares of stock) among themselves.
Thereafter, Juliana and Jose sold the 2,029 shares to the
Filipino Loan Assistance Group (FLAG).2
However, private respondent, one of the illegitimate
children of the decedent, was in the meantime appointed
as special administratrix of the 2,029 Philinterlife shares of
stock. When Jose Ortaez filed an omnibus motion seeking
the approval of the sale of the shares of stock to FLAG and
the release of private respondent as special administratrix,
the trial court in its August 11, 1997 order, denied said
motion. On August 29, 1997, the intestate court declared
the extrajudicial settlement made by Juliana, Jose and
Rafael partially void ab initio insofar as the transfer of the
Philinterlife shares was concerned. These orders were later
upheld by the Court of Appeals (CA) and this Court.
In its order dated July 6, 2000, the intestate court granted
the motion for execution filed by private respondent:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, let a writ of execution
issue as follows:
1. Confirming the nullity of the sale of the 2,029
Philinterlife shares in the name of the Estate of Dr.
Juvencio Ortaez to Filipino Loan Assistance Group
(FLAG);

2. Commanding the President and the Corporate Secretary


of Philinterlife to reinstate in the stock and transfer book
of Philinterlife the 2,029 Philinterlife shares of stock in the
name of the Estate of Dr. Juvencio P. Ortaez as the owner
thereof without prejudice to other claims for violation of
pre-emptive rights pertaining to the said 2,029 Philinterlife
shares;
3. Directing the President and the Corporate Secretary of
Philinterlife to issue stock certificates of Philinterlife for
2,029 shares in the name of the Estate of Dr. Juvencio P.
Ortaez as the owner thereof without prejudice to other
claims for violation of pre-emptive rights pertaining to the
said 2,029 Philinterlife shares; and
4. Confirming that only the Special Administratrix, Ma.
Divina Ortaez-Enderes, has the power to exercise all the
rights appurtenant to the said shares, including the right
to vote and to receive dividends;
5. Directing Philinterlife and/or any other person or
persons claiming to represent it or otherwise, to
acknowledge and allow the said Special Administratrix to
exercise all the aforesaid rights on the said shares and to
refrain from resorting to any action which may tend (to)
directly or indirectly impede, obstruct or bar the free
exercise thereof under pain of contempt.
6. The President, Corporate Secretary, any responsible
officer/s of Philinterlife, or any other person or persons
claiming to represent it or otherwise, are hereby directed
to comply with this Order within three (3) days from
receipt hereof under pain of contempt.

7. The Deputy Sheriffs Adenauer Rivera and Pedro Borja


are hereby directed to implement the writ of execution
with dispatch to forestall any/or further damage to the
Estate.
SO ORDERED.3
Unfortunately, however, the writ of execution was not
enforced due to the resistance of herein petitioners. To
block the execution, petitioners filed before the CA a
petition for certiorari, docketed as CA G.R. SP No. 59736,
questioning the order of execution, among others. The
petition was dismissed outright on July 26, 2000.
Petitioners then elevated the case to us. On February 23,
2004, a decision was promulgated by the Third Division of
this Court:4
WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby DENIED. The decision
of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. S.P. No. 59736 dated
July 26, 2000, dismissing petitioners petition for certiorari
and affirming the July 6, 2000 order of the trial court which
ordered the execution of its (trial courts) August 11 and
29, 1997 orders, is hereby AFFIRMED.
SO ORDERED.5
On April 27, 2004, petitioners filed an omnibus motion for
reconsideration and referral of this case to the en banc
allegedly in view of the conflicting rulings of two divisions
of the Court. In a resolution dated May 26, 2004, the Court
denied the motion for lack of merit:
The Court deliberated on the petitioners omnibus motion
for reconsideration of the decision of February 23, 2004
which denied the petition for review on certiorari. It
appears to the Court that the motion merely reiterates the

same arguments earlier raised and does not present any


substantial reason not previously invoked nor any matter
not already considered and passed upon by the Court.
ACCORDINGLY, the Court Resolved to DENY the motion
for reconsideration for lack of merit. This denial is FINAL.6
Thus on July 9, 2004, the February 23, 2004 decision
became final and executory, and was recorded in the book
of entries of judgments. On October 1, 2004, an alias writ
of execution was issued by the intestate court (the court
of origin). In said writ, the deputy sheriffs were ordered to
enforce the August 11 and 29, 1997 and July 6, 2000
orders of the intestate court.
Instead of complying with the writ, petitioners filed on
October 15, 2004, a motion to suspend execution/period
of compliance by reason of supervening events, raising the
following arguments: (1) the intestate court had already
revoked the appointment of private respondent as special
administratrix; (2) there was a need to lay down the legal
procedure in the implementation of the writ and (3) there
must be a declaration that the price per share of the 2,029
shares was only P1,000 which was its book value at the
time the shares were sold in 1989 and 1991.7
Private respondent went back to this Court and filed this
omnibus motion asserting that petitioners "made a
travesty of the final and executory decisions of the Lower
Courts and this Honorable Court when they refused to
comply with the Alias Writ of Execution issued by the
Lower Court."8
Before we discuss the substance of private respondents
motion, we note that attached to it were mere photocopies

of the supporting documents and not "certified true copies


of documents or papers involved therein" as required by
the Rules of Court.9 However, given that the motion was
verified and petitioners, who were given a chance to
oppose or comment on it, made no objection thereto, we
brush aside the defect in form and proceed to discuss the
merits of the motion.
Furthermore, as held in Remman Enterprises, Inc. v.
CA,10 Section 3, Rule 71 of the Rules of Court outlines the
procedural requisites before the accused may be punished
for indirect contempt: (1) the filing of a written charge and
(2) an opportunity to be heard by himself or counsel. All
that the law requires is that there is a charge in writing
duly filed in court and an opportunity given to the person
charged to be heard by himself or counsel. What is
important is that the alleged contemner be granted an
opportunity to meet the charges against him and to be
heard in his defense.11 Petitioners were given this
opportunity; they in fact filed their Opposition.12
Petitioners assert that private respondent engaged in
forum-shopping because the latter had previously filed a
similar motion in the intestate court. The argument has no
merit. The charge for indirect contempt must be filed
before the court against which the indirect contempt was
committed. Section 4, Rule 71 states:
SEC. 5. Where charge to be filed. Where the charge for
indirect contempt has been committed against a Regional
Trial Court or a court of equivalent or higher rank, or
against an officer appointed by it, the charge may be filed
with such court. xxx

Hence, the charge for indirect contempt for disobedience


to our February 23, 2004 decision was correctly brought
to us. As we explained in the case of Igot v. Court of
Appeals:
In whatever context it may arise, contempt of court
involves the doing of an act, or the failure to do an act, in
such a manner as to create an affront to the court and the
sovereign dignity with which it is clothed. As a matter of
practical judicial administration, jurisdiction has been felt
to properly rest in only one tribunal at a time with respect
to a given controversy. Only the court which rendered the
order commanding the doing of a certain act is vested with
the right to determine whether or not the order has been
complied with, or whether a sufficient reason has been
given for noncompliance, and, therefore, whether a
contempt has been committed. It is a well-established rule
that the power to determine the existence of contempt of
court rests exclusively with the court contemned. No court
is authorized to punish a contempt against another.
The rationale that is usually advanced for the general rule
... is that, contempt proceedings are sui generis and are
triable only by the court against whose authority the
contempts are charged; the power to punish for contempt
exists for the purpose of enabling a court to compel due
decorum and respect in its presence and due obedience to
its judgments, orders and processes and in order that a
court may compel obedience to its orders, it must have the
right to inquire whether there has been any disobedience
thereof, for to submit the question of disobedience to
another tribunal would operate to deprive the proceeding
of half its efficiency.13

We now proceed to the merits of the motion to cite for


indirect contempt and for imposition of disciplinary
sanctions.
The private respondent alleges that the following acts of
the petitioners constituted indirect contempt under
Section 3, Rule 71 of the Rules of Court: (1) petitioners
failure to comply with the alias writ of execution served
upon them on October 12, 2004 and (2) their act of filing
a patently baseless motion (to suspend execution/period
of compliance by reason of supervening events) which was
obviously intended to defeat the implementation of the
final and executory decision of this Court.
On the other hand, petitioners allege that the immediate
execution of the subject decision would be inequitable and
should be suspended pending an order of clarification of
certain matters. According to them, the certificates of the
shares of stock were turned over to the intestate court and
not to private respondent because her appointment as
special administratrix had already been revoked by the
court.
Petitioners obstinate refusal to abide by this Courts
February 23, 2004 decision demonstrates a contumacious
attitude which this Court cannot countenance. This
contumacy becomes all the more glaring because of the
strongly worded admonition in our decision that
"(p)etitioners and all parties claiming rights under them
are hereby warned not to further delay the execution of
the Orders of the intestate court dated August 11 and
August 29, 1997."14 The previously quoted July 6, 2000
order of the intestate court, which was affirmed by this
Court, also contained the following directives:

xxx xxx xxx


5. Directing Philinterlife and/or any other person or
persons claiming to represent it or otherwise, to
acknowledge and allow the said Special Administratrix to
exercise all the aforesaid rights on the said shares and to
refrain from resorting to any action which may tend (to)
directly or indirectly impede, obstruct or bar the free
exercise thereof under pain of contempt.
6. The President, Corporate Secretary, any responsible
officer/s of Philinterlife, or any other person or persons
claiming to represent it or otherwise, are hereby directed
to comply with this Order within three (3) days from
receipt hereof under pain of contempt.

WHEREFORE, we respectfully submit this report to the


Honorable Court with the information that up to this
writing, Philenterlife (sic) has not submitted their
compliance to the Sheriff or to the Court.16
Petitioners act of filing their motion to suspend
execution/period of compliance by reason of supervening
events also showed their continuing, stubborn resistance
to this Courts judgment. Indeed, one of the exceptions to
the principle of immutability of final judgments is the
existence of supervening events. Supervening events refer
to facts which transpire after judgment has become final
and executory or to new circumstances which
develop afterthe judgment has acquired finality.17

Clearly, petitioners defiant non-compliance with these


directives, as proved by the sheriffs report dated October
13, 2004, constituted indirect contempt. The pertinent
portion of this report stated:

The private respondent alleges that the revocation of her


appointment as special administratrix was made by the
intestate court in its May 12, 2003 and September 4, 2003
orders.18 This is not disputed by the petitioners. In short,
this fact already existed before the decision of this Court
was promulgated on February 23, 2004 and beforeit
became final and executory on July 9, 2004. Therefore,
the revocation of the appointment of private respondent
as special administratrix was evidently not a supervening
event.

That on October 12, 2004, when Sheriff Borja went to the


Philenterlife (sic) Office to check whether there was
already compliance with the Alias Writ of Execution, one
of their staff told Sheriff Borja that Mr. Jose Lee wanted to
talk with Sheriff Borja over the Telephone. In their
telephone conversation, Mr. Jose Lee told Sheriff Borja
that he had already consulted his lawyer regarding the
matter.

Furthermore, this issue had already been raised in


petitioners motion for reconsideration19 of this Courts
February 23, 2004 decision and passed upon by the Court
in its resolution dated May 26, 2004 denying the motion
for lack of merit. Likewise, the increase in the value of the
shares from P1,000 to P4,000 was also raised in the same
motion for reconsideration.20 The Court stated that "the
motion merely reiterate(d) the same arguments earlier

7. The Deputy Sheriffs Adenauer Rivera and Pedro Borja


are hereby directed to implement the writ of execution
with dispatch to forestall any/or further damage to the
Estate.
SO ORDERED.

15

(Emphasis supplied)

raised and (did) not present any substantial reason not


previously invoked nor any matter not already considered
and passed upon by the Court."21
Petitioners insist that there must be an order laying down
the legal procedure for the implementation of the writ,
which implementation did not include taking over the
management of Philinterlife and obtaining possession of
office premises. We disagree. The execution should not be
suspended for that reason.

Exchange Commission of this increase would likewise be


void ab initio.
Moreover, the directives to petitioners Jose C. Lee and
Alma Aggabao, as president and corporate secretary,
respectively, of Philinterlife, were sufficiently clear and
needed absolutely no clarification in order to exact their
compliance thereto. Since the nullity of the sale of the
2,029 Philinterlife shares to FLAG had been confirmed,
they were ordered to:

Our February 23, 2004 ruling categorically stated that the


estate of Dr. Juvencio P. Ortaez was the lawful owner of
2,029 Philinterlife shares. As lawful owner of the
Philinterlife shares, the estate can exercise all the rights of
ownership, including the right to vote the shares. If, by
voting the shares, the estate is able to elect its own
representatives who succeed in attaining management
control of Philinterlife, then let it be as such would be a
legitimate consequence of our February 23, 2004 decision.

(1) reinstate the shares in the name of the estate in the


stock and transfer book;

We call particular attention to the fact that in our February


23, 2004 decision, we noted that petitioners, with the rest
of the FLAG-controlled directors and stockholders,
increased the authorized capital stock of Philinterlife,
diluting in the process the 2,029 shares of the
estate22 representing 50.725% of Philinterlife. We
observed that this was obviously calculated to make it
difficult for the estate to reassume its controlling interest
in Philinterlife. Thus, we ruled that, considering the nullity
of the sale of the 2,029 shares to FLAG, the increase in
Philinterlifes authorized capital stock was void ab
initio.23 Consequently, any approval by the Securities and

(5) comply with the order within three days from receipt.

(2) issue stock certificates in the name of the estate;


(3) acknowledge and allow the special administratrix to
exercise all the rights appurtenant to the shares;
(4) refrain from resorting to any action which may tend to
directly or indirectly impede, obstruct or bar the free
exercise of these rights and
The first two directives were undoubtedly covered by the
duties and functions of the corporate secretary and
president of a corporation. The next two ordered them not
to resist the writ and the last directive provided a period
for their compliance. Given the foregoing, there was never
any need to clarify the procedure for the implementation
of the writ.
Pertinent portions of Section 3, Rule 71 of the Rules of
Court read:
Sec. 3. Indirect contempt to be punished after charge and
hearing. After a charge in writing has been filed, and an

opportunity given to the respondent to comment thereon


within such period as may be fixed by the court and to be
heard by himself or counsel, a person guilty of any of the
following acts may be punished for indirect contempt:
xxx xxx xxx
(b) Disobedience of or resistance to a lawful writ, process,
order or judgment of a court xxx
(c ) Any abuse of or any unlawful interference with the
processes or proceedings of a court not constituting direct
contempt xxx
(d) Any improper conduct tending, directly or indirectly, to
impede, obstruct, or degrade the administration of justice;
xxx xxx xxx
In the recent case of Heirs of Trinidad de Leon vda. de
Roxas v. Court of Appeals, we explained the concept of
contempt of court:
Contempt of court is a defiance of the authority, justice or
dignity of the court; such conduct as tends to bring the
authority and administration of the law into disrespect or
to interfere with or prejudice parties litigant or their
witnesses during litigation (12 Am. Jur. 389, cited in 14
SCRA 813).
Contempt of court is defined as a disobedience to the
Court by acting in opposition to its authority, justice and
dignity. It signifies not only a willful disregard or
disobedience of the courts orders, but such conduct as
tends to bring the authority of the court and the
administration of law into disrepute or in some manner to
impede the due administration of justice (17 C.J.S. 4).

This Court has thus repeatedly declared that the power to


punish for contempt is inherent in all courts and is
essential to the preservation of order in judicial
proceedings and to the enforcement of judgments, orders
and mandates of the court, and consequently, to the due
administration of justice (Slade Perkins vs. Director of
Prisons, 58 Phil. 271; In re Kelly, 35 Phil. 944;
Commissioner of Immigration vs. Cloribel, 20 SCRA 1241;
Montalban vs. Canonoy, 38 SCRA 1).24
Petitioners disobedience to this Courts judgment is an
affront to the Court and the dignity with which it is clothed.
Their attempt to raise issues already laid to rest by a final
and executory judgment of no less than the highest
tribunal of the land constitutes a disrespectful and insolent
defiance of the authority of this Court and impedes the
speedy administration of justice.25 As mentioned in the
beginning of this Resolution, this controversy has been
pending for 25 long years already. Apparently, petitioners
want to prolong it to eternity.
In Sacdalan v. Court of Appeals, we said:
Well-settled is the principle that a decision that has
acquired finality becomes immutable and unalterable and
may no longer be modified in any respect even if the
modification is meant to correct erroneous conclusions of
fact or law and whether it will be made by the court that
rendered it or by the highest court of the land.
The reason for this is that litigation must end and
terminate sometime and somewhere, and it is essential to
an effective and efficient administration of justice that,
once a judgment has become final, the winning party be
not deprived of the fruits of the verdict. Courts must guard

against any scheme calculated to bring about that result


and must frown upon any attempt to prolong the
controversies.
The only exceptions to the general rule are the correction
of clerical errors, the so-called nunc pro tunc entries which
cause no prejudice to any party, void judgments, and
whenever circumstances transpire after the finality of the
decision rendering its execution unjust and inequitable. 26
This case does not fall under any of the recognized
exceptions. Moreover, the immutability of the February 23,
2004 decision is all the more emphasized in this case since
it is this Court, the highest Court of the land and final
arbiter of all legal controversies, that promulgated it. Thus,
petitioners are bound by the finality of our decision and
cannot, under the guise of a phony motion to suspend
execution/period of compliance by reason of supervening
events, reopen a case already decided with finality. Nor
should they be permitted to litigate anew questions or
issues already laid to rest.
The fact is that virtually the same issues have been
elevated to this Court no less than three times: in G.R.
Nos. 128525, 135177 and 146006. Private respondent
obtained a writ of execution in 2000 but her attempt to
enforce the writ was unsuccessful. After our February 23,
2004 decision became final and executory, she obtained
an alias writ of execution on October 1, 2004 but the
petitioners again managed to frustrate her efforts to
execute the decision and torpedo its enforcement.
As we ruled in Beautifont, Inc. v. Court of Appeals:

Considerable time has already elapsed and, to serve the


ends of justice, it is time that [the] controversy is finally
laid to rest. "Sound practice seeks to accommodate the
theory which avoids waste of time, effort and expense,
both to the parties and the government, not to speak of
delay in the disposal of the case. A marked characteristic
of our judicial set-up is that where the dictates of justice
so demand ... the Supreme Court should act, and act with
finality." In this case, the dictates of justice do demand
that this Court act, and act with finality.27
This Court is becoming impatient with the devious tricks
and maneuvers of petitioners.
Section 7, Rule 71 of the Rules of Court penalizes indirect
contempt as follows:
Sec. 7. Punishment for indirect contempt. If the
respondent is adjudged guilty of indirect contempt
committed against a Regional Trial Court or a court of
equivalent or higher rank, he may be punished by a fine
not exceeding thirty thousand pesos or imprisonment not
exceeding six (6) months or both. xxx
Petitioners Jose C. Lee and Alma Aggabao, for their
defiance and resistance to the October 1, 2004 alias writ
of execution enforcing this Courts February 23, 2004
decision resulting in the frustration of its execution
are hereby adjudged guilty of indirect contempt.
Finally, with regard to the administrative charge against
petitioners counsel, Atty. Teodorico Fernandez, pursuant
to paragraph 2, Section 1, Rule 139-B of the Rules of
Court, this Court resolves to refer it to the Commission on

Bar Discipline of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines for


investigation, report and recommendation.
WHEREFORE, petitioners Jose C. Lee and Alma Aggabao,
president and corporate secretary, respectively, of
petitioner Philippine International Life Insurance
Company, are hereby found GUILTY of INDIRECT
CONTEMPT for which the maximum FINE of P30,000 is
hereby imposed on each of them, payable in full within
five days from receipt of this resolution. They are
furthermore given a final non-extendible period of five
days from receipt of this resolution within which to comply
within our decision and orders as aforementioned.
Petitioners are hereby warned not to file any more
pleadings in connection herewith. Failure to comply with
our decision, orders and P30,000 fine within the five-day
period will subject them to imprisonment till full
compliance.
In view hereof, petitioners counsel, Atty. Teodorico
Fernandez, is likewise strongly warned to refrain from any
further attempts to make a mockery of our judicial
processes.
SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 118671

January 29, 1996

THE ESTATE OF HILARIO M. RUIZ, EDMOND RUIZ,


Executor, petitioner, vs. THE COURT OF APPEALS
(Former Special Sixth Division), MARIA PILAR
RUIZ-MONTES, MARIA CATHRYN RUIZ, CANDICE
ALBERTINE RUIZ, MARIA ANGELINE RUIZ and THE
PRESIDING JUDGE OF THE REGIONAL TRIAL
COURT OF PASIG, respondents.
DECISION
PUNO, J.:
This petition for review on certiorari seeks to annul and set
aside the decision dated November 10, 1994 and the
resolution dated January 5, 1995 of the Court of Appeals
in CA-G.R. SP No. 33045.
The facts show that on June 27, 1987, Hilario M.
Ruiz1 executed a holographic will naming as his heirs his
only son, Edmond Ruiz, his adopted daughter, private
respondent Maria Pilar Ruiz Montes, and his three
granddaughters, private respondents Maria Cathryn,
Candice Albertine and Maria Angeline, all children of
Edmond Ruiz. The testator bequeathed to his heirs
substantial cash, personal and real properties and named
Edmond Ruiz executor of his estate.2
On April 12, 1988, Hilario Ruiz died. Immediately
thereafter, the cash component of his estate was
distributed among Edmond Ruiz and private respondents
in accordance with the decedent's will. For unbeknown

reasons, Edmond, the named executor, did not take any


action for the probate of his father's holographic will.
On June 29, 1992, four years after the testator's death, it
was private respondent Maria Pilar Ruiz Montes who filed
before the Regional Trial Court, Branch 156, Pasig, a
petition for the probate and approval of Hilario Ruiz's will
and for the issuance of letters testamentary to Edmond
Ruiz,3 Surprisingly, Edmond opposed the petition on the
ground that the will was executed under undue influence.
On November 2, 1992, one of the properties of the estate
the house and lot at No. 2 Oliva Street, Valle Verde IV,
Pasig which the testator bequeathed to Maria Cathryn,
Candice Albertine and Maria Angeline4 was leased out
by Edmond Ruiz to third persons.
On January 19, 1993, the probate court ordered Edmond
to deposit with the Branch Clerk of Court the rental deposit
and payments totalling P540,000.00 representing the oneyear lease of the Valle Verde property. In compliance, on
January 25, 1993, Edmond turned over the amount of
P348,583.56, representing the balance of the rent after
deducting P191,416.14 for repair and maintenance
expenses on the estate.5
In March 1993, Edmond moved for the release of
P50,000.00 to pay the real estate taxes on the real
properties of the estate. The probate court approved the
release of P7,722.00.6
On May 14, 1993, Edmond withdrew his opposition to the
probate of the will. Consequently, the probate court, on
May 18, 1993, admitted the will to probate and ordered
the issuance of letters testamentary to Edmond

conditioned upon the filing of a bond in the amount of


P50,000.00. The letters testamentary were issued on June
23, 1993.
On July 28, 1993, petitioner Testate Estate of Hilario Ruiz,
with Edmond Ruiz as executor, filed an "Ex-Parte Motion
for Release of Funds." It prayed for the release of the rent
payments deposited with the Branch Clerk of Court.
Respondent Montes opposed the motion and concurrently
filed a "Motion for Release of Funds to Certain Heirs" and
"Motion for Issuance of Certificate of Allowance of Probate
Will." Montes prayed for the release of the said rent
payments to Maria Cathryn, Candice Albertine and Maria
Angeline and for the distribution of the testator's
properties, specifically the Valle Verde property and the
Blue Ridge apartments, in accordance with the provisions
of the holographic will.

of funds in view of the fact that the lease contract over the
Valle Verde property had been renewed for another year.7
Despite petitioner's manifestation, the probate court, on
December 22, 1993, ordered the release of the funds to
Edmond but only "such amount as may be necessary to
cover the expenses of administration and allowances for
support" of the testator's three granddaughters subject to
collation and deductible from their share in the
inheritance. The court, however, held in abeyance the
release of the titles to respondent Montes and the three
granddaughters until the lapse of six months from the date
of first publication of the notice to creditors.8 The court
stated thus:
xxx

xxx

xxx

On August 26, 1993, the probate court denied petitioner's


motion for release of funds but granted respondent
Montes' motion in view of petitioner's lack of opposition. It
thus ordered the release of the rent payments to the
decedent's three granddaughters. It further ordered the
delivery of the titles to and possession of the properties
bequeathed to the three granddaughters and respondent
Montes upon the filing of a bond of P50,000.00.

After consideration of the arguments set forth thereon by


the parties the court resolves to allow Administrator
Edmond M. Ruiz to take possession of the rental payments
deposited with the Clerk of Court, Pasig Regional Trial
Court, but only such amount as may be necessary to cover
the expenses of administration and allowances for support
of Maria Cathryn Veronique, Candice Albertine and Maria
Angeli, which are subject to collation and deductible from
the share in the inheritance of said heirs and insofar as
they exceed the fruits or rents pertaining to them.

Petitioner moved for reconsideration alleging that he


actually filed his opposition to respondent Montes's motion
for release of rent payments which opposition the court
failed to consider. Petitioner likewise reiterated his
previous motion for release of funds.

As to the release of the titles bequeathed to petitioner


Maria Pilar Ruiz-Montes and the above-named heirs, the
same is hereby reconsidered and held in abeyance until
the lapse of six (6) months from the date of first
publication of Notice to Creditors.

On November 23, 1993, petitioner, through counsel,


manifested that he was withdrawing his motion for release

WHEREFORE, Administrator Edmond M. Ruiz is hereby


ordered to submit an accounting of the expenses
necessary for administration including provisions for the
support Of Maria Cathryn Veronique Ruiz, Candice
Albertine Ruiz and Maria Angeli Ruiz before the amount
required can be withdrawn and cause the publication of
the notice to creditors with reasonable dispatch.9
Petitioner assailed this order before the Court of Appeals.
Finding no grave abuse of discretion on the part of
respondent judge, the appellate court dismissed the
petition and sustained the probate court's order in a
decision dated November 10, 199410 and a resolution
dated January 5, 1995.11
Hence, this petition.
Petitioner claims that:
THE PUBLIC RESPONDENT COURT OF APPEALS
COMMITTED GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION AMOUNTING
TO LACK OR EXCESS OF JURISDICTION IN AFFIRMING
AND CONFIRMING THE ORDER OF RESPONDENT
REGIONAL TRIAL COURT OF PASIG, BRANCH 156, DATED
DECEMBER 22, 1993, WHICH WHEN GIVEN DUE COURSE
AND IS EFFECTED WOULD: (1) DISALLOW THE
EXECUTOR/ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ESTATE OF THE
LATE HILARIO M. RUIZ TO TAKE POSSESSION OF ALL
THE REAL AND PERSONAL PROPERTIES OF THE ESTATE;
(2) GRANT SUPPORT, DURING THE PENDENCY OF THE
SETTLEMENT OF AN ESTATE, TO CERTAIN PERSONS NOT
ENTITLED THERETO; AND (3) PREMATURELY PARTITION
AND DISTRIBUTE THE ESTATE PURSUANT TO THE
PROVISIONS OF THE HOLOGRAPHIC WILL EVEN BEFORE
ITS INTRINSIC VALIDITY HAS BEEN DETERMINED, AND

DESPITE THE EXISTENCE OF UNPAID DEBTS AND


OBLIGATIONS OF THE ESTATE.12
The issue for resolution is whether the probate court, after
admitting the will to probate but before payment of the
estate's debts and obligations, has the authority: (1) to
grant an allowance from the funds of the estate for the
support of the testator's grandchildren; (2) to order the
release of the titles to certain heirs; and (3) to grant
possession of all properties of the estate to the executor
of the will.
On the matter of allowance, Section 3 of Rule 83 of the
Revised Rules of Court provides:
Sec. 3. Allowance to widow and family. The widow and
minor or incapacitated children of a deceased person,
during the settlement of the estate, shall receive
therefrom under the direction of the court, such allowance
as are provided by law.
Petitioner alleges that this provision only gives the widow
and the minor or incapacitated children of the deceased
the right to receive allowances for support during the
settlement of estate proceedings. He contends that the
testator's three granddaughters do not qualify for an
allowance because they are not incapacitated and are no
longer minors but of legal age, married and gainfully
employed. In addition, the provision expressly states
"children" of the deceased which excludes the latter's
grandchildren.
It is settled that allowances for support under Section 3 of
Rule 83 should not be limited to the "minor or
incapacitated" children of the deceased. Article 18813 of

the Civil Code of the Philippines, the substantive law in


force at the time of the testator's death, provides that
during the liquidation of the conjugal partnership, the
deceased's legitimate spouse and children, regardless of
their age, civil status or gainful employment, are entitled
to provisional support from the funds of the estate.14 The
law is rooted on the fact that the right and duty to support,
especially the right to education, subsist even beyond the
age of majority.15
Be that as it may, grandchildren are not entitled to
provisional support from the funds of the decedent's
estate. The law clearly limits the allowance to "widow and
children" and does not extend it to the deceased's
grandchildren, regardless of their minority or
incapacity.16 It was error, therefore, for the appellate court
to sustain the probate court's order granting an allowance
to the grandchildren of the testator pending settlement of
his estate.
Respondent courts also erred when they ordered the
release of the titles of the bequeathed properties to private
respondents six months after the date of first publication
of notice to creditors. An order releasing titles to properties
of the estate amounts to an advance distribution of the
estate which is allowed only under the following
conditions:
Sec. 2. Advance distribution in special proceedings.
Nothwithstanding a pending controversy or appeal in
proceedings to settle the estate of a decedent, the court
may, in its discretion and upon such terms as it may deem
proper and just, permit that such part of the estate as may
not be affected by the controversy or appeal be distributed

among the heirs or legatees, upon compliance with the


conditions set forth in Rule 90 of these Rules.17
And Rule 90 provides that:
Sec. 1. When order for distribution of residue made.
When the debts, funeral charges, and expenses of

administration the allowance to the widow, and


inheritance tax if any, chargeable to the estate in
accordance with law, have been paid, the court, on the
application of the executor or administrator, or of a person
interested in the estate, and after hearing upon notice
shall assign the residue of the estate to the persons
entitled to the same, naming them and the proportions or
parts, to which each is entitled, and such persons may
demand and recover their respective shares from the
executor or administrator, or any other person having the
same in his possession. If there is a controversy before the
court as to who are the lawful heirs of the deceased person
or as to the distributive shares to which each person is
entitled under the law, the controversy shall be heard and
decided as in ordinary cases.
No distribution shall be allowed until the payment of the
obligations above-mentioned has been made or provided
for, unless the distributees, or any of them, give a bond,
in a sum to be fixed by the court, conditioned for the
payment of said obligations within such time as the court
directs.18
In settlement of estate proceedings, the distribution of the
estate properties can only be made: (1) after all the debts,
funeral charges, expenses of administration, allowance to
the widow, and estate tax have been paid; or (2) before
payment of said obligations only if the distributees or any

of them gives a bond in a sum fixed by the court


conditioned upon the payment of said obligations within
such time as the court directs, or when provision is made
to meet those obligations.19
In the case at bar, the probate court ordered the release
of the titles to the Valle Verde property and the Blue Ridge
apartments to the private respondents after the lapse of
six months from the date of first publication of the notice
to creditors. The questioned order speaks of "notice" to
creditors, not payment of debts and obligations. Hilario
Ruiz allegedly left no debts when he died but the taxes on
his estate had not hitherto been paid, much less
ascertained. The estate tax is one of those obligations that
must be paid before distribution of the estate. If not yet
paid, the rule requires that the distributees post a bond or
make such provisions as to meet the said tax obligation in
proportion to their respective shares in the
inheritance.20 Notably, at the time the order was issued
the properties of the estate had not yet been inventoried
and appraised.
It was also too early in the day for the probate court to
order the release of the titles six months after admitting
the will to probate. The probate of a will is conclusive as
to its due execution and extrinsic validity21 and settles only
the question of whether the testator, being of sound mind,
freely executed it in accordance with the formalities
prescribed by law.22 Questions as to the intrinsic validity
and efficacy of the provisions of the will, the legality of any
devise or legacy may be raised even after the will has been
authenticated.23

The intrinsic validity of Hilario's holographic will was


controverted by petitioner before the probate court in his
Reply to Montes' Opposition to his motion for release of
funds24 and his motion for reconsideration of the August
26, 1993 order of the said court.25 Therein, petitioner
assailed the distributive shares of the devisees and
legatees inasmuch as his father's will included the estate
of his mother and allegedly impaired his legitime as an
intestate heir of his mother. The Rules provide that if there
is a controversy as to who are the lawful heirs of the
decedent and their distributive shares in his estate, the
probate court shall proceed to hear and decide the same
as in ordinary cases.26
Still and all, petitioner cannot correctly claim that the
assailed order deprived him of his right to take possession
of all the real and personal properties of the estate. The
right of an executor or administrator to the possession and
management of the real and personal properties of the
deceased is not absolute and can only be exercised "so
long as it is necessary for the payment of the debts and
expenses of administration,"27 Section 3 of Rule 84 of the
Revised Rules of Court explicitly provides:
Sec. 3. Executor or administrator to retain whole estate to
pay debts, and to administer estate not willed. An
executor or administrator shall have the right to the
possession and management of the real as well as the
personal estate of the deceased so long as it is necessary

for the payment of the debts and expenses for


administration.28

When petitioner moved for further release of the funds


deposited with the clerk of court, he had been previously

granted by the probate court certain amounts for repair


and maintenance expenses on the properties of the estate,
and payment of the real estate taxes thereon. But
petitioner moved again for the release of additional funds
for the same reasons he previously cited. It was correct
for the probate court to require him to submit an
accounting of the necessary expenses for administration
before releasing any further money in his favor.

Court, Branch 156, Pasig in SP Proc. No. 10259 are


affirmed with the modification that those portions of the
order granting an allowance to the testator's grandchildren
and ordering the release of the titles to the private
respondents upon notice to creditors are annulled and set
aside.

It was relevantly noted by the probate court that petitioner


had deposited with it only a portion of the one-year rental
income from the Valle Verde property. Petitioner did not
deposit its succeeding rents after renewal of the
lease.29 Neither did he render an accounting of such funds.

SO ORDERED.

Petitioner must be reminded that his right of ownership


over the properties of his father is merely inchoate as long
as the estate has not been fully settled and
partitioned.30 As executor, he is a mere trustee of his
father's estate. The funds of the estate in his hands are
trust funds and he is held to the duties and responsibilities
of a trustee of the highest order.31 He cannot unilaterally
assign to himself and possess all his parents' properties
and the fruits thereof without first submitting an inventory
and appraisal of all real and personal properties of the
deceased, rendering a true account of his administration,
the expenses of administration, the amount of the
obligations and estate tax, all of which are subject to a
determination by the court as to their veracity, propriety
and justness.32
IN VIEW WHEREOF, the decision and resolution of the
Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 33045 affirming the
order dated December 22, 1993 of the Regional Trial

Respondent judge is ordered to proceed with dispatch in


the proceedings below.

G.R. No. 149926

February 23, 2005

UNION BANK OF THE PHILIPPINES, petitioner, vs.


EDMUND
SANTIBAEZ
and
FLORENCE
SANTIBAEZ ARIOLA, respondents.
DECISION
CALLEJO, SR., J.:
Before us is a petition for review on certiorari under Rule
45 of the Revised Rules of Court which seeks the reversal
of the Decision1 of the Court of Appeals dated May 30,
2001 in CA-G.R. CV No. 48831 affirming the dismissal2 of
the petitioners complaint in Civil Case No. 18909 by the
Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Makati City, Branch 63.
The antecedent facts are as follows:
On May 31, 1980, the First Countryside Credit Corporation
(FCCC) and Efraim M. Santibaez entered into a loan

agreement3 in the amount of P128,000.00. The amount


was intended for the payment of the purchase price of one
(1) unit Ford 6600 Agricultural All-Purpose Diesel Tractor.
In view thereof, Efraim and his son, Edmund, executed a
promissory note in favor of the FCCC, the principal sum
payable in five equal annual amortizations ofP43,745.96
due on May 31, 1981 and every May 31st thereafter up to
May 31, 1985.
On December 13, 1980, the FCCC and Efraim entered into
another loan agreement,4 this time in the amount
ofP123,156.00. It was intended to pay the balance of the
purchase price of another unit of Ford 6600 Agricultural
All-Purpose Diesel Tractor, with accessories, and one (1)
unit Howard Rotamotor Model AR 60K. Again, Efraim and
his son, Edmund, executed a promissory note for the said
amount in favor of the FCCC. Aside from such promissory
note, they also signed a Continuing Guaranty
Agreement5 for the loan dated December 13, 1980.
Sometime in February 1981, Efraim died, leaving a
holographic will.6 Subsequently in March 1981, testate
proceedings commenced before the RTC of Iloilo City,
Branch 7, docketed as Special Proceedings No. 2706. On
April 9, 1981, Edmund, as one of the heirs, was appointed
as the special administrator of the estate of the
decedent.7 During the pendency of the testate
proceedings, the surviving heirs, Edmund and his sister
Florence
Santibaez
Ariola,
executed
a
Joint
Agreement8 dated July 22, 1981, wherein they agreed to
divide between themselves and take possession of the
three (3) tractors; that is, two (2) tractors for Edmund and
one (1) tractor for Florence. Each of them was to assume

the indebtedness of their late father to FCCC,


corresponding to the tractor respectively taken by them.
On August 20, 1981, a Deed of Assignment with
Assumption of Liabilities9 was executed by and between
FCCC and Union Savings and Mortgage Bank, wherein the
FCCC as the assignor, among others, assigned all its assets
and liabilities to Union Savings and Mortgage Bank.
Demand letters10 for the settlement of his account were
sent by petitioner Union Bank of the Philippines (UBP) to
Edmund, but the latter failed to heed the same and
refused to pay. Thus, on February 5, 1988, the petitioner
filed a Complaint11 for sum of money against the heirs of
Efraim Santibaez, Edmund and Florence, before the RTC
of Makati City, Branch 150, docketed as Civil Case No.
18909. Summonses were issued against both, but the one
intended for Edmund was not served since he was in the
United States and there was no information on his address
or the date of his return to the Philippines.12 Accordingly,
the complaint was narrowed down to respondent Florence
S. Ariola.
On December 7, 1988, respondent Florence S. Ariola filed
her Answer13 and alleged that the loan documents did not
bind her since she was not a party thereto. Considering
that the joint agreement signed by her and her brother
Edmund was not approved by the probate court, it was
null and void; hence, she was not liable to the petitioner
under the joint agreement.
On January 29, 1990, the case was unloaded and reraffled to the RTC of Makati City, Branch
63.14Consequently, trial on the merits ensued and a
decision was subsequently rendered by the court

dismissing the complaint for lack of merit. The decretal


portion of the RTC decision reads:
WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered DISMISSING
the complaint for lack of merit.15
The trial court found that the claim of the petitioner should
have been filed with the probate court before which the
testate estate of the late Efraim Santibaez was pending,
as the sum of money being claimed was an obligation
incurred by the said decedent. The trial court also found
that the Joint Agreement apparently executed by his heirs,
Edmund and Florence, on July 22, 1981, was, in effect, a
partition of the estate of the decedent. However, the said
agreement was void, considering that it had not been
approved by the probate court, and that there can be no
valid partition until after the will has been probated. The
trial court further declared that petitioner failed to prove
that it was the now defunct Union Savings and Mortgage
Bank to which the FCCC had assigned its assets and
liabilities. The court also agreed to the contention of
respondent Florence S. Ariola that the list of assets and
liabilities of the FCCC assigned to Union Savings and
Mortgage Bank did not clearly refer to the decedents
account. Ruling that the joint agreement executed by the
heirs was null and void, the trial court held that the
petitioners cause of action against respondent Florence S.
Ariola must necessarily fail.
The petitioner appealed from the RTC decision and
elevated its case to the Court of Appeals (CA), assigning
the following as errors of the trial court:

1. THE COURT A QUO ERRED IN FINDING THAT THE


JOINT AGREEMENT (EXHIBIT A) SHOULD BE APPROVED
BY THE PROBATE COURT.
2. THE COURT A QUO ERRED IN FINDING THAT THERE
CAN BE NO VALID PARTITION AMONG THE HEIRS UNTIL
AFTER THE WILL HAS BEEN PROBATED.
3. THE COURT A QUO ERRED IN NOT FINDING THAT THE
DEFENDANT HAD WAIVED HER RIGHT TO HAVE THE
CLAIM RE-LITIGATED IN THE ESTATE PROCEEDING.16
The petitioner asserted before the CA that the obligation
of the deceased had passed to his legitimate children and
heirs, in this case, Edmund and Florence; the
unconditional signing of the joint agreement marked as
Exhibit "A" estopped respondent Florence S. Ariola, and
that she cannot deny her liability under the said document;
as the agreement had been signed by both heirs in their
personal capacity, it was no longer necessary to present
the same before the probate court for approval; the
property partitioned in the agreement was not one of
those enumerated in the holographic will made by the
deceased; and the active participation of the heirs,
particularly respondent Florence S. Ariola, in the present
ordinary civil action was tantamount to a waiver to relitigate the claim in the estate proceedings.
On the other hand, respondent Florence S. Ariola
maintained that the money claim of the petitioner should
have been presented before the probate court.17
The appellate court found that the appeal was not
meritorious and held that the petitioner should have filed
its claim with the probate court as provided under Sections

1 and 5, Rule 86 of the Rules of Court. It further held that


the partition made in the agreement was null and void,
since no valid partition may be had until after the will has
been probated. According to the CA, page 2, paragraph
(e) of the holographic will covered the subject properties
(tractors) in generic terms when the deceased referred to
them as "all other properties." Moreover, the active
participation of respondent Florence S. Ariola in the case
did not amount to a waiver. Thus, the CA affirmed the RTC
decision, viz.:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the appealed Decision
of the Regional Trial Court of Makati City, Branch 63, is
hereby AFFIRMED in toto.
SO ORDERED.18
In the present recourse, the petitioner ascribes the
following errors to the CA:
I.
THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN FINDING
THAT THE JOINT AGREEMENT SHOULD BE APPROVED BY
THE PROBATE COURT.
II.
THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN FINDING THAT THERE
CAN BE NO VALID PARTITION AMONG THE HEIRS OF THE
LATE EFRAIM SANTIBAEZ UNTIL AFTER THE WILL HAS
BEEN PROBATED.
III.
THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN NOT FINDING THAT
THE RESPONDENT HAD WAIVED HER RIGHT TO HAVE
THE CLAIM RE-LITIGATED IN THE ESTATE PROCEEDING.

IV.
RESPONDENTS CAN, IN FACT, BE HELD JOINTLY AND
SEVERALLY LIABLE WITH THE PRINCIPAL DEBTOR THE
LATE EFRAIM SANTIBAEZ ON THE STRENGTH OF THE
CONTINUING GUARANTY AGREEMENT EXECUTED IN
FAVOR OF PETITIONER-APPELLANT UNION BANK.
V.
THE PROMISSORY NOTES DATED MAY 31, 1980 IN THE
SUM OF P128,000.00 AND DECEMBER 13, 1980 IN THE
AMOUNT OF P123,000.00 CATEGORICALLY ESTABLISHED
THE FACT THAT THE RESPONDENTS BOUND
THEMSELVES JOINTLY AND SEVERALLY LIABLE WITH
THE LATE DEBTOR EFRAIM SANTIBAEZ IN FAVOR OF
PETITIONER UNION BANK.19
The petitioner claims that the obligations of the deceased
were transmitted to the heirs as provided in Article 774 of
the Civil Code; there was thus no need for the probate
court to approve the joint agreement where the heirs
partitioned the tractors owned by the deceased and
assumed the obligations related thereto. Since respondent
Florence S. Ariola signed the joint agreement without any
condition, she is now estopped from asserting any position
contrary thereto. The petitioner also points out that the
holographic will of the deceased did not include nor
mention any of the tractors subject of the complaint, and,
as such was beyond the ambit of the said will. The active
participation and resistance of respondent Florence S.
Ariola in the ordinary civil action against the petitioners
claim amounts to a waiver of the right to have the claim
presented in the probate proceedings, and to allow any
one of the heirs who executed the joint agreement to

escape liability to pay the value of the tractors under


consideration would be equivalent to allowing the said
heirs to enrich themselves to the damage and prejudice of
the petitioner.
The petitioner, likewise, avers that the decisions of both
the trial and appellate courts failed to consider the fact
that respondent Florence S. Ariola and her brother
Edmund executed loan documents, all establishing
thevinculum juris or the legal bond between the late
Efraim Santibaez and his heirs to be in the nature of a
solidary obligation. Furthermore, the Promissory Notes
dated May 31, 1980 and December 13, 1980 executed by
the late Efraim Santibaez, together with his heirs,
Edmund and respondent Florence, made the obligation
solidary as far as the said heirs are concerned. The
petitioner also proffers that, considering the express
provisions of the continuing guaranty agreement and the
promissory notes executed by the named respondents, the
latter must be held liable jointly and severally liable
thereon. Thus, there was no need for the petitioner to file
its money claim before the probate court. Finally, the
petitioner stresses that both surviving heirs are being sued
in their respective personal capacities, not as heirs of the
deceased.
In her comment to the petition, respondent Florence S.
Ariola maintains that the petitioner is trying to recover a
sum of money from the deceased Efraim Santibaez; thus
the claim should have been filed with the probate court.
She points out that at the time of the execution of the joint
agreement there was already an existing probate
proceedings of which the petitioner knew about. However,

to avoid a claim in the probate court which might delay


payment of the obligation, the petitioner opted to require
them to execute the said agreement.1a\^/phi1.net
According to the respondent, the trial court and the CA did
not err in declaring that the agreement was null and void.
She asserts that even if the agreement was voluntarily
executed by her and her brother Edmund, it should still
have been subjected to the approval of the court as it may
prejudice the estate, the heirs or third parties.
Furthermore, she had not waived any rights, as she even
stated in her answer in the court a quo that the claim
should be filed with the probate court. Thus, the petitioner
could not invoke or claim that she is in estoppel.
Respondent Florence S. Ariola further asserts that she had
not signed any continuing guaranty agreement, nor was
there any document presented as evidence to show that
she had caused herself to be bound by the obligation of
her late father.
The petition is bereft of merit.
The Court is posed to resolve the following issues: a)
whether or not the partition in the Agreement executed by
the heirs is valid; b) whether or not the heirs assumption
of the indebtedness of the deceased is valid; and c)
whether the petitioner can hold the heirs liable on the
obligation of the deceased.1awphi1.nt
At the outset, well-settled is the rule that a probate court
has the jurisdiction to determine all the properties of the
deceased, to determine whether they should or should not
be included in the inventory or list of properties to be
administered.20 The said court is primarily concerned with

the administration, liquidation and distribution of the


estate.21
In our jurisdiction, the rule is that there can be no valid
partition among the heirs until after the will has been
probated:
In testate succession, there can be no valid partition
among the heirs until after the will has been probated. The
law enjoins the probate of a will and the public requires it,
because unless a will is probated and notice thereof given
to the whole world, the right of a person to dispose of his
property by will may be rendered nugatory. The
authentication of a will decides no other question than
such as touch upon the capacity of the testator and the
compliance with those requirements or solemnities which
the law prescribes for the validity of a will.22
This, of course, presupposes that the properties to be
partitioned are the same properties embraced in the
will.23In the present case, the deceased, Efraim
Santibaez, left a holographic will24 which contained, inter
alia, the provision which reads as follows:
(e) All other properties, real or personal, which I own and
may be discovered later after my demise, shall be
distributed in the proportion indicated in the immediately
preceding paragraph in favor of Edmund and Florence, my
children.
We agree with the appellate court that the above-quoted
is an all-encompassing provision embracing all the
properties left by the decedent which might have escaped
his mind at that time he was making his will, and other
properties he may acquire thereafter. Included therein are

the three (3) subject tractors. This being so, any partition
involving the said tractors among the heirs is not valid.
The joint agreement25 executed by Edmund and Florence,
partitioning the tractors among themselves, is invalid,
specially so since at the time of its execution, there was
already a pending proceeding for the probate of their late
fathers holographic will covering the said tractors.
It must be stressed that the probate proceeding had
already acquired jurisdiction over all the properties of the
deceased, including the three (3) tractors. To dispose of
them in any way without the probate courts approval is
tantamount to divesting it with jurisdiction which the Court
cannot allow.26 Every act intended to put an end to
indivision among co-heirs and legatees or devisees is
deemed to be a partition, although it should purport to be
a sale, an exchange, a compromise, or any other
transaction.27 Thus, in executing any joint agreement
which appears to be in the nature of an extra-judicial
partition, as in the case at bar, court approval is
imperative, and the heirs cannot just divest the court of its
jurisdiction over that part of the estate. Moreover, it is
within the jurisdiction of the probate court to determine
the identity of the heirs of the decedent.28 In the instant
case, there is no showing that the signatories in the joint
agreement were the only heirs of the decedent. When it
was executed, the probate of the will was still pending
before the court and the latter had yet to determine who
the heirs of the decedent were. Thus, for Edmund and
respondent Florence S. Ariola to adjudicate unto
themselves the three (3) tractors was a premature act,
and prejudicial to the other possible heirs and creditors

who may have a valid claim against the estate of the


deceased.
The question that now comes to fore is whether the heirs
assumption of the indebtedness of the decedent is
binding. We rule in the negative. Perusing the joint
agreement, it provides that the heirs as parties thereto
"have agreed to divide between themselves and take

possession and use the above-described chattel and each


of them to assume the indebtedness corresponding to the
chattel taken as herein after stated which is in favor of
First Countryside Credit Corp."29 The assumption of liability

was conditioned upon the happening of an event, that is,


that each heir shall take possession and use of their
respective share under the agreement. It was made
dependent on the validity of the partition, and that they
were to assume the indebtedness corresponding to the
chattel that they were each to receive. The partition being
invalid as earlier discussed, the heirs in effect did not
receive any such tractor. It follows then that the
assumption of liability cannot be given any force and
effect.
The Court notes that the loan was contracted by the
decedent.l^vvphi1.net The petitioner, purportedly a
creditor of the late Efraim Santibaez, should have thus
filed its money claim with the probate court in accordance
with Section 5, Rule 86 of the Revised Rules of Court,
which provides:
Section 5. Claims which must be filed under the notice. If
not filed barred; exceptions. All claims for money
against the decedent, arising from contract, express or
implied, whether the same be due, not due, or contingent,

all claims for funeral expenses for the last sickness of the
decedent, and judgment for money against the decedent,
must be filed within the time limited in the notice;
otherwise they are barred forever, except that they may
be set forth as counterclaims in any action that the
executor or administrator may bring against the claimants.
Where an executor or administrator commences an action,
or prosecutes an action already commenced by the
deceased in his lifetime, the debtor may set forth by
answer the claims he has against the decedent, instead of
presenting them independently to the court as herein
provided, and mutual claims may be set off against each
other in such action; and if final judgment is rendered in
favor of the defendant, the amount so determined shall be
considered the true balance against the estate, as though
the claim had been presented directly before the court in
the administration proceedings. Claims not yet due, or
contingent, may be approved at their present value.
The filing of a money claim against the decedents estate
in the probate court is mandatory.30 As we held in the
vintage case of Py Eng Chong v. Herrera:31
This requirement is for the purpose of protecting the
estate of the deceased by informing the executor or
administrator of the claims against it, thus enabling him to
examine each claim and to determine whether it is a
proper one which should be allowed. The plain and
obvious design of the rule is the speedy settlement of the
affairs of the deceased and the early delivery of the
property to the distributees, legatees, or heirs. `The law
strictly requires the prompt presentation and disposition of
the claims against the decedent's estate in order to settle

the affairs of the estate as soon as possible, pay off its


debts and distribute the residue.32
Perusing the records of the case, nothing therein could
hold private respondent Florence S. Ariola accountable for
any liability incurred by her late father. The documentary
evidence presented, particularly the promissory notes and
the continuing guaranty agreement, were executed and
signed only by the late Efraim Santibaez and his son
Edmund. As the petitioner failed to file its money claim
with the probate court, at most, it may only go after
Edmund as co-maker of the decedent under the said
promissory notes and continuing guaranty, of course,
subject to any defenses Edmund may have as against the
petitioner. As the court had not acquired jurisdiction over
the person of Edmund, we find it unnecessary to delve into
the matter further.
We agree with the finding of the trial court that the
petitioner had not sufficiently shown that it is the
successor-in-interest of the Union Savings and Mortgage
Bank to which the FCCC assigned its assets and
liabilities.33 The petitioner in its complaint alleged that "by

virtue of the Deed of Assignment dated August 20, 1981


executed by and between First Countryside Credit
Corporation
and
Union
Bank
of
the
Philippines"34
However,
the
documentary
evidence35 clearly reflects that the parties in the deed of
assignment with assumption of liabilities were the FCCC,
and the Union Savings and Mortgage Bank, with the
conformity of Bancom Philippine Holdings, Inc. Nowhere
can the petitioners participation therein as a party be
found. Furthermore, no documentary or testimonial

evidence was presented during trial to show that Union


Savings and Mortgage Bank is now, in fact, petitioner
Union Bank of the Philippines. As the trial court declared
in its decision:
[T]he court also finds merit to the contention of
defendant that plaintiff failed to prove or did not present
evidence to prove that Union Savings and Mortgage Bank
is now the Union Bank of the Philippines. Judicial notice
does not apply here. "The power to take judicial notice is
to [be] exercised by the courts with caution; care must be
taken that the requisite notoriety exists; and every
reasonable doubt upon the subject should be promptly
resolved in the negative." (Republic vs. Court of Appeals,
107 SCRA 504).36
This being the case, the petitioners personality to file the
complaint is wanting. Consequently, it failed to establish
its cause of action. Thus, the trial court did not err in
dismissing the complaint, and the CA in affirming the
same.
IN LIGHT OF ALL THE FOREGOING, the petition is hereby
DENIED. The assailed Court of Appeals Decision is
AFFIRMED. No costs.
SO ORDERED.
G.R. No. 150175

February 5, 2007

ERLINDA PILAPIL and HEIRS OF DONATA ORTIZ


BRIONES, namely: ESTELA, ERIBERTO AND
VIRGILIO SANTOS, ANA SANTOS CULTURA,
ELVIRA SANTOS INOCENTES, ERNESTO MENDOZA,

RIZALINA SANTOS, ADOLFO MENDOZA and PACITA


MENDOZA, Petitioners, vs. HEIRS OF MAXIMINO R.
BRIONES, namely: SILVERIO S. BRIONES, PETRA
BRIONES, BONIFACIO CABAHUG, JR., ANITA
TRASMONTE, CIRILITA FORTUNA, CRESENCIA
BRIONES, FUGURACION MEDALLE and MERCEDES
LAGBAS, Respondents.

Thereafter, Atty. Amador F. Brioso, Jr. of the Canto Brioso


Arnedo Law Office entered his appearance as collaborating
counsel for the respondents.6 Atty. Brioso then filed on 11
June 2006 and 16 June 2006, respectively, a Reply7 and
Supplemental Reply8 to the petitioners Opposition to
respondents Motion for Reconsideration. Finally,
petitioners filed a Rejoinder9 to the respondents Reply and
Supplemental Reply on 5 July 2006.

RESOLUTION

The facts of the case, as recounted in the Decision,10 are


as follows

CHICO-NAZARIO, J.:
On 10 March 2006, this Court promulgated its Decision1 in
the above-entitled case, ruling in favor of the petitioners.
The dispositive portion2 reads as follows:
IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, the assailed Decision of the
Court of Appeals in CA-GR CV No. 55194, dated 31 August
2001, affirming the Decision of the Cebu City RTC in Civil
Case No. CEB-5794, dated 28 September 1986, is hereby
REVERSED and SET ASIDE; and the Complaint for
partition, annulment, and recovery of possession filed by
the heirs of Maximino in Civil Case No. CEB-5794 is hereby
DISMISSED.
On 10 May 2006, a Motion for Reconsideration3 of the
foregoing Decision was filed by Atty. Celso C. Reales of the
Reales Law Office on behalf of the respondents, heirs of
Maximino R. Briones. On 19 May 2006, petitioners Erlinda
Pilapil and the other co-heirs of Donata Ortiz Vda. de
Briones, through counsel, filed an Opposition to
Respondents Motion for Reconsideration,4 to which the
respondents filed a Rejoinder5 on 23 May 2006.

Petitioners are the heirs of the late Donata Ortiz-Briones


(Donata), consisting of her surviving sister, Rizalina OrtizAguila (Rizalina); Rizalinas daughter, Erlinda Pilapil
(Erlinda); and the other nephews and nieces of Donata, in
representation of her two other sisters who had also
passed away. Respondents, on the other hand, are the
heirs of the late Maximino Briones (Maximino), composed
of his nephews and nieces, and grandnephews and
grandnieces, in representation of the deceased siblings of
Maximino.
xxxx
Maximino was married to Donata but their union did not
produce any children. When Maximino died on 1 May
1952, Donata instituted intestate proceedings to settle her
husbands estate with the Cebu City Court of First Instance
(CFI), 14th Judicial District, designated as Special
Proceedings No. 928-R. On 8 July 1952, the CFI issued
Letters of Administration appointing Donata as the
administratrix of Maximinos estate. She submitted an
Inventory of Maximinos properties, which included,
among other things, the following parcels of land x x x.

xxxx
The CFI would subsequently issue an Order, dated 2
October 1952, awarding ownership of the aforementioned
real properties to Donata. On 27 June 1960, Donata had
the said CFI Order recorded in the Primary Entry Book of
the Register of Deeds, and by virtue thereof, received new
TCTs, covering the said properties, now in her name.
Donata died on 1 November 1977. Erlinda, one of Donatas
nieces, instituted with the RTC a petition for the
administration of the intestate estate of Donata. Erlinda
and her husband, Gregorio, were appointed by the RTC as
administrators of Donatas intestate estate. Controversy
arose among Donatas heirs when Erlinda claimed
exclusive ownership of three parcels of land, covered by
TCTs No. 21542, 21545, and 58684, based on two Deeds
of Donation, both dated 15 September 1977, allegedly
executed in her favor by her aunt Donata. The other heirs
of Donata opposed Erlindas claim. This Court, however,
was no longer informed of the subsequent development in
the intestate proceedings of the estate of Donata; and as
far as this Petition is concerned, all the heirs of Donata,
including Erlinda, appear to be on the same side.
On 21 January 1985, Silverio Briones (Silverio), a nephew
of Maximino, filed a Petition with the RTC for Letters of
Administration for the intestate estate of Maximino, which
was initially granted by the RTC. The RTC also issued an
Order, dated 5 December 1985, allowing Silverio to collect
rentals from Maximinos properties. But then, Gregorio
filed with the RTC a Motion to Set Aside the Order, dated
5 December 1985, claiming that the said properties were
already under his and his wifes administration as part of

the intestate estate of Donata. Silverios Letters of


Administration for the intestate estate of Maximino was
subsequently set aside by the RTC.
On 3 March 1987, the heirs of Maximino filed a Complaint
with the RTC against the heirs of Donata for the partition,
annulment, and recovery of possession of real property,
docketed as Civil Case No. CEB-5794. They later filed an
Amended Complaint, on 11 December 1992. They alleged
that Donata, as administratrix of the estate of Maximino,
through fraud and misrepresentation, in breach of trust,
and without the knowledge of the other heirs, succeeded
in registering in her name the real properties belonging to
the intestate estate of Maximino.
xxxx
After trial in due course, the RTC rendered its Decision,
dated 8 April 1986, in favor of the heirs of Maximino x x x.
xxxx
x x x[T]he RTC declared that the heirs of Maximino were
entitled to of the real properties covered by TCTs No.
21542, 21543, 21544, 21545, 21546, and 58684. It also
ordered Erlinda to reconvey to the heirs of Maximino the
said properties and to render an accounting of the fruits
thereof.
The heirs of Donata appealed the RTC Decision, dated 8
April 1986, to the Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals,
in its Decision, promulgated on 31 August 2001, affirmed
the RTC Decision, x x x.
xxxx

Unsatisfied with the afore-quoted Decision of the Court of


Appeals, the heirs of Donata filed the present Petition, x x
x.
In its Decision, dated 10 March 2006, this Court found the
Petition meritorious and, reversing the Decisions of the
Court of Appeals and the Regional Trial Court (RTC),
dismissed the Complaint for partition, annulment, and
recovery of possession of real property filed by the heirs
of Maximino in Civil Case No. CEB-5794. This Court
summed up its findings,11 thus
In summary, the heirs of Maximino failed to prove by clear
and convincing evidence that Donata managed, through
fraud, to have the real properties, belonging to the
intestate estate of Maximino, registered in her name. In
the absence of fraud, no implied trust was established
between Donata and the heirs of Maximino under Article
1456 of the New Civil Code. Donata was able to register
the real properties in her name, not through fraud or
mistake, but pursuant to an Order, dated 2 October 1952,
issued by the CFI in Special Proceedings No. 928-R. The
CFI Order, presumed to be fairly and regularly issued,
declared Donata as the sole, absolute, and exclusive heir
of Maximino; hence, making Donata the singular owner of
the entire estate of Maximino, including the real
properties, and not merely a co-owner with the other heirs
of her deceased husband. There being no basis for the
Complaint of the heirs of Maximino in Civil Case No. CEB5794, the same should have been dismissed.
Respondents move for the reconsideration of the Decision
of this Court raising still the arguments that Donata
committed fraud in securing the Court of First Instance

Order, dated 2 October 1952, which declared her as the


sole heir of her deceased husband Maximino and
authorized her to have Maximinos properties registered
exclusively in her name; that respondents right to
succession to the disputed properties was transmitted or
vested from the moment of Maximinos death and which
they could no longer be deprived of; that Donata merely
possessed and held the properties in trust for her coheirs/owners; and that, by virtue of this Courts ruling in
Quion v. Claridad12 and Sevilla, et al. v. De Los
Angeles,13 respondents action to recover title to and
possession of their shares in Maximinos estate, held in
trust for their benefit by Donata, and eventually, by
petitioners as the latters successors-in-interest, is
imprescriptible. Respondents also advance a fresh
contention that the CFI Order, dated 2 October 1952,
being based on the fraudulent misrepresentation of
Donata that she was Maximinos sole heir, was a void
order, which produced no legal effect. Lastly, respondents
asseverate that, by relying on certain procedural
presumptions in its Decision, dated 10 March 2006, this
Court has sacrificed their substantive right to succession,
thus, making justice "subservient to the dictates of mere
procedural fiats."14
While this Court is persuaded to reexamine and clarify
some points in its previous Decision in this case, it does
not find any new evidence or argument that would
adequately justify a change in its previous position.
On the finding of fraud

As this Court declared in its Decision, the existence of any


trust relations between petitioners and respondents shall
be examined in the light of Article 1456 of the New Civil
Code, which provides that, "[i]f property is acquired
through mistake or fraud, the person obtaining it is, by
force of law, considered a trustee of an implied trust for
the benefit of the person from whom the property comes."
Hence, the foremost question to be answered is still
whether an implied trust under Article 1456 of the New
Civil Code had been sufficiently established in the present
case.
In the Decision, this Court ruled in the negative, since
there was insufficient evidence to establish that Donata
committed fraud. It should be remembered that Donata
was able to secure certificates of title to the disputed
properties by virtue of the CFI Order in Special
Proceedings No. 928-R (the proceedings she instituted to
settle Maximinos intestate estate), which declared her as
Maximinos sole heir. In the absence of proof to the
contrary, the Court accorded to Special Proceedings No.
928-R the presumptions of regularity and validity.
Reproduced below are the relevant portions15 of the
Decision
At the onset, it should be emphasized that Donata was
able to secure the TCTs covering the real properties
belonging to the estate of Maximino by virtue of a CFI
Order, dated 2 October 1952. It is undisputed that the said
CFI Order was issued by the CFI in Special Proceedings
No. 928-R, instituted by Donata herself, to settle the
intestate estate of Maximino. The petitioners, heirs of
Donata, were unable to present a copy of the CFI Order,

but this is not surprising considering that it was issued 35


years prior to the filing by the heirs of Maximino of their
Complaint in Civil Case No. CEB-5794 on 3 March 1987.
The existence of such CFI Order, nonetheless, cannot be
denied. It was recorded in the Primary Entry Book of the
Register of Deeds on 27 June 1960, at 1:10 p.m., as Entry
No. 1714. It was annotated on the TCTs covering the real
properties as having declared Donata the sole, absolute,
and exclusive heir of Maximino. The non-presentation of
the actual CFI Order was not fatal to the cause of the heirs
of Donata considering that its authenticity and contents
were never questioned. The allegation of fraud by the
heirs of Maximino did not pertain to the CFI Order, but to
the manner or procedure by which it was issued in favor
of Donata. Moreover, the non-presentation of the CFI
Order, contrary to the declaration by the RTC, does not
amount to a willful suppression of evidence that would
give rise to the presumption that it would be adverse to
the heirs of Donata if produced. x x x.
xxxx
The CFI Order, dated 2 October 1952, issued in Special
Proceedings No. 928-R, effectively settled the intestate
estate of Maximino by declaring Donata as the sole,
absolute, and exclusive heir of her deceased husband. The
issuance by the CFI of the said Order, as well as its
conduct of the entire Special Proceedings No. 928-R, enjoy
the presumption of validity pursuant to the Section 3(m)
and (n) of Rule 131 of the Revised Rules of Court,
reproduced below

SEC. 3. Disputable presumptions. The following


presumptions are satisfactory if uncontradicted, but may
be contradicted and overcome by other evidence:
xxxx
(m) That official duty has been regularly performed;
(n) That a court, or judge acting as such, whether in the
Philippines or elsewhere, was acting in the lawful exercise
of jurisdiction.
By reason of the foregoing provisions, this Court must
presume, in the absence of any clear and convincing proof
to the contrary, that the CFI in Special Proceedings No.
928-R had jurisdiction of the subject matter and the
parties, and to have rendered a judgment valid in every
respect; and it could not give credence to the following
statements made by the Court of Appeals in its Decision.
xxxx
There was totally no evidentiary basis for the foregoing
pronouncements. First of all, the Petition filed by Donata
for Letters of Administration in Special Proceedings No.
928-R before the CFI was not even referred to nor
presented during the course of the trial of Civil Case No.
CEB-5794 before the RTC. How then could the Court of
Appeals make a finding that Donata willfully excluded from
the said Petition the names, ages, and residences of the
other heirs of Maximino? Second, there was also no
evidence showing that the CFI actually failed to send
notices of Special Proceedings No. 928-R to the heirs of
Maximino or that it did not require presentation of proof
of service of such notices. It should be remembered that
there stands a presumption that the CFI Judge had

regularly performed his duties in Special Proceedings No.


928-R, which included sending out of notices and requiring
the presentation of proof of service of such notices; and,
the heirs of Maximino did not propound sufficient evidence
to debunk such presumption. They only made a general
denial of knowledge of Special Proceedings No. 928-R, at
least until 1985. There was no testimony or document
presented in which the heirs of Maximino categorically
denied receipt of notice from the CFI of the pendency of
Special Proceedings No. 928-R. The only evidence on
record in reference to the absence of notice of such
proceedings was the testimony of Aurelia Briones
(Aurelia), one of the heirs of Maximino, x x x.
xxxx
Aurelias testimony deserves scant credit considering that
she was not testifying on matters within her personal
knowledge. The phrase "I dont think" is a clear indication
that she is merely voicing out her opinion on how she
believed her uncles and aunts would have acted had they
received notice of Special Proceedings No. 928-R.
It is worth noting that, in its foregoing ratiocination, the
Court was proceeding from an evaluation of the evidence
on record, which did not include an actual copy of the CFI
Order in Special Proceedings No. 928-R. Respondents only
submitted a certified true copy thereof on 15 June 2006,
annexed to their Supplemental Reply to petitioners
opposition to their motion for reconsideration of this
Courts Decision. Respondents did not offer any
explanation as to why they belatedly produced a copy of
the said Order, but merely claimed to have been "fortunate

enough to obtain a copy" thereof from the Register of


Deeds of Cebu.16
Respondents should be taken to task for springing new
evidence so late into the proceedings of this case. Parties
should present all their available evidence at the courts
below so as to give the opposing party the opportunity to
scrutinize and challenge such evidence during the course
of the trial. However, given that the existence of the CFI
Order in Special Proceedings No. 928-R was never in issue
and was, in fact, admitted by the petitioners; that the copy
submitted is a certified true copy of the said Order; and
that the said Order may provide new information vital to a
just resolution of the present case, this Court is compelled
to consider the same as part of the evidence on record.
The CFI Order17 in question reads in full as
ORDER
This is with reference to the Motion of the Administratrix,
dated January 5, 1960, that she be declared the sole heir
of her deceased husband, Maximino Suico Briones, the
latter having died without any legitimate ascendant nor
descendant, nor any legitimate brother or sister, nephews
or nieces.
At the hearing of this incident today, nobody appeared to
resist the motion, and based on the uncontradicted
testimony of Donata G. Ortiz that she was the nearest
surviving relative of the deceased Maximino Suico Briones
at the time of the latters death, and pursuant to the
pertinent provisions of the new Civil Code of the
Philippines, the Court hereby declares the aforesaid
Donata G. Ortiz the sole, absolute and exclusive heir of the

estate of the deceased Maximino Suico Briones, and she is


hereby entitled to inherit all the residue of this estate after
paying all the obligations thereof, which properties are
those contained in the Inventory, dated October 2,
1952.1awphi1.net
Cebu City, January 15, 1960.
From the contents of the afore-quoted Order, this Court is
able to deduce that the CFI Order was in fact issued on 15
January 1960 and not 2 October 1952, as earlier stated in
the Decision. It was the inventory of properties, submitted
by Donata as administratrix of Maximinos intestate estate,
which was dated 2 October 1952.18 Other than such
observation, this Court finds nothing in the CFI Order
which could change its original position in the Decision
under consideration.
While it is true that since the CFI was not informed that
Maximino still had surviving siblings and so the court was
not able to order that these siblings be given personal
notices of the intestate proceedings, it should be borne in
mind that the settlement of estate, whether testate or
intestate, is a proceeding in rem,19 and that the publication
in the newspapers of the filing of the application and of
the date set for the hearing of the same, in the manner
prescribed by law, is a notice to the whole world of the
existence of the proceedings and of the hearing on the
date and time indicated in the publication. The publication
requirement of the notice in newspapers is precisely for
the purpose of informing all interested parties in the estate
of the deceased of the existence of the settlement
proceedings, most especially those who were not named

as heirs or creditors in the petition, regardless of whether


such omission was voluntarily or involuntarily made.
This Court cannot stress enough that the CFI Order was
the result of the intestate proceedings instituted by Donata
before the trial court. As this Court pointed out in its earlier
Decision, the manner by which the CFI judge conducted
the proceedings enjoys the presumption of regularity, and
encompassed in such presumption is the order of
publication of the notice of the intestate proceedings. A
review of the records fails to show any allegation or
concrete proof that the CFI also failed to order the
publication in newspapers of the notice of the intestate
proceedings and to require proof from Donata of
compliance therewith. Neither can this Court find any
reason or explanation as to why Maximinos siblings could
have missed the published notice of the intestate
proceedings of their brother.
In relying on the presumptions of the regular performance
of official duty and lawful exercise of jurisdiction by the
CFI in rendering the questioned Order, dated 15 January
1960, this Court is not, as counsel for respondents allege,
sacrificing the substantive right of respondents to their
share in the inheritance in favor of mere procedural fiats.
There is a rationale for the establishment of rules of
procedure, as amply explained by this Court in De Dios v.
Court of Appeals20
Procedural rules are designed to insure the orderly and
expeditious administration of justice by providing for a
practical system by which the parties to a litigation may be
accorded a full and fair opportunity to present their
respective positions and refute each other's submissions

under the prescribed requirements, conditions and


limitations. Adjective law is not the counterfoil of
substantive law. In fact, there is a symbiotic relationship
between them. By complying faithfully with the Rules of
Court, the bench and the bar are better able to discuss,
analyze and understand substantive rights and duties and
consequently to more effectively protect and enforce
them. The other alternative is judicial anarchy.
Thus, compliance with the procedural rules is the general
rule, and abandonment thereof should only be done in the
most exceptional circumstances. The presumptions relied
upon by this Court in the instant case are disputable
presumptions, which are satisfactory, unless contradicted
or overcome by evidence. This Court finds that the
evidence presented by respondents failed to overcome the
given presumptions.
Although Donata may have alleged before the CFI that she
was her husbands sole heir, it was not established that
she did so knowingly, maliciously and in bad faith, so as
for this Court to conclude that she indeed committed
fraud. This Court again brings to the fore the delay by
which respondents filed the present case, when the
principal actors involved, particularly, Donata and
Maximinos siblings, have already passed away and their
lips forever sealed as to what truly transpired between
them. On the other hand, Special Proceedings No. 928-R
took place when all these principal actors were still alive
and each would have been capable to act to protect his or
her own right to Maximinos estate. Letters of
Administration of Maximinos estate were issued in favor
of Donata as early as 8 July 1952, and the CFI Order in

question was issued only on 15 January 1960. The


intestate proceedings for the settlement of Maximinos
estate were thus pending for almost eight years, and it is
the burden of the respondents to establish that their
parents or grandparents, Maximinos surviving siblings,
had absolutely no knowledge of the said proceedings all
these years. As established in Ramos v. Ramos,21 the
degree of proof to establish fraud in a case where the
principal actors to the transaction have already passed
away is proof beyond reasonable doubt, to wit

beyond a reasonable doubt (Prevost vs. Gratz, 6 Wheat.

"x x x But length of time necessarily obscures all human

On prescription of the right to recover based on implied


trust

evidence; and as it thus removes from the parties all the


immediate means to verify the nature of the original
transactions, it operates by way of presumption, in favor
of innocence, and against imputation of fraud. It would be

unreasonable, after a great length of time, to require exact


proof of all the minute circumstances of any transaction,
or to expect a satisfactory explanation of every difficulty,
real or apparent, with which it may be encumbered. The
most that can fairly be expected, in such cases, if the
parties are living, from the frailty of memory, and human
infirmity, is, that the material facts can be given with
certainty to a common intent; and, if the parties are dead,
and the cases rest in confidence, and in parol agreements,
the most that we can hope is to arrive at probable
conjectures, and to substitute general presumptions of
law, for exact knowledge. Fraud, or breach of trust, ought

not lightly to be imputed to the living; for, the legal


presumption is the other way; as to the dead, who are not
here to answer for themselves, it would be the height of
injustice and cruelty, to disturb their ashes, and violate the
sanctity of the grave, unless the evidence of fraud be clear,

[U.S.], 481, 498).

Moreover, even if Donatas allegation that she was


Maximinos sole heir does constitute fraud, it is insufficient
to justify abandonment of the CFI Order, dated 15 January
1960,22 considering the nature of intestate proceedings as
being in rem and the disputable presumptions of the
regular performance of official duty and lawful exercise of
jurisdiction by the CFI in rendering the questioned Order,
dated 15 January 1960, in Special Proceedings No. 928-R.

Assuming, for the sake of argument, that Donatas


misrepresentation constitutes fraud that would impose
upon her the implied trust provided in Article 1456 of the
Civil Code, this Court still cannot sustain respondents
contention that their right to recover their shares in
Maximinos estate is imprescriptible. It is already settled in
jurisprudence that an implied trust, as opposed to an
express trust, is subject to prescription and laches.
The case of Ramos v. Ramos23 already provides an
elucidating discourse on the matter, to wit
"Trusts are either express or implied. Express trusts are
created by the intention of the trustor or of the parties.
Implied trusts come into being by operation of law" (Art.
1441, Civil Code). "No express trusts concerning an
immovable or any interest therein may be proven by oral
evidence. An implied trust may be proven by oral
evidence" (Ibid; Arts. 1443 and 1457).

"No particular words are required for the creation of an


express trust, it being sufficient that a trust is clearly
intended" (Ibid; Art. 1444; Tuason de Perez vs. Caluag, 96
Phil. 981; Julio vs. Dalandan, L-19012, October 30, 1967,
21 SCRA 543, 546). "Express trusts are those which are
created by the direct and positive acts of the parties, by
some writing or deed, or will, or by words either expressly
or impliedly evincing an intention to create a trust" (89 C.J.
S. 122).

direct intention to create a trust, but by the construction


of equity in order to satisfy the demands of justice. It does
not arise by agreement or intention but by operation of
law." (89 C.J.S. 726-727). "If a person obtains legal title
to property by fraud or concealment, courts of equity will
impress upon the title a so-called constructive trust in
favor of the defrauded party." A constructive trust is not a
trust in the technical sense (Gayondato vs. Treasurer of
the P.I., 49 Phil. 244; See Art. 1456, Civil Code).

"Implied trusts are those which, without being expressed,


are deducible from the nature of the transaction as
matters of intent, or which are superinduced on the
transaction by operation of law as matters of equity,
independently of the particular intention of the parties" (89
C.J.S. 724). They are ordinarily subdivided into resulting
and constructive trusts (89 C.J.S. 722).

There is a rule that a trustee cannot acquire by


prescription the ownership of property entrusted to him
(Palma vs. Cristobal, 77 Phil. 712), or that an action to
compel a trustee to convey property registered in his name
in trust for the benefit of the cestui qui trust does not
prescribe (Manalang vs. Canlas, 94 Phil. 776; Cristobal vs.
Gomez, 50 Phil. 810), or that the defense of prescription
cannot be set up in an action to recover property held by
a person in trust for the benefit of another (Sevilla vs. De
los Angeles, 97 Phil. 875), or that property held in trust
can be recovered by the beneficiary regardless of the lapse
of time (Marabilles vs. Quito, 100 Phil. 64; Bancairen vs.
Diones, 98 Phil. 122, 126; Juan vs. Zuiga, 62 O.G. 1351;
4 SCRA 1221; Jacinto vs. Jacinto, L-17957, May 31, 1962.
See Tamayo vs. Callejo, 147 Phil. 31, 37).

"A resulting trust is broadly defined as a trust which is


raised or created by the act or construction of law, but in
its more restricted sense it is a trust raised by implication
of law and presumed always to have been contemplated
by the parties, the intention as to which is to be found in
the nature of their transaction, but not expressed in the
deed or instrument of conveyance" (89 C.J.S. 725).
Examples of resulting trusts are found in Article 1448 to
1455 of the Civil Code. See Padilla vs. Court of Appeals, L31569, September 28, 1973, 53 SCRA 168, 179).
On the other hand, a constructive trust is a trust "raised
by construction of law, or arising by operation of law." In
a more restricted sense and as contradistinguished from a
resulting trust, a constructive trust is "a trust not created
by any words, either expressly or impliedly evincing a

That rule applies squarely to express trusts. The basis of


the rule is that the possession of a trustee is not adverse.
Not being adverse, he does not acquire by prescription the
property held in trust. Thus, Section 38 of Act 190 provides
that the law of prescription does not apply "in the case of
a continuing and subsisting trust" (Diaz vs. Gorricho and
Aguado, 103 Phil. 261, 266; Laguna vs. Levantino, 71 Phil.

566; Sumira vs. Vistan, 74 Phil. 138; Golfeo vs. Court of


Appeals, 63 O.G. 4895, 12 SCRA 199; Caladiao vs. Santos,
63 O.G. 1956, 10 SCRA 691).
The rule of imprescriptibility of the action to recover
property held in trust may possibly apply to resulting trusts
as long as the trustee has not repudiated the trust (Heirs
of Candelaria vs. Romero, 109 Phil. 500, 502-3; Martinez
vs. Grao, 42 Phil. 35; Buencamino vs. Matias, 63 O. G.
11033, 16 SCRA 849).
The rule of imprescriptibility was misapplied to
constructive trusts (Geronimo and Isidoro vs. Nava and
Aquino, 105 Phil. 145, 153. Compare with Cuison vs.
Fernandez and Bengzon, 105 Phil. 135, 139; De Pasion vs.
De Pasion, 112 Phil. 403, 407).
Acquisitive prescription may bar the action of the
beneficiary against the trustee in an express trust for the
recovery of the property held in trust where (a) the trustee
has performed unequivocal acts of repudiation amounting
to an ouster of the cestui qui trust; (b) such positive acts
of repudiation have been made known to the cestui qui
trust and (c) the evidence thereon is clear and conclusive
(Laguna vs. Levantino, supra; Salinas vs. Tuason, 55 Phil.
729. Compare with the rule regarding co-owners found in
the last paragraph of Article 494, Civil Code; Casaas vs.
Rosello, 50 Phil. 97; Gerona vs. De Guzman, L-19060, May
29, 1964, 11 SCRA 153, 157).
With respect to constructive trusts, the rule is different.
The prescriptibility of an action for reconveyance based on
constructive trust is now settled (Alzona vs. Capunitan, L10228, February 28, 1962, 4 SCRA 450; Gerona vs. De
Guzman, supra; Claridad vs. Henares, 97 Phil. 973;

Gonzales vs. Jimenez, L-19073, January 30, 1965, 13


SCRA 80; Boaga vs. Soler, 112 Phil. 651; J. M. Tuason &
Co., vs. Magdangal, L-15539, January 30, 1962, 4 SCRA
84).Prescription may supervene in an implied trust (Bueno
vs. Reyes, L-22587, April 28, 1969, 27 SCRA 1179; Fabian
vs. Fabian, L-20449, January 29, 1968; Jacinto vs. Jacinto,
L-17957, May 31, 1962, 5 SCRA 371).
And whether the trust is resulting or constructive, its
enforcement may be barred by laches (90 C.J.S. 887-889;
54 Am Jur. 449-450; Diaz vs. Gorricho and Aguado, supra;
Compare with Mejia vs. Gampona, 100 Phil. 277).
[Emphases supplied.]
A present reading of the Quion24 and Sevilla25 cases,
invoked by respondents, must be made in conjunction with
and guided accordingly by the principles established in the
afore-quoted case. Thus, while respondents right to
inheritance was transferred or vested upon them at the
time of Maximinos death, their enforcement of said right
by appropriate legal action may be barred by the
prescription of the action.
Prescription of the action for reconveyance of the disputed
properties based on implied trust is governed by Article
1144 of the New Civil Code, which reads
ART. 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.
Since an implied trust is an obligation created by law
(specifically, in this case, by Article 1456 of the New Civil

Code), then respondents had 10 years within which to


bring an action for reconveyance of their shares in
Maximinos properties. The next question now is when
should the ten-year prescriptive period be reckoned from.
The general rule is that an action for reconveyance of real
property based on implied trust prescribes ten years from
registration and/or issuance of the title to the
property,26 not only because registration under the
Torrens system is a constructive notice of title,27 but also
because by registering the disputed properties exclusively
in her name, Donata had already unequivocally repudiated
any other claim to the same.
By virtue of the CFI Order, dated 15 January 1960, in
Special Proceedings No. 928-R, Donata was able to
register and secure certificates of title over the disputed
properties in her name on 27 June 1960. The respondents
filed with the RTC their Complaint for partition, annulment,
and recovery of possession of the disputed real properties,
docketed as Civil Case No. CEB-5794, only on 3 March
1987, almost 27 years after the registration of the said
properties in the name of Donata. Therefore, respondents
action for recovery of possession of the disputed
properties had clearly prescribed.
Moreover, even though respondents Complaint before the
RTC in Civil Case No. CEB-5794 also prays for partition of
the disputed properties, it does not make their action to
enforce their right to the said properties imprescriptible.
While as a general rule, the action for partition among coowners does not prescribe so long as the co-ownership is
expressly or impliedly recognized, as provided for in Article
494, of the New Civil Code, it bears to emphasize that

Donata had never recognized respondents as co-owners


or co-heirs, either expressly or impliedly.28 Her assertion
before the CFI in Special Proceedings No. 928-R that she
was Maximinos sole heir necessarily excludes recognition
of some other co-owner or co-heir to the inherited
properties; Consequently, the rule on non-prescription of
action for partition of property owned in common does not
apply to the case at bar.
On laches as bar to recovery
Other than prescription of action, respondents right to
recover possession of the disputed properties, based on
implied trust, is also barred by laches. The defense of
laches, which is a question of inequity in permitting a claim
to be enforced, applies independently of prescription,
which is a question of time. Prescription is statutory;
laches is equitable.29
Laches is defined as the failure to assert a right for an
unreasonable and unexplained length of time, warranting
a presumption that the party entitled to assert it has either
abandoned or declined to assert it. This equitable defense
is based upon grounds of public policy, which requires the
discouragement of stale claims for the peace of society.30
This Court has already thoroughly discussed in its Decision
the basis for barring respondents action for recovery of
the disputed properties because of laches. This Court
pointed out therein31 that
In further support of their contention of fraud by Donata,
the heirs of Maximino even emphasized that Donata lived
along the same street as some of the siblings of Maximino
and, yet, she failed to inform them of the CFI Order, dated

[15 January 1960], in Special Proceedings No. 928-R, and


the issuance in her name of new TCTs covering the real
properties which belonged to the estate of Maximino. This
Court, however, appreciates such information differently.
It actually works against the heirs of Maximino. Since they
only lived nearby, Maximinos siblings had ample
opportunity to inquire or discuss with Donata the status of
the estate of their deceased brother. Some of the real
properties, which belonged to the estate of Maximino,
were also located within the same area as their residences
in Cebu City, and Maximinos siblings could have regularly
observed the actions and behavior of Donata with regard
to the said real properties. It is uncontested that from the
time of Maximinos death on 1 May 1952, Donata had
possession of the real properties. She managed the real
properties and even collected rental fees on some of them
until her own death on 1 November 1977. After Donatas
death, Erlinda took possession of the real properties, and
continued to manage the same and collect the rental fees
thereon. Donata and, subsequently, Erlinda, were so
obviously exercising rights of ownership over the real
properties, in exclusion of all others, which must have
already put the heirs of Maximino on guard if they truly
believed that they still had rights thereto.
The heirs of Maximino knew he died on 1 May 1952. They
even attended his wake. They did not offer any
explanation as to why they had waited 33 years from
Maximinos death before one of them, Silverio, filed a
Petition for Letters of Administration for the intestate
estate of Maximino on 21 January 1985. After learning that
the intestate estate of Maximino was already settled in
Special Proceedings No. 928-R, they waited another two

years, before instituting, on 3 March 1987, Civil Case No.


CEB-5794, the Complaint for partition, annulment and
recovery of the real property belonging to the estate of
Maximino. x x x
Considering the circumstances in the afore-quoted
paragraphs, as well as respondents conduct before this
Court, particularly the belated submission of evidence and
argument of new issues, respondents are consistently
displaying a penchant for delayed action, without any
proffered reason or justification for such delay.
It is well established that the law serves those who are
vigilant and diligent and not those who sleep when the law
requires them to act. The law does not encourage laches,
indifference, negligence or ignorance. On the contrary, for
a party to deserve the considerations of the courts, he
must show that he is not guilty of any of the aforesaid
failings.32
On void judgment or order
Respondents presented only in their Reply and
Supplemental Reply to the petitioners Opposition to their
Motion for Reconsideration the argument that the CFI
Order, dated 15 January 1960, in Special Proceedings No.
928-R is void and, thus, it cannot have any legal effect.
Consequently, the registration of the disputed properties
in the name of Donata pursuant to such Order was likewise
void.
This Court is unconvinced.
In the jurisprudence referred to by the respondents,33 an
order or judgment is considered void when rendered by
the court without or in excess of its jurisdiction or in

violation of a mandatory duty, circumstances which are


not present in the case at bar.
Distinction must be made between a void judgment and a
voidable one, thus
"* * * A voidable judgment is one which, though not a
mere nullity, is liable to be made void when a person who
has a right to proceed in the matter takes the proper steps
to have its invalidity declared. It always contains some
defect which may become fatal. It carries within it the
means of its own overthrow. But unless and until it is duly
annulled, it is attended with all the ordinary consequences
of a legal judgment. The party against whom it is given
may escape its effect as a bar or an obligation, but only
by a proper application to have it vacated or reversed.
Until that is done, it will be efficacious as a claim, an
estoppel, or a source of title. If no proceedings are ever
taken against it, it will continue throughout its life to all
intents a valid sentence. If emanating from a court of
general jurisdiction, it will be sustained by the ordinary
presumptions of regularity, and it is not open to
impeachment in any collateral action. * * *"
But it is otherwise when the judgment is void. "A void
judgment is in legal effect no judgment. By it no rights are
divested. From it no rights can be obtained. Being
worthless in itself, all proceedings founded upon it are
equally worthless. It neither binds nor bars any one. All
acts performed under it and all claims flowing out of it are
void. The parties attempting to enforce it may be
responsible as trespassers. The purchaser at a sale by
virtue of its authority finds himself without title and
without redress." (Freeman on Judgments, sec. 117, citing

Campbell vs. McCahan, 41 Ill., 45; Roberts vs. Stowers, 7


Bush, 295, Huls vs. Buntin, 47 Ill., 396; Sherrell vs.
Goodrum, 3 Humph., 418; Andrews vs. State, 2 Sneed,
549; Hollingsworth vs. Bagley, 35 Tex., 345; Morton vs.
Root, 2 Dill., 312; Commercial Bank of Manchester vs.
Martin, 9 Smedes & M., 613; Hargis vs. Morse, 7 Kan., 259.
See also Cornell vs. Barnes, 7 Hill, 35; Dawson and
Another vs. Wells, 3 Ind., 399; Meyer vs. Mintonye, 106
Ill., 414; Olson vs. Nunnally, 47 Kan., 391; White vs. Foote
L. & M. Co., 29 W. Va., 385.)
It is not always easy to draw the line of demarcation
between a void judgment and a voidable one, but all
authorities agree that jurisdiction over the subject-matter
is essential to the validity of a judgment and that want of
such jurisdiction renders it void and a mere nullity. In the
eye of the law it is non-existent. (Fisher vs. Harnden, 1
Paine, 55; Towns vs. Springer, 9 Ga., 130; Mobley vs.
Mobley, 9 Ga., 247; Beverly and McBride vs. Burke, 9 Ga.,
440; Central Bank of Georgia vs. Gibson, 11 Ga., 453;
Johnson vs. Johnson, 30 Ill., 215; St. Louis and Sandoval
Coal and Mining Co. vs. Sandoval Coal and Mining Co., 111
Ill., 32; Swiggart vs. Harber, 4 Scam., 364; Miller vs.
Snyder, 6 Ind., 1; Seely vs. Reid, 3 Greene [Iowa], 374.)34
The fraud and misrepresentation fostered by Donata on
the CFI in Special Proceedings No. 928-R did not deprive
the trial court of jurisdiction over the subject-matter of the
case, namely, the intestate estate of Maximino. Donatas
fraud and misrepresentation may have rendered the CFI
Order, dated 15 January 1960, voidable, but not void on
its face. Hence, the said Order, which already became final
and executory, can only be set aside by direct action to

annul and enjoin its enforcement.35 It cannot be the


subject of a collateral attack as is being done in this case.
Note that respondents Complaint before the RTC in Civil
Case No. CEB-5794 was one for partition, annulment, and
recovery of possession of the disputed properties. The
annulment sought in the Complaint was not that of the CFI
Order, dated 15 January 1960, but of the certificates of
title over the properties issued in Donatas name. So until
and unless respondents bring a direct action to nullify the
CFI Order, dated 15 January 1960, in Special Proceedings
No. 928-R, and attain a favorable judgment therein, the
assailed Order remains valid and binding.
Nonetheless, this Court also points out that an action to
annul an order or judgment based on fraud must be
brought within four years from the discovery of the
fraud.36 If it is conceded that the respondents came to
know of Donatas fraudulent acts only in 1985, during the
course of the RTC proceedings which they instituted for
the settlement of Maximinos estate, then their right to file
an action to annul the CFI Order, dated 15 January 1960,
in Special Proceedings No. 928-R (earlier instituted by
Donata for the settlement of Maximinos estate), has
likewise prescribed by present time.
In view of the foregoing, the Motion for Reconsideration is
DENIED.
SO ORDERED.

A.M. No. P-01-1448


June 25, 2013
(Formerly OCA IPI No. 99-664-P)

RODOLFO C. SABIDONG, Complainant,


vs.
NICOLASITO S. SOLAS (Clerk of Court
IV), Respondent.
DECISION
VILLARAMA, JR., J.:
The present administrative case stemmed from a sworn
letter-complaint1 dated May 29, 1999 filed before this
Court by Rodolfo C. Sabidong (complainant) charging
respondent Nicolasito S. Solas, Clerk of Court IV,
Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC), Iloilo City with
grave and serious misconduct, dishonesty, oppression
and abuse of authority.
The Facts
Trinidad Sabidong, complainants mother, is one of the
longtime occupants of a parcel of land, designated as Lot
11 (Lot 1280-D-4-11 of consolidation-subdivision plan
[LRC] Pcs-483) originally registered in the name of C. N.
Hodges and situated at Barangay San Vicente, Jaro,
Iloilo City.2 The Sabidongs are in possession of one-half
portion of Lot 11 of the said Estate (Hodges Estate), as
the other half-portion was occupied by Priscila Saplagio.
Lot 11 was the subject of an ejectment suit filed by the
Hodges Estate, docketed as Civil Case No. 14706 of the
MTCC Iloilo City, Branch 4 ("Rosita R. Natividad in her
capacity as Administratrix of C.N. Hodges Estate, plaintiff
vs. Priscila Saplagio, defendant"). On May 31, 1983, a
decision was rendered in said case ordering the

defendant to immediately vacate the portion of Lot 11


leased to her and to pay the plaintiff rentals due,
attorneys fees, expenses and costs.3 At the time,
respondent was the Clerk of Court III of MTCC, Branch 3,
Iloilo City.
Sometime in October 1984, respondent submitted an
Offer to Purchase on installment Lots 11 and 12. In a
letter dated January 7, 1986, the Administratrix of the
Hodges Estate rejected respondents offer in view of an
application to purchase already filed by the actual
occupant of Lot 12, "in line with the policy of the Probate
Court to give priority to the actual occupants in awarding
approval of Offers". While the check for initial down
payment tendered by respondent was returned to him, he
was nevertheless informed that he may file an offer to
purchase Lot 11 and that if he could put up a sufficient
down payment, the Estate could immediately endorse it
for approval of the Probate Court so that the property can
be awarded to him "should the occupant fail to avail of
the priority given to them."4
The following day, January 8, 1986, respondent again
submitted an Offer to Purchase Lot 11 with an area of
234 square meters for the amount of P35,100. Under the
Order dated November 18, 1986 issued by the probate
court (Regional Trial Court of Iloilo, Branch 27) in Special
Proceedings No. 1672 ("Testate Estate of the Late
Charles Newton Hodges, Rosita R. Natividad,
Administratrix"), respondents Offer to Purchase Lot 11
was approved upon the courts observation that the
occupants of the subject lots "have not manifested their
desire to purchase the lots they are occupying up to this

date and considering time restraint and considering


further, that the sales in favor of the x x x offerors are
most beneficial to the estate x x x". On January 21, 1987,
the probate court issued another Order granting
respondents motion for issuance of a writ of possession
in his favor. The writ of possession over Lot 11 was
eventually issued on June 27, 1989.5
On November 21, 1994, a Deed of Sale With Mortgage
covering Lot 11 was executed between respondent and
the Hodges Estate represented by its Administratrix, Mrs.
Ruth R. Diocares. Lot 11 was thereby conveyed to
respondent on installment for the total purchase price
of P50,000.
Consequently, Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. T11836 in the name of C. N. Hodges was cancelled and a
new certificate of title, TCT No. T-107519 in the name of
respondent was issued on December 5, 1994. Lot 11
was later subdivided into two lots, Lots 11-A and 11-B for
which the corresponding titles (TCT Nos. T-116467 and
T-116468), also in the name of respondent, were issued
on February 28, 1997.6
On motion of Ernesto Pe Benito, Administrator of the
Hodges Estate, a writ of demolition was issued on March
3, 1998 by the probate court in favor of respondent and
against all adverse occupants of Lot 11.7
On June 14, 1999, this Court received the sworn lettercomplaint asserting that as court employee respondent
cannot buy property in litigation (consequently he is not a
buyer in good faith), commit deception, dishonesty,

oppression and grave abuse of authority. Complainant


specifically alleged the following:
3. Complainant and his siblings, are possessors
and occupants of a parcel of land situated at Brgy.
San Vicente, Jaro, Iloilo City, then identified as Lot
No. 1280-D-4-11, later consolidated and
subdivided and became known as Lot 11, then
registered and titled in the name of Charles
Newton Hodges. The Sabidong family started
occupying this lot in 1948 and paid their monthly
rentals until sometime in 1979 when the Estate of
Hodges stopped accepting rentals. x x x
4. Upon knowing sometime in 1987 that the
property over which their house is standing, was
being offered for sale by the Estate, the mother of
complainant, TRINIDAD CLAVERIO SABIDONG
(now deceased), took interest in buying said
property, Lot 11;
5. TRINIDAD CLAVERIO SABIDONG, was then
an ordinary housekeeper and a laundrywoman,
who never received any formal education, and did
not even know how to read and write. When
Trinidad Claverio Sabidong, together with her
children and the complainant in this case, tried to
negotiate with the Estate for the sale of the subject
property, they were informed that all papers for
transaction must pass through the respondent in
this case, Nicolasito Solas. This is unusual, so
they made inquiries and they learned that,
Nicolasito Solas was then the Clerk of Court 111,

Branch 3, Municipal Trial Court in Cities, Iloilo City


and presently, the City Sheriff of Iloilo City;
6. The respondent Nicolasito Solas, then Clerk of
Court III, MTCC, Iloilo City, has knowledge, by
reason of his position that in 1983 Hodges Estate
was ejecting occupants of its land. x x x Taking
advantage of this inside information that the land
subject of an ejectment case in the Municipal Trial
Court in Cities, Iloilo City, whom respondent is a
Clerk of Court III, the respondent surreptitiously
offered to buy the said lot in litigation. x x x
7. Complainant nor any member of his family did
not know that as early as 1984, the respondent
had offered to purchase the subject lot from the
estate x x x. After receiving the notice of denial of
his offer to purchase, dated January 7, 1986,
respondent made a second offer to purchase the
subject property the following day, January 8,
1986, knowing fully well that the subject property
was being occupied. x x x
8. Because of this denial, respondent met with the
family of the complainant and negotiated for the
sale of the property and transfer of the title in favor
of the latter. Respondent made the complainant
and his family believed that he is the
representative of the estate and that he needed a
downpayment right away. All the while, the
Sabidong family (who were carpenters,
laundrywomen, a janitor, persons who belong to
the underprivileged) relied on the representations

of the respondent that he was authorized to


facilitate the sale, with more reason that
respondent represented himself as the City
Sheriff;
9. That between 1992-1993, a sister of the
complainant who was fortunate to have worked
abroad, sent the amount of Ten Thousand
(P10,000.00) Pesos to complainants mother, to
be given to respondent Nicolasito Solas. x x x
After receiving the money, respondent assured the
Sabidong family that they will not be ejected from
the lot, he being the City Sheriff will take care of
everything, and taking advantage of the illiteracy
of Trinidad Claverio Sabidong, he did not issue
any receipt;
10. True enough, they were not ejected instead it
took the respondent some time to see them again
and demanded additional payment. In the
meanwhile, the complainant waited for the papers
of the supposed sale and transfer of title, which
respondent had promised after receiving the
downpayment of P10,000.00;
11. That sometime again in 1995, respondent
again received from the mother of complainant the
amount of Two Thousand (P2,000.00) Pesos,
allegedly for the expenses of the documentation of
sale and transfer of title, and again respondent
promised that the Sabidong family will not be
ejected;

12. To the prejudice and surprise of the


complainant and his family, respondent was able
to secure an order for the approval of his offer to
purchase x x x in Special Proceedings No. 1672 x
x x;
13. Worse, respondent moved for the issuance of
a Writ of Possession in his favor, which the
probate court acted favorably x x x. A writ of
possession was issued on June 27, 1989 x x x;
14. x x x respondent took advantage of the trust
and confidence which the Sabidong family has
shown, considering that respondent was an officer
of the court and a City Sheriff at that. The
complainant and his family thought that
respondent, being a City Sheriff, could help them
in the transfer of the title in their favor. Never had
they ever imagined that while respondent had
been receiving from them hard-earned monies
purportedly for the sale of the subject property,
respondent was also exercising acts of ownership
adverse to the interest of the complainant and his
family;
15. Being an officer of the court and supposed to
be an embodiment of fairness and justice,
respondent acted with malice, with grave abuse of
confidence and deceit when he represented that
he can facilitate the sale and titling of the subject
property in favor of the complainant and his family;

16. That when several thousands of pesos were


given to the respondent as payment for the same
and incidental expenses relative thereto, he was
able to cause the transfer of the title in his favor. x
x x;
17. After the death of Trinidad Claverio Sabidong x
x x the respondent received from the complainant
the amount of Five Thousand (P5,000.00) Pesos x
x x When a receipt was demanded, respondent
refused to issue one, and instead promised and
assured the complainant that they will not be
ejected;
xxxx
19. The complainant again, through his sister-inlaw, Socorro Sabidong, delivered and gave to the
respondent the amount of Three Thousand
(P3,000.00) Pesos as expenses for the
subdivision of the subject lot. The respondent
facilitated the subdivision and after the same was
approved, the complainant did not know that two
(2) titles were issued in the name of the
respondent. x x x;
20. Meanwhile, respondent prepared a Contract to
Sell, for the complainant and his neighbor
Norberto Saplagio to affix their signatures,
pursuant to their previous agreement for the
buyers to avail of a housing loan with the Home
Development Mutual Fund (PAG-IBIG).
Complainant attended the seminar of the HDMF

for seven (7) times, in his desire to consummate


the sale. However, when the complainant affixed
his signature in the contract, he was surprised that
the owner of the subject property was the
respondent. When complainant raised a question
about this, respondent assured complainant that
everything was alright and that sooner
complainant will be the owner of the property.
Complainant and his family, all these years, had
believed and continued to believe that the owner
was the estate of Hodges and that respondent
was only the representative of the estate;
21. The Contract to Sell, appeared to have been
notarized on June 3, 1996, however, no copy
thereof was given to the complainant by the
respondent. Respondent then, took the papers
and documents required by the HDMF to be
completed, from the complainant allegedly for the
purpose of personally filing the same with the
HDMF. Complainant freely and voluntarily
delivered all pertinent documents to the
respondent, thinking that respondent was helping
in the fast and easy release of the loan. While the
said documents were in the possession of the
respondent, he never made any transaction with
the HDMF, worse, when complainant tried to
secure a copy of the Contract to Sell, the copy
given was not signed by the Notary Public, x x x;
22. The complainant [was] shocked to learn that
respondent had canceled the sale and that
respondent refused to return the documents

required by the HDMF. Respondent claimed that


as Sheriff, he can cause the demolition of the
house of the complainant and of his family.
Respondent threatened the complainant and he is
capable of pursuing a demolition order and serve
the same with the assistance of the military. x x x;
23. After learning of the demolition order,
complainant attempted to settle the matter with the
respondent, however, the same proved futile as
respondent boasted that the property would now
cost at Four Thousand Five Hundred (P4,500.00)
Pesos;
24. The threats of demolition is imminent. Clearly,
complainant and his family were duped by the
respondent and are helpless victims of an officer
of the court who took advantage of their good faith
and trust. Complainant later was informed that the
subject property was awarded to the respondent
as his Sheriffs Fees, considering that respondent
executed the decisions in ejectment cases filed by
the Hodges estate against the adverse occupants
of its vast properties;
25. A civil case for the Annulment of Title of the
respondent over the subject property is pending
before the Regional Trial Court of Iloilo, Branch 37
and a criminal complaint for Estafa is also pending
preliminary investigation before the Office of the
City Prosecutor of Iloilo City, known as I.S. No.
1559-99, both filed [by] the complainant against
the respondent.8

Acting on the complaint, Court Administrator Alfredo L.


Benipayo issued a 1st Indorsement9 dated July 8, 1999,
requiring respondent to file his comment on the
Complaint dated May 29, 1999. On October 21, 1999,
respondent submitted his Comment.10
In a Resolution11 dated July 19, 1999, Public Prosecutor
Constantino C. Tubilleja dismissed the Estafa charge
against respondent for insufficiency of evidence.
On November 29, 2000, Court Administrator Benipayo
issued an Evaluation and Recommendation12 finding
respondent guilty of violating Article 149113 of the Civil
Code. Said rule prohibits the purchase by certain court
officers of property and rights in litigation within their
jurisdiction. Court Administrator Benipayo recommended
that:
1. this administrative complaint be treated as an
administrative matter;
2. respondent Nicolasito S. Solas, Clerk of Court
IV, OCC, MTCC, Iloilo City be SUSPENDED for
six (6) months, with warning that a repetition of the
same offense in the future will be dealt with more
severely;
3. inasmuch as there are factual issues regarding
the delivery of substantial amounts which
complainant alleged and which defendant denied,
this issue should be investigated and the
Executive Judge of the Regional Trial Court of
Iloilo City should be designated to hear the

evidence and to make a report and


recommendation within sixty (60) days from
receipt.14
In a Resolution15 dated January 22, 2001, this Court
adopted the recommendation of the Court Administrator
to treat the present administrative action as a regular
administrative matter and to designate the Executive
Judge of the RTC of Iloilo City to hear the evidence of the
parties.
The Court, however, noted without action the Court
Administrators recommendation to suspend respondent
for six months.
On March 13, 2001, Acting Court Administrator Zenaida
N. Elepao forwarded the records of this case to
Executive Judge Tito G. Gustilo of the Iloilo City
RTC.16 In a Resolution17 dated July 18, 2001, the Court
referred this case to the Executive Judge of the RTC of
Iloilo City for investigation, report and recommendation
within 60 days from notice. By Order18 dated August 30,
2001, Executive Judge Gustilo set the case for reception
of evidence.
On March 19, 2004, the RTC of Iloilo, Branch 37,
dismissed the case for annulment of title, damages and
injunction against respondent for lack of merit.19
In a Resolution20 dated June 15, 2005, the Court
resolved to reassign the instant administrative case to
Executive Judge Rene S. Hortillo for investigation, report
and recommendation within 60 days from notice. In a

Letter21 dated September 15, 2005, Executive Judge


Hortillo informed the Court that per the records, the
parties have presented their testimonial and documentary
evidence before retired Executive Judge Tito G. Gustilo.
On September 12, 2005, Executive Judge Hortillo
required the parties to file their respective memoranda
within 60 days from notice, upon submission of which the
case shall be deemed submitted for resolution.22
In his Memorandum,23 respondent maintained that his
purchase of the subject land is not covered by the
prohibition in paragraph 5, Article 1491 of the Civil Code.
He pointed out that he bought Lot 11-A a decade after
the MTCC of Iloilo, Branch 3, had ordered the ejectment
of Priscila Saplagio and Trinidad Sabidong from the
subject lot. He insisted that public trust was observed
when complainant was accorded his right of first refusal
in the purchase of Lot 11-A, albeit the latter failed to avail
said right. Asserting that he is a buyer in good faith and
for value, respondent cited the dismissal of the cases for
Estafa and annulment of title and damages which
complainant filed against him.
On September 10, 2007, respondent compulsorily retired
from service. Prior to this, he wrote then Senior Deputy
Court Administrator Zenaida N. Elepao, requesting for
the release of his retirement benefits pending resolution
of the administrative cases against him.24 In a
Memorandum25 dated September 24, 2007, Senior
Deputy Court Administrator Elepao made the following
recommendations:

a) The request of Nicolasito S. Solas, former Clerk


of Court, MTCC, Iloilo City for partial release of his
retirement benefits be GRANTED; and
b) Atty. Lilian Barribal Co, Chief, Financial
Management Office, Office of the Court
Administrator be DIRECTED to (1) WITHHOLD
the amount of Two Hundred Thousand Pesos
(P200,000.00) from the retirement benefits of
Nicolasito S. Solas to answer for any
administrative liability that the Court may find
against him in A.M. No. P-01-1448 (Formerly
Administrative Matter OCA IPI No. 99-664-P);
OCA IPI No. 99-659-P; OCA IPI No. 99-670-P;
and OCA IPI No. 99-753-P; and (2) RELEASE the
balance of his retirement benefits.26
Eventually, the case was assigned to Judge Roger B.
Patricio, the new Executive Judge of the Iloilo City RTC
for investigation, report and recommendation.
On June 2, 2008, Judge Patricio submitted his final
Report and Recommendation27 finding respondent liable
for grave misconduct and dishonesty under A.M. No. 0306-13-SC or the Code of Conduct for Court Personnel.
Based on the evidence presented, Judge Patricio
concluded that respondent misappropriated the money
which he received for the filing of complainants loan
application. Such money could not have been used for
the partition of Lot No. 1280-D-4-11 since the same was
already subdivided into Lots 11-A and 11-B when
respondent presented the Contract to Sell to
complainant. And despite respondents promise to keep

complainant and his family in peaceful possession of the


subject property, respondent caused the issuance of a
writ of demolition against them. Thus, Judge Patricio
recommended the forfeiture of respondents salary for six
months to be deducted from his retirement benefits.
In a Resolution28 dated September 29, 2008, the Court
noted Judge Patricios Investigation Report and referred
the same to the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA)
for evaluation, report and recommendation.
Findings and Recommendation of the OCA
In a Memorandum29 dated January 16, 2009, then Court
Administrator Jose P. Perez found respondent liable for
serious and grave misconduct and dishonesty and
recommended the forfeiture of respondents salary for six
months, which shall be deducted from his retirement
benefits.
The Court Administrator held that by his unilateral acts of
extinguishing the contract to sell and forfeiting the
amounts he received from complainant and Saplagio
without due notice, respondent failed to act with justice
and equity. He found respondents denial to be anchored
merely on the fact that he had not issued receipts which
was belied by his admission that he had asked money for
the expenses of partitioning Lot 11 from complainant and
Saplagio. Since their PAG-IBIG loan applications did not
materialize, complainant should have returned the
amounts given to him by complainant and Saplagio.

On February 11, 2009, the Court issued a


Resolution30 requiring the parties to manifest whether
they are willing to submit the case for decision on the
basis of the pleadings and records already filed with the
Court. However, the copy of the Resolution dated
February 11, 2009 which was sent to complainant was
returned unserved with the postal carriers notation "RTSDeceased." Meanwhile, in a Compliance31 dated August
24, 2009, respondent expressed his willingness to submit
the case for decision and prayed for an early resolution of
the case.

and rights which may be the object of any litigation in


which they may take part by virtue of their profession.
x x x x (Emphasis supplied.)
The rationale advanced for the prohibition is that public
policy disallows the transactions in view of the fiduciary
relationship involved, i.e., the relation of trust and
confidence and the peculiar control exercised by these
persons.32"In so providing, the Code tends to prevent
fraud, or more precisely, tends not to give occasion for
fraud, which is what can and must be done."33

Our Ruling
Article 1491, paragraph 5 of the Civil Code prohibits court
officers such as clerks of court from acquiring property
involved in litigation within the jurisdiction or territory of
their courts. Said provision reads:
Article 1491. The following persons cannot acquire by
purchase, even at a public or judicial auction, either in
person or through the mediation of another:
xxxx
(5) Justices, judges, prosecuting attorneys, clerks of
superior and inferior courts, and other officers and
employees connected with the administration of justice,
the property and rights in litigation or levied upon an
execution before the court within whose jurisdiction or
territory they exercise their respective functions; this
prohibition includes the act of acquiring by assignment
and shall apply to lawyers, with respect to the property

For the prohibition to apply, the sale or assignment of the


property must take place during the pendency of the
litigation involving the property.34 Where the property is
acquired after the termination of the case, no violation of
paragraph 5, Article 1491 of the Civil Code attaches.35
In the case at bar, when respondent purchased Lot 11-A
on November 21, 1994, the Decision in Civil Case No.
14706 which was promulgated on May 31, 1983 had long
become final. Be that as it may, it can not be said that the
property is no longer "in litigation" at that time considering
that it was part of the Hodges Estate then under
settlement proceedings (Sp. Proc. No. 1672).
A thing is said to be in litigation not only if there is some
contest or litigation over it in court, but also from the
moment that it becomes subject to the judicial action of
the judge.36 A property forming part of the estate under
judicial settlement continues to be subject of litigation
until the probate court issues an order declaring the

estate proceedings closed and terminated. The rule is


that as long as the order for the distribution of the estate
has not been complied with, the probate proceedings
cannot be deemed closed and terminated.37 The probate
court loses jurisdiction of an estate under administration
only after the payment of all the debts and the remaining
estate delivered to the heirs entitled to receive the
same.38 Since there is no evidence to show that Sp.
Proc. No. 1672 in the RTC of Iloilo, Branch 27, had
already been closed and terminated at the time of the
execution of the Deed of Sale With Mortgage dated
November 21, 1994, Lot 11 is still deemed to be "in
litigation" subject to the operation of Article 1491 (5) of
the Civil Code.
This notwithstanding, we hold that the sale of Lot 11 in
favor of respondent did not violate the rule on
disqualification to purchase property because Sp. Proc.
No. 1672 was then pending before another court (RTC)
and not MTCC where he was Clerk of Court.
On the charges against the respondent, we find him
liable for dishonesty and grave misconduct.
Misconduct is a transgression of some established and
definite rule of action, more particularly, unlawful
behavior as well as gross negligence by a public officer.
To warrant dismissal from service, the misconduct must
be grave, serious, important, weighty, momentous and
not trifling. The misconduct must imply wrongful intention
and not a mere error of judgment. The misconduct must
also have a direct relation to and be connected with the
performance of the public officers official duties

amounting either to maladministration or willful,


intentional neglect, or failure to discharge the duties of
the office.39
Dishonesty is the "disposition to lie, cheat, deceive,
defraud or betray; untrustworthiness; lack of integrity;
lack of honesty, probity, or integrity in principle; and lack
of fairness and straightforwardness."40
In this case, respondent deceived complainants family
who were led to believe that he is the legal representative
of the Hodges Estate, or at least possessed of such
power to intercede for overstaying occupants of the
estates properties like complainant. Boasting of his
position as a court officer, a City Sheriff at that,
complainants family completely relied on his repeated
assurance that they will not be ejected from the
premises. Upon learning that the lot they were occupying
was for sale and that they had to negotiate for it through
respondent, complainants family readily gave the
amounts he demanded and, along with Saplagio,
complied with the requirements for a loan application with
PAG-IBIG. All the while and unknown to complainants
family, respondent was actually working to acquire Lot 11
for himself.
Thus, while respondent was negotiating with the Hodges
Estate for the sale of the property to him, he collected as
down payment P5,000 from complainants family in July
1986. Four months later, on November 18, 1986, the
probate court approved respondents offer to purchase
Lot 11. The latter received further down payment from
complainant in the amount of P10,000 between 1992 and

1993, or before the Deed of Sale with Mortgage41 dated


November 21, 1994 could be executed in respondents
favor.
Thereafter, respondent demanded P3,000 from
complainant supposedly for the subdivision of Lot 11
between the latter and the Saplagios. Yet, it was not until
respondent obtained title over said lot that the same was
subdivided into Lots 11-A and 11-B. The records42 of the
case show that the Subdivision Plan dated April 25,
1996, duly approved by the Land Management Services
(DENR) subdividing Lot 11 into sublots 11-A and 11-B,
was inscribed on February 28, 1997 two years after
TCT No. T-107519 covering Lot 11 was issued in
respondents name on December 5, 1994.
Finally, in 1995, respondent received the amount
of P2,000 to defray the expenses for documentation and
transfer of title in complainants name. In the latter
instance, while it may be argued that respondent already
had the capacity to sell the subject property, the sum of
all the circumstances belie an honest intention on his part
to convey Lot 11-A to complainant. We note the
inscription in TCT No. T-1183643 in the name of C.N.
Hodges that respondent executed a Request dated
February 19, 1997 "for the issuance of separate titles in
the name of the registered owner."44 Soon after, TCT No.
T-11646745 covering Lot 11-A and TCT No. T11646846 covering Lot 11-B were issued in the name of
respondent on February 28, 1997 only eight months
after he executed the Contract to Sell47in favor of
complainant on June 3, 1996.

Respondents bare denials were correctly disregarded by


the Court Administrator in the light of his own admission
that he indeed asked money from both complainant and
Saplagio. The evidence on record clearly established that
by misrepresenting himself as the estates representative
and as a court officer having the power to protect
complainants family from eviction, respondent was able
to collect sums totaling P20,000 from complainants
family. Even after the latter realized they were duped
since respondent was already the owner of Lot 11, they
still offered to buy the property from him. Respondent,
however, changed his mind and no longer wanted to sell
the property after nothing happened to the loan
applications of complainant and Saplagio. This
subsequent unilateral cancellation by respondent of the
contract to sell with complainant may have been an
afterthought, and plainly unjustified, based merely on his
own assumption that complainant could not make full
payment. But it did not negate the deception and
fraudulent acts perpetrated against complainants family
who were forced into submission by the constant threat
of eviction. Such acts constitute grave misconduct for
which respondent should be held answerable.
In Re: Complaint Filed by Paz De Vera Lazaro Against
Edna Magallanes, Court Stenographer III, RTC Br. 28
and Bonifacio G. Magallanes, Process Server, RTC Br.
30, Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya,48 the Court stressed
that to preserve decency within the judiciary, court
personnel must comply with just contractual obligations,
act fairly and adhere to high ethical standards. In that
case, we said that court employees are expected to be
paragons of uprightness, fairness and honesty not only in

their official conduct but also in their personal dealings,


including business and commercial transactions to avoid
becoming the courts albatross of infamy.49
More importantly, Section 4(c) of Republic Act No.
671350 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for
Public Officials and Employees mandates that public
officials and employees shall remain true to the people at
all times. They must act with justness and sincerity and
shall not discriminate against anyone, especially the poor
and the underprivileged.1wphi1 They shall at all times
respect the rights of others, and shall refrain from doing
acts contrary to law, good morals, good customs, public
policy, public order, public safety and public interest.
Under Section 52,51 Rule IV of the Uniform Rules on
Administrative Cases in the Civil Service, dishonesty and
grave misconduct are classified as grave offenses with
the corresponding penalty of dismissal for the first
offense. Section 58(a) states that the penalty of dismissal
shall carry with it the cancellation of eligibility, forfeiture of
retirement benefits, and the perpetual disqualification for
reemployment in the government service.
Section 53 further provides that mitigating circumstances
attendant to the commission of the offense should be
considered in the determination of the penalty to be
imposed on the erring government employee. However,
no such mitigating circumstance had been shown. On the
contrary, respondent had been previously held
administratively liable for irregularities in the performance
of his duties as Clerk of Court. In A.M. No. P-011484,52 this Court imposed on respondent a fine

of P5,000 for acting imprudently in notarizing documents


and administering oath on matters alien to his official
duties. And in A.M. Nos. P-08-2567 (formerly OCA IPI
No. 99-670-P) and P-08-2568 (formerly OCA IPI No. 99753-P),53 respondent was found liable for simple
misconduct and ordered to pay a fine equivalent to his
three (3) months salary to be deducted from his
retirement benefits.
Since respondent had compulsorily retired from service
on September 10, 2007, for this additional administrative
case he should be fined in an amount equivalent to his
salary for six months which shall likewise be deducted
from his retirement benefits.
WHEREFORE, the Court finds respondent Nicolasito S.
Solas, retired Clerk of Court IV, Municipal Trial Court in
Cities, Iloilo City, LIABLE FOR GRAVE MISCONDUCT
AND DISHONESTY. Respondent is FINED in an amount
equivalent to his salary for six (6) months to be deducted
from his retirement benefits.
SO ORDERED.

ESCHEATS

[G.R. No. 138953. June 6, 2002]

CASTORIO ALVARICO, petitioner, vs. AMELITA L.


SOLA, respondent.
DECISION
QUISUMBING, J.:
This is a petition for review on certiorari of the decision
dated March 23, 1999 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV
No. 54624, reversing the decision of the Regional Trial Court of
Cebu City, Branch 10, for reconveyance. Also sought to be
reversed is the CA resolution dated June 8, 1999 denying
petitioners motion for reconsideration.
The facts of this case are as follows:
Petitioner Castorio Alvarico is the natural father of
respondent Amelita Sola while Fermina Lopez is petitioners
aunt, and also Amelitas adoptive mother.
On June 17, 1982, the Bureau of Lands approved and
granted the Miscellaneous Sales Application (MSA) of Fermina
over Lot 5, SGS-3451, with an area of 152 sq. m. at the
Waterfront, Cebu City.[1]
[2]

On May 28, 1983, Fermina executed a Deed of SelfAdjudication and Transfer of Rights[3] over Lot 5 in favor of
Amelita, who agreed to assume all the obligations, duties, and
conditions imposed upon Fermina under MSA Application No.
V-81066. The document of transfer was filed with the Bureau of
Lands.[4] The pertinent portions of the deed provide:

xxx
That I, FERMINA A. LOPEZ, of legal age, Filipino, widow of
Pedro C. Lopez and a resident of Port San Pedro, Cebu City,
Philippines, am the AWARDEE of Lots Nos. 4, 5, 3-B, 3-C
and 6-B, Sgs-3451 And being the winning bidder at the auction
sale of these parcels by the Bureau of Lands held on May 12,
1982, at the price of P150.00 per square meter taking a
purchase price of P282,900.00 for the tract; That I have made
as my partial payment the sum of P28,290.00 evidenced by
Official Receipt No. 1357764-B representing ten (10%) per
cent of my bid, leaving a balance ofP254,610.00 that shall be in
not more than ten (10) years at an equal installments
of P25,461.00 beginning June 17, 1983 until the full amount is
paid.
the Transferee Mrs. Amelita L. Sola, agrees to assume, all the
obligations, duties and conditions imposed upon the Awardee
in relation to the MSA Application No. V-81066 entered in
their records as Sales Entry No. 20476.
[I] hereby declare that I accept this Deed of Self-Adjudication
and Transfer of Rights and further agree to all conditions
provided therein.[5]
Amelita assumed payment of the lot to the Bureau of Lands.
She paid a total amount of P282,900.[6]
On April 7, 1989, the Bureau of Lands issued an order
approving the transfer of rights and granting the amendment of
the application from Fermina to Amelita.[7] On May 2, 1989,
Original Certificate of Title (OCT) No. 3439 was issued in favor
of Amelita.[8]

On June 24, 1993,[9] herein petitioner filed Civil Case No.


CEB-14191[10] for reconveyance against Amelita. He claimed
that on January 4, 1984, Fermina donated the land to him[11] and
immediately thereafter, he took possession of the same. He
averred that the donation to him had the effect of withdrawing
the earlier transfer to Amelita.[12]
For her part, Amelita maintained that the donation to
petitioner is void because Fermina was no longer the owner of
the property when it was allegedly donated to petitioner, the
property having been transferred earlier to her.[13] She added that
the donation was void because of lack of approval from the
Bureau of Lands, and that she had validly acquired the land as
Ferminas rightful heir. She also denied that she is a trustee of the
land for petitioner.[14]
After trial, the RTC rendered a decision in favor of
petitioner, the decretal portion of which reads:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby
rendered in favor of plaintiff and against the defendant. Lot 5,
Sgs-3451, is hereby declared as lawfully owned by plaintiff
and defendant is directed to reconvey the same to the former.
No pronouncement as to damages and attorneys fees, plaintiff
having opted to forego such claims.

plaintiff-appellee against defendant-appellant is hereby


DISMISSED.
Costs against plaintiff-appellee.
SO ORDERED.[16]
Petitioner sought reconsideration, but it was denied by the
CA.[17]
Hence, the instant petition for certiorari seasonably filed on
the following grounds:
I.
THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED
SERIOUS ERROR, REFLECTIVE OF UNMINDFUL
RECKLESSNESS WHICH IS THE VERY OPPOSITE OF
JUDICIAL CIRCUMSPECTION, IN DECLARING THAT
THE DEED OF DONATION DATED JANUARY 4, 1984
(ANNEX C) IN FAVOR OF PETITIONER WAS
EMBODIED ONLY IN A PRIVATE DOCUMENT (Page 6,
Decision, Annex A), ALTHOUGH, BY A MERE CASUAL
LOOK AT THE DOCUMENT, IT CAN BE READILY
DISCERNED THAT IT IS NOTARIZED;
II.

SO ORDERED.[15]
On appeal, the Court of Appeals in its decision dated March
23, 1999 reversed the RTC. Thus:
WHEREFORE, foregoing considered, the appealed decision is
hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The complaint filed by

THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED


SERIOUS ERROR IN APPLYING ON THE CASE AT BAR
THE PRINCIPLE IN LAW THAT IT IS REGISTRATION OF
THE SALES PATENT THAT CONSTITUTE THE
OPERATIVE ACT THAT WOULD CONVEY OWNERSHIP
OF THE LAND TO THE APPLICANT (Pp. 3-6, Decision,

Annex A) BECAUSE THE LEGAL CONTROVERSY


BETWEEN PETITIONER AND RESPONDENT DOES NOT
INVOLVE CONFLICTING CLAIMS ON SALES PATENT
APPLICATIONS;
III.
THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY
ABUSED ITS DISCRETION AND COMMITTED SERIOUS
ERROR IN MAKING A FINDING THAT RESPONDENT
ACQUIRED THE LAND IN QUESTION, IN GOOD FAITH
(Page 7, Decision, Annex A), ALTHOUGH THERE IS NO
BASIS NOR NEED TO MAKE SUCH A FINDING; and
IV.
THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED
SERIOUS ERROR IN ENUNCIATING THAT POSSESSION
MENTIONED IN ARTICLE 1544 OF THE NEW CIVIL
CODE INCLUDE SYMBOLIC POSSESSION, UPON
WHICH THE APPELLATE COURT BASED ITS
CONCLUSION THAT RESPONDENT WAS FIRST IN
POSSESSION BECAUSE THE DEED OF SELFADJUDICATION AND TRANSFER OF RIGHTS IN
FAVOR OF RESPONDENT DATED MAY 28, 1983 WAS
EXECUTED MUCH EARLIER THAN THE DEED OF
DONATION IN FAVOR OF PETITIONER DATED
JANUARY 4, 1984 (Pages 7-8, Decision, Annex A).[18]
The crucial issue to be resolved in an action for
reconveyance is: Who between petitioner and respondent has a
better claim to the land?

To prove she has a better claim, respondent Amelita Sola


submitted a copy of OCT No. 3439 in her name and her
husbands,[19] a Deed of Self-Adjudication and Transfer of
Rights[20] over the property dated 1983 executed by Fermina in
her favor, and a certification from the municipal treasurer that
she had been declaring the land as her and her husbands property
for tax purposes since 1993.[21]
For his part, petitioner Castorio Alvarico presented a Deed
of Donation[22] dated January 4, 1984, showing that the lot was
given to him by Fermina and according to him, he immediately
took possession in 1985 and continues in possession up to the
present.[23]
Petitioner further contests the CA ruling that declared as a
private document said Deed of Donation dated January 4, 1984,
despite the fact that a certified true and correct copy of the same
was obtained from the Notarial Records Office, Regional Trial
Court, Cebu City on June 11, 1993 and acknowledged before
Atty. Numeriano Capangpangan, then Notary Public for
Cebu.[24]
Given the circumstances in this case and the contentions of
the parties, we find that no reversible error was committed by
the appellate court in holding that herein petitioners complaint
against respondent should be dismissed. The evidence on record
and the applicable law indubitably favor respondent.
Petitioner principally relies on Articles 744 and 1544 of the
New Civil Code, which provide:
Art. 744. Donations of the same thing to two or more different
donees shall be governed by the provisions concerning the sale
of the same thing to two or more different persons.

Art. 1544. If the same thing should have been sold to different
vendees, the ownership shall be transferred to the person who
may have first taken possession thereof in good faith, if it
should be movable property.
Should it be immovable property, the ownership shall belong to
the person acquiring it who in good faith first recorded it in the
Registry of Property.
Should there be no inscription, the ownership shall pertain to
the person who in good faith was first in the possession; and, in
the absence thereof, to the person who presents the oldest title,
provided there is good faith. (Emphasis supplied.)
Petitioner claims that respondent was in bad faith when she
registered the land in her name and, based on the
abovementioned rules, he has a better right over the property
because he was first in material possession in good faith.
However, this allegation of bad faith on the part of Amelita Sola
in acquiring the title is devoid of evidentiary support. For one,
the execution of public documents, as in the case of Affidavits
of Adjudication, is entitled to the presumption of regularity,
hence convincing evidence is required to assail and controvert
them.[25] Second, it is undisputed that OCT No. 3439 was issued
in 1989 in the name of Amelita. It requires more than petitioners
bare allegation to defeat the Original Certificate of Title which
on its face enjoys the legal presumption of regularity of
issuance.[26] A Torrens title, once registered, serves as notice to
the whole world. All persons must take notice and no one can
plead ignorance of its registration.[27]
Even assuming that respondent Amelita Sola acquired title
to the disputed property in bad faith, only the State can institute

reversion proceedings under Sec. 101 of the Public Land


Act.[28] Thus:
Sec. 101.All actions for reversion to the Government of lands
of the public domain or improvements thereon shall be
instituted by the Solicitor General or the officer acting in his
stead, in the proper courts, in the name of the Republic of the
Philippines.
In other words, a private individual may not bring an action
for reversion or any action which would have the effect of
canceling a free patent and the corresponding certificate of title
issued on the basis thereof, such that the land covered thereby
will again form part of the public domain. Only the Solicitor
General or the officer acting in his stead may do so.[29] Since
Amelita Solas title originated from a grant by the government,
its cancellation is a matter between the grantor and the
grantee.[30] Clearly then, petitioner has no standing at all to
question the validity of Amelitas title. It follows that he cannot
recover the property because, to begin with, he has not shown
that he is the rightful owner thereof.
Anent petitioners contention that it was the intention of
Fermina for Amelita to hold the property in trust for him, we
held that if this was really the intention of Fermina, then this
should have been clearly stated in the Deed of Self-Adjudication
executed in 1983, in the Deed of Donation executed in 1984, or
in a subsequent instrument. Absent any persuasive proof of that
intention in any written instrument, we are not prepared to
accept petitioners bare allegation concerning the donors state of
mind.
WHEREFORE, the appealed decision of the Court of
Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 54624 is hereby AFFIRMED. The

complaint filed by herein petitioner against respondent in Civil


Case No. CEB-14191 is declared properly DISMISSED. Costs
against petitioner.

where she is under medical attention for old age, general


debility, and a "mini"-stroke which she suffered in the United
States in early 1995;

SO ORDERED.

GUARDIANS AND GUARDIANSHIPS


G.R. No. 147148

January 13, 2003

PILAR Y. GOYENA, petitioner, vs.AMPARO LEDESMAGUSTILO, respondent.


CARPIO MORALES, J.:
From the Court of Appeals June 19, 2000 Decision which
affirmed that of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Makati,
Branch 149 in Special Proceeding No. N-4375 appointing herein
respondent Amparo Ledesma Gustilo as guardian over the
person and property of her sister Julieta Ledesma, Pilar Y.
Goyena, Julieta's close friend and companion of more than 60
years, comes to this Court on petition for review on certiorari.
On July 8, 1996, respondent filed at the RTC of Makati a
"PETITION FOR LETTERS OF GUARDIANSHIP"1 over the person
and properties of her sister Julieta, the pertinent allegations of
which read:
2. That for the most part during the year 1995 and 1996, Julieta
Ledesma has been a patient in the Makati Medical Center

3. That Julieta Ledesma is confined to her bed and can not get
up from bed without outside assistance, and she has to be
moved by wheel chair;
4. That Julieta Ledesma owns real estate and personal
properties in Metro Manila and in Western Visayas, with an
aggregate estimated assessed and par value of P1 Million
Pesos[;]
5. That Julieta Ledesma is not in a position to care for herself,
and that she needs the assistance of a guardian to manage her
interests in on-going corporate and agricultural enterprises;
6. That the nearest of kin of Julieta Ledesma are her sisters of
the full blood, namely, petitioner Amparo Ledesma Gustilo,
Teresa Ledesma (aka. Sister Cristina of the Religious of the
Assumption, and Loreto Ledesma Mapa, all of whom have given
their consent to the filing of this petition as shown by their
signatures at the bottom of this petition[;]
7. That petitioner has extensive experience in business
management of commercial, agricultural and corporate
enterprises, many of which are in the same entities where
Julieta Ledesma holds an interest, and that she is in a position
to monitor and supervise the delivery of vitally needed medical

services to Julieta Ledesma whether in the Metro Manila area,


or elsewhere.
Petitioner filed an Opposition to the petition for letters of
guardianship. She later filed an Amended Opposition on August
15, 1996 reading in part:
2.03 The petition lacked factual and legal basis in that Julieta
Ledesma is competent and sane and there is absolutely no need
to appoint a guardian to take charge of her person/property.
She is very able to take charge of her affairs, and this is clearly
evident from her letters to the petitioner. Copies of her recent
letters are herewith attached as Annexes "A" to "E."
xxx

xxx

xxx

2.05 Petitioner is not fit to be appointed as the guardian of


Julieta Ledesma since their interests are antagonistic (Sudler v.
Sudler, 121 Md. 46. 49 L.R.A. 800, as cited in vol. V-B Francisco
Revised Rules of Court, Rule 93, Section 4, p. 414).
xxx

xxx

xxx

3.01 The above captioned petition should be dismissed for


utter lack of legal and/or factual basis.
3.02 In the remote event that this Honorable Court should find
that Julieta Ledesma is incompetent and resolve that there is
need to appoint a guardian over her person and property, this
Honorable Court should appoint as such guardian:
1. Oppositor Goyena;

2. Bart Lacson;
3. Fely Montelibano;
4. Jose T. Revilla; or
5. a qualified and reputable person as may be determined fit by
this Honorable Court.

By Decision2 of October 4, 1996, the trial court found Julieta


"incompetent and incapable of taking care of herself and her
property" and appointed respondent as guardian of her person
and properties, ratiocinating as follows:
A perusal of the records shows that petitioner (Amparo) is 72
years of age, the youngest sister of Julieta. Admittedly, the
Oppositor Pilar Goyena, 90 years of age has been the close
friend and companion of Julieta for 61 years. Julieta was with
Oppositor when she suffered her first stroke in Makati in 1991
which was the reason why Julieta had to give up the
management of their hacienda in Bacolod. It is also not
disputed that Julieta was with Pilar when she had her second
stroke in the U.S. In short, the special bond of friendship
existing between Julieta and the Oppositor cannot be denied.
Now that Julieta is unable to manage her personal life and
business concerns due to senility and "vascular dementia," the
oppositor wants to be appointed her guardian or else Bart
Lacson, Fely Montelibano and Jose T. Revilla.
It is interesting to note that the oppositor has interposed her

objection to the appointment of Amparo as guardian because


she thinks that the latter dislikes her. She further added that
there were a number of letters allegedly written by Julieta to
Amparo which showed Julieta's sentiments regarding certain
matters. Nevertheless, not one of the nearest of kin of Julieta
opposed the petition. As a matter of fact, her sisters signified
their conformity thereto. Thus, Ms. Goyena's mere conjecture
that Amparo dislikes her is no sufficient reason why the petition
should be denied. Neither does it make Amparo unsuitable and
unfit to perform the duties of a guardian. On the contrary, it is
Ms. Goyena who could be considered as to have an adverse
interest to that of Julieta if it is true that 50% of Julieta's
holdings at the Makati Medical Center has been transferred to
her as alleged in Exhibit 1 and Exhibit A.
By and large, the qualification of Amparo to act as guardian
over the person and properties of Julieta has been duly
established. As a sister, she can best take care of Julieta's
concerns and well being. Now that Julieta is in the twilight of
her life, her family should be given the opportunity to show
their love and affection for her without however denying Pilar
Goyena access to her considering the special bond of friendship
between the two. Needless to say, the oppositor at 90 years of
age could not be said to be physically fit to attend to all the
needs of Julieta.
WHEREFORE, petitioner Amparo Gustilo, is hereby appointed
guardian over the person and property of Julieta Ledesma, an
incompetent with all the powers and duties specified under the

law.
Accordingly, let letters of guardianship issue to petitioner upon
her filing of a bond in the amount of P200,000.00 to guarantee
the performance of the obligations prescribed for general
guardians.
SO ORDERED. (Emphasis supplied)
Petitioner's Motion for Reconsideration of the trial court's
decision was, by Order of November 4, 19963 , denied in this
wise:
Acting on the Motion for Reconsideration filed by the Oppositor
thru counsel, and finding no merits on the ground stated
therein, considering that petitioner appears to be most
qualified and suitable to act as Julieta Ledesma's guardian after
taking into consideration the qualifications of the oppositor and
her other recomendees [sic], aside from the fact that
petitioner's appointment as such was not objected to by any of
her nearest kin, in contrast to the hostile interest of oppositor,
the same is hereby DENIED.
SO ORDERED.
On appeal of petitioner, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial
court's decision on the following ratiocination:4
Indeed, oppositor-appellant (Pilar) has not shown the
authenticity and due execution of the letters which purport to
show the existence of a rift between Julieta and her family and
dissatisfaction as to how the businesses were managed. At any
rate, while it is correct to say that no person should be

appointed guardian if his interest conflict with those of the


ward (Guerrero vs. Teran, 13 Phil. 212), there are really no
antagonistic interests to speak of between petitioner [Amparo]
and Julieta, they being co-owners of certain properties. There
is also no showing that petitioner's business decisions in the
past had resulted in the prejudice of Julieta.

Petitioner's Motion for Reconsideration of the Court of Appeals


decision having been denied, she filed the present petition
which proffers that:

While the oppositor may have been very close to Julieta, there
is no sufficient showing that petitioner is hostile to the best
interests of the latter. On the contrary, it was the petitioner
who, realizing the need for the appointment of a person to
guard her sister's interests, initiated the petition for
guardianship. We see no indication that petitioner is animated
by a desire to prejudice Julieta's health as well as financial
interests. In point of fact, it was oppositor-appellant who had
initially concealed the deteriorating state of mind of Julieta
from the court. Oppositor's advanced age of 90 years also
militate against her assuming the guardianship of the
incompetent. The oppositor has declared that she is not
interested to be appointed legal guardian (p. 21[,] Appellant's
Brief, Rollo, p. 59). But the persons that she points to as being
better choices as Julieta's guardian over the appellee have not
acted, nor even indicated, their desire to act as such. In any
case, We see no cogent reason why We should reverse the wellreasoned disquisition of the trial court.

THE COURT OF APPEALS HAS DEPARTED FROM THE ACCEPTED


AND USUAL COURSE OF JUDICIAL PROCEEDINGS IN AFFIRMING
THE TRIAL COURT'S DECISION DATED OCTOBER 4, 1996 AND IN
ISSUING THE RESOLUTIONS DATED JUNE 29, 2000 AND
FEBRUARY 9, 2001.

WHEREFORE, finding no error in the appealed decision, the


same is hereby AFFIRMED.
SO ORDERED. (Emphasis supplied)

THE COURT OF APPEALS HAS DECIDED A QUESTION OF


SUBSTANCE IN A WAY NOT IN ACCORD WITH LAW AND
APPLICABLE DECISIONS OF THIS HONORABLE COURT.

The petition fails.


It is well-entrenched doctrine that questions of fact are not
proper subjects of appeal by certiorari under Rule 45 of the
Rules of Court as this mode of appeal is confined to questions
of law.5 The test of whether the question is one of law or of fact
is whether the appellate court can determine the issue raised
without reviewing or evaluating the evidence, in which case it
is a question of law; otherwise, it is question of fact.6
In the case at bar, the only issue before this Court is whether or
not the appellate court and the trial court erred in finding that
respondent is not unsuitable for appointment as guardian of
the person and properties of Julieta. In support of an
affirmative answer, petitioner posits as follows:
1. The Court of Appeals' basis for its decision that there are no
antagonistic interests between [her] and [respondent] is

contrary to the evidence on record,7


2. The Court of Appeals' erred in holding that there is no
showing that [respondent] is hostile to the best interest of
Julieta,8 and
3. Julieta Ledesma's appointed representatives are most
suitable to be appointed as her guardian.9
Clearly, the issues raised and arguments in support of
petitioner's position require a review of the evidence, hence,
not proper for consideration in the petition at bar. This Court
cannot thus be tasked to go over the proofs presented by the
parties and analyze, assess, and weigh them to ascertain if the
trial court and appellate court were correct in according them
superior credit.10
That the issues raised are factual is in fact admitted by
petitioner in her Reply dated August 30, 2001:11
Although the general rule is that this Honorable Court is not a
trier of facts, its jurisdiction being limited to reviewing and
revising only errors of law, it is nonetheless subject to the
following exceptions which have been laid down in a number of
decisions of this Honorable Court:
(1) When the conclusion is a finding grounded entirely on
speculation, surmises and conjectures; (2) When the inference
made is manifestly mistaken, absurd or impossible; (3) When
there is grave abuse of discretion; (4) When the judgment is
based on a misapprehension of facts; (5) When the findings of

facts are conflicting; (6) When the Court of Appeals, in making


its findings, went beyond the issues of the case and the same is
contrary to the admissions of both appellants and appellee; (7)
When the findings of the Court of Appeals are contrary to those
of the trial court; (8) When the findings of facts are conclusions
without citation of specific evidence on which they are based;
(9) When the facts set forth in the petition as well as in the
petitioners' main and reply briefs are not disputed by the
respondents; and (10) When the findings of fact of the Court of
Appeals is premised on the supposed absence of evidence and
is contradicted by the evidence on record (Emphasis supplied);
(Rollo, 350351)
Petitioner claims that "there is no doubt that the instant
petition falls within the above-stated exceptions because the
findings of the Court of Appeals are clearly belied by the
evidence on record."12
In the selection of a guardian, a large discretion must be
allowed the judge who deals directly with the parties.13 As this
Court said:
As a rule, when it appears that the judge has exercised care and
diligence in selecting the guardian, and has given due
consideration to the reasons for and against his action which
are urged by the interested parties, his action should not be
disturbed unless it is made very clear that he has fallen into
grievous error.14
In the case at bar, petitioner has not shown that the lower
courts committed any error.

Petitioner cannot rely on Garchitorena v. Sotelo15 with respect


to the existence of antagonistic interests between respondent
and Julieta. In that case, the interest of Perfecto Gabriel as
creditor and mortgagee of the minor-wards' properties (a
house and lot) is antagonistic to the interest of the wards as
mortgagors, hence, Gabriel's appointment as guardian was
erroneous. For while he sought to foreclose the wards'
properties as creditor and mortgagee on one hand, he had to,
on the other hand, endeavor to retain them for the wards as
their guardian. Added to that was Gabriel's appointment as
guardian without him informing the guardianship court that he
held a mortgage on the properties. Furthermore, he
deliberately misinformed the said court that the first
mortgagee was the Santa Clara Monastery when it was him.
None of the said circumstances obtain in the present case.
Petitioner can neither rely on certain letters of Julieta to
establish her claim that there existed16 a rift between the two
which amounts to antagonistic interests. The first letter17 sent
by Julieta to respondent which reads:
x x x So if you (appellee) do not agree with me (Julieta) my
decision is right to let us divide as soon as possible, so we will
have capital each of us to work, and keep the Hda, for [sic]
generation to generation.
xxx

xxx

xxx

For the last time I will repeat even if I have to kneel before you
and Carlos I have no interest anymore in any future investment
due to my age and being single and alone in life. I would like to

be able to enjoy whatever monies that correspond to me. I


would like to have enough money as a reserve for any future
need that I might have like hospitalization, travel, buying
whatever I like, etc. etc. merely shows Julieta's lack of interest
in future investments, not necessarily a business disagreement,
and certainly not per se amounting to antagonistic interests
between her and respondent to render the latter unsuitable for
appointment as guardian.
The second letter18 which reads:
My mind is still clear to tell you about Fortuna when I had my
stroke I was confined in MMC for one month. If I am not
mistaken you did not visit me. One day Carlos came to visit me
and asked me this question. Do you think you will be able to
continue managing the Hda? I answered him I don't know it all
depends on my sickness. Carlos said who do you want to take
your place? I said I want Cheling Zabaljauregui. Then Carlos said
O.K. He asked Pilar can you contact Cheling? Tell him to call me
or see me. The nephew of Cheling was a resident in MMC
through him Pilar was able to contact Cheling and gave him
Carlo's message. So I thought all the time it was agreeable. I left
for USA for treatment. To my surprise when I came back from
USA it was not Cheling, but you (appellee) took over the
management as you requested. Carlos did not tell me but
decided in your favor. . . . (Letter to appellee; Exhibit "3";
emphasis supplied)
shows that: 1) respondent did not visit Julieta when she was
confined at the Makati Medical Center on account of her

stroke, 2) there was disagreement as to who should run the


hacienda, with Julieta favoring a certain Cheling Zabaljaurigue,
and 3) respondent took over management of the hacienda with
their brother Carlos (Ledesma) supporting her. No inference as
to the existence of antagonistic interests between respondent
and Julieta can thus be made.
The third letter19 which reads:
. . . Carlos went to the house before I left and asked from me
twenty thousand (20,000) shares of San Carlos Milling which
you gave because I wanted to sell all. . . . If he does not sell or
cannot sell, just arrange to send them back to me. Amparing
since I came here to America and Vancouver my requests have
been ignored. Everyone is suspecting that Pilar is the one
ordering or commanding me that is not true. What I asked from
Julio is just to report to me or send me reports so I can follow
up from here. But up to now he has ignored my requests x x x .
(Letter to appellee Exhibit "4")
has no relevance to the issue of whether or not the lower courts
erred in finding that respondent is not unsuitable for
appointment as guardian. The letter in fact discloses, that it was
Julieta's nephew Julio Ledesma, and not respondent, who
ignored the "request."
As for the fourth letter20 which reads:
I want all of you to know that whatever decision now and in the
future I want to do nobody can stop me especially regarding my
properties, money, etc. I will be the only one to dispose of it
because it is mine. You said to Raul you are going to court, you

are most welcome x x x . (Letter to Connie, Exhibit "5")


it has also no relevance to the issue in the case at bar. The letter
is not even addressed to respondent but to a certain Connie (a
sister-in-law of Julieta).
Petitioner's assertion that respondent's intent in instituting the
guardianship proceedings is to take control of Julieta's
properties and use them for her own benefit21 is purely
speculative and finds no support from the records.
The claim that respondent is hostile to the best interests of
Julieta also lacks merit. That respondent removed Julieta from
the Makati Medical Center where she was confined after she
suffered a stroke does not necessarily show her hostility
towards Julieta, given the observation by the trial court, cited
in the present petition, that Julieta was still placed under the
care of doctors22 after she checked out and was returned to the
hospital when she suffered another stroke.
Finally, this Court notes two undisputed facts in the case at bar,
to wit: 1) Petitioner opposed the petition for the appointment
of respondent as guardian before the trial court because,
among other reasons, she felt she was disliked by respondent,23
a ground which does not render respondent unsuitable for
appointment as guardian, and 2) Petitioner concealed the
deteriorating state of mind of Julieta before the trial court, 24
which is reflective of a lack of good faith.
Discussion of the third argument is unnecessary, the suitability
of Amparo for appointment as guardian not having been
successfully contested.

ACCORDINGLY, for lack of merit, the petition is hereby


DISMISSED. SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 110427 February 24, 1997


The Incompetent, CARMEN CAIZA, represented by her legal
guardian, AMPARO EVANGELISTA, petitioner, vs.COURT OF
APPEALS (SPECIAL FIRST DIVISION), PEDRO ESTRADA and his
wife, LEONORA ESTRADA, respondents.
NARVASA, C.J.:
On November 20, 1989, being then ninety-four (94) years of
age, Carmen Caiza, a spinster, a retired pharmacist, and
former professor of the College of Chemistry and Pharmacy of
the University of the Philippines, was declared incompetent by
judgment 1 of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch
107, 2 in a guardianship proceeding instituted by her niece,
Amparo A. Evangelista. 3 She was so adjudged because of her
advanced age and physical infirmities which included cataracts
in both eyes and senile dementia. Amparo A. Evangelista was
appointed legal guardian of her person and estate.
Caiza was the owner of a house and lot at No. 61 Tobias St.,
Quezon City. On September 17, 1990, her guardian Amparo
Evangelista commenced a suit in the Metropolitan Trial Court
(MetroTC) of Quezon City (Branch 35) to eject the spouses
Pedro and Leonora Estrada from said premises. 4 The complaint
was later amended to identify the incompetent Caiza as
plaintiff, suing through her legal guardian, Amparo Evangelista.
The amended Complaint 5 pertinently alleged that plaintiff
Caiza was the absolute owner of the property in question,
covered by TCT No. 27147; that out of kindness, she had
allowed the Estrada Spouses, their children, grandchildren and

sons-in-law to temporarily reside in her house, rent-free; that


Caiza already had urgent need of the house on account of her
advanced age and failing health, "so funds could be raised to
meet her expenses for support, maintenance and medical
treatment;" that through her guardian, Caiza had asked the
Estradas verbally and in writing to vacate the house but they
had refused to do so; and that "by the defendants' act of
unlawfully depriving plaintiff of the possession of the house in
question, they . . (were) enriching themselves at the expense of
the incompetent, because, while they . . (were) saving money
by not paying any rent for the house, the incompetent . . (was)
losing much money as her house could not be rented by
others." Also alleged was that the complaint was "filed within
one (1) year from the date of of first letter of demand dated
February 3, 1990."
In their Answer with Counterclaim, the defendants declared
that they had been living in Caiza's house since the 1960's;
that in consideration of their faithful service they had been
considered by Caiza as her own family, and the latter had in
fact executed a holographic will on September 4, 1988 by which
she "bequeathed" to the Estradas the house and lot in
question.
Judgment was rendered by the MetroTC on April 13, 1992 in
Caiza's favor, 6 the Estradas being ordered to vacate the
premises and pay Caiza P5,000.00 by way of attorney's fees.
But on appeal, 8 the decision was reversed by the Quezon City
Regional Trial Court, Branch 96. 9 By judgment rendered on

October 21, 1992, 10 the RTC held that the "action by which the
issue of defendants' possession should be resolved is accion
publiciana, the obtaining factual and legal situation . .
demanding adjudication by such plenary action for recovery of
possession cognizable in the first instance by the Regional Trial
Court."
Caiza sought to have the Court of Appeals reverse the decision
of October 21, 1992, but failed in that attempt. In a decision 11
promulgated on June 2, 1993, the Appellate Court 12 affirmed
the RTC's judgment in toto. It ruled that (a) the proper remedy
for Caiza was indeed an accion publiciana in the RTC, not an
accion interdictal in the MetroTC, since the "defendants have
not been in the subject premises as mere tenants or occupants
by tolerance, they have been there as a sort of adopted family
of Carmen Caiza," as evidenced by what purports to be the
holographic will of the plaintiff; and (b) while "said will, unless
and until it has passed probate by the proper court, could not
be the basis of defendants' claim to the property, . . it is
indicative of intent and desire on the part of Carmen Caiza
that defendants are to remain and are to continue in their
occupancy and possession, so much so that Caiza's
supervening incompetency can not be said to have vested in
her guardian the right or authority to drive the defendants out."
13

Through her guardian, Caiza came to this Court praying for


reversal of the Appellate Court's judgment. She contends in the
main that the latter erred in (a) holding that she should have

pursued an accion publiciana, and not an accion interdictal; and


in (b) giving much weight to "a xerox copy of an alleged
holographic will, which is irrelevant to this case." 14
In the responsive pleading filed by them on this Court's
requirement, 15 the Estradas insist that the case against them
was really not one of unlawful detainer; they argue that since
possession of the house had not been obtained by them by any
"contract, express or implied," as contemplated by Section 1,
Rule 70 of the Rules of Court, their occupancy of the premises
could not be deemed one "terminable upon mere demand (and
hence never became unlawful) within the context of the law."
Neither could the suit against them be deemed one of forcible
entry, they add, because they had been occupying the property
with the prior consent of the "real owner," Carmen Caiza,
which "occupancy can even ripen into full ownership once the
holographic will of petitioner Carmen Caiza is admitted to
probate." They conclude, on those postulates, that it is beyond
the power of Caiza's legal guardian to oust them from the
disputed premises.

legal guardian had authority to bring said action; and (c)


assuming an affirmative answer to both questions, whether or
not Evangelista may continue to represent Caiza after the
latter's death.
I
It is axiomatic that what determines the nature of an action as
well as which court has jurisdiction over it, are the allegations
of the complaint and the character of the relief sought. 18 An
inquiry into the averments of the amended complaint in the
Court of origin is thus in order. 19
The amended Complaint alleges: 20
6. That the plaintiff Carmen Caiza, is the sole and absolute
owner of a house and lot at No. 61 Scout Tobias, Quezon City,
which property is now the subject of this complaint;
xxx xxx xxx
9. That the defendants, their children, grandchildren and sonsin-law, were allowed to live temporarily in the house of plaintiff
Carmen Caiza, for free, out of her kindness;

Carmen Caiza died on March 19, 1994, 16 and her heirs the
aforementioned guardian, Amparo Evangelista, and Ramon C.
Nevado, her niece and nephew, respectively were by this
Court's leave, substituted for her. 17

10. That the plaintiff, through her legal guardian, has duly
notified the defendants, for them to vacate the said house, but
the two (2) letters of demand were ignored and the defendants
refused to vacate the same. . .

Three issues have to be resolved: (a) whether or not an


ejectment action is the appropriate judicial remedy for
recovery of possession of the property in dispute; (b) assuming
desahucio to be proper, whether or not Evangelista, as Caiza's

11. That the plaintiff, represented by her legal guardian,


Amparo Evangelista, made another demand on the defendants
for them to vacate the premises, before Barangay Captain
Angelina A. Diaz of Barangay Laging Handa, Quezon City, but

after two (2) conferences, the result was negative and no


settlement was reached. A photocopy of the Certification to
File Action dated July 4, 1990, issued by said Barangay Captain
is attached, marked Annex "D" and made an integral part
hereof;
12. That the plaintiff has given the defendants more than thirty
(30) days to vacate the house, but they still refused to vacate
the premises, and they are up to this time residing in the said
place;
13. That this complaint is filed within one (1) year from the date
of first letter of demand dated February 3, 1990 (Annex "B")
sent by the plaintiff to the defendants, by her legal guardian
Amparo Evangelista;
14. By the defendants' act of unlawfully depriving the plaintiff
of the possession of the house in question, they are enriching
themselves at the expense of the incompetent plaintiff
because, while they are saving money by not paying any rent
for the house, the plaintiff is losing much money as her house
could not be rented by others;
15. That the plaintiff's health is failing and she needs the house
urgently, so that funds could be raised to meet her expenses
for her support, maintenance and medical treatment;
16. That because of defendants' refusal to vacate the house at
No. 61 Scout Tobias, Quezon City, the plaintiff, through her
legal guardian, was compelled to go to court for justice, and
she has to spend P10,000.00 as attorney's fees.

Its prayer 21 is quoted below:


WHEREFORE, in the interest of justice and the rule of law,
plaintiff, Carmen Caiza, represented by her legal guardian,
Amparo Evangelista, respectfully prays to this Honorable Court,
to render judgment in favor of plaintiff and against the
defendants as follows:
1. To order the defendants, their children, grandchildren, sonsin-law and other persons claiming under them, to vacate the
house and premises at No. 6 1 Scout Tobias, Quezon City, so
that its possession can be restored to the plaintiff Carmen
Caiza; and
2. To pay attorney's fees in the amount of P10,000.00;
3. To pay the costs of the suit.
In essence, the amended complaint states:
1) that the Estradas were occupying Caiza's house by
tolerance having been "allowed to live temporarily . .
(therein) for free, out of . . (Caiza's) kindness;"
2) that Caiza needed the house "urgently" because her "health
. . (was) failing and she . . (needed) funds . . to meet her
expenses for her support, maintenance and medical
treatment;"
3) that through her general guardian, Caiza requested the
Estradas several times, orally and in writing, to give back

possession of the house;


4) that the Estradas refused and continue to refuse to give back
the house to Caiza, to her continuing prejudice; and
5) that the action was filed within one (1) year from the last
demand to vacate.
Undoubtedly, a cause of action for desahucio has been
adequately set out. It is settled that in an action for unlawful
detainer, it suffices to allege that the defendant is unlawfully
withholding possession from the plaintiff is deemed sufficient,
22
and a complaint for unlawful detainer is sufficient if it alleges
that the withholding of possession or the refusal to vacate is
unlawful without necessarily employing the terminology of the
law. 23
The Estradas' first proffered defense derives from a literal
construction of Section 1, Rule 70 of the Rules of Court which
inter alia authorizes the institution of an unlawful detainer suit
when "the possession of any land or building is unlawfully
withheld after the expiration or termination of the right to hold
possession, by virtue of any contract, express or implied." They
contend that since they did not acquire possession of the
property in question "by virtue of any contract, express or
implied" they having been, to repeat, "allowed to live
temporarily . . (therein) for free, out of . . (Caiza's) kindness"
in no sense could there be an "expiration or termination of .
. (their) right to hold possession, by virtue of any contract,

express or implied." Nor would an action for forcible entry lie


against them, since there is no claim that they had "deprived
(Caiza) of the possession of . . (her property) by force,
intimidation, threat, strategy, or stealth.
The argument is arrant sophistry. Caiza's act of allowing the
Estradas to occupy her house, rent-free, did not create a
permanent and indefeasible right of possession in the latter's
favor. Common sense, and the most rudimentary sense of
fairness clearly require that that act of liberality be implicitly,
but no less certainly, accompanied by the necessary burden on
the Estradas of returning the house to Caiza upon her
demand. More than once has this Court adjudged that a person
who occupies the land of another at the latter's tolerance or
permission without any contract between them is necessarily
bound by an implied promise that he will vacate upon demand,
failing which a summary action for ejectment is the proper
remedy against him. 24 The situation is not much different from
that of a tenant whose lease expires but who continues in
occupancy by tolerance of the owner, in which case there is
deemed to be an unlawful deprivation or withholding of
possession as of the date of the demand to vacate. 25 In other
words, one whose stay is merely tolerated becomes a
deforciant illegally occupying the land or property the moment
he is required to leave. 26 Thus, in Asset Privatization Trust vs.
Court of Appeals, 27 where a company, having lawfully obtained
possession of a plant upon its undertaking to buy the same,
refused to return it after failing to fulfill its promise of payment

despite demands, this Court held that "(a)fter demand and its
repudiation, . . (its) continuing possession . . became illegal and
the complaint for unlawful detainer filed by the. . (plant's
owner) was its proper remedy.
It may not be amiss to point out in this connection that where
there had been more than one demand to vacate, the one-year
period for filing the complaint for unlawful detainer must be
reckoned from the date of the last demand, 28 the reason being
that the lessor has the option to waive his right of action based
on previous demands and let the lessee remain meanwhile in
the premises. 29 Now, the complaint filed by Caiza's guardian
alleges that the same was "filed within one (1) year from the
date of the first letter of demand dated February 3, 1990."
Although this averment is not in accord with law because there
is in fact a second letter of demand to vacate, dated February
27, 1990, the mistake is inconsequential, since the complaint
was actually filed on September 17, 1990, well within one year
from the second (last) written demand to vacate.
The Estradas' possession of the house stemmed from the
owner's express permission. That permission was subsequently
withdrawn by the owner, as was her right; and it is immaterial
that the withdrawal was made through her judicial guardian,
the latter being indisputably clothed with authority to do so.
Nor is it of any consequence that Carmen Caiza had executed
a will bequeathing the disputed property to the Estradas; that
circumstance did not give them the right to stay in the premises
after demand to vacate on the theory that they might in future

become owners thereof, that right of ownership being at best


inchoate, no transfer of ownership being possible unless and
until the will is duly probated.
Thus, at the time of the institution of the action of desahucio,
the Estradas had no legal right to the property, whether as
possessors by tolerance or sufferance, or as owners. They could
not claim the right of possession by sufferance; that had been
legally ended. They could not assert any right of possession
flowing from their ownership of the house; their status as
owners is dependent on the probate of the holographic will by
which the property had allegedly been bequeathed to them
an event which still has to take place; in other words, prior to
the probate of the will, any assertion of possession by them
would be premature and inefficacious.
In any case, the only issue that could legitimately be raised
under the circumstances was that involving the Estradas'
possession by tolerance, i.e., possession de facto, not de jure. It
is therefore incorrect to postulate that the proper remedy for
Caiza is not ejectment but accion publiciana, a plenary action
in the RTC or an action that is one for recovery of the right to
possession de jure.
II
The Estradas insist that the devise of the house to them by
Caiza clearly denotes her intention that they remain in
possession thereof, and legally incapacitated her judicial
guardian, Amparo Evangelista, from evicting them therefrom,
since their ouster would be inconsistent with the ward's will.

A will is essentially ambulatory; at any time prior to the


testator's death, it may be changed or revoked; 30 and until
admitted to probate, it has no effect whatever and no right can
be claimed thereunder, the law being quite explicit: "No will
shall pass either real or personal property unless it is proved
and allowed in accordance with the Rules of Court" (ART. 838,
id.). 31 An owner's intention to confer title in the future to
persons possessing property by his tolerance, is not
inconsistent with the former's taking back possession in the
meantime for any reason deemed sufficient. And that in this
case there was sufficient cause for the owner's resumption of
possession is apparent: she needed to generate income from
the house on account of the physical infirmities afflicting her,
arising from her extreme age.
Amparo Evangelista was appointed by a competent court the
general guardian of both the person and the estate of her aunt,
Carmen Caiza. Her Letters of Guardianship 32 dated December
19, 1989 clearly installed her as the "guardian over the person
and properties of the incompetent CARMEN CANIZA with full
authority to take possession of the property of said
incompetent in any province or provinces in which it may be
situated and to perform all other acts necessary for the
management of her properties . . " 33 By that appointment, it
became Evangelista's duty to care for her aunt's person, to
attend to her physical and spiritual needs, to assure her wellbeing, with right to custody of her person in preference to
relatives and friends. 34 It also became her right and duty to get

possession of, and exercise control over, Caiza's property,


both real and personal, it being recognized principle that the
ward has no right to possession or control of his property
during her incompetency. 35 That right to manage the ward's
estate carries with it the right to take possession thereof and
recover it from anyone who retains it, 36 and bring and defend
such actions as may be needful for this purpose. 37
Actually, in bringing the action of desahucio, Evangelista was
merely discharging the duty to attend to "the comfortable and
suitable maintenance of the ward" explicitly imposed on her by
Section 4, Rule 96 of the Rules of Court, viz.:
Sec. 4. Estate to be managed frugally, and proceeds applied to
maintenance of ward. A guardian must manage the estate of
his ward frugally and without waste, and apply the income and
profits thereof, so far as maybe necessary, to the comfortable
and suitable maintenance of the ward and his family, if there
be any; and if such income and profits be insufficient for that
purpose, the guardian may sell or encumber the real estate,
upon being authorized by order to do so, and apply to such of
the proceeds as may be necessary to such maintenance.
Finally, it may be pointed out in relation to the Estradas's
defenses in the ejectment action, that as the law now stands,
even when, in forcible entry and unlawful detainer cases, the
defendant raises the question of ownership in his pleadings and
the question of possession cannot be resolved without deciding
the issue of ownership, the Metropolitan Trial Courts,
Municipal Trial Courts, and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts

nevertheless have the undoubted competence to resolve "the


issue of ownership . . only to determine the issue of
possession." 38
III
As already stated, Carmen Caiza passed away during the
pendency of this appeal. The Estradas thereupon moved to
dismiss the petition, arguing that Caiza's death automatically
terminated the guardianship, Amaparo Evangelista lost all
authority as her judicial guardian, and ceased to have legal
personality to represent her in the present appeal. The motion
is without merit.
While it is indeed well-established rule that the relationship of
guardian and ward is necessarily terminated by the death of
either the guardian or the ward, 39 the rule affords no
advantage to the Estradas. Amparo Evangelista, as niece of
Carmen Caiza, is one of the latter's only two (2) surviving heirs,
the other being Caiza's nephew, Ramon C. Nevado. On their
motion and by Resolution of this Court 40 of June 20, 1994, they
were in fact substituted as parties in the appeal at bar in place
of the deceased, in accordance with Section 17, Rule 3 of the
Rules of Court, viz.: 41
Sec. 18. Death of a party. After a party dies and the claim is
not thereby extinguished, the court shall order, upon proper
notice, the legal representative of the deceased to appear and
be substituted for the deceased within a period of thirty (30)
days, or within such time as may be granted. If the legal
representative fails to appear within said time, the court may

order the opposing party to procure the appointment of a legal


representative of the deceased within a time to be specified by
the court, and the representative shall immediately appear for
and on behalf of the interest of the deceased. The court charges
involved in procuring such appointment, if defrayed by the
opposing party, may be recovered as costs. The heirs of the
deceased may be allowed to be substituted for the deceased,
without requiring the appointment of an executor or
administrator and the court may appoint guardian ad litem for
the minor heirs.
To be sure, an ejectment case survives the death of a party.
Caiza's demise did not extinguish the desahucio suit instituted
by her through her guardian. 42 That action, not being a purely
personal one, survived her death; her heirs have taken her
place and now represent her interests in the appeal at bar.
WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The Decision of the
Court of Appeals promulgated on June 2, 1993 affirming the
Regional Trial Court's judgment and dismissing petitioner's
petition for certiorari is REVERSED and SET ASIDE, and the
Decision dated April 13, 1992 of the Metropolitan Trial Court of
Quezon City, Branch 35, in Civil Case No. 3410 is REINSTATED
and AFFIRMED. Costs against private respondents.
SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 119858

April 29, 2003

EDWARD C. ONG, petitioner, vs.THE COURT OF APPEALS


AND THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, respondents.
CARPIO, J.:
The Case
Petitioner Edward C. Ong ("petitioner") filed this petition for
review on certiorari1 to nullify the Decision2 dated 27 October
1994 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. C.R. No. 14031, and its
Resolution3 dated 18 April 1995, denying petitioner's motion
for reconsideration. The assailed Decision affirmed in toto
petitioner's conviction4 by the Regional Trial Court of Manila,
Branch 35,5 on two counts of estafa for violation of the Trust
Receipts Law,6 as follows:
WHEREFORE, judgment is rendered: (1) pronouncing accused
EDWARD C. ONG guilty beyond reasonable doubt on two
counts, as principal on both counts, of ESTAFA defined under
No. 1 (b) of Article 315 of the Revised Penal Code in relation to
Section 13 of Presidential Decree No. 115, and penalized under
the 1st paragraph of the same Article 315, and sentenced said
accused in each count to TEN (10) YEARS of prision mayor, as
minimum, to TWENTY (20) YEARS of reclusion temporal, as
maximum;
(2) ACQUITTING accused BENITO ONG of the crime charged
against him, his guilt thereof not having been established by the
People beyond reasonable doubt;
(3) Ordering accused Edward C. Ong to pay private complainant

Solid Bank Corporation the aggregate sum of P2,976,576.37 as


reparation for the damages said accused caused to the private
complainant, plus the interest thereon at the legal rate and the
penalty of 1% per month, both interest and penalty computed
from July 15, 1991, until the principal obligation is fully paid;

DEMETRIO LAZARO, a corporation duly organized and existing


under the laws of the Philippines located at Juan Luna Street,
Binondo, this City, in the following manner, to wit: the said
accused received in trust from said SOLIDBANK Corporation the
following, to wit:

(4) Ordering Benito Ong to pay, jointly and severally with


Edward C. Ong, the private complainant the legal interest and
the penalty of 1% per month due and accruing on the unpaid
amount of P1,449,395.71, still owing to the private offended
under the trust receipt Exhibit C, computed from July 15, 1991,
until the said unpaid obligation is fully paid;

10,000 bags of urea

(5) Ordering accused Edward C. Ong to pay the costs of these


two actions.
SO ORDERED.7
The Charge
Assistant City Prosecutor Dina P. Teves of the City of Manila
charged petitioner and Benito Ong with two counts of estafa
under separate Informations dated 11 October 1991.
In Criminal Case No. 92-101989, the Information indicts
petitioner and Benito Ong of the crime of estafa committed as
follows:
That on or about July 23, 1990, in the City of Manila, Philippines,
the said accused, representing ARMAGRI International
Corporation, conspiring and confederating together did then
and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously defraud the
SOLIDBANK Corporation represented by its Accountant,

valued at P2,050,000.00 specified in a Trust Receipt Agreement


and covered by a Letter of Credit No. DOM GD 90-009 in favor
of the Fertiphil Corporation; under the express obligation on
the part of the said accused to account for said goods to
Solidbank Corporation and/or remit the proceeds of the sale
thereof within the period specified in the Agreement or return
the goods, if unsold immediately or upon demand; but said
accused, once in possession of said goods, far from complying
with the aforesaid obligation failed and refused and still fails
and refuses to do so despite repeated demands made upon him
to that effect and with intent to defraud, willfully, unlawfully
and feloniously misapplied, misappropriated and converted the
same or the value thereof to his own personal use and benefit,
to the damage and prejudice of the said Solidbank Corporation
in the aforesaid amount of P2,050,000.00 Philippine Currency.
Contrary to law.
In Criminal Case No. 92-101990, the Information likewise
charges petitioner of the crime of estafa committed as follows:
That on or about July 6, 1990, in the City of Manila, Philippines,
the said accused, representing ARMAGRI International
Corporation, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and

feloniously defraud the SOLIDBANK Corporation represented


by its Accountant, DEMETRIO LAZARO, a corporation duly
organized and existing under the laws of the Philippines located
at Juan Luna Street, Binondo, this City, in the following manner,
to wit: the said accused received in trust from said SOLIDBANK
Corporation the following goods, to wit:
125 pcs. Rear diff. assy RNZO 49"
50 pcs. Front & Rear diff assy. Isuzu Elof
85 units 1-Beam assy. Isuzu Spz
all valued at P2,532,500.00 specified in a Trust Receipt
Agreement and covered by a Domestic Letter of Credit No.
DOM GD 90-006 in favor of the Metropole Industrial Sales with
address at P.O. Box AC 219, Quezon City; under the express
obligation on the part of the said accused to account for said
goods to Solidbank Corporation and/or remit the proceeds of
the sale thereof within the period specified in the Agreement
or return the goods, if unsold immediately or upon demand;
but said accused, once in possession of said goods, far from
complying with the aforesaid obligation failed and refused and
still fails and refuses to do so despite repeated demands made
upon him to that effect and with intent to defraud, willfully,
unlawfully and feloniously misapplied, misappropriated and
converted the same or the value thereof to his own personal
use and benefit, to the damage and prejudice of the said
Solidbank Corporation in the aforesaid amount of
P2,532,500.00 Philippine Currency.
Contrary to law.

Arraignment and Plea


With the assistance of counsel, petitioner and Benito Ong both
pleaded not guilty when arraigned. Thereafter, trial ensued.
Version of the Prosecution
The prosecution's evidence disclosed that on 22 June 1990,
petitioner, representing ARMAGRI International Corporation8
("ARMAGRI"), applied for a letter of credit for P2,532,500.00
with SOLIDBANK Corporation ("Bank") to finance the purchase
of differential assemblies from Metropole Industrial Sales. On 6
July 1990, petitioner, representing ARMAGRI, executed a trust
receipt9 acknowledging receipt from the Bank of the goods
valued at P2,532,500.00.
On 12 July 1990, petitioner and Benito Ong, representing
ARMAGRI, applied for another letter of credit for P2,050,000.00
to finance the purchase of merchandise from Fertiphil
Corporation. The Bank approved the application, opened the
letter of credit and paid to Fertiphil Corporation the amount of
P2,050,000.00. On 23 July 1990, petitioner, signing for
ARMAGRI, executed another trust receipt10 in favor of the Bank
acknowledging receipt of the merchandise.
Both trust receipts contained the same stipulations. Under the
trust receipts, ARMAGRI undertook to account for the goods
held in trust for the Bank, or if the goods are sold, to turn over
the proceeds to the Bank. ARMAGRI also undertook the
obligation to keep the proceeds in the form of money, bills or
receivables as the separate property of the Bank or to return
the goods upon demand by the Bank, if not sold. In addition,

petitioner executed the following additional undertaking


stamped on the dorsal portion of both trust receipts:
I/We jointly and severally agreed to any increase or decrease in
the interest rate which may occur after July 1, 1981, when the
Central Bank floated the interest rates, and to pay additionally
the penalty of 1% per month until the amount/s or
installment/s due and unpaid under the trust receipt on the
reverse side hereof is/are fully paid.11
Petitioner signed alone the foregoing additional undertaking in
the Trust Receipt for P2,253,500.00, while both petitioner and
Benito Ong signed the additional undertaking in the Trust
Receipt for P2,050,000.00.
When the trust receipts became due and demandable,
ARMAGRI failed to pay or deliver the goods to the Bank despite
several demand letters.12 Consequently, as of 31 May 1991, the
unpaid account under the first trust receipt amounted to
P1,527,180.66,13 while the unpaid account under the second
trust receipt amounted to P1,449,395.71.14
Version of the Defense
After the prosecution rested its case, petitioner and Benito
Ong, through counsel, manifested in open court that they were
waiving their right to present evidence. The trial court then
considered the case submitted for decision.15
The Ruling of the Court of Appeals
Petitioner appealed his conviction to the Court of Appeals. On
27 October 1994, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's

decision in toto. Petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration


but the same was denied by the Court of Appeals in the
Resolution dated 18 April 1995.
The Court of Appeals held that although petitioner is neither a
director nor an officer of ARMAGRI, he certainly comes within
the term "employees or other x x x persons therein responsible
for the offense" in Section 13 of the Trust Receipts Law. The
Court of Appeals explained as follows:
It is not disputed that appellant transacted with the Solid Bank
on behalf of ARMAGRI. This is because the Corporation cannot
by itself transact business or sign documents it being an
artificial person. It has to accomplish these through its agents.
A corporation has a personality distinct and separate from
those acting on its behalf. In the fulfillment of its purpose, the
corporation by necessity has to employ persons to act on its
behalf.
Being a mere artificial person, the law (Section 13, P.D. 115)
recognizes the impossibility of imposing the penalty of
imprisonment on the corporation itself. For this reason, it is the
officers or employees or other persons whom the law holds
responsible.16
The Court of Appeals ruled that what made petitioner liable
was his failure to account to the entruster Bank what he
undertook to perform under the trust receipts. The Court of
Appeals held that ARMAGRI, which petitioner represented,
could not itself negotiate the execution of the trust receipts, go
to the Bank to receive, return or account for the entrusted

goods. Based on the representations of petitioner, the Bank


accepted the trust receipts and, consequently, expected
petitioner to return or account for the goods entrusted.17
The Court of Appeals also ruled that the prosecution need not
prove that petitioner is occupying a position in ARMAGRI in the
nature of an officer or similar position to hold him the
"person(s) therein responsible for the offense." The Court of
Appeals held that petitioner's admission that his participation
was merely incidental still makes him fall within the purview of
the law as one of the corporation's "employees or other
officials or persons therein responsible for the offense."
Incidental or not, petitioner was then acting on behalf of
ARMAGRI, carrying out the corporation's decision when he
signed the trust receipts.
The Court of Appeals further ruled that the prosecution need
not prove that petitioner personally received and
misappropriated the goods subject of the trust receipts.
Evidence of misappropriation is not required under the Trust
Receipts Law. To establish the crime of estafa, it is sufficient to
show failure by the entrustee to turn over the goods or the
proceeds of the sale of the goods covered by a trust receipt.
Moreover, the bank is not obliged to determine if the goods
came into the actual possession of the entrustee. Trust receipts
are issued to facilitate the purchase of merchandise. To
obligate the bank to examine the fact of actual possession by
the entrustee of the goods subject of every trust receipt will
greatly impede commercial transactions.

Hence, this petition.


The Issues
Petitioner seeks to reverse his conviction by contending that
the Court of Appeals erred:
1. IN RULING THAT, BY THE MERE CIRCUMSTANCE THAT
PETITIONER ACTED AS AGENT AND SIGNED FOR THE
ENTRUSTEE CORPORATION, PETITIONER WAS NECESSARILY
THE ONE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE OFFENSE; AND
2. IN CONVICTING PETITIONER UNDER SPECIFICATIONS NOT
ALLEGED IN THE INFORMATION.
The Ruling of the Court
The Court sustains the conviction of petitioner.
First Assigned Error: Petitioner comes within the purview of
Section 13 of the Trust Receipts Law.
Petitioner contends that the Court of Appeals erred in finding
him liable for the default of ARMAGRI, arguing that in signing
the trust receipts, he merely acted as an agent of ARMAGRI.
Petitioner asserts that nowhere in the trust receipts did he
assume personal responsibility for the undertakings of
ARMAGRI which was the entrustee.
Petitioner's arguments fail to persuade us.
The pivotal issue for resolution is whether petitioner comes
within the purview of Section 13 of the Trust Receipts Law
which provides:
x x x . If the violation is committed by a corporation,

partnership, association or other juridical entities, the penalty


provided for in this Decree shall be imposed upon the directors,
officers, employees or other officials or persons therein
responsible for the offense, without prejudice to the civil
liabilities arising from the offense. (Emphasis supplied)
We hold that petitioner is a person responsible for violation of
the Trust Receipts Law.
The relevant penal provision of the Trust Receipts Law reads:
SEC. 13. Penalty Clause. - The failure of the entrustee to turn
over the proceeds of the sale of the goods, documents or
instruments covered by a trust receipt to the extent of the
amount owing to the entruster or as appears in the trust receipt
or to return said goods, documents or instruments if they were
not sold or disposed of in accordance with the terms of the trust
receipt shall constitute the crime of estafa, punishable under
the provisions of Article Three Hundred and Fifteen, Paragraph
One (b), of Act Numbered Three Thousand Eight Hundred and
Fifteen, as amended, otherwise known as the Revised Penal
Code. If the violation or offense is committed by a corporation,
partnership, association or other juridical entities, the penalty
provided for in this Decree shall be imposed upon the directors,
officers, employees or other officials or persons therein
responsible for the offense, without prejudice to the civil
liabilities arising from the criminal offense. (Emphasis supplied)
The Trust Receipts Law is violated whenever the entrustee fails
to: (1) turn over the proceeds of the sale of the goods, or (2)
return the goods covered by the trust receipts if the goods are

not sold.18 The mere failure to account or return gives rise to


the crime which is malum prohibitum.19 There is no
requirement to prove intent to defraud.20
The Trust Receipts Law recognizes the impossibility of imposing
the penalty of imprisonment on a corporation. Hence, if the
entrustee is a corporation, the law makes the officers or
employees or other persons responsible for the offense liable to
suffer the penalty of imprisonment. The reason is obvious:
corporations, partnerships, associations and other juridical
entities cannot be put to jail. Hence, the criminal liability falls
on the human agent responsible for the violation of the Trust
Receipts Law.
In the instant case, the Bank was the entruster while ARMAGRI
was the entrustee. Being the entrustee, ARMAGRI was the one
responsible to account for the goods or its proceeds in case of
sale. However, the criminal liability for violation of the Trust
Receipts Law falls on the human agent responsible for the
violation. Petitioner, who admits being the agent of ARMAGRI,
is the person responsible for the offense for two reasons. First,
petitioner is the signatory to the trust receipts, the loan
applications and the letters of credit. Second, despite being the
signatory to the trust receipts and the other documents,
petitioner did not explain or show why he is not responsible for
the failure to turn over the proceeds of the sale or account for
the goods covered by the trust receipts.
The Bank released the goods to ARMAGRI upon execution of
the trust receipts and as part of the loan transactions of

ARMAGRI. The Bank had a right to demand from ARMAGRI


payment or at least a return of the goods. ARMAGRI failed to
pay or return the goods despite repeated demands by the Bank.
It is a well-settled doctrine long before the enactment of the
Trust Receipts Law, that the failure to account, upon demand,
for funds or property held in trust is evidence of conversion or
misappropriation.21 Under the law, mere failure by the
entrustee to account for the goods received in trust constitutes
estafa. The Trust Receipts Law punishes dishonesty and abuse
of confidence in the handling of money or goods to the
prejudice of public order.22 The mere failure to deliver the
proceeds of the sale or the goods if not sold constitutes a
criminal offense that causes prejudice not only to the creditor,
but also to the public interest.23 Evidently, the Bank suffered
prejudice for neither money nor the goods were turned over to
the Bank.
The Trust Receipts Law expressly makes the corporation's
officers or employees or other persons therein responsible for
the offense liable to suffer the penalty of imprisonment. In the
instant case, petitioner signed the two trust receipts on behalf
of ARMAGRI 24 as the latter could only act through its agents.
When petitioner signed the trust receipts, he acknowledged
receipt of the goods covered by the trust receipts. In addition,
petitioner was fully aware of the terms and conditions stated in
the trust receipts, including the obligation to turn over the
proceeds of the sale or return the goods to the Bank, to wit:
Received, upon the TRUST hereinafter mentioned from

SOLIDBANK CORPORATION (hereafter referred to as the BANK),


the following goods and merchandise, the property of said
BANK specified in the bill of lading as follows: x x x and in
consideration thereof, I/we hereby agree to hold said goods in
Trust for the said BANK and as its property with liberty to sell
the same for its account but without authority to make any
other disposition whatsoever of the said goods or any part
thereof (or the proceeds thereof) either by way of conditional
sale, pledge, or otherwise.
In case of sale I/we agree to hand the proceeds as soon as
received to the BANK to apply against the relative acceptance
(as described above) and for the payment of any other
indebtedness of mine/ours to SOLIDBANK CORPORATION.
xxx

xxx

xxx.

I/we agree to keep said goods, manufactured products, or


proceeds thereof, whether in the form of money or bills,
receivables, or accounts, separate and capable of identification
as the property of the BANK.
I/we further agree to return the goods, documents, or
instruments in the event of their non-sale, upon demand or
within ____ days, at the option of the BANK.
xxx

xxx

xxx. (Emphasis supplied)25

True, petitioner acted on behalf of ARMAGRI. However, it is a


well-settled rule that the law of agency governing civil cases has
no application in criminal cases. When a person participates in
the commission of a crime, he cannot escape punishment on

the ground that he simply acted as an agent of another party.26


In the instant case, the Bank accepted the trust receipts signed
by petitioner based on petitioner's representations. It is the
fact of being the signatory to the two trust receipts, and thus a
direct participant to the crime, which makes petitioner a person
responsible for the offense.
Petitioner could have raised the defense that he had nothing to
do with the failure to account for the proceeds or to return the
goods. Petitioner could have shown that he had severed his
relationship with ARMAGRI prior to the loss of the proceeds or
the disappearance of the goods. Petitioner, however, waived
his right to present any evidence, and thus failed to show that
he is not responsible for the violation of the Trust Receipts Law.
There is no dispute that on 6 July 1990 and on 23 July 1990,
petitioner signed the two trust receipts27 on behalf of
ARMAGRI. Petitioner, acting on behalf of ARMAGRI, expressly
acknowledged receipt of the goods in trust for the Bank.
ARMAGRI failed to comply with its undertakings under the trust
receipts. On the other hand, petitioner failed to explain and
communicate to the Bank what happened to the goods despite
repeated demands from the Bank. As of 13 May 1991, the
unpaid account under the first and second trust receipts
amounted to P1,527,180.60 and P1,449,395.71, respectively.28
Second Assigned Error: Petitioner's conviction under
theallegations in the two Informations for Estafa.
Petitioner argues that he cannot be convicted on a new set of
facts not alleged in the Informations. Petitioner claims that the

trial court's decision found that it was ARMAGRI that transacted


with the Bank, acting through petitioner as its agent. Petitioner
asserts that this contradicts the specific allegation in the
Informations that it was petitioner who was constituted as the
entrustee and was thus obligated to account for the goods or
its proceeds if sold. Petitioner maintains that this absolves him
from criminal liability.
We find no merit in petitioner's arguments.
Contrary to petitioner's assertions, the Informations explicitly
allege that petitioner, representing ARMAGRI, defrauded the
Bank by failing to remit the proceeds of the sale or to return the
goods despite demands by the Bank, to the latter's prejudice.
As an essential element of estafa with abuse of confidence, it is
sufficient that the Informations specifically allege that the
entrustee received the goods. The Informations expressly state
that ARMAGRI, represented by petitioner, received the goods
in trust for the Bank under the express obligation to remit the
proceeds of the sale or to return the goods upon demand by
the Bank. There is no need to allege in the Informations in what
capacity petitioner participated to hold him responsible for the
offense. Under the Trust Receipts Law, it is sufficient to allege
and establish the failure of ARMAGRI, whom petitioner
represented, to remit the proceeds or to return the goods to
the Bank.
When petitioner signed the trust receipts, he claimed he was
representing ARMAGRI. The corporation obviously acts only
through its human agents and it is the conduct of such agents

which the law must deter.29 The existence of the corporate


entity does not shield from prosecution the agent who
knowingly and intentionally commits a crime at the instance of
a corporation.30
Penalty for the crime of Estafa.
The penalty for the crime of estafa is prescribed in Article 315
of the Revised Penal Code, as follows:
1st. The penalty of prision correccional in its maximum period
to prision mayor in its minimum period, if the amount of the
fraud is over 12,000 pesos but does not exceed 22,000 pesos;
and if such amount exceeds the latter sum, the penalty
provided in this paragraph shall be imposed in its maximum
period, adding one year for each additional 10,000 pesos; but
the total penalty which may be imposed should not exceed
twenty years. x x x .
In the instant case, the amount of the fraud in Criminal Case
No. 92-101989 is P1,527,180.66. In Criminal Case No. 92101990, the amount of the fraud is P1,449,395.71. Since the
amounts of the fraud in each estafa exceeds P22,000.00, the
penalty of prision correccional maximum to prision mayor
minimum should be imposed in its maximum period as
prescribed in Article 315 of the Revised Penal Code. The
maximum indeterminate sentence should be taken from this
maximum period which has a duration of 6 years, 8 months and
21 days to 8 years. One year is then added for each additional
P10,000.00, but the total penalty should not exceed 20 years.
Thus, the maximum penalty for each count of estafa in this case

should be 20 years.
Under the Indeterminate Sentence Law, the minimum
indeterminate sentence can be anywhere within the range of
the penalty next lower in degree to the penalty prescribed by
the Code for the offense. The minimum range of the penalty is
determined without first considering any modifying
circumstance attendant to the commission of the crime and
without reference to the periods into which it may be
subdivided.31 The modifying circumstances are considered only
in the imposition of the maximum term of the indeterminate
sentence.32 Since the penalty prescribed in Article 315 is prision
correccional maximum to prision mayor minimum, the penalty
next lower in degree would be prision correccional minimum to
medium. Thus, the minimum term of the indeterminate penalty
should be anywhere within 6 months and 1 day to 4 years and
2 months.33
Accordingly, the Court finds a need to modify in part the
penalties imposed by the trial court. The minimum penalty for
each count of estafa should be reduced to four (4) years and
two (2) months of prision correccional.
As for the civil liability arising from the criminal offense, the
question is whether as the signatory for ARMAGRI, petitioner is
personally liable pursuant to the provision of Section 13 of the
Trust Receipts Law.
In Prudential Bank v. Intermediate Appellate Court,34 the Court
discussed the imposition of civil liability for violation of the
Trust Receipts Law in this wise:

It is clear that if the violation or offense is committed by a


corporation, partnership, association or other juridical entities,
the penalty shall be imposed upon the directors, officers,
employees or other officials or persons responsible for the
offense. The penalty referred to is imprisonment, the duration
of which would depend on the amount of the fraud as provided
for in Article 315 of the Revised Penal Code. The reason for this
is obvious: corporation, partnership, association or other
juridical entities cannot be put in jail. However, it is these
entities which are made liable for the civil liabilities arising from
the criminal offense. This is the import of the clause 'without
prejudice to the civil liabilities arising from the criminal
offense'. (Emphasis supplied)
In Prudential Bank, the Court ruled that the person signing the
trust receipt for the corporation is not solidarily liable with the
entrustee-corporation for the civil liability arising from the
criminal offense. He may, however, be personally liable if he
bound himself to pay the debt of the corporation under a
separate contract of surety or guaranty.
In the instant case, petitioner did not sign in his personal
capacity the solidary guarantee clause 35 found on the dorsal
portion of the trust receipts. Petitioner placed his signature
after the typewritten words "ARMCO INDUSTRIAL
CORPORATION" found at the end of the solidary guarantee
clause. Evidently, petitioner did not undertake to guaranty
personally the payment of the principal and interest of
ARMAGRI's debt under the two trust receipts.

In contrast, petitioner signed the stamped additional


undertaking without any indication he was signing for
ARMAGRI. Petitioner merely placed his signature after the
additional undertaking. Clearly, what petitioner signed in his
personal capacity was the stamped additional undertaking to
pay a monthly penalty of 1% of the total obligation in case of
ARMAGRI's default.
In the additional undertaking, petitioner bound himself to pay
"jointly and severally" a monthly penalty of 1% in case of
ARMAGRI's default. 35 Thus, petitioner is liable to the Bank for
the stipulated monthly penalty of 1% on the outstanding
amount of each trust receipt. The penalty shall be computed
from 15 July 1991, when petitioner received the demand letter,
36 until the debt is fully paid.
WHEREFORE, the assailed Decision is AFFIRMED with
MODIFICATION. In Criminal Case No. 92-101989 and in Criminal
Case No. 92-101990, for each count of estafa, petitioner
EDWARD C. ONG is sentenced to an indeterminate penalty of
imprisonment from four (4) years and two (2) months of prision
correctional as MINIMUM, to twenty (20) years of reclusion
temporal as MAXIMUM. Petitioner is ordered to pay
SOLIDBANK CORPORATION the stipulated penalty of 1% per
month on the outstanding balance of the two trust receipts to
be computed from 15 July 1991 until the debt is fully paid.
SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 194366

October 10, 2012

NAPOLEON D. NERI, ALICIA D. NERI-MONDEJAR, VISMINDA D.


NERI-CHAMBERS, ROSA D. NERI-MILLAN, DOUGLAS D. NERI,
EUTROPIA D. ILLUT-COCKINOS AND VICTORIA D. ILLUT-PIALA,
Petitioners, vs.HEIRS OF HADJI YUSOP UY AND JULPHA*
IBRAHIM UY, Respondents.
DECISION
PERLAS-BERNABE, J.:
In this Petition for Review on Certiorari1 under Rule 45 of the
Rules of Court, petitioners Napoleon D. Neri (Napoleon), Alicia
D. Neri-Mondejar (Alicia), Visminda D. Neri-Chambers
(Visminda), Rosa D. Neri-Millan (Rosa), Douglas D. Neri
(Douglas), Eutropia D. Illut-Cockinos (Eutropia), and Victoria D.
Illut-Piala (Victoria) seek to reverse and set aside the April 27,
2010 Decision2 and October 18, 2010 Resolution3 of the Court
of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CV No. 01031-MIN which annulled
the October 25, 2004 Decision4 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC)
of Panabo City, Davao del Norte and instead, entered a new one
dismissing petitioners complaint for annulment of sale,
damages and attorneys feesagainst herein respondents heirs
of spouses Hadji Yusop Uy and Julpha Ibrahim Uy (heirs of Uy).
The Facts
During her lifetime, Anunciacion Neri (Anunciacion) had seven
children, two (2) from her first marriage with Gonzalo Illut
(Gonzalo), namely: Eutropia and Victoria, and five (5) from her
second marriage with Enrique Neri (Enrique), namely:

Napoleon, Alicia, Visminda, Douglas and Rosa. Throughout the


marriage of spouses Enrique and Anunciacion, they acquired
several homestead properties with a total area of 296,555
square meters located in Samal, Davao del Norte, embraced by
Original Certificate of Title (OCT) Nos. (P-7998) P-21285, (P14608) P-51536 and P-20551 (P-8348)7issued on February 15,
1957, August 27, 1962 and July 7, 1967, respectively.
On September 21, 1977, Anunciacion died intestate. Her
husband, Enrique, in his personal capacity and as natural
guardian of his minor children Rosa and Douglas, together with
Napoleon, Alicia, and Vismindaexecuted an Extra-Judicial
Settlement of the Estate with Absolute Deed of Sale8 on July 7,
1979, adjudicating among themselves the said homestead
properties, and thereafter, conveying themto the late spouses
Hadji Yusop Uy and Julpha Ibrahim Uy (spouses Uy)for a
consideration of P 80,000.00.
On June 11, 1996, the children of Enrique filed a complaint for
annulment of saleof the said homestead properties against
spouses Uy (later substituted by their heirs)before the RTC,
docketed as Civil Case No.96-28, assailing the validity of the sale
for having been sold within the prohibited period.
Thecomplaint was later amended to include Eutropia and
Victoriaas additional plaintiffs for having been excluded and
deprived of their legitimes as childrenof Anunciacion from her
first marriage.
In their amended answer with counterclaim, the heirs of Uy
countered that the sale took place beyond the 5-year

prohibitory period from the issuance of the homestead patents.


They also denied knowledge of Eutropia and Victorias
exclusionfrom the extrajudicial settlement and sale of the
subject properties, and interposed further the defenses of
prescription and laches.
The RTC Ruling
On October 25, 2004, the RTC rendered a decision ordering,
among others, the annulment of the Extra-Judicial Settlement
of the Estate with Absolute Deed of Sale. It ruled that while the
sale occurred beyond the 5-year prohibitory period, the sale is
still void because Eutropia and Victoria were deprived of their
hereditary rights and that Enrique had no judicial authority to
sell the shares of his minor children, Rosa and Douglas.
Consequently, it rejected the defenses of laches and
prescription raised by spouses Uy, who claimed possession of
the subject properties for 17 years, holding that co-ownership
rights are imprescriptible.
The CA Ruling
On appeal, the CAreversed and set aside the ruling of the RTC
in its April 27, 2010 Decision and dismissed the complaint of the
petitioners. It held that, while Eutropia and Victoria had no
knowledge of the extrajudicial settlement and sale of the
subject properties and as such, were not bound by it, the CA
found it unconscionable to permit the annulment of the sale
considering spouses Uys possession thereof for 17 years, and
thatEutropia and Victoriabelatedlyfiled their actionin 1997,
ormore than two years fromknowledge of their exclusion as

heirs in 1994 when their stepfather died. It, however, did not
preclude the excluded heirs from recovering their legitimes
from their co-heirs.
Similarly, the CA declared the extrajudicial settlement and the
subsequent saleas valid and binding with respect to Enrique
and hischildren, holding that as co-owners, they have the right
to dispose of their respective shares as they consider necessary
or fit.While recognizing Rosa and Douglas to be minors at that
time, they were deemed to have ratified the sale whenthey
failed to question it upon reaching the age of majority.Italso
found laches to have set in because of their inaction for a long
period of time.
The Issues
In this petition, petitioners imputeto the CA the following
errors:
I. WHEN IT UPHELDTHE VALIDITY OF THE "EXTRA JUDICIAL
SETTLEMENT OF THE ESTATE WITH ABSOLUTE DEED OF SALE"
AS FAR AS THE SHARES OF EUTROPIA AND VICTORIA WERE
CONCERNED, THEREBY DEPRIVING THEM OF THEIR
INHERITANCE;
II. WHEN IT DID NOT NULLIFY OR ANNUL THE "EXTRA JUDICIAL
SETTLEMENT OF THE ESTATE WITH ABSOLUTE DEED OF SALE"
WITH RESPECT TO THE SHARESOF ROSA AND DOUGLAS,
THEREBY DEPRIVING THEM OF THEIR INHERITANCE; and
III. WHEN IT FOUND THAT LACHES OR PRESCRIPTION HAS SET
IN.

The Ruling of the Court


The petitionis meritorious.
It bears to stress that all the petitioners herein are indisputably
legitimate children of Anunciacion from her first and second
marriages with Gonzalo and Enrique, respectively, and
consequently, are entitled to inherit from her in equal shares,
pursuant to Articles 979 and 980 of the Civil Code which read:
ART. 979. Legitimate children and their descendants succeed
the parents and other ascendants, without distinction as to sex
or age, and even if they should come from different marriages.
xxx
ART. 980. The children of the deceased shall always inherit from
him in their own right, dividing the inheritance in equal shares.
As such, upon the death of Anunciacion on September 21,
1977, her children and Enrique acquired their respective
inheritances,9 entitling them to their pro indiviso shares in her
whole estate, as follows:
Enrique

9/16 (1/2 of the conjugal assets + 1/16)

Eutropia

1/16

Victoria

1/16

Napoleon

1/16

Alicia

1/16

Visminda

1/16

Rosa

1/16

Douglas

1/16

Hence, in the execution of the Extra-Judicial Settlement of the


Estate with Absolute Deed of Sale in favor of spouses Uy, all the
heirs of Anunciacionshould have participated. Considering that
Eutropia and Victoria were admittedly excluded and that then
minors Rosa and Douglas were not properly represented
therein, the settlement was not valid and binding uponthem
and consequently, a total nullity.
Section 1, Rule 74 of the Rules of Court provides:
SECTION 1. Extrajudicial settlement by agreement between
heirs. x x x
The fact of the extrajudicial settlement or administration shall
be published in a newspaper of general circulation in the
manner provided in the next succeeding section; but no
extrajudicial settlement shall be binding upon any person who
has not participated therein or had no notice thereof.
(Underscoring added)
The effect of excluding the heirs in the settlement of estate was
further elucidated in Segura v. Segura,10 thus:
It is clear that Section 1 of Rule 74 does not apply to the
partition in question which was null and void as far as the
plaintiffs were concerned. The rule covers only valid partitions.
The partition in the present case was invalid because it
excluded six of the nine heirs who were entitled to equal shares
in the partitioned property. Under the rule "no extrajudicial
settlement shall be binding upon any person who has not

participated therein or had no notice thereof." As the partition


was a total nullity and did not affect the excluded heirs, it was
not correct for the trial court to hold that their right to
challenge the partition had prescribed after two years from its
execution

to the approval of the Court of First Instance.

However, while the settlement of the estate is null and void,


the subsequent sale of the subject propertiesmade by Enrique
and his children, Napoleon, Alicia and Visminda, in favor of the
respondents isvalid but only with respect to their proportionate
shares therein.It cannot be denied that these heirs have
acquired their respective shares in the properties of
Anunciacion from the moment of her death11and that, as
owners thereof, they can very well sell their undivided share in
the estate.12

Corollarily, Section 7, Rule 93 of the Rules of Court also


provides:

With respect to Rosa and Douglas who were minors at the time
of the execution of the settlement and sale, their natural
guardian and father, Enrique, represented them in the
transaction. However, on the basis of the laws prevailing at that
time, Enrique was merely clothed with powers of
administration and bereft of any authority to dispose of their
2/16 shares in the estate of their mother, Anunciacion.
Articles 320 and 326 of the Civil Code, the laws in force at the
time of the execution of the settlement and sale, provide:
ART. 320. The father, or in his absence the mother, is the legal
administrator of the property pertaining to the child under
parental authority. If the property is worth more than two
thousand pesos, the father or mother shall give a bond subject

ART. 326. When the property of the child is worth more than
two thousand pesos, the father or mother shall be considered
a guardian of the childs property, subject to the duties and
obligations of guardians under the Rules of Court.

SEC. 7. Parents as Guardians. When the property of the child


under parental authority is worth two thousand pesos or less,
the father or the mother, without the necessity of court
appointment, shall be his legal guardian. When the property of
the child is worth more than two thousand pesos, the father or
the mother shall be considered guardian of the childs property,
with the duties and obligations of guardians under these Rules,
and shall file the petition required by Section 2 hereof. For good
reasons, the court may, however, appoint another suitable
persons.
Administration includes all acts for the preservation of the
property and the receipt of fruits according to the natural
purpose of the thing. Any act of disposition or alienation, or any
reduction in the substance of the patrimony of child, exceeds
the limits of administration.13 Thus, a father or mother, as the
natural guardian of the minor under parental authority, does
not have the power to dispose or encumber the property of the
latter. Such power is granted by law only to a judicial guardian
of the wards property and even then only with courts prior
approval secured in accordance with the proceedings set forth

by the Rules of Court.14


Consequently, the disputed sale entered into by Enrique in
behalf of his minor children without the proper judicial
authority, unless ratified by them upon reaching the age of
majority,15 is unenforceable in accordance with Articles 1317
and 1403(1) of the Civil Code which provide:
ART. 1317. No one may contract in the name of another
without being authorized by the latter or unless he has by law
a right to represent him.
A contract entered into in the name of another by one who has
no authority or legal representation, or who has acted beyond
his powers, shall be unenforceable, unless it is ratified,
expressly or impliedly, by the person on whose behalf it has
been executed, before it is revoked by the other contracting
party.
ART. 1403. The following contracts are unenforceable, unless
they are ratified:
(1) Those entered into the name of another person by one who
has been given no authority or legal representation, or who has
acted beyond his powers;
xxx
Ratification means that one under no disability voluntarily
adopts and gives sanction to some unauthorized act or
defective proceeding, which without his sanction would not be
binding on him. It is this voluntary choice, knowingly made,
which amounts to a ratification of what was theretofore

unauthorized, and becomes the authorized act of the party so


making the ratification.16 Once ratified, expressly or impliedly
such as when the person knowingly received benefits from it,
the contract is cleansed from all its defects from the moment it
was constituted,17 as it has a retroactive effect.
Records, however, show that Rosa had ratified the extrajudicial
settlement of the estate with absolute deed of sale. In
Napoleon and Rosas Manifestation18 before the RTC dated July
11, 1997,they stated:
"Concerning the sale of our parcel of land executed by our
father, Enrique Neri concurred in and conformed to by us and
our other two sisters and brother (the other plaintiffs), in favor
of Hadji Yusop Uy and his spouse Hadja Julpa Uy on July 7, 1979,
we both confirmed that the same was voluntary and freely
made by all of us and therefore the sale was absolutely valid
and enforceable as far as we all plaintiffs in this case are
concerned;" (Underscoring supplied)
In their June 30, 1997 Joint-Affidavit,19 Napoleon and Rosa also
alleged:
"That we are surprised that our names are included in this case
since we do not have any intention to file a case against Hadji
Yusop Uy and Julpha Ibrahim Uy and their family and we
respect and acknowledge the validity of the Extra-Judicial
Settlement of the Estate with Absolute Deed of Sale dated July
7, 1979;" (Underscoring supplied)
Clearly, the foregoing statements constitutedratification of the
settlement of the estate and the subsequent sale, thus, purging

all the defects existing at the time of its execution and


legitimizing the conveyance of Rosas 1/16 share in the estate
of Anunciacion to spouses Uy. The same, however, is not true
with respect to Douglas for lack of evidence showing
ratification.
Considering, thus, that the extrajudicial settlement with sale is
invalid and therefore, not binding on Eutropia, Victoria and
Douglas, only the shares ofEnrique, Napoleon, Alicia, Visminda
and Rosa in the homestead properties have effectivelybeen
disposed in favor of spouses Uy. "A person can only sell what
he owns, or is authorized to sell and the buyer can as a
consequence acquire no more than what the sellercan legally
transfer."20 On this score, Article 493 of the Civil Codeis
relevant, which provides:
Each co-owner shall have the full ownership of his part and of
the fruits and benefits pertaining thereto, and he may
therefore alienate, assign or mortgage it, and even substitute
another person in its enjoyment, except when personal rights
are involved. But the effect of the alienation or the mortgage,
with respect to the co-owners, shall be limited to the portion
which may be allotted to him in the division upon the
termination of the co-ownership.
Consequently, spouses Uy or their substituted heirs became
pro indiviso co-owners of the homestead properties with
Eutropia, Victoria and Douglas, who retained title to their
respective 1/16 shares. They were deemed to be holding the
3/16 shares of Eutropia, Victoria and Douglas under an implied

constructive trust for the latters benefit, conformably with


Article 1456 of the Civil Code which states:"if property is
acquired through mistake or fraud, the person obtaining it is,
by force of law, considered a trustee of an implied trust for the
benefit of the person from whom the property comes." As such,
it is only fair, just and equitable that the amount paid for their
shares equivalent to P 5,000.0021 each or a total of P 15,000.00
be returned to spouses Uy with legal interest.
On the issue of prescription, the Court agrees with petitioners
that the present action has not prescribed in so far as it seeks
to annul the extrajudicial settlement of the estate. Contrary to
the ruling of the CA, the prescriptive period of 2 years provided
in Section 1 Rule 74 of the Rules of
Court reckoned from the execution of the extrajudicial
settlement finds no application to petitioners Eutropia, Victoria
and Douglas, who were deprived of their lawful participation in
the subject estate. Besides, an "action or defense for the
declaration of the inexistence of a contract does not prescribe"
in accordance with Article 1410 of the Civil Code.
However, the action to recover property held in trust prescribes
after 10 years from the time the cause of action accrues,22
which is from the time of actual notice in case of unregistered
deed.23 In this case, Eutropia, Victoria and Douglas claimed to
have knowledge of the extrajudicial settlement with sale after
the death of their father, Enrique, in 1994 which spouses Uy
failed to refute. Hence, the complaint filed in 1997 was well
within the prescriptive period of 10 years.

WHEREFORE, the instant petition is GRANTED. The April 27,


2010 Decision and October 18, 2010 Resolution of the Court of
Appeals are REVERSED and SET ASIDE and a new judgment is
entered:
1. Declaring the Extra-Judicial Settlement of the Estate of
Anunciacion Neri NULL and VOID;
2. Declaring the Absolute Deed of Sale in favor of the late
spouses Hadji Yusop Uy and Julpha Ibrahim Uy as regards the
13/16 total shares of the late Enrique Neri, Napoleon Neri,
Alicia D. Neri-Mondejar, Visminda D. Neri-Chambers and Rosa
D. Neri-Millan VALID;
3. Declaring Eutropia D. Illut-Cockinos, Victoria D. Illut-Piala and
Douglas D. Neri as the LAWFUL OWNERS of the 3/16 portions
of the subject homestead properties, covered by Original
Certificate of Title Nos. (P-7998) P-2128, (P-14608) P-5153 and
P-20551 (P-8348); and
4. Ordering the estate of the late Enrique Neri, as well as
Napoleon Neri, Alicia D. Neri-Mondejar, Visminda D. NeriChambers and Rosa D. Neri-Millan to return to the respondents
jointly and solidarily the amount paid corresponding to the
3/16 shares of Eutropia, Victoria and Douglas in the total
amount of P 15,000.00, with legal interest at 6% per annum
computed from the time of payment until finality of this
decision and 12% per annum thereafter until fully paid.
No pronouncement as to costs.
SO ORDERED.

OROPESA VS OROPESA G.R. No. 184528


This is a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the
1997 Rules of Civil Procedure of the Decision[1] dated February
29, 2008, as well as the Resolution[2] dated September 16, 2008,
both rendered by the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No.
88449, entitled NILO OROPESA vs. CIRILO OROPESA. The
Court of Appeals issuances affirmed the Order[3] dated
September 27, 2006 and the Order[4] dated November 14, 2006
issued by the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Paraaque City,
Branch 260 in SP. Proc. Case No. 04-0016, which dismissed
petitioner Nilo Oropesas petition for guardianship over the
properties of his father, respondent Cirilo Oropesa (a widower),
and denied petitioners motion for reconsideration thereof,
respectively.
The facts of this case, as summed in the assailed Decision,
follow:
On January 23, 2004, the (petitioner) filed with
the Regional Trial Court of Paraaque City, a
petition for him and a certain Ms. Louie Ginez to
be appointed as guardians over the property of his
father, the (respondent) Cirilo Oropesa. The case
was docketed as SP Proc. No. 04-0016 and
raffled off to Branch 260.
In the said petition, it is alleged among others that
the (respondent) has been afflicted with several
maladies and has been sickly for over ten (10)
years already having suffered a stroke on April 1,

2003 and June 1, 2003, that his judgment and


memory [were] impaired and such has been
evident after his hospitalization; that even before
his stroke, the (respondent) was observed to have
had lapses in memory and judgment, showing
signs of failure to manage his property properly;
that due to his age and medical condition, he
cannot, without outside aid, manage his property
wisely, and has become an easy prey for deceit
and exploitation by people around him,
particularly Ms. Ma. Luisa Agamata, his
girlfriend.
In an Order dated January 29, 2004, the presiding
judge of the court a quo set the case for hearing,
and directed the court social worker to conduct a
social case study and submit a report thereon.
Pursuant to the abovementioned order, the Court
Social Worker conducted her social case study,
interviewing the (petitioner) and his witnesses.
The Court Social Worker subsequently submitted
her report but without any finding on the
(respondent) who refused to see and talk to the
social worker.
On July 6, 2004, the (respondent) filed his
Opposition to the petition for guardianship. On
August 3, 2004, the (respondent) filed his
Supplemental Opposition.
Thereafter, the (petitioner) presented his
evidence which consists of his testimony, and

that of his sister Gianina Oropesa Bennett, and


the (respondents) former nurse, Ms. Alma
Altaya.
After presenting evidence, the (petitioner) filed a
manifestation dated May 29, 2006 resting his
case. The (petitioner) failed to file his written
formal offer of evidence.
Thus, the (respondent) filed his Omnibus Motion
(1) to Declare the petitioner to have waived the
presentation of his Offer of Exhibits and the
presentation of his Evidence Closed since they
were not formally offered; (2) To Expunge the
Documents of the Petitioner from the Record;
and (3) To Grant leave to the Oppositor to File
Demurrer to Evidence.
In an Order dated July 14, 2006, the court a
quo granted the (respondents) Omnibus Motion.
Thereafter, the (respondent) then filed his
Demurrer to Evidence dated July 23,
2006.[5] (Citations omitted.)

The trial court granted respondents demurrer to evidence in an


Order dated September 27, 2006. The dispositive portion of
which reads:
WHEREFORE, considering that the petitioner
has failed to provide sufficient evidence to
establish that Gen. Cirilo O. Oropesa is
incompetent to run his personal affairs and to

administer his properties, Oppositors Demurrer


to Evidence is GRANTED, and the case is
DISMISSED.[6]

Petitioner moved for reconsideration but this was denied


by the trial court in an Order dated November 14, 2006, the
dispositive portion of which states:
WHEREFORE, considering that the
Court record shows that petitioner-movant has
failed to provide sufficient documentary and
testimonial evidence to establish that Gen. Cirilo
Oropesa is incompetent to run his personal affairs
and to administer his properties, the Court hereby
affirms its earlier Order dated 27 September
2006.
Accordingly, petitioners Motion for
Reconsideration is DENIED for lack of merit.[7]

Unperturbed, petitioner elevated the case to the Court of


Appeals but his appeal was dismissed through the now assailed
Decision dated February 29, 2008, the dispositive portion of
which reads:
WHEREFORE, premises considered the
instant appeal is DISMISSED. The assailed
orders of the court a quo dated September 27,
2006 and November 14, 2006 are AFFIRMED.[8]

A motion for reconsideration was filed by petitioner but


this was denied by the Court of Appeals in the similarly assailed
Resolution dated September 16, 2008. Hence, the instant
petition was filed.
Petitioner submits
consideration by this Court:

the

following

question

for

WHETHER RESPONDENT IS CONSIDERED


AN INCOMPETENT PERSON AS DEFINED
UNDER SECTION 2, RULE 92 OF THE
RULES OF COURT WHO SHOULD BE
PLACED UNDER GUARDIANSHIP[9]

After considering the evidence and pleadings on record,


we find the petition to be without merit.
Petitioner comes before the Court arguing that the
assailed rulings of the Court of Appeals should be set aside as it
allegedly committed grave and reversible error when it affirmed
the erroneous decision of the trial court which purportedly
disregarded the overwhelming evidence presented by him
showing respondents incompetence.
In Francisco v. Court of Appeals,[10] we laid out the
nature and purpose of guardianship in the following wise:
A guardianship is a trust relation of the
most sacred character, in which one person,
called a guardian acts for another called the ward
whom the law regards as incapable of managing
his own affairs. A guardianship is designed to

further the wards well-being, not that of the


guardian. It is intended to preserve the wards
property, as well as to render any assistance that
the ward may personally require. It has been
stated that while custody involves immediate
care and control, guardianship indicates not only
those responsibilities, but those of one inloco
parentis as well.[11]

In a guardianship proceeding, a court may appoint a


qualified guardian if the prospective ward is proven to be a
minor or an incompetent.
A reading of Section 2, Rule 92 of the Rules of Court
tells us that persons who, though of sound mind but by reason of
age, disease, weak mind or other similar causes, are incapable of
taking care of themselves and their property without outside aid
are considered as incompetents who may properly be placed
under guardianship. The full text of the said provision reads:
Sec. 2. Meaning of the word
incompetent. Under this rule, the word
incompetent includes persons suffering the
penalty of civil interdiction or who are
hospitalized lepers, prodigals, deaf and dumb
who are unable to read and write, those who are
of unsound mind, even though they have lucid
intervals, and persons not being of unsound
mind, but by reason of age, disease, weak mind,
and other similar causes, cannot, without outside
aid, take care of themselves and manage their

property, becoming thereby an easy prey for


deceit and exploitation.

We have held in the past that a finding that a person is


incompetent should be anchored on clear, positive and definite
evidence.[12] We consider that evidentiary standard unchanged
and, thus, must be applied in the case at bar.
In support of his contention that respondent is
incompetent and, therefore, should be placed in guardianship,
petitioner raises in his Memorandum[13] the following factual
matters:
a.

Respondent has been afflicted with several


maladies and has been sickly for over ten (10)
years already;

b.

During the time that respondent was


hospitalized at the St. Lukes Medical Center
after his stroke, he purportedly requested one
of his former colleagues who was visiting
him to file a loan application with the Armed
Forces of the Philippines Savings and Loan
Association, Inc. (AFPSLAI) for payment of
his hospital bills, when, as far as his children
knew, he had substantial amounts of money
in various banks sufficient to cover his
medical expenses;

c.

Respondents residence allegedly has been


left dilapidated due to lack of care and
management;

d.

The realty taxes for respondents various


properties remain unpaid and therefore
petitioner and his sister were supposedly
compelled to pay the necessary taxes;

e.

Respondent allegedly instructed petitioner


to sell his Nissan Exalta car for the reason
that the former would be purchasing another
vehicle, but when the car had been sold,
respondent did not procure another vehicle
and refused to account for the money earned
from the sale of the old car;

f.

Respondent withdrew at least $75,000.00


from a joint account under his name and his
daughters without the latters knowledge or
consent;

g.

There was purportedly one occasion where


respondent took a kitchen knife to stab
himself upon the orders of his girlfriend
during one of their fights;

h.

Respondent continuously allows his


girlfriend to ransack his house of groceries
and furniture, despite protests from his
children.[14]

Respondent denied the allegations made by petitioner


and cited petitioners lack of material evidence to support his
claims. According to respondent, petitioner did not present any

relevant documentary or testimonial evidence that would attest


to the veracity of his assertion that respondent is incompetent
largely due to his alleged deteriorating medical and mental
condition. In fact, respondent points out that the only medical
document presented by petitioner proves that he is indeed
competent to run his personal affairs and administer his
properties. Portions of the said document, entitled Report of
Neuropsychological Screening,[15] were quoted by respondent in
his Memorandum[16] to illustrate that said report in fact favored
respondents claim of competence, to wit:
General Oropesa spoke fluently in
English and Filipino, he enjoyed and participated
meaningfully in conversations and could be quite
elaborate in his responses on many of the test
items. He spoke in a clear voice and his
articulation was generally comprehensible. x x x.
xxxx
General Oropesa performed in the
average range on most of the domains that were
tested. He was able to correctly perform mental
calculations and keep track of number sequences
on a task of attention. He did BEST in visuoconstructional tasks where he had to copy
geometrical designs using tiles. Likewise, he was
able to render and read the correct time on the
Clock Drawing Test. x x x.
xxxx

x x x Reasoning abilities were generally


intact as he was able to suggest effective
solutions to problem situations. x x x.[17]

With the failure of petitioner to formally offer his


documentary evidence, his proof of his fathers incompetence
consisted purely of testimonies given by himself and his sister
(who were claiming interest in their fathers real and personal
properties) and their fathers former caregiver (who admitted to
be acting under their direction). These testimonies, which did
not include any expert medical testimony, were insufficient to
convince the trial court of petitioners cause of action and instead
lead it to grant the demurrer to evidence that was filed by
respondent.
Even if we were to overlook petitioners procedural lapse
in failing to make a formal offer of evidence, his documentary
proof were comprised mainly of certificates of title over real
properties registered in his, his fathers and his sisters names as
co-owners, tax declarations, and receipts showing payment of
real estate taxes on their co-owned properties, which do not in
any way relate to his fathers alleged incapacity to make
decisions for himself. The only medical document on record is
the aforementioned Report of Neuropsychological Screening
which was attached to the petition for guardianship but was
never identified by any witness nor offered as evidence. In any
event, the said report, as mentioned earlier, was ambivalent at
best, for although the report had negative findings regarding
memory lapses on the part of respondent, it also contained

findings that supported the view that respondent on the average


was indeed competent.
In an analogous guardianship case wherein the
soundness of mind of the proposed ward was at issue, we had
the occasion to rule that where the sanity of a person is at issue,
expert opinion is not necessary [and that] the observations of the
trial judge coupled with evidence establishing the persons state
of mental sanity will suffice.[18]
Thus, it is significant that in its Order dated November
14, 2006 which denied petitioners motion for reconsideration on
the trial courts unfavorable September 27, 2006 ruling, the trial
court highlighted the fatal role that petitioners own documentary
evidence played in disproving its case and, likewise, the trial
court made known its own observation of respondents physical
and mental state, to wit:
The Court noted the absence of any
testimony of a medical expert which states that
Gen. Cirilo O. Oropesa does not have the mental,
emotional, and physical capacity to manage his
own affairs. On the contrary, Oppositors
evidence includes a Neuropsychological
Screening Report which states that Gen.
Oropesa, (1) performs on the average range in
most of the domains that were tested; (2) is
capable of mental calculations; and (3) can
provide solutions to problem situations. The
Report concludes that Gen. Oropesa possesses
intact cognitive functioning, except for mildly
impaired abilities in memory, reasoning and

orientation. It is the observation of the Court


that oppositor is still sharp, alert and
able.[19] (Citation omitted; emphasis supplied.)

It is axiomatic that, as a general rule, only questions of


law may be raised in a petition for review on certiorari because
the Court is not a trier of facts.[20] We only take cognizance of
questions
of
fact
in
certain
exceptional
[21]
circumstances; however, we find them to be absent in the
instant case. It is also long settled that factual findings of the trial
court, when affirmed by the Court of Appeals, will not be
disturbed by this Court. As a rule, such findings by the lower
courts are entitled to great weight and respect, and are deemed
final and conclusive on this Court when supported by the
evidence on record.[22] We therefore adopt the factual findings
of the lower court and the Court of Appeals and rule that the
grant of respondents demurrer to evidence was proper under the
circumstances obtaining in the case at bar.
Section 1, Rule 33 of the Rules of Court provides:
Section 1. Demurrer to evidence. After
the plaintiff has completed the presentation of his
evidence, the defendant may move for dismissal
on the ground that upon the facts and the law the
plaintiff has shown no right to relief. If his
motion is denied, he shall have the right to
present evidence. If the motion is granted but on
appeal the order of dismissal is reversed he shall
be deemed to have waived the right to present
evidence.

A demurrer to evidence is defined as an objection by one


of the parties in an action, to the effect that the evidence which
his adversary produced is insufficient in point of law, whether
true or not, to make out a case or sustain the issue.[23] We have
also held that a demurrer to evidence authorizes a judgment on
the merits of the case without the defendant having to submit
evidence on his part, as he would ordinarily have to do, if
plaintiffs evidence shows that he is not entitled to the relief
sought.[24]
There was no error on the part of the trial court when it
dismissed the petition for guardianship without first requiring
respondent to present his evidence precisely because the effect
of granting a demurrer to evidence other than dismissing a cause
of action is, evidently, to preclude a defendant from presenting
his evidence since, upon the facts and the law, the plaintiff has
shown no right to relief.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the petition is
hereby DENIED. The assailed Decision dated February 29,
2008 as well as the Resolution dated September 16, 2008 of the
Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 88449 are AFFIRMED.
SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 191993

December 5, 2012

EDUARDO T. ABAD, Petitioner,


vs.
LEONARDO BIASON and GABRIEL A.
MAGNO, Respondents.
RESOLUTION
REYES, J.:
Before this Court is a Petition for Review
on Certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court seeking
to annul and set aside the Decision 1 dated August 28,
2009 and Resolution2 dated April 19, 2010 of the Court of
Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CV No; 90145.
The facts show that on March 19, 2007, petitioner
Eduardo Abad (Abad) filed a petition for guardianship
over the person and properties of Maura B. Abad (Maura)
with the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Dagupan City,
Branch 42, which was docketed as Sp. Proc. No. 20070050-D. In support thereof, Abad alleged that he
maintains residence at No. 14 B St. Paul Street,
Horseshoe Village, Quezon City and that he is Mauras
nephew. He averred that Maura, who is single, more than
ninety (90) years old and a resident of Rizal Street,
Poblacion, Mangaldan, Pangasinan, is in dire need of a
guardian who will look after her and her business affairs.
Due to her advanced age, Maura is already sickly and
can no longer manage to take care of herself and her
properties unassisted thus becoming an easy prey of
deceit and exploitation.3

Finding the petition sufficient in form and substance, the


RTC gave due course to the same and scheduled it for
hearing. When the petition was called for hearing on April
27, 2007, nobody entered an opposition and Abad was
allowed to present evidence ex parte. After Abad formally
offered his evidence and the case was submitted for
decision, Atty. Gabriel Magno filed a Motion for Leave to
Intervene, together with an Oppositionin- Intervention.
Subsequently, on June 14, 2007, Leonardo Biason
(Biason) filed a Motion for Leave to File Opposition to the
Petition and attached therewith his Opposition to the
Appointment of Eduardo Abad as Guardian of the Person
and Properties of Maura B. Abad. Specifically, Biason
alleged that he is also a nephew of Maura and that he
was not notified of the pendency of the petition for the
appointment of the latters guardian. He vehemently
opposed the appointment of Abad as Mauras guardian
as he cannot possibly perform his duties as such since
he resides in Quezon City while Maura maintains her
abode in Mangaldan, Pangasinan. Biason prayed that he
be appointed as Mauras guardian since he was
previously granted by the latter with a power of attorney
to manage her properties.4
On September 26, 2007, the RTC rendered a
Decision,5 denying Abads petition and appointing Biason
as Mauras guardian. The RTC disposed thus:
WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby denied. Petitioner
Eduardo T. Abad is found to be disqualified to act as
guardian of incompetent Maura B. Abad. Oppositor
Leonardo A. Biason is established by this Court to be in a

better position to be the guardian of said incompetent


Maura B. Abad.
The Court hereby fixes the guardianship bond at
[P]500,000.00 and the letters of guardianship shall be
issued only upon the submission of the bond, conditioned
on the following provisions of the Rule 94[,] Section 1, of
the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure:
a. To make and return to the Court within three (3)
months true and complete inventory of all the
estate, real and personal, of his ward which shall
come to his possession or knowledge or to the
possession or knowledge of any other person for
him;
b. To faithfully execute the duties of his trust, to
manage and dispose of the estate according to
these rules for the best interests of the ward, and
to provide for the proper care, custody x x x of the
ward;
c. To render a true and just account of all the
estate of the ward in his hands, and of all
proceeds or interest derived therefrom, and of the
management and disposition of the same, at the
time designated by these rules and such other
times as the court directs, and at the expiration of
his trust to settle his accounts with the court and
deliver and pay over all the estate, effects, and
moneys remaining in his hands, or due from him
on such settlement, to the person lawfully entitled
thereto;

d. To perform all orders of the court by him to be


performed.
SO ORDERED.6
Unyielding, Abad filed a motion for reconsideration of the
foregoing decision but the RTC denied the same in an
Order dated December 11, 2007.
Abad filed an appeal to the CA. He argued that the RTC
erred in disqualifying him from being appointed as
Mauras guardian despite the fact that he has all the
qualifications stated under the Rules. That he was not a
resident of Mangaldan, Pangasinan should not be a
ground for his disqualification as he had actively and
efficiently managed the affairs and properties of his aunt
even if he is residing in Metro Manila. Moreover, he was
expressly chosen by Maura to be her guardian.7
Abad further averred that no hearing was conducted to
determine the qualifications of Biason prior to his
appointment as guardian. He claimed that the RTC also
overlooked Mauras express objection to Biasons
appointment.8
On August 28, 2009, the CA issued a Decision,9 affirming
the decision of the RTC, the pertinent portions of which
read:
The petitioner-appellant may have been correct in
arguing that there is no legal requirement that the
guardian must be residing in the same dwelling place or
municipality as that of the ward or incompetent, and that

the Vancil vs. Belmes case cited by the court a quo which
held that "courts should not appoint as guardians persons
who are not within the jurisdiction of our courts" pertains
to persons who are not residents of the country.
However, we do not find that the court a quo, by deciding
to appoint the oppositor-appellee as guardian, has fallen
into grievous error.
For one, the oppositor-appellee, like petitioner-appellant,
is also a relative, a nephew of the incompetent. There are
no vices of character which have been established as to
disqualify him from being appointed as a guardian.
xxxx
Anent the claim of the petitioner-appellant that he has
been expressly chosen by her aunt to be her guardian as
evidenced by her testimony, although it could be given
weight, the same could not be heavily relied upon,
especially considering the alleged mental state of the
incompetent due to her advanced age.
xxxx
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the instant petition
is DISMISSED for lack of merit. The assailed decision of
the Regional Trial Court of Dagupan City, Branch 42
is AFFIRMED IN TOTO.
SO ORDERED.[10

Dissatisfied, Abad filed a motion for reconsideration but


the CA denied the same in a Resolution11 dated April 19,
2010, the dispositive portion of which reads:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Motion for
Reconsideration is DENIED for lack of merit.
SO ORDERED.12
On June 7, 2010, Abad filed a Petition for Review
on Certiorari with this Court. Subsequently, Maura filed a
Motion for Leave to Intervene,13 together with a Petitionin-Intervention.14
The instant petition raises the following assignment of
errors:
I
THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS
GRAVELY ERRED WHEN IT DENIED THE
PETITIONERS APPEAL AND AFFIRMED THE
TRIAL COURTS DECISION DESPITE VERY
CLEAR VIOLATIONS OF DUE PROCESS,
DISREGARD OF THE RULES, AND
IRREGULARITIES IN THE APPOINTMENT OF
RESPONDENT BIASON AS GUARDIAN;
II
THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS
GRAVELY ERRED WHEN IT DENIED THE
PETITIONERS APPEAL AND ERRONEOUSLY

UPHELD RESPONDENT BIASONS


APPOINTMENT AS GUARDIAN BASED ON
SOLE GROUND OF RESIDENCE, AND FAILED
TO CONSIDER THE REQUIREMENTS AND
QUALIFICATIONS PRESCRIBED BY THE
SUPREME COURT FOR THE APPOINTMENT
OF GUARDIAN.15
Abad contends that that CA erred in affirming the RTCs
decision despite the fact that it did not hold any hearing
to determine whether Biason possessed all the
qualifications for a guardian as provided by law. Further,
he was not given the opportunity to submit evidence to
controvert Biasons appointment.16
Abad also bewails his disqualification as guardian on the
sole basis of his residence. He emphasizes that it is not a
requirement for a guardian to be a resident of the same
locality as the ward, or to be living with the latter under
the same roof in order to qualify for the appointment. The
more significant considerations are that the person to be
appointed must be of good moral character and must
have the capability and sound judgment in order that he
may be able to take care of the ward and prudently
manage his assets.17
Unfortunately, pending the resolution of the instant
petition, Biason died. On May 11, 2012, Maura filed a
Manifestation and Motion,18 informing this Court that
Biason passed away on April 3, 2012 at SDS Medical
Center, Marikina City due to multiple organ failure, septic
shock, community acquired pneumonia high risk,
prostate CA with metastasis, and attached a copy of his

Death Certificate.19 Maura averred that Biasons death


rendered moot and academic the issues raised in the
petition. She thus prayed that the petition be dismissed
and the guardianship be terminated.
On June 20, 2012, this Court issued a
Resolution,20 requiring Abad to comment on the
manifestation filed by Maura. Pursuant to the Resolution,
Abad filed his Comment21 on August 9, 2012 and
expressed his acquiescence to Mauras motion to
dismiss the petition. He asseverated that the issues
raised in the petition pertain to the irregularity in the
appointment of Biason as guardian which he believed
had been rendered moot and academic by the latters
death. He also supported Mauras prayer for the
termination of the guardianship by asseverating that her
act of filing of a petition-in-intervention is indicative of the
fact that she is of sound mind and that she can
competently manage her business affairs.
We find Mauras motion meritorious.
An issue or a case becomes moot and academic when it
ceases to present a justiciable controversy, so that a
determination of the issue would be without practical use
and value. In such cases, there is no actual substantial
relief to which the petitioner would be entitled and which
would be negated by the dismissal of the petition.22
In his petition, Abad prayed for the nullification of the CA
Decision dated August 28, 2009 and Resolution dated
April 19, 2010, which dismissed his appeal from the
Decision dated September 26, 2007 of the RTC and

denied his motion for reconsideration, respectively.


Basically, he was challenging Biasons qualifications and
the procedure by which the RTC appointed him as
guardian for Maura. However, with Biasons demise, it
has become impractical and futile to proceed with
resolving the merits of the petition. It is a well-established
rule that the relationship of guardian and ward is
necessarily terminated by the death of either the
guardian or the ward.23 The supervening event of death
rendered it pointless to delve into the propriety of
Biasons appointment since the juridical tie between him
and Maura has already been dissolved. The petition,
regardless of its disposition, will not afford Abad, or
anyone else for that matter, any substantial
relief.1wphi1
Moreover, Abad, in his Comment, shared Mauras belief
that the petition has lost its purpose and even consented
to Mauras prayer for the dismissal of the petition.
WHEREFORE, in consideration of the foregoing
disquisitions, the petition is hereby DISMISSED.
SO ORDERED.

TRUSTEES
ADVENT CAPITAL AND
FINANCE
CORPORATION,
- NICASIO I. ALCANTARA and

versus

EDITHA I. ALCANTARA, G.R. No. 183050


On July 16, 2001 petitioner Advent Capital and Finance
Corporation (Advent Capital) filed a petition for
rehabilitation[1] with the Regional Trial Court (RTC)
of Makati City.[2] Subsequently, the RTC named Atty. Danilo L.
Concepcion as rehabilitation receiver.[3] Upon audit of Advent
Capitals books, Atty. Concepcion found that respondents
Nicasio and Editha Alcantara (collectively, the Alcantaras)
owed Advent Capital P27,398,026.59, representing trust fees
that it supposedly earned for managing their several trust
accounts.[4]
Prompted by this finding, Atty. Concepcion requested
Belson Securities, Inc. (Belson) to deliver to him, as Advent
Capitals rehabilitation receiver, the P7,635,597.50 in cash
dividends that Belson held under the Alcantaras Trust Account
95-013.Atty. Concepcion claimed that the dividends, as trust
fees, formed part of Advent Capitals assets. Belson refused,
however, citing the Alcantaras objections as well as the absence
of an appropriate order from the rehabilitation court.[5]
Thus, Atty. Concepcion filed a motion before the rehabilitation
court to direct Belson to release the money to him. He said that,
as rehabilitation receiver, he had the duty to take custody and

control of Advent Capitals assets, such as the sum of money that

the rehabilitation courts order. On January 30, 2008 the CA

Belson held on behalf of Advent Capitals Trust Department.[6]

rendered a decision,[10] granting the petition and directing Atty.


Concepcion to account for the dividends and deliver them to the
Alcantaras. The CA ruled that the Alcantaras owned those
dividends. They did not form part of Advent Capitals assets as
contemplated under the Interim Rules of Procedure on Corporate
Rehabilitation (Interim Rules).

The Alcantaras made a special appearance before the


rehabilitation court[7] to oppose Atty. Concepcions motion. They
claimed that the money in the trust account belonged to them
under their Trust Agreement[8] with Advent Capital. The latter,
they said, could not claim any right or interest in the dividends
generated by their investments since Advent Capital merely held
these in trust for the Alcantaras, the trustors-beneficiaries. For
this reason, Atty. Concepcion had no right to compel the
delivery of the dividends to him as receiver. The Alcantaras
concluded that, under the circumstances, the rehabilitation court

The CA pointed out that the rehabilitation proceedings


in this case referred only to the assets and liabilities of the
company proper, not to those of its Trust Department which held
assets belonging to other people. Moreover, even if the Trust
Agreement provided that Advent Capital, as trustee, shall have

had no jurisdiction over the subject dividends.


On February 5, 2007 the rehabilitation court granted Atty.

first lien on the Alcantaras financial portfolio for the payment of


its trust fees, the cash dividends in Belsons care cannot be

Concepcions motion.[9] It held that, under Rule 59, Section 6 of


the Rules of Court, a receiver has the duty to immediately take
possession of all of the corporations assets and administer the
same for the benefit of corporate creditors. He has the duty to
collect debts owing to the corporation, which debts form part of
its assets. Complying with the rehabilitation courts order and
Atty. Concepcions demand letter, Belson turned over the subject
dividends to him.

summarily applied to the payment of such charges. To enforce


its lien, Advent Capital has to file a collection suit. The
rehabilitation court cannot simply enforce the latters claim by
ordering Belson to deliver the money to it.[11]

Meanwhile, the Alcantaras filed a special civil action

The Issue Presented

of certiorari before the Court of Appeals (CA), seeking to annul

The CA denied Atty. Concepcion and Advent Capitals motion


for reconsideration,[12] prompting the filing of the present
petition for review under Rule 45.

The sole issue in this case is whether or not the cash


dividends held by Belson and claimed by both the Alcantaras
and Advent Capital constitute corporate assets of the latter that
the rehabilitation court may, upon motion, require to be
conveyed to the rehabilitation receiver for his disposition.
Ruling of the Court
Advent Capital asserts that the cash dividends in Belsons
possession formed part of its assets based on paragraph 9 of its
Trust Agreement with the Alcantaras, which states:
9. Trust Fee: Other Expenses As
compensation for its services hereunder, the
TRUSTEE shall be entitled to a trust or
management fee of 1 (one) % per annum
based on the quarterly average market value
of the Portfolio or a minimum annual fee
ofP5,000.00, whichever is higher. The said
trust or management fee shall automatically
be deducted from the Portfolio at the end of
each calendar quarter. The TRUSTEE shall
likewise be reimbursed for all reasonable and
necessary expenses incurred by it in the
discharge of its powers and duties under this
Agreement, and in all cases, the TRUSTEE
shall have a first lien on the Portfolio for the
payment of the trust fees and other
reimbursable expenses.

According to Advent Capital, it could automatically deduct its


management fees from the Alcantaras portfolio that they
entrusted to it. Paragraph 9 of the Trust Agreement provides that
Advent Capital could automatically deduct its trust fees from the
Alcantaras portfolio, at the end of each calendar quarter, with
the corresponding duty to submit to the Alcantaras a quarterly
accounting report within 20 days after.[13]
But the problem is that the trust fees that Advent Capitals
receiver was claiming were for past quarters. Based on the
stipulation, these should have been deducted as they became
due. As it happened, at the time Advent Capital made its move
to collect its supposed management fees, it neither had
possession nor control of the money it wanted to apply to its
claim. Belson, a third party, held the money in the Alcantaras
names. Whether it should deliver the same to Advent Capital or
to the Alcantaras is not clear. What is clear is that the issue as to
who should get the same has been seriously contested.
The practice in the case of banks is that they
automatically collect their management fees from the funds that
their clients entrust to them for investment or lending to
others. But the banks can freely do this since it holds or has
control of their clients money and since their trust agreement
authorized the automatic collection. If the depositor contests the

deduction, his remedy is to bring an action to recover the amount

2[14] of the Trust Agreement, includes not only the principal but

he claims to have been illegally deducted from his account.

also its income or proceeds. The trust property is only


fictitiously attributed by law to the trustee to the extent that the
rights and powers vested in a nominal owner shall be used by
him on behalf of the real owner.[15]

Here, Advent Capital does not allege that Belson had


already deducted the management fees owing to it from the
Alcantaras portfolio at the end of each calendar quarter. Had this
been done, it may be said that the money in Belsons possession
would technically be that of Advent Capital. Belson would be
holding such amount in trust for the latter. And it would be for
the Alcantaras to institute an action in the proper court against
Advent Capital and Belson for misuse of its funds.
But the above did not happen. Advent Capital did not
exercise its right to cause the automatic deduction at the end of
every quarter of its supposed management fee when it had full
control of the dividends. That was its fault. For their part, the
Alcantaras had the right to presume that Advent Capital had
deducted its fees in the manner stated in the contract. The burden
of proving that the fees were not in fact collected lies with
Advent Capital.
Further, Advent Capital or its rehabilitation receiver
cannot unilaterally decide to apply the entire amount of cash
dividends retroactively to cover the accumulated trust
fees. Advent Capital merely managed in trust for the benefit of
the Alcantaras the latters portfolio, which under Paragraph

The real owner of the trust property is the trustorbeneficiary. In this case, the trustors-beneficiaries are the
Alcantaras. Thus, Advent Capital could not dispose of the
Alcantaras portfolio on its own. The income and principal of the
portfolio could only be withdrawn upon the Alcantaras written
instruction or order to Advent Capital.[16] The latter could not
also assign or encumber the portfolio or its income without the
written consent of the Alcantaras.[17] All these are stipulated in
the Trust Agreement.
Ultimately, the issue is what court has jurisdiction to hear
and adjudicate the conflicting claims of the parties over the
dividends that Belson held in trust for their owners. Certainly,
not the rehabilitation court which has not been given the power
to resolve ownership disputes between Advent Capital and third
parties. Neither Belson nor the Alcantaras are its debtors or
creditors with interest in the rehabilitation.
Advent Capital must file a separate action for collection
to recover the trust fees that it allegedly earned and, with the trial
courts authorization if warranted, put the money in escrow for

payment to whoever it rightly belongs. Having failed to collect

action would defeat the purpose of corporate rehabilitation. In

the trust fees at the end of each calendar quarter as stated in the
contract, all it had against the Alcantaras was a claim for
payment which is a proper subject for an ordinary action for
collection. It cannot enforce its money claim by simply filing a
motion in the rehabilitation case for delivery of money
belonging to the Alcantaras but in the possession of a third party.

the first place, the Interim Rules do not exempt a company under
rehabilitation from availing of proper legal procedure for
collecting debt that may be due it. Secondly, Court records show
that Advent Capital had in fact sought to recover one of its assets
by filing a separate action for replevin involving a car that was
registered in its name.[19]

Rehabilitation proceedings are summary and nonadversarial in nature, and do not contemplate adjudication of
claims that must be threshed out in ordinary court
proceedings. Adversarial proceedings similar to that in ordinary
courts are inconsistent with the commercial nature of a

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED for lack of merit and


the assailed decision and resolution of the Court of Appeals in
CA-G.R. SP 98692 are AFFIRMED, without prejudice to any
action that petitioner Advent Capital and Finance Corp. or its
rehabilitation receiver might institute regarding the trust fees

rehabilitation case. The latter must be resolved quickly and


expeditiously for the sake of the corporate debtor, its creditors

subject of this case.

and other interested parties. Thus, the Interim Rules incorporate


the concept of prohibited pleadings, affidavit evidence in lieu of
oral testimony, clarificatory hearings instead of the traditional
approach of receiving evidence, and the grant of authority to the
court to decide the case, or any incident, on the basis of affidavits
and documentary evidence.[18]

SO ORDERED.

Here, Advent Capitals claim is disputed and requires a


full trial on the merits. It must be resolved in a separate action
where the Alcantaras claim and defenses may also be presented
and heard. Advent Capital cannot say that the filing of a separate

ADOPTION AND CUSTODY OF MINORS


G.R. No. 105308 September 25, 1998
HERBERT CANG, petitioner, vs.COURT OF APPEALS and
Spouses RONALD V. CLAVANO and MARIA CLARA CLAVANO,
respondents.
ROMERO, J.:

Can minor children be legally adopted without the written


consent of a natural parent on the ground that the latter has
abandoned them? The answer to this interesting query,
certainly not one of first impression, would have to be reached,
not solely on the basis of law and jurisprudence, but also the
hard reality presented by the facts of the case.
This is the question posed before this Court in this petition for
review on certiorari of the Decision 1 of the Court of Appeals
affirming the decree of adoption issued by the Regional Trial
Court of Cebu City, Branch 14, 2 in Special Proceedings No.
1744-CEB, "In the Matter of the Petition for Adoption of the
minors Keith, Charmaine and Joseph Anthony, all surnamed
Cang, Spouses Ronald V. Clavano and Maria Clara Diago
Clavano, petitioners."
Petitioner Herbert Cang and Anna Marie Clavano who were
married on January 27, 1973, begot three children, namely:
Keith, born on July 3, 1973; Charmaine, born on January 23,
1977, and Joseph Anthony, born on January 3, 1981.
During the early years of their marriage, the Cang couple's
relationship was undisturbed. Not long thereafter, however,
Anna Marie learned of her husband's alleged extramarital affair
with Wilma Soco, a family friend of the Clavanos.
Upon learning of her husband's alleged illicit liaison, Anna
Marie filed a petition for legal separation with alimony
pendente lite 3 with the then Juvenile and Domestic Relations
Court of Cebu 4 which rendered a decision 5 approving the joint
manifestation of the Cang spouses providing that they agreed

to "live separately and apart or from bed and board." They


further agreed:
(c) That the children of the parties shall be entitled to a monthly
support of ONE THOUSAND PESOS (P1,000.00) effective from
the date of the filing of the complaint. This shall constitute a
first lien on the net proceeds of the house and lot jointly owned
by the parties situated at Cinco Village, Mandaue City;
(d) That the plaintiff shall be entitled to enter into any contract
or agreement with any person or persons, natural or juridical
without the written consent of the husband; or any undertaking
or acts that ordinarily requires husband's consent as the parties
are by this agreement legally separated; 6
Petitioner then left for the United States where he sought a
divorce from Anna Marie before the Second Judicial District
Court of the State of Nevada. Said court issued the divorce
decree that also granted sole custody of the three minor
children to Anna Marie, reserving "rights of visitation at all
reasonable times and places" to petitioner. 7
Thereafter, petitioner took an American wife and thus became
a naturalized American citizen. In 1986, he divorced his
American wife and never remarried.
While in the United States, petitioner worked in Tablante
Medical Clinic earning P18,000.00 to P20,000.00 a month 8 a
portion of which was remitted to the Philippines for his
children's expenses and another, deposited in the bank in the
name of his children.

Meanwhile, on September 25, 1987, private respondents


Ronald V. Clavano and Maria Clara Diago Clavano, respectively
the brother and sister-in-law of Anna Marie, filed Special
Proceedings No. 1744-CEB for the adoption of the three minor
Cang children before the Regional Trial Court of Cebu. The
petition bears the signature of then 14-year-old Keith signifying
consent to his adoption. Anna Marie likewise filed an affidavit
of consent alleging that her husband had "evaded his legal
obligation to support" his children; that her brothers and sisters
including Ronald V. Clavano, had been helping her in taking care
of the children; that because she would be going to the United
States to attend to a family business, "leaving the children
would be a problem and would naturally hamper (her) jobseeking venture abroad;" and that her husband had "long
forfeited his parental rights" over the children for the following
reasons:
1. The decision in Civil Case No. JD-707 allowed her to enter into
any contract without the written consent of her husband;
2. Her husband had left the Philippines to be an illegal alien in
the United States and had been transferring from one place to
another to avoid detection by Immigration authorities, and
3. Her husband had divorced her.
Upon learning of the petitioner for adoption, petitioner
immediately returned to the Philippines and filed an opposition
thereto, alleging that, although private respondents Ronald and
Maria Clara Clavano were financially capable of supporting the
children while his finances were "too meager" compared to

theirs, he could not "in conscience, allow anybody to strip him


of his parental authority over his beloved children."
Pending resolution of the petition for adoption, petitioner
moved to reacquire custody over his children alleging that Anna
Marie had transferred to the United States thereby leaving
custody of their children to private respondents. On January 11,
1988, the Regional Trial Court of Cebu City, Branch 19, issued
an order finding that Anna Marie had, in effect, relinquished
custody over the children and, therefore, such custody should
be transferred to the father. The court then directed the
Clavanos to deliver custody over the minors to petitioner.
On March 27, 1990, the Regional Trial Court of Cebu City,
Branch 14, issued a decree of adoption with a dispositive
portion reading as follows:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the petition for adoption of
the minors Keith, Charmaine and Joseph Anthony all surnamed
Cang, by the petitioner-spouses Ronald V. Clavano and Maria
Clara Diago Clavano is hereby granted and approved. These
children shall henceforth be known and called as Keith D.
Clavano, Charmaine D. Clavano and Joseph Anthony D. Clavano
respectively. Moreover, this Decree of Adoption shall:
(1) Confer upon the adopted children the same rights and
duties as though they were in fact the legitimate children of the
petitioners;
(2) Dissolve the authority vested in the parents by nature, of
the children; and,

(3) Vest the same authority in the petitioners.


Furnish the Local Civil Registrar of Cebu City, Philippines with a
copy of this Decree of Adoption for registration purposes.
SO ORDERED.
In so ruling, the lower court was "impelled" by these reasons:
(1) The Cang children had, since birth, developed "close filial
ties with the Clavano family, especially their maternal uncle,"
petitioner Ronald Clavano.
(2) Ronald and Maria Clara Clavano were childless and, with
their printing press, real estate business, export business and
gasoline station and mini-mart in Rosemead, California, U.S.A.,
had substantial assets and income.
(3) The natural mother of the children, Anna Marie, nicknamed
"Menchu," approved of the adoption because of her heart
ailment, near-fatal accident in 1981, and the fact that she could
not provide them a secure and happy future as she "travels a
lot."
(4) The Clavanos could provide the children moral and spiritual
direction as they would go to church together and had sent the
children to Catholic schools.
(5) The children themselves manifested their desire to be
adopted by the Clavanos Keith had testified and expressed
the wish to be adopted by the Clavanos while the two younger
ones were observed by the court to have "snuggled" close to
Ronald even though their natural mother was around.
On the other hand, the lower court considered the opposition

of petitioner to rest on "a very shaky foundation" because of its


findings that:
(1) Petitioner was "morally unfit to be the father of his children"
on account of his being "an improvident father of his family"
and an "undisguised Lothario." This conclusion is based on the
testimony of his alleged paramour, mother of his two sons and
close friend of Anna Marie, Wilma Soco, who said that she and
petitioner lived as husband and wife in the very house of the
Cangs in Opao, Mandaue City.
(2) The alleged deposits of around $10,000 that were of
"comparatively recent dates" were "attempts at verisimilitude"
as these were joint deposits the authenticity of which could not
be verified.
(3) Contrary to petitioner's claim, the possibility of his
reconciliation with Anna Marie was "dim if not nil" because it
was petitioner who "devised, engineered and executed the
divorce proceedings at the Nevada Washoe County court."
(4) By his naturalization as a U.S. citizen, petitioner "is now an
alien from the standpoint of Philippine laws" and therefore,
how his "new attachments and loyalties would sit with his
(Filipino) children is an open question."
Quoting with approval the evaluation and recommendation of
the RTC Social Worker in her Child Study Report, the lower
court concluded as follows:
Simply put, the oppositor Herbert Cang has abandoned his
children. And abandonment of a child by its (sic) parent is

commonly specified by statute as a ground for dispensing with


his consent to its (sic) adoption (Re Cozza, 163 Cal. 514 P. 161,
Ann. [As. 1914A, 214]). Indeed, in such case, adoption will be
allowed not only without the consent of the parent, but even
against his opposition (Re McKeag, 141 Cal. 403, 74 P. 1039, 99
Am. St. Rep. 80; Re Camp. 131 Gal. 469,63 P. 736, 82 Am. St.
Rep. 371; Graham v. Francis, 83 Colo. 346, 265 P. 690, citing
R.C.L.; Seibert, 170 Iowa, 561, 153 N.W. 160, citing R.C.L.;
Steams v. Allen, 183 Mass. 404, 67 N.E. 349; 97 Am. St. Rep.
441; Wilson v. Otis, 71 N.H. 483, 53 A. 439, 93 Am. St. Rep. 564;
Nugent v. Powell, 4 Wyo, 173, 33 P. 23, 20 L.R.A. 199, 62 Am.
St. Rep. 17.) 9
Before the Court of Appeals, petitioner contended that the
lower court erred in holding that it would be in the best interest
of the three children if they were adopted by private
respondents Ronald and Maria Clara Clavano. He asserted that
the petition for adoption was fatally defective and tailored to
divest him of parental authority because: (a) he did not have a
written consent to the adoption; (b) he never abandoned his
children; (c) Keith and Charmaine did not properly give their
written consent; and (d) the petitioners for adoption did not
present as witness the representative of the Department of
Social Welfare and Development who made the case study
report required by law.
The Court of Appeals affirmed the decree of adoption stating:
Art. 188 of the Family Code requires the written consent of the
natural parents of the child to be adopted. It has been held

however that the consent of the parent who has abandoned


the child is not necessary (Dayrit vs. Piccio, 92 Phil. 729; Santos
vs. Ananzanso, 16 SCRA 344). The question therefore is
whether or not oppositor may be considered as having
abandoned the children. In adoption cases, abandonment
connotes any conduct on the part of the parent to forego
parental duties and relinquish parental claims to the child, or
the neglect or refusal to perform the natural and legal
obligations which parents owe their children (Santos vs.
Ananzanso, supra), or the withholding of the parent's presence,
his care and the opportunity to display voluntary affection. The
issue of abandonment is amply covered by the discussion of the
first error.
Oppositor argues that he has been sending dollar remittances
to the children and has in fact even maintained bank accounts
in their names. His duty to provide support comes from two
judicial pronouncements. The first, the decision in JD-707 CEB,
supra, obliges him to pay the children P1,000.00 a month. The
second is mandated by the divorce decree of the Nevada, U.S.A.
Federal Court which orders him to pay monthly support of
US$50.00 for each child. Oppositor has not submitted any
evidence to show compliance with the decision in JD-101 CEB,
but he has submitted 22 cancelled dollar checks (Exhs. 24 to 45)
drawn in the children's names totalling $2,126.98. The last
remittance was on October 6, 1987 (Exh. 45). His obligation to
provide support commenced under the divorce decree on May
5, 1982 so that as of October 6, 1987, oppositor should have

made 53 remittances of $150.00, or a total of $7,950.00. No


other remittances were shown to have been made after
October 6, 1987, so that as of this date, oppositor was woefully
in arrears under the terms of the divorce decree. And since he
was totally in default of the judgment in JD-707 CEB, the
inevitable conclusion is oppositor had not really been
performing his duties as a father, contrary to his protestations.
True, it has been shown that oppositor had opened three
accounts in different banks, as follows
Acct. No. Date Opened Balance Name of Bank

1) 118-606437-4 July 23, 1985 $5,018.50 Great Western
Savings,
Oct. 29, 1987 Daly City, Cal., U.S.A.
2) 73-166-8 March 5, 1986 3,129.00 Matewan National Bank
Oct. 26, 1987 of Williamson, West
Virginia, U.S.A.
3) 564-146883 December 31, 1986 2,622.19 Security Pacific
National
Oct. 29, 1987 Bank, Daly City, Cal.,
U.S.A.
The first and third accounts were opened however in
oppositor's name as trustee for Charmaine Cang and Joseph
Anthony Cang, respectively. In other words, the accounts are
operated and the amounts withdrawable by oppositor himself

and it cannot be said that they belong to the minors. The


second is an "or" account, in the names of Herbert Cang or
Keith Cang. Since Keith is a minor and in the Philippines, said
account is operable only by oppositor and the funds
withdrawable by him alone.
The bank accounts do not really serve what oppositor claimed
in his offer of evidence "the aim and purpose of providing for a
better future and security of his family." 10
Petitioner moved to reconsider the decision of the Court of
Appeals. He emphasized that the decree of legal separation was
not based on the merits of the case as it was based on a
manifestation amounting to a compromise agreement
between him and Anna Marie. That he and his wife agreed
upon the plan for him to leave for the United States was borne
out by the fact that prior to his departure to the United States,
the family lived with petitioner's parents. Moreover, he alone
did not instigate the divorce proceedings as he and his wife
initiated the "joint complaint" for divorce.
Petitioner argued that the finding that he was not fit to rear and
care for his children was belied by the award to him of custody
over the children in Civil Case No. JD-707. He took exception to
the appellate court's findings that as an American citizen he
could no longer lay claim to custody over his children because
his citizenship would not take away the fact that he "is still a
father to his children." As regards his alleged illicit relationship
with another woman, he had always denied the same both in
Civil Case No. JD-707 and the instant adoption case. Neither

was it true that Wilma Soco was a neighbor and family friend of
the Clavanos as she was residing in Mandaue City seven (7)
kilometers away from the Clavanos who were residents of Cebu
City. Petitioner insisted that the testimony of Wilma Soco
should not have been given weight for it was only during the
hearing of the petition for adoption that Jose Clavano, a brother
of Ronald, came to know her and went to her residence in Iligan
City to convince her to be a witness for monetary
considerations. Lastly, petitioner averred that it would be
hypocritical of the Clavanos to claim that they could love the
children much more than he could. 11
His motion for reconsideration having been denied, petitioner
is now before this Court, alleging that the petition for adoption
was fatally defective as it did not have his written consent as a
natural father as required by Article 31 (2) of Presidential
Decree No. 603, the Child and Youth Welfare Code, and Article
188 (2) of the Family Code.
Art. 31 of P.D. No. 603 provides
Art. 31. Whose Consent is Necessary. The written consent of
the following to the adoption shall be necessary:
(1) The person to be adopted, if fourteen years of age or, over;
(2) The natural parents of the child or his legal guardian of the
Department of Social Welfare or any duly licensed child
placement agency under whose care the child may be;
(3) The natural children, fourteen years and above, of the
adopting parents. (Emphasis supplied)

On December 17, 1986, then President Corazon C. Aquino


issued Executive Order No. 91 amending Articles 27, 28, 29, 31,
33 and 35 of the Child and Youth Welfare Code. As thus
amended, Article 31 read:
Art. 31. Whose Consent is Necessary. The written consent of
the following to the adoption shall be necessary:
(1) The person to be adopted, if fourteen years of age or over;
(2) The natural parents of the child or his legal guardian after
receiving counselling and appropriate social services from the
Ministry of Social Services and Development or from a duly
licensed child-placement agency;
(3) The Ministry of Social Services and Development or any duly
licensed child-placement agency under whose care and legal
custody the child may be;
(4) The natural children, fourteen years and above, of the
adopting parents. (Emphasis supplied)
Jurisdiction being a matter of substantive law, the established
rule is that the statute in force at the time of the
commencement of the action determines the jurisdiction of the
court. 12 As such, when private respondents filed the petition
for adoption on September 25, 1987, the applicable law was the
Child and Youth Welfare Code, as amended by Executive Order
No. 91.
During the pendency of the petition for adoption or on August
3, 1988, the Family Code which amended the Child and Youth
Welfare Code took effect. Article 256 of the Family Code

provides for its retroactivity "insofar as it does not prejudice or


impair vested or acquired rights in accordance with the Civil
Code or other laws." As amended by the Family Code, the
statutory provision on consent for adoption now reads:
Art. 188. The written consent of the following to the adoption
shall be necessary:
(1) The person to be adopted, if ten years of age or over;
(2) The parents by nature of the child, the legal guardian, or the
proper government instrumentality;
(3) The legitimate and adopted children, ten years of age or
over, of the adopting parent or parents;
(4) The illegitimate children, ten years of age or over, of the
adopting parents, if living with said parent and the latter's
spouse, if any; and
(5) The spouse, if any, of the person adopting or to be adopted.
(Emphasis supplied)
Based on the foregoing, it is thus evident that notwithstanding
the amendments to the law, the written consent of the natural
parent to the adoption has remained a requisite for its validity.
Notably, such requirement is also embodied in Rule 99 of the
Rules of Court as follows:
Sec. 3. Consent to adoption. There shall be filed with the
petition a written consent to the adoption signed by the child,
if fourteen years of age or over and not incompetent, and by
the child's spouse, if any, and by each of its known living parents
who is not insane or hopelessly intemperate or has not

abandoned the child, or if the child is in the custody of an


orphan asylum, children's home, or benevolent society or
person, by the proper officer or officers of such asylum, home,
or society, or by such persons; but if the child is illegitimate and
has not been recognized, the consent of its father to the
adoption shall not be required. (Emphasis supplied)
As clearly inferred from the foregoing provisions of law, the
written consent of the natural parent is indispensable for the
validity of the decree of adoption. Nevertheless, the
requirement of written consent can be dispensed with if the
parent has abandoned the child 13 or that such parent is "insane
or hopelessly intemperate." The court may acquire jurisdiction
over the case even, without the written consent of the parents
or one of the parents provided that the petition for adoption
alleges facts sufficient to warrant exemption from compliance
therewith. This is in consonance with the liberality with which
this Court treats the procedural aspect of adoption. Thus, the
Court declared:
. . . . The technical rules of pleading should not be stringently
applied to adoption proceedings, and it is deemed more
important that the petition should contain facts relating to the
child and its parents, which may give information to those
interested, than that it should be formally correct as a pleading.
Accordingly, it is generally held that a petition will confer
jurisdiction if it substantially complies with the adoption
statute, alleging all facts necessary to give the court jurisdiction.
14

In the instant case, only the affidavit of consent of the natural


mother was attached to the petition for adoption. Petitioner's
consent, as the natural father is lacking. Nonetheless, the
petition sufficiently alleged the fact of abandonment of the
minors for adoption by the natural father as follows:

the oppositor natural parent is a preliminary issue that an


adoption court must first confront. Only upon, failure of the
oppositor natural father to prove to the satisfaction of the court
that he did not abandon his child may the petition for adoption
be considered on its merits.

3. That the children's mother, sister of petitioner RONALD V.


CLAVANO, has given her express consent to this adoption, as
shown by Affidavit of Consent, Annex "A". Likewise, the written
consent of Keith Cang, now 14 years of age appears on page 2
of this petition; However, the father of the children, Herbert
Cang, had already left his wife and children and had already
divorced the former, as evidenced by the xerox copy of the
DECREE OF DIVORCE issued by the County of Washoe, State of
Nevada, U.S.A. (Annex "B") which was filed at the instance of
Mr. Cang, not long after he abandoned his family to live in the
United States as an illegal immigrant. 15

As a rule, factual findings of the lower courts are final and


binding upon this Court. 17 This Court is not expected nor
required to examine or contrast the oral and documentary
evidence submitted by the parties. 18 However, although this
Court is not a trier of facts, it has the authority to review and
reverse the factual findings of the lower courts if it that these
do not conform to the evidence on record. 19

The allegations of abandonment in the petition for adoption,


even absent the written consent of petitioner, sufficiently
vested the lower court with jurisdiction since abandonment of
the child by his natural parents is one of the circumstances
under which our statutes and jurisprudence 16 dispense with
the requirement of written consent to the adoption of their
minor children.
However, in cases where the father opposes the adoption
primarily because his consent thereto was not sought, the
matter of whether he had abandoned his child becomes a
proper issue for determination. The issue of abandonment by

In Reyes v. Court of Appeals, 20 this Court has held that the


exceptions to the rule that factual findings of the trial court are
final and conclusive and may not be reviewed on appeal are the
following: (1) when the inference made is manifestly mistaken,
absurd or impossible; (2) when there is a grave abuse of
discretion; (3) when the finding is grounded entirely on
speculations, surmises or conjectures; (4) when the judgment
of the Court of Appeals is based on misapprehension of facts;
(5) when the findings of fact are conflicting; (6) when the Court
of Appeals, in making its findings, went beyond the issues of the
case and the same is contrary to the admissions of both
appellant and appellee; (7) when the findings of the Court of
Appeals are contrary to those of the trial court; (8) when the
findings of fact are conclusions without citation of specific
evidence on which they are based; (9) when the Court of

Appeals manifestly overlooked certain relevant facts not


disputed by the parties and which, if properly considered,
would justify a different conclusion and (10) when the findings
of fact of the Court of Appeals are premised on the absence of
evidence and are contradicted by the evidence on record.
This Court finds that both the lower court and the Court of
Appeals failed to appreciate facts and circumstances that
should have elicited a different conclusion 21 on the issue of
whether petitioner has so abandoned his children, thereby
making his consent to the adoption unnecessary.
In its ordinary sense, the word "abandon'' means to forsake
entirely, to forsake or renounce utterly. The dictionaries trace
this word to the root idea of "putting under a ban." The
emphasis is on the finality and publicity with which a thing or
body is thus put in the control of another, hence, the meaning
of giving up absolutely, with intent never to resume or claim
one's rights or interests. 22 In reference to abandonment of a
child by his parent, the act of abandonment imports "any
conduct of the parent which evinces a settled purpose to forego
all parental duties and relinquish all parental claims to the
child." It means "neglect or refusal to perform the natural and
legal obligations of care and support which parents owe their
children." 23
In the instant case, records disclose that petitioner's conduct
did not manifest a settled purpose to forego all parental duties
and relinquish all parental claims over his children as to,
constitute abandonment. Physical estrangement alone,

without financial and moral desertion, is not tantamount to


abandonment. 24 While admittedly, petitioner was physically
absent as he was then in the United States, he was not remiss
in his natural and legal obligations of love, care and support for
his children. He maintained regular communication with his
wife and children through letters and telephone. He used to
send packages by mail and catered to their whims.
Petitioner's testimony on the matter is supported by
documentary evidence consisting of the following handwritten
letters to him of both his wife and children:
1. Exh. 1 a 4-page updated letter of Menchu (Anna Marie)
addressed to "Dear Bert" on a C. Westates Carbon Phil. Corp.
stationery. Menchu stated therein that it had been "a long time
since the last time you've heard from me excluding that of the
phone conversation we've had." She discussed petitioner's
intention to buy a motorbike for Keith, expressing
apprehension over risks that could be engendered by Keith's
use of it. She said that in the "last phone conversation" she had
with petitioner on the birthday of "Ma," she forgot to tell
petitioner that Keith's voice had changed; he had become a
"bagito" or a teen-ager with many "fans" who sent him
Valentine's cards. She told him how Charmaine had become
quite a talkative "almost dalaga" who could carry on a
conversation with her angkong and how pretty she was in
white dress when she won among the candidates in the Flores
de Mayo after she had prayed so hard for it. She informed him,
however, that she was worried because Charmaine was vain

and wont to extravagance as she loved clothes. About Joeton


(Joseph Anthony), she told petitioner that the boy was smart
for his age and "quite spoiled" being the youngest of the
children in Lahug. Joeton was mischievous but Keith was his idol
with whom he would sleep anytime. She admitted having said
so much about the children-because they might not have
informed petitioner of "some happenings and spices of life"
about themselves. She said that it was "just very exciting to
know how they've grown up and very pleasant, too, that each
of them have (sic) different characters." She ended the letter
with the hope that petitioner was "at the best of health." After
extending her regards "to all," she signed her name after the
word "Love." This letter was mailed on July 9, 1986 from Cebu
to petitioner whose address was P.O. Box 2445, Williamson,
West Virginia 25661 (Exh. 1-D).

so were their needs. She told petitioner to be "very fatherly"


about the children's needs because those were expensive here.
For herself, Anna Marie asked for a subscription of Glamour and
Vogue magazines and that whatever expenses he would incur,
she would "replace" these. As a postscript, she told petitioner
that Keith wanted a size 6 khaki-colored "Sperry topsider
shoes."

2. Exh. 2 letter dated 11/13/84 on a green stationery with


golden print of "a note from Menchu" on the left upper corner.
Anna Marie stated that "we" wrote to petitioner on Oct. 2, 1984
and that Keith and Joeton were very excited when petitioner
"called up last time." She told him how Joeton would grab the
phone from Keith just so petitioner would know what he
wanted to order. Charmaine, who was asleep, was so
disappointed that she missed petitioner's call because she also
wanted something that petitioner should buy. Menchu told
petitioner that Charmaine wanted a pencil sharpener, lightcolored T-shirts for her walking shorts and a (k)nap sack. Anna
Marie informed petitioner that the kids were growing up and

Sincerely,

3. Exh. 3 an undated note on a yellow small piece of paper


that reads:
Dear Herbert,
Hi, how was Christmas and New Year? Hope you had a
wonderful one.
By the way thanks for the shoes, it was a nice one. It's nice to
be thought of at X'mas. Thanks again.
Menchu
4. Exh. 4 a two-page undated letter of Keith on stationery of
Jose Clavano, Inc. addressed to "Dear Dad." Keith told his father
that they tried to tell their mother "to stay for a little while, just
a few weeks after classes start(s)" on June 16. He informed
petitioner that Joeton would be in Kinder I and that, about the
motorbike, he had told his mother to write petitioner about it
and "we'll see what you're (sic) decision will be." He asked for
chocolates, nuts, basketball shirt and shorts, rubber shoes,
socks, headband, some clothes for outing and perfume. He told
petitioner that they had been going to Labug with their mother

picking them up after Angkong or Ama had prepared lunch or


dinner. From her aerobics, his mother would go for them in
Lahug at about 9:30 or 10:00 o'clock in the evening. He wished
his father "luck and the best of health" and that they prayed for
him and their other relatives. The letter was ended with "Love
Keith."
5. Exh. 5 another undated long letter of Keith. He thanked
his father for the Christmas card "with $40.00, $30.00 and
$30.00" and the "card of Joeton with $5.00 inside." He told
petitioner the amounts following his father's instructions and
promise to send money through the mail. He asked his father
to address his letter directly to him because he wanted to open
his own letters. He informed petitioner of activities during the
Christmas season that they enjoyed eating, playing and
giving surprises to their mother. He apprised him of his daily
schedule and that their mother had been closely supervising
them, instructing them to fold their blankets and pile up their
pillows. He informed petitioner that Joeton had become very
smart while Charmaine, who was also smart, was very
demanding of their mother. Because their mother was leaving
for the United States on February 5, they would be missing her
like they were missing petitioner. He asked for his "things" and
$200.00. He told petitioner more anecdotes about Joeton like
he would make the sign of the cross even when they would pass
by the Iglesia ni Cristo church and his insistence that Aquino
was not dead because he had seen him on the betamax
machine. For Keith, Charmaine had become "very maldita" who

was not always satisfied with her dolls and things but Joeton
was full of surprises. He ended the letter with "Love your son,
Keith." The letter was mailed on February 6, 1985 (Exh. 5-D).
6. Exh. 6 an undated letter Charmaine. She thanked
petitioner for the bathing suit, key chain, pencil box, socks, half
shirt, pencil sharpener and $50.00. She reminded him of her
birthday on January 23 when she would turn 9 years old. She
informed him that she wore size 10 and the size of her feet was
IM. They had fun at Christmas in Lahug but classes would start
on January 9 although Keith's classes had started on January 6.
They would feel sad again because Mommy would be leaving
soon. She hoped petitioner would keep writing them. She
signed, "Love, Charmaine."
7. Exh . 7 an undated letter of Keith. He explained to
petitioner that they had not been remiss in writing letters to
him. He informed him of their trip to Manila they went to
Malacaang, Tito Doy Laurel's house, the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs, the executive house, Tagaytay for three days and
Baguio for one week. He informed him that he got "honors,"
Charmaine was 7th in her class and Joeton had excellent
grades. Joeton would be enrolled in Sacred Heart soon and he
was glad they would be together in that school. He asked for
his "reward" from petitioner and so with Charmaine and
Joeton. He asked for a motorbike and dollars that he could save.
He told petitioner that he was saving the money he had been
sending them. He said he missed petitioner and wished him the
best. He added that petitioner should call them on Sundays.

8. Exh. 8 a letter from Joeton and Charmaine but apparently


written by the latter. She asked for money from petitioner to
buy something for the school and "something else." She,
promised not to spend so much and to save some. She said she
loved petitioner and missed him. Joeton said "hi!" to petitioner.
After ending the letter with "Love, Joeton and Charmaine," she
asked for her prize for her grades as she got seventh place.

petitioner would be happy with the letter that had taken him
so long to write because he did not want to commit any
mistakes. He asked petitioner to buy him perfume (Drakkar)
and, after thanking petitioner, added that the latter should buy
something for Mommy.

9. Exh. 9 undated letter of Keith. He assured petitioner that


he had been writing him; that he would like to have some
money but he would save them; that he learned that petitioner
had called them up but he was not around; that he would be
going to Manila but would be back home May 3; that his
Mommy had just arrived Thursday afternoon, and that he
would be the "official altar boy." He asked petitioner to write
them soon.

12. Exh. 12 another Christmas card, "Our Wish For You" with
the year '83 written on the upper right hand corner of the inside
page, from Keith, Charmaine and Joeton.

10. Exh. 10 Keith thanked petitioner for the money he sent.


He told petitioner that he was saving some in the bank and he
was proud because he was the only one in his group who saved
in the bank. He told him that Joeton had become naughty and
would claim as his own the shirts sent to Keith by petitioner. He
advised petitioner to send pants and shirts to Joeton, too, and
asked for a pair of topsider shoes and candies. He informed
petitioner that he was a member of the basketball team and
that his mom would drive for his group. He asked him to call
them often like the father of Ana Christie and to write them
when he would call so that they could wait for it. He informed
petitioner that they had all grown bigger and heavier. He hoped

11. Exh. 11 a Christmas card "For My Wonderful Father"


dated October 8, 1984 from Keith, Charmaine and Joeton.

13. Exh. 13 a letter of Keith telling petitioner that he had


written him even when their Mom "was there" where she
bought them clothes and shoes. Keith asked petitioner for
$300.00. Because his mother would not agree to buy him a
motorbike, he wanted a Karaoke unit that would cost
P12,000.00. He informed petitioner that he would go to an
afternoon disco with friends but their grades were all good with
Joeton receiving "stars" for excellence. Keith wanted a bow and
arrow Rambo toys and G.I. Joe. He expressed his desire that
petitioner would come and visit them someday.
14. Exh. 14 a letter of Keith with one of the four pages
bearing the date January 1986. Keith told his father that they
had received the package that the latter sent them. The clothes
he sent, however, fitted only Keith but not Charmaine and
Joeton who had both grown bigger. Keith asked for grocery
items, toys and more clothes. He asked, in behalf of his mother,
for low-heeled shoes and a dress to match, jogging pants, tights

and leotards that would make her look sexy. He intimated to


petitioner that he had grown taller and that he was already
ashamed to be asking for things to buy in the grocery even
though his mother had told him not to be shy about it.
Aside from these letters, petitioner also presented
certifications of banks in the U.S.A. showing that even prior to
the filing of the petition for adoption, he had deposited
amounts for the benefit of his children. 25 Exhibits 24 to 45 are
copies of checks sent by petitioner to the children from 1985 to
1989.
These pieces of evidence are all on record. It is, therefore, quite
surprising why the courts below simply glossed over these,
ignoring not only evidence on financial support but also the
emotional exchange of sentiments between petitioner and his
family. Instead, the courts below emphasized the meagerness
of the amounts he sent to his children and the fact that, as
regards the bank deposits, these were "withdrawable by him
alone." Simply put, the courts below attached a high premium
to the prospective adopters' financial status but totally brushed
aside the possible repercussion of the adoption on the
emotional and psychological well-being of the children.
True, Keith had expressed his desire to be adopted by his uncle
and aunt. However, his seeming steadfastness on the matter as
shown by his testimony is contradicted by his feelings towards
his father as revealed in his letters to him. It is not at all
farfetched to conclude that Keith's testimony was actually the
effect of the filing of the petition for adoption that would

certainly have engendered confusion in his young mind as to


the capability of his father to sustain the lifestyle he had been
used to.
The courts below emphasized respondents' emotional
attachment to the children. This is hardly surprising for, from
the very start of their young lives, the children were used to
their presence. Such attachment had persisted and certainly,
the young ones' act of snuggling close to private respondent
Ronald Clavano was not indicative of their emotional
detachment from their father. Private respondents, being the
uncle and aunt of the children, could not but come to their
succor when they needed help as when Keith got sick and
private respondent Ronald spent for his hospital bills.
In a number of cases, this Court has held that parental authority
cannot be entrusted to a person simply because he could give
the child a larger measure of material comfort than his natural
parent. Thus, in David v. Court of Appeals, 26 the Court awarded
custody of a minor illegitimate child to his mother who was a
mere secretary and market vendor instead of to his affluent
father who was a married man, not solely because the child
opted to go with his mother. The Court said:
Daisie and her children may not be enjoying a life of affluence
that private respondent promises if the child lives with him. It
is enough, however, that petitioner is earning a decent living
and is able to support her children according to her means.
In Celis v. Cafuir 27 where the Court was confronted with the
issue of whether to award custody of a child to the natural

mother or to a foster mother, this Court said:


This court should avert the tragedy in the years to come of
having deprived mother and son of the beautiful associations
and tender, imperishable memories engendered by the
relationship of parent and child. We should not take away from
a mother the opportunity of bringing up her own child even at
the cost of extreme sacrifice due to poverty and lack of means;
so that afterwards, she may be able to look back with pride and
a sense of satisfaction at her sacrifices and her efforts, however
humble, to make her dreams of her little boy come true. We
should not forget that the relationship between a foster
mother and a child is not natural but artificial. If the child turns
out to be a failure or forgetful of what its foster parents had
done for him, said parents might yet count and appraise (sic) all
that they have done and spent for him and with regret consider
all of it as a dead loss, and even rue the day they committed the
blunder of taking the child into their hearts and their home. Not
so with a real natural mother who never counts the cost and
her sacrifices, ever treasuring memories of her associations
with her child, however unpleasant and disappointing. Flesh
and blood count. . . . .
In Espiritu v. Court of Appeals, 28 the Court stated that "(I)n
ascertaining the welfare and best interests of the child, courts
are mandated by the Family Code to take into account all
relevant considerations." Thus, in awarding custody of the child
to the father, the Court said:
A scrutiny of the pleadings in this case indicates that Teresita,

or at least, her counsel are more intent on emphasizing the


"torture and agony" of a mother separated from her children
and the humiliation she suffered as a, result of her character
being made a key issue in court rather than the feelings and
future, the best interests and welfare of her children. While the
bonds between a mother and her small child are special in
nature, either parent, whether father or mother, is bound to
suffer agony and pain if deprived of custody. One cannot say
that his or her suffering is greater than that of the other parent.
It is not so much the suffering, pride, and other feelings of
either parent but the welfare of the child which is the
paramount consideration. (Emphasis supplied) 29
Indeed, it would be against the spirit of the law if financial
consideration were to be the paramount consideration in
deciding whether to deprive a person of parental authority over
his children. There should be a holistic approach to the matter,
taking into account the physical, emotional, psychological,
mental, social and spiritual needs of the child. 30 The conclusion
of the courts below that petitioner abandoned his family needs
more evidentiary support other than his inability to provide
them the material comfort that his admittedly affluent in-laws
could provide. There should be proof that he had so
emotionally abandoned them that his children would not miss
his guidance and counsel if they were given to adopting
parents. The letters he received from his children prove that
petitioner maintained the more important emotional tie
between him and his children. The children needed him not

only because he could cater to their whims but also because he


was a person they could share with their daily activities,
problems and triumphs.
The Court is thus dismayed that the courts below did not look
beyond petitioner's "meager" financial support to ferret out
other indications on whether petitioner had in fact abandoned
his family. The omission of said courts has led us to examine
why the children were subjected to the process of adoption,
notwithstanding the proven ties that bound them to their
father. To our consternation, the record of the case bears out
the fact that the welfare of the children was not exactly the
"paramount consideration" that impelled Anna Marie to
consent to their adoption.
In her affidavit of consent, Anna Marie expressly said that
leaving the children in the country, as she was wont to travel
abroad often, was a problem that would naturally hamper her
job-seeking abroad. In other words, the adoption appears to be
a matter of convenience for her because Anna Marie herself is
financially capable of supporting her children. 31 In his
testimony, private respondent Ronald swore that Anna Marie
had been out of the country for two years and came home
twice or three times, 32 thereby manifesting the fact that it was
she who actually left her children to the care of her relatives. It
was bad enough that their father left their children when he
went abroad, but when their mother followed suit for her own
reasons, the situation worsened. The Clavano family must have
realized this. Hence, when the family first discussed the

adoption of the children, they decided that the prospective


adopter should be Anna Marie's brother Jose. However,
because he had children of his own, the family decided to
devolve the task upon private respondents. 33
This couple, however, could not always be in Cebu to care for
the children. A businessman, private respondent Ronald
Clavano commutes between Cebu and Manila while his wife,
private respondent Maria Clara, is an international flight
stewardess. 34 Moreover, private respondent Ronald claimed
that he could "take care of the children while their parents are
away," 35 thereby indicating the evanescence of his intention.
He wanted to have the children's surname changed to Clavano
for the reason that he wanted to take them to the United States
as it would be difficult for them to get a visa if their surname
were different from his. 36 To be sure, he also testified that he
wanted to spare the children the stigma of being products of a
broken home.
Nevertheless, a close analysis of the testimonies of private
respondent Ronald, his sister Anna Marie and their brother Jose
points to the inescapable conclusion that they just wanted to
keep the children away from their father. One of the overriding
considerations for the adoption was allegedly the state of Anna
Marie's health she was a victim of an almost fatal accident
and suffers from a heart ailment. However, she herself
admitted that her health condition was not that serious as she
could still take care of the children. 37 An eloquent evidence of
her ability to physically care for them was her employment at

the Philippine Consulate in Los Angeles 38 she could not have


been employed if her health were endangered. It is thus clear
that the Clavanos' attempt at depriving petitioner of parental
authority apparently stemmed from their notion that he was an
inveterate womanizer. Anna Marie in fact expressed fear that
her children would "never be at ease with the wife of their
father." 39
Petitioner, who described himself as single in status, denied
being a womanizer and father to the sons of Wilma Soco. 40 As
to whether he was telling the truth is beside the point.
Philippine society, being comparatively conservative and
traditional, aside from being Catholic in orientation, it does not
countenance womanizing on the part of a family man,
considering the baneful effects such irresponsible act visits on
his family. Neither may the Court place a premium on the
inability of a man to distinguish between siring children and
parenting them. Nonetheless, the actuality that petitioner
carried on an affair with a paramour cannot be taken as
sufficient basis for the conclusion that petitioner was
necessarily an unfit father. 41 Conventional wisdom and
common human experience show that a "bad" husband does
not necessarily make a "bad" father. That a husband is not
exactly an upright man is not, strictly speaking, a sufficient
ground to deprive him as a father of his inherent right to
parental authority over the children. 42 Petitioner has
demonstrated his love and concern for his children when he
took the trouble of sending a telegram 43 to the lower court

expressing his intention to oppose the adoption immediately


after learning about it. He traveled back to this country to
attend to the case and to testify about his love for his children
and his desire to unite his family once more in the United
States. 44
Private respondents themselves explained why petitioner
failed to abide by the agreement with his wife on the support
of the children. Petitioner was an illegal alien in the United
States. As such, he could not have procured gainful
employment. Private respondents failed to refute petitioner's
testimony that he did not receive his share from the sale of the
conjugal home, 45 pursuant to their manifestation/compromise
agreement in the legal separation case. Hence, it can be
reasonably presumed that the proceeds of the sale redounded
to the benefit of his family, particularly his children. The
proceeds may not have lasted long but there is ample evidence
to show that thereafter, petitioner tried to abide by his
agreement with his wife and sent his family money, no matter
how "meager."
The liberality with which this Court treats matters leading to
adoption insofar as it carries out the beneficent purposes of the
law to ensure the rights and privileges of the adopted child
arising therefrom, ever mindful that the paramount
consideration is the overall benefit and interest of the adopted
child, should be understood in its proper context and
perspective. The Court's position, should not be misconstrued
or misinterpreted as to extend to inferences beyond the

contemplation of law and jurisprudence. 46 The discretion to


approve adoption proceedings is not to be anchored solely on
best interests of the child but likewise, with due regard to the
natural rights of the parents over the child. 47
In this regard, this Court notes private respondents' reliance on
the manifestation/compromise agreement between petitioner
and Anna Marie which became the basis of the decree of legal
separation. According to private respondents' counsel, 48 the
authority given to Anna Marie by that decree to enter into
contracts as a result of the legal separation was "all embracing"
49
and, therefore, included giving her sole consent to the
adoption. This conclusion is however, anchored on the wrong
premise that the authority given to the innocent spouse to
enter into contracts that obviously refer to their conjugal
properties, shall include entering into agreements leading to
the adoption of the children. Such conclusion is as devoid of a
legal basis as private respondents' apparent reliance on the
decree of legal separation for doing away with petitioner's
consent to the adoption.
The transfer of custody over the children to Anna Marie by
virtue of the decree of legal separation did not, of necessity;
deprive petitioner of parental authority for the purpose of
placing the children up for adoption. Article 213 of the Family
Code states: ". . . in case of legal separation of parents, parental
authority shall be exercised by the parent designated by the
court." In awarding custody, the court shall take into account
"all relevant considerations, especially the choice of the child

over seven years of age, unless the parent chosen is unfit."


If should be noted, however, that the law only confers on the
innocent spouse the "exercise" of parental authority. Having
custody of the child, the innocent spouse shall implement the
sum of parental rights with respect to his rearing and care. The
innocent spouse shall have the right to the child's services and
earnings, and the right to direct his activities and make
decisions regarding his care and control, education, health and
religion. 50
In a number of cases, this Court has considered parental
authority, the joint exercise of which is vested by the law upon
the parents, 51 as
. . . a mass of rights and obligations which the law grants to
parents for the purpose of the children's physical preservation
and development, as well as the cultivation of their intellect
and the education of their hearts and senses. As regards
parental authority, "there is no power, but a task; no complex
of rights, but a sum of duties; no sovereignty but a sacred trust
for the welfare of the minor."
Parental authority and responsibility are inalienable and may
not be transferred or renounced except in cases authorized by
law. The right attached to parental authority, being purely
personal, the law allows a waiver of parental authority only in
cases of adoption, guardianship and surrender to a children's
home or an orphan institution. When a parent entrusts the
custody of a minor to another, such as a friend or godfather,
even in a document, what is given is merely temporary custody

and it does not constitute a renunciation of parental authority.


Even if a definite renunciation is manifest, the law still disallows
the same.
The father and mother, being the natural guardians of
unemancipated children, are duty-bound and entitled to keep
them in their custody and company. 52 (Emphasis supplied)
As such, in instant case, petitioner may not be deemed as
having been completely deprived of parental authority,
notwithstanding the award of custody to Anna Marie in the
legal separation case. To reiterate, that award was arrived at by
the lower court on the basis of the agreement of the spouses.
While parental authority may be waived, as in law it may be
subject to a compromise, 53 there was no factual finding in the
legal separation case that petitioner was such an irresponsible
person that he should be deprived of custody of his children or
that there are grounds under the law that could deprive him of
parental authority. In fact, in the legal separation case, the
court thereafter ordered the transfer of custody over the
children from Anna Marie back to petitioner. The order was not
implemented because of Anna Marie's motion for
reconsideration thereon. The Clavano family also vehemently
objected to the transfer of custody to the petitioner, such that
the latter was forced to file a contempt charge against them. 54
The law is clear that either parent may lose parental authority
over the child only for a valid reason. No such reason was
established in the legal separation case. In the instant case for
adoption, the issue is whether or not petitioner had abandoned

his children as to warrant dispensation of his consent to their


adoption. Deprivation of parental authority is one of the effects
of a decree of adoption. 55 But there cannot be a valid decree
of adoption in this case precisely because, as this Court has
demonstrated earlier, the finding of the courts below on the
issue of petitioner's abandonment of his family was based on a
misappreciation that was tantamount to non-appreciation, of
facts on record.
As regards the divorce obtained in the United States, this Court
has ruled in Tenchavez v. Escao 56 that a divorce obtained by
Filipino citizens after the effectivity of the Civil Code is not
recognized in this jurisdiction as it is contrary to State policy.
While petitioner is now an American citizen, as regards Anna
Marie who has apparently remained a Filipino citizen, the
divorce has no legal effect.
Parental authority is a constitutionally protected State policy
borne out of established customs and tradition of our people.
Thus, in Silva v. Court of Appeals, 57 a case involving the visitorial
rights of an illegitimate parent over his child, the Court
expressed the opinion that:
Parents have the natural right, as well as the moral and legal
duty, to care for their children, see to their upbringing and
safeguard their best interest and welfare. This authority and
responsibility may not be unduly denied the parents; neither
may it be renounced by them. Even when the parents are
estranged and their affection for each other is lost, the
attachment and feeling for their offsprings invariably remain

unchanged. Neither the law not the courts allow this affinity to
suffer absent, of course, any real, grave and imminent threat to
the well being of the child.
Since the incorporation of the law concerning adoption in the
Civil Code, there has been a pronounced trend to place
emphasis in adoption proceedings, not so much on the need of
childless couples for a child, as on the paramount interest, of a
child who needs the love and care of parents. After the passage
of the Child and Youth Welfare Code and the Family Code, the
discernible trend has impelled the enactment of Republic Act
No. 8043 on Intercountry,Adoption 58 and Republic Act No.
8552 establishing the rules on the domestic adoption of Filipino
children. 59
The case at bar applies the relevant provisions of these recent
laws, such as the following policies in the "Domestic Adoption
Act of 1998":
(a) To ensure that every child remains under the care and
custody of his/her parent(s) and be provided with love, care,
understanding and security towards the full and harmonious
development of his/her personality. 60
(b) In all matters relating to the care, custody and adoption of
a child, his/her interest shall be the paramount consideration
in accordance with the tenets set forth in the United Nations
(UN) Convention on the Rights of the Child. 61
(c) To prevent the child from unnecessary separation from
his/her biological parent(s). 62

Inasmuch as the Philippines is a signatory to the United Nations


Convention on the Rights of the Child, the government and its
officials are duty bound to comply with its mandates. Of
particular relevance to instant case are the following
provisions:
States Parties shall respect the responsibilities, rights and
duties of parents . . . to provide, in a manner consistent with
the evolving capacities of the child, appropriate direction and
guidance in the exercise by the child of the rights recognized in
the present Convention. 63
States Parties shall respect the right of the child who is
separated from one or both parents to maintain personal
relations and direct contact with both parents on a regular
basis, except if it is contrary to the child's best interests. 64
A child whose parents reside in different States shall have the
right to maintain on a regular basis, save in exceptional
circumstances personal relations and direct contacts with both
parents . . . 65
States Parties shall respect the rights and duties of the parents
. . . to provide direction to the child in the exercise of his or her
right in a manner consistent with the evolving capacities of the
child. 66
Underlying the policies and precepts in international
conventions and the domestic statutes with respect to children
is the overriding principle that all actuations should be in the
best interests of the child. This is not, however, to be
implemented in derogation of the primary right of the parent

or parents to exercise parental authority over him. The rights of


parents vis--vis that of their children are not antithetical to
each other, as in fact, they must be respected and harmonized
to the fullest extent possible.
Keith, Charmaine and Joseph Anthony have all grown up. Keith
and Charmaine are now of legal age while Joseph Anthony is
approaching eighteen, the age of majority. For sure, they shall
be endowed with the discretion to lead lives independent of
their parents. This is not to state that this case has been
rendered moot and academic, for their welfare and best
interests regarding their adoption, must be determined as of
the time that the petition for adoption was filed. 67 Said petition
must be denied as it was filed without the required consent of
their father who, by law and under the facts of the case at bar,
has not abandoned them.
WHEREFORE, the instant petition for review on certiorari is
hereby GRANTED. The questioned Decision and Resolution of
the Court of Appeals, as well as the decision of the Regional
Trial Court of Cebu, are SET ASIDE thereby denying the petition
for adoption of Keith, Charmaine and Joseph Anthony, all
surnamed Cang, by the spouse respondents Ronald and Maria
Clara Clavano. This Decision is immediately executory.
SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 135216

August 19, 1999

TOMASA VDA. DE JACOB, as Special Administratrix of the


Intestate Estate of Deceased Alfredo E. Jacob, petitioner,
vs.COURT OF APPEALS, PEDRO PILAPIL, THE REGISTER OF
DEEDS for the Province of Camarines Sur, and JUAN F.
TRIVINO as publisher of "Balalong," respondents.
PANGANIBAN, J.:
The contents of a document may be proven by competent
evidence other than the document itself, provided that the
offeror establishes its due execution and its subsequent loss or
destruction. Accordingly, the fact of marriage may be shown by
extrinsic evidence other than the marriage contract.
The Case
Before us is a Petition for Review under Rule 45 of the Rules of
Court, assailing the Decision of the Court of Appeals1 (CA) dated
January 15, 1998, and its Resolution dated August 24, 1998,
denying petitioners Motion for Reconsideration.
The dispositive part of the CA Decision reads:
WHEREFORE, finding no reversible error in the decision
appealed from it being more consistent with the facts and the
applicable law, the challenged Decision dated 05 April 1994 of
the RTC, Br. 30, Tigaon, Camarines Sur is AFFIRMED in toto.2
The decretal portion of the trial court Decision3 is as follows:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, decision is hereby rendered
in favor of [herein Respondent] Pedro Pilapil, and against
[herein Petitioner] Tomasa Guison as follows:

a) Declaring Exh. B, the so called "reconstructed marriage


contract" excluded under the best evidence rule, and therefore
declaring said Exh. B spurious and non-existent.
b) Declaring Exh. 3 Order dated July 18, 1961, and the signature
of the issuing Judge JOSE L. MOYA (Exh. 34) to be genuine.
c) Permanently setting aside and lifting the provisional writ of
injunction earlier issued; and
d) To pay attorney's fees of P50,000.
And costs against [herein petitioner.]
The Facts
The Court of Appeals narrates the facts thus:
Plaintiff-appellant [petitioner herein] claimed to be the
surviving spouse of deceased Dr. Alfredo E. Jacob and was
appointed Special Administratix for the various estates of the
deceased by virtue of a reconstructed Marriage Contract
between herself and the deceased.
Defendant-appellee on the other hand, claimed to be the
legally-adopted son of Alfredo. In support of his claim, he
presented an Order dated 18 July 1961 issued by then Presiding
Judge Jose L. Moya, CFI, Camarines Sur, granting the petition
for adoption filed by deceased Alfredo in favor of Pedro
Pilapil.1wphi1.nt
During the proceeding for the settlement of the estate of the
deceased Alfredo in Case No. T-46 (entitled "Tomasa vda. de

Jacob v. Jose Centenera, et al) herein defendant-appellee Pedro


sought to intervene therein claiming his share of the deceaseds
estate as Alfredo's adopted son and as his sole surviving heir.
Pedro questioned the validity of the marriage between
appellant Tomasa and his adoptive father Alfredo.
Appellant Tomasa opposed the Motion for Intervention and
filed a complaint for injunction with damages (Civil Case No. T83) questioning appellee's claim as the legal heir of Alfredo.
The following issues were raised in the court a quo:
a) Whether the marriage between the plaintiff-appellant and
deceased Alfredo Jacob was valid;
b) Whether the defendant-appellee is the legally adopted son
of deceased Jacob.
On the first issue, appellant claims that the marriage between
her and Alfredo was solemnized by one Msgr. Florencio C.
Yllana, CBCP, Intramuros, Manila sometime in 1975. She could
not however present the original copy of the Marriage Contract
stating that the original document was lost when Msgr. Yllana
allegedly gave it to Mr. Jose Centenera for registration. In lieu
of the original, Tomasa presented as secondary evidence a
reconstructed Marriage Contract issued in 1978.
During the trial, the court a quo observed the following
irregularities in the execution of the reconstructed Marriage
Contract, to wit:
1. No copy of the Marriage Contract was sent to the local civil
registrar by the solemnizing officer thus giving the implication

that there was no copy of the marriage contract sent to, nor a
record existing in the civil registry of Manila;
2. In signing the Marriage Contract, the late Alfredo Jacob
merely placed his "thumbmark" on said contract purportedly
on 16 September 1975 (date of the marriage). However, on a
Sworn Affidavit executed between appellant Tomasa and
Alfredo a day before the alleged date of marriage or on 15
September 1975 attesting that both of them lived together as
husband and wife for five (5) years, Alfredo [af]fixed his
customary signature. Thus the trial court concluded that the
"thumbmark" was logically "not genuine". In other words, not
of Alfredo Jacobs;
3. Contrary to appellants claim, in his Affidavit stating the
circumstances of the loss of the Marriage Contract, the affiant
Msgr. Yllana never mentioned that he allegedly "gave the
copies of the Marriage Contract to Mr. Jose Centenera for
registration". And as admitted by appellant at the trial, Jose
Centenera (who allegedly acted as padrino) was not present at
the date of the marriage since he was then in Australia. In fact,
on the face of the reconstructed Marriage Contract, it was one
"Benjamin Molina" who signed on top of the typewritten name
of Jose Centenera. This belies the claim that Msgr. Yllana
allegedly gave the copies of the Marriage Contract to Mr. Jose
Centenera;
4. Appellant admitted that there was no record of the
purported marriage entered in the book of records in San
Agustin Church where the marriage was allegedly solemnized.

Anent the second issue, appellee presented the Order dated 18


July 1961 in Special Proceedings No. 192 issued by then
Presiding Judge Moya granting the petition for adoption filed
by deceased Alfredo which declared therein Pedro Pilapil as the
legally adopted son of Alfredo.
Appellant Tomasa however questioned the authenticity of the
signature of Judge Moya.
In an effort to disprove the genuineness and authenticity of
Judge Moya's signature in the Order granting the petition for
adoption, the deposition of Judge Moya was taken at his
residence on 01 October 1990.
In his deposition, Judge Moya attested that he could no longer
remember the facts in judicial proceedings taken about twentynine (29) years ago when he was then presiding judge since he
was already 79 years old and was suffering from "glaucoma".
The trial court then consulted two (2) handwriting experts to
test the authenticity and genuineness of Judge Moya's
signature.
A handwriting examination was conducted by Binevenido C.
Albacea, NBI Document Examiner. Examiner Albacea used
thirteen (13) specimen signatures of Judge Moya and compared
it with the questioned signature. He pointed out irregularities
and "significant fundamental differences in handwriting
characteristics/habits existing between the questioned and the
"standard" signature" and concluded that the questioned and
the standard signatures "JOSE L. MOYA" were NOT written by
one and the same person.

On the other hand, to prove the genuineness of Judge Moya's


signature, appellee presented the comparative findings of the
handwriting examination made by a former NBI Chief
Document Examiner Atty. Desiderio A. Pagui who examined
thirty-two (32) specimen signatures of Judge Moya inclusive of
the thirteen (13) signatures examined by Examiner Albacea. In
his report, Atty. Pagui noted the existence of significant
similarities of unconscious habitual pattern within allowable
variation of writing characteristics between the standard and
the questioned signatures and concluded that the signature of
Judge Moya appearing in the Order dated 18 July 1961 granting
the petition for adoption was indeed genuine.
Confronted with two (2) conflicting reports, the trial court
sustained the findings of Atty. Pagui declaring the signature of
Judge Moya in the challenged Order as genuine and authentic.
Based on the evidence presented, the trial court ruled for
defendant-appellee sustaining his claim as the legally adopted
child and sole heir of deceased Alfredo and declaring the
reconstructed Marriage Contract as spurious and nonexistent."4 (citations omitted, emphasis in the original)
Ruling of the Court of Appeals
In affirming the Decision of the trial court, the Court of Appeals
ruled in this wise:
Dealing with the issue of validity of the reconstructed Marriage
Contract, Article 6, par. 1 of the Family Code provides that the
declaration of the contracting parties that they take each other
as husband and wife "shall be set forth in an instrument signed

by the parties as well as by their witnesses and the person


solemnizing the marriage." Accordingly, the primary evidence
of a marriage must be an authentic copy of the marriage
contract.
And if the authentic copy could not be produced, Section 3 in
relation to Section 5, Rule 130 of the Revised Rules of Court
provides:
Sec. 3. Original document must be produced; exceptions.
When the subject of inquiry is the contents of a document, no
evidence shall be admissible other than the original document
itself, except in the following cases:
(a) When the original has been lost or destroyed, or cannot be
produced in court without bad faith on the part of the offeror;
xxx

xxx

xxx

Sec. 5. When the original document is unavailable. When the


original document has been lost or destroyed, or cannot be
produced in court, the offeror, upon proof of its execution or
existence and the cause of its unavailability without bad faith
on his part, may prove its contents by a copy. Or by a recital of
its contents in some authentic document, or by the testimony
of witnesses in the order stated.
As required by the Rules, before the terms of a transaction in
reality may be established by secondary evidence, it is
necessary that the due execution of the document and
subsequent loss of the original instrument evidencing the
transaction be proved. For it is the due execution of the

document and subsequent loss that would constitute the


foundation for the introduction of secondary evidence to prove
the contents of such document.
In the case at bench, proof of due execution besides the loss of
the three (3) copies of the marriage contract has not been
shown for the introduction of secondary evidence of the
contents of the reconstructed contract. Also, appellant failed to
sufficiently establish the circumstances of the loss of the
original document.
With regard to the trial court's finding that the signature of then
Judge Moya in the questioned Order granting the petition for
adoption in favor of Pedro Pilapil was genuine, suffice it to state
that, in the absence of clear and convincing proof to the
contrary, the presumption applies that Judge Moya in issuing
the order acted in the performance of his regular duties.
Furthermore, since the signature appearing in the challenged
Order was subjected to a rigid examination of two (2)
handwriting experts, this negates the possibility of forgery of
Judge Moya's signature. The value of the opinion of a
handwriting expert depends not upon his mere statement of
whether a writing is genuine or false, but upon the assistance
he may afford in pointing out distinguishing marks,
characteristics, and discrepancies in and between genuine and
false specimens of writing of which would ordinarily escape
notice or dete[c]tion from an unpracticed observer. And in the
final analysis, the assessment of the credibility of such expert
witnesses rests largely in the discretion of the trial court, and

the test of qualification is necessarily a relative one, depending


upon the subject under investigation and the fitness of the
particular witness. Except in extraordinary cases, an appellate
court will not reverse on account of a mistake of judgment on
the part of the trial court in determining qualifications of this
case.
Jurisprudence is settled that the trial court's findings of fact
when ably supported by substantial evidence on record are
accorded with great weight and respect by the Court. Thus,
upon review, We find that no material facts were overlooked
or ignored by the court below which if considered might vary
the outcome of this case nor there exist cogent reasons that
would warrant reversal of the findings below. Factual findings
of the trial court are entitled to great weight and respect on
appeal especially when established by unrebutted testimony
and documentary evidence.5 (citations omitted, emphasis in
the original)
Disagreeing with the above, petitioner lodged her Petition for
Review before this Court.6
The Issues
In her Memorandum petitioner presents the following issues
for the resolution of this Court:
a) Whether or not the marriage between the plaintiff Tomasa
Vda. De Jacob and deceased Alfredo E. Jacob was valid; and
b) Whether defendant Pedro Pilapil is the legally adopted son
of Alfredo E. Jacob.7

The Court's Ruling


The Petition is meritorious. Petitioner's marriage is valid, but
respondents adoption has not been sufficiently established.
First Issue:
Validity of Marriage
Doctrinally, a void marriage may be subjected to collateral
attack, while a voidable one may be assailed only in a direct
proceeding.8 Aware of this fundamental distinction,
Respondent Pilapil contends that the marriage between Dr.
Alfredo Jacob and petitioner was void ab initio, because there
was neither a marriage license nor a marriage ceremony.9 We
cannot sustain this contention.
To start with, Respondent Pedro Pilapil argues that the
marriage was void because the parties had no marriage license.
This argument is misplaced, because it has been established
that Dr. Jacob and petitioner lived together as husband and
wife for at least five years.10 An affidavit to this effect was
executed by Dr. Jacob and petitioner.11 Clearly then, the
marriage was exceptional in character and did not require a
marriage license under Article 76 of the Civil Code.12 The Civil
Code governs this case, because the questioned marriage and
the assailed adoption took place prior the effectivity of the
Family Code.
When Is Secondary Evidence Allowed?
"It is settled that if the original writing has been lost or
destroyed or cannot be produced in court, upon proof of its

execution and loss or destruction, or unavailability, its contents


may be proved by a copy or a recital of its contents in some
authentic document, or by recollection of witnesses."13 Upon a
showing that the document was duly executed and
subsequently lost, without any bad faith on the part of the
offeror, secondary evidence may be adduced to prove its
contents.14
The trial court and the Court of Appeals committed reversible
error when they (1) excluded the testimonies of petitioner,
Adela Pilapil and Msgr. Florencio Yllana and (2) disregarded the
following: (a) photographs of the wedding ceremony; (b)
documentary evidence, such as the letter of Monsignor Yllana
stating that he had solemnized the marriage between Dr. Jacob
and petitioner, informed the Archbishop of Manila that the
wedding had not been recorded in the Book of Marriages, and
at the same time requested the list of parties to the marriage;
(c) the subsequent authorization issued by the Archbishop
through his vicar general and chancellor, Msgr. Benjamin L.
Marino ordaining that the union between Dr. Jacob and
petitioner be reflected through a corresponding entry in the
Book of Marriages; and (d) the Affidavit of Monsignor Yllana
stating the circumstances of the loss of the marriage certificate.
It should be stressed that the due execution and the loss of the
marriage contract, both constituting the conditio sine qua non
for the introduction of secondary evidence of its contents, were
shown by the very evidence they have disregarded. They have
thus confused the evidence to show due execution and loss as

"secondary" evidence of the marriage. In Hernaez v. Mcgrath,15


the Court clarified this misconception thus:
. . . [T]he court below was entirely mistaken in holding that
parol evidence of the execution of the instrument was barred.
The court confounded the execution and the contents of the
document. It is the contents, . . . which may not be prove[n] by
secondary evidence when the instrument itself is accessible.
Proofs of the execution are not dependent on the existence or
non-existence of the document, and, as a matter of fact, such
proofs precede proofs of the contents: due execution, besides
the loss, has to be shown as foundation for the introduction of
secondary evidence of the contents.
xxx

xxx

xxx

Evidence of the execution of a document is, in the last analysis,


necessarily collateral or primary. It generally consists of parol
testimony or extrinsic papers. Even when the document is
actually produced, its authenticity is not necessarily, if at all,
determined from its face or recital of its contents but by parol
evidence. At the most, failure to produce the document, when
available, to establish its execution may affect the weight of the
evidence presented but not the admissibility of such evidence.
(emphasis ours)
The Court of Appeals, as well as the trial court, tried to justify
its stand on this issue by relying on Lim Tanhu v. Ramolete.16
But even there, we said that "marriage may be prove[n] by
other competent evidence."17
Truly, the execution of a document may be proven by the

parties themselves, by the swearing officer, by witnesses who


saw and recognized the signatures of the parties; or even by
those to whom the parties have previously narrated the
execution thereof.18 The Court has also held that "[t]he loss
may be shown by any person who [knows] the fact of its loss,
or by any one who ha[s] made, in the judgment of the court, a
sufficient examination in the place or places where the
document or papers of similar character are usually kept by the
person in whose custody the document lost was, and has been
unable to find it; or who has made any other investigation
which is sufficient to satisfy the court that the instrument [has]
indeed [been] lost."19
In the present case, due execution was established by the
testimonies of Adela Pilapil, who was present during the
marriage ceremony, and of petitioner herself as a party to the
event. The subsequent loss was shown by the testimony and
the affidavit of the officiating priest, Monsignor Yllana, as well
as by petitioner's own declaration in court. These are relevant,
competent and admissible evidence. Since the due execution
and the loss of the marriage contract were clearly shown by the
evidence presented, secondary evidence testimonial and
documentary may be admitted to prove the fact of marriage.
The trial court pointed out that on the face of the reconstructed
marriage contract were certain irregularities suggesting that it
had fraudulently been obtained.20 Even if we were to agree
with the trial court and to disregard the reconstructed marriage
contract, we must emphasize that this certificate is not the only

proof of the union between Dr. Jacob and petitioner.


Proof of Marriage
As early as Pugeda v. Trias, 21 we have held that marriage may
be proven by any competent and relevant evidence. In that
case, we said:
Testimony by one of the parties to the marriage, or by one of
the witnesses to the marriage, has been held to be admissible
to prove the fact of marriage. The person who officiated at the
solemnization is also competent to testify as an eyewitness to
the fact of marriage.22 (emphasis supplied)
In Balogbog v. CA,23 we similarly held:
[A]lthough a marriage contract is considered primary evidence
of marriage, the failure to present it is not proof that no
marriage took place. Other evidence may be presented to prove
marriage. (emphasis supplied, footnote ommitted)
In both cases, we allowed testimonial evidence to prove the
fact of marriage. We reiterated this principle in Trinidad v. CA,24
in which, because of the destruction of the marriage contract,
we accepted testimonial evidence in its place.25
Respondent Pedro Pilapil misplaces emphasis on the absence
of an entry pertaining to 1975 in the Books of Marriage of the
Local Civil Registrar of Manila and in the National Census and
Statistics Office (NCSO).26 He finds it quite "bizarre" for
petitioner to have waited three years before registering their
marriage.27 On both counts, he proceeds from the wrong
premise. In the first place, failure to send a copy of a marriage

certificate for record purposes does not invalidate the


marriage.28 In the second place, it was not the petitioners duty
to send a copy of the marriage certificate to the civil registrar.
Instead, this charge fell upon the solemnizing officer.29
Presumption in Favor of Marriage
Likewise, we have held:
The basis of human society throughout the civilized world is . .
. of marriage. Marriage in this jurisdiction is not only a civil
contract, but it is a new relation, an institution in the
maintenance of which the public is deeply interested.
Consequently, every intendment of the law leans toward
legalizing matrimony. Persons dwelling together in apparent
matrimony are presumed, in the absence of any
counterpresumption or evidence special to the case, to be in fact
married. The reason is that such is the common order of
society, and if the parties were not what they thus hold
themselves out as being, they would be living in the constant
violation of decency and of law. A presumption established by
our Code of Civil Procedure is "that a man and woman
deporting themselves as husband and wife have entered into a
lawful contract of marriage." Semper praesumitur pro
matrimonio Always presume marriage.30 (emphasis
supplied)
This jurisprudential attitude31 towards marriage is based on the
prima facie presumption that a man and a woman deporting
themselves as husband and wife have entered into a lawful
contract of marriage.32 Given the undisputed, even accepted,33

fact that Dr. Jacob and petitioner lived together as husband and
wife,34 we find that the presumption of marriage was not
rebutted in this case.
Second Issue:
Validity of Adoption Order
In ruling that Respondent Pedro Pilapil was adopted by Dr.
Jacob and that the signature of Judge Moya appearing on the
Adoption Order was valid, the Court of Appeals relied on the
presumption that the judge had acted in the regular
performance of his duties. The appellate court also gave
credence to the testimony of respondents handwriting expert,
for "the assessment of the credibility of such expert witness
rests largely on the discretion of the trial court . . . "35
We disagree. As a rule, the factual findings of the trial court are
accorded great weight and respect by appellate courts, because
it had the opportunity to observe the demeanor of witnesses
and to note telltale signs indicating the truth or the falsity of a
testimony. The rule, however, is not applicable to the present
case, because it was Judge Augusto O. Cledera, not the
ponente, who heard the testimonies of the two expert
witnesses. Thus, the Court examined the records and found
that the Court of Appeals and the trial court "failed to notice
certain relevant facts which, if properly considered, will justify
a different conclusion."36 Hence, the present case is an
exception to the general rule that only questions of law may be
reviewed in petitions under Rule 45.37
Central to the present question is the authenticity of Judge

Moya's signature on the questioned Order of Adoption. To


enlighten the trial court on this matter, two expert witnesses
were presented, one for petitioner and one for Respondent
Pilapil. The trial court relied mainly on respondents expert and
brushed aside the Deposition of Judge Moya himself.38
Respondent Pilapil justifies the trial judges action by arguing
that the Deposition was ambiguous. He contends that Judge
Moya could not remember whether the signature on the Order
was his and cites the following portion as proof:39
Q. What was you[r] response, sir?
A: I said I do not remember.
Respondent Pilapil's argument is misleading, because it took
the judge's testimony out of its context. Considered with the
rest of the Deposition, Judge Moya's statements contained no
ambiguity. He was clear when he answered the queries in the
following manner:
Atty. Benito P. Fabie
Q. What else did she tell you[?]
A. And she ask[ed] me if I remembered having issued the order.
Q. What was your response sir[?]
A. I said I do not remember.40
The answer "I do not remember" did not suggest that Judge
Moya was unsure of what he was declaring. In fact, he was
emphatic and categorical in the subsequent exchanges during

the Deposition:
Atty. Benito P. Fabie
Q. I am showing to you this Order, Exh. "A" deposition[;] will
you please recall whether you issued this Order and whether
the facsimile of the signature appearing thereon is your
signature.
A. As I said, I do not remember having issued such an order and
the signature reading Jose[;] I cant make out clearly what
comes after the name[;] Jose Moya is not my signature.41
Clearly, Judge Moya could not recall having ever issued the
Order of Adoption. More importantly, when shown the
signature over his name, he positively declared that it was not
his.
The fact that he had glaucoma when his Deposition was taken
does not discredit his statements. At the time, he could with
medication still read the newspapers; upon the request of the
defense counsel, he even read a document shown to him.42
Indeed, we find no reason and the respondent has not
presented any to disregard the Deposition of Judge Moya.
Judge Moya's declaration was supported by the expert
testimony of NBI Document Examiner Bienvenido Albacea, who
declared:
Atty. Paraiso
Q And were you able to determine [w]hat purpose you had in

your examination of this document?


A Yes sir, [based on] my conclusion, [I] stated that the
questioned and the standard signature Jose L. Moya were not
written by one and the same person. On the basis of my
findings that I would point out in detail, the difference in the
writing characteristics [was] in the structural pattern of letters
which is very apparent as shown in the photograph as the
capital letter "J".43
It is noteworthy that Mr. Albacea is a disinterested party, his
services having been sought without any compensation.
Moreover, his competence was recognized even by
Respondent Pilapils expert witness, Atty. Desiderio Pagui.44
Other considerations also cast doubt on the claim of
respondent. The alleged Order was purportedly made in open
court. In his Deposition, however, Judge Moya declared that he
did not dictate decisions in adoption cases. The only decisions
he made in open court were criminal cases, in which the
accused pleaded guilty.45 Moreover, Judge Moya insisted that
the branch where he was assigned was always indicated in his
decisions and orders; yet the questioned Order did not contain
this information. Furthermore, Pilapils conduct gave no
indication that he recognized his own alleged adoption, as
shown by the documents that he signed and other acts that he
performed thereafter.46 In the same vein, no proof was
presented that Dr. Jacob had treated him as an adopted child.
Likewise, both the Bureau of Records Management47 in Manila
and the Office of the Local Civil Registrar of Tigaon, Camarines

Sur,48 issued Certifications that there was no record that Pedro


Pilapil had been adopted by Dr. Jacob. Taken together, these
circumstances inexorably negate the alleged adoption of
respondent.49
The burden of proof in establishing adoption is upon the person
claiming such relationship.50 This Respondent Pilapil failed to
do. Moreover, the evidence presented by petitioner shows that
the alleged adoption is a sham.
WHEREFORE, the Petition is GRANTED and the assailed
Decision of the Court of Appeals is REVERSED and SET ASIDE.
The marriage between Petitioner Tomasa Vda. de Jacob and the
deceased Alfredo E. Jacob is hereby recognized and declared
VALID and the claimed adoption of Respondent Pedro Pilapil is
DECLARED NONEXISTENT. No pronouncement as to costs. SO
ORDERED.

G.R. No. 117209

February 9, 1996

REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, petitioner, vs.HON. JOSE R.


HERNANDEZ, in his capacity as Presiding Judge, Regional Trial
Court, Branch 158, Pasig City and SPOUSES VAN MUNSON y
NAVARRO and REGINA MUNSON y ANDRADE, respondents.
DECISION
REGALADO, J.:
Indeed, what's in a name, as the Bard of Avon has written, since
a rose by any other name would smell as sweet?
This could well be the theme of the present appeal by certiorari
which challenges, on pure questions of law, the order of the
Regional Trial Court, Branch 158, Pasig City, dated September
13, 1994 1 in JDRC Case No. 2964. Said court is faulted for having
approved the petition for adoption of Kevin Earl Bartolome
Moran and simultaneously granted the prayer therein for the
change of the first name of said adoptee to Aaron Joseph, to
complement the surname Munson y Andrade which he
acquired consequent to his adoption.
The facts are undisputed. On March 10, 1994, herein private
respondent spouses, Van Munson y Navarro and Regina
Munson y Andrade, filed a p petition 2 to adopt the minor Kevin
Earl Bartolome Moran, duly alleging therein the jurisdictional
facts required by Rule 99 of the Rules of Court for adoption,
their qualifications as and fitness to be adoptive parents, as well
as the circumstances under and by reason of which the
adoption of the aforenamed minor was sought. In the very

same petition, private respondents prayed for the change of


the first name or said minor adoptee to Aaron Joseph, the same
being the name with which he was baptized in keeping with
religious tradition and by which he has been called by his
adoptive family, relatives and friends since May 6, 1993 when
he arrived at private respondents' residence. 3
At the hearing on April 18, 1994, petitioner opposed the
inclusion of the relief for change of name in the same petition
for adoption. In its formal opposition dated May 3, 1995, 4
petitioner reiterated its objection to the joinder of the petition
for adoption and the petitions for change of name in a single
proceeding, arguing that these petition should be conducted
and pursued as two separate proceedings.
After considering the evidence and arguments of the
contending parties, the trial court ruled in favor of herein
private respondents in this wise:
WHEREFORE, minor child Kevin Earl Bartolome Moran is freed
from all legal obligations of obedience and maintenance with
respect to his natural parents, and for all legal intents and
purposes shall be known as Aaron Joseph Munson y Andrade,
the legally adopted child of Van Munson and Regina Munson
effective upon the filing of the petition on March 10, 1994. As
soon as the decree of adoption becomes final and executory, it
shall be recorded in the Office of the Local Civil Registrar of
Pasig, Metro Manila pursuant to Section 8, Rule 99 and Section
6, Rule 103, respectively, of the Rules of Court, and shall be
annotated in the record of birth of the adopted child, which in

this case is in Valenzuela, Metro Manila, where the child was


born. Likewise, send a copy of this Order to the National Census
and Statistics Office, Manila, for its appropriate action
consisten(t) herewith. 5
At this juncture, it should be noted that no challenge has been
raised by petitioner regarding the fitness of herein private
respondents to be adopting parents nor the validity of the
decree of adoption rendered in their favor. The records show
that the latter have commendably established their
qualifications under the law to be adopters, 6 and have amply
complied with the procedural requirements for the petition for
adoption, 7 with the findings of the trial court being recited
thus:
To comply with the jurisdictional requirements, the Order of
this Court dated March 16, 1994 setting this petition for hearing
(Exh. "A") was published in the March 31, April 6 and 13, 1994
issues of the Manila Chronicle, a newspaper of general
circulation (Exhs. "B" to "E" and submarkings). . . .
xxx

xxx

xxx

Petitioners apart from being financially able, have no criminal


nor derogatory record (Exhs. "K" to "V"); and are physically fit
to be the adoptive parents of the minor child Kevin (Exh. "W").
Their qualification to become the adoptive parents of Kevin Earl
finds support also in the Social Case Study Report prepared by
the DSWD through Social Worker Luz Angela Sonido, the
pertinent portion of which reads:
"Mr. and Mrs. Munson are very religious, responsible, mature

and friendly individuals. They are found physically healthy;


mentally fit, spiritually and financially capable to adopt Kevin
Earl Moran aka Aaron Joseph.
"Mr. and Mrs. Munson have provided AJ with all his needs. They
unselfishly share their time, love and attention to him. They are
ready and willing to continuously provide him a happy and
secure home life.
"Aaron Joseph, on the other hand, is growing normally under
the care of the Munsons. He had comfortably settled in his new
environment. His stay with the Munsons during the six months
trial custody period has resulted to a close bond with Mr. and
Mrs. Munson and vice-versa.
"We highly recommend to the Honorable Court that the
adoption of Kevin Earl Moran aka Aaron Joseph by Mr. and Mrs.
Van Munson be legalized." 8
It has been said all too often enough that the factual findings of
the lower court, when sufficiently buttressed by legal and
evidential support, are accorded high respect and are binding
and conclusive upon this Court. 9 Accordingly, we fully uphold
the propriety of that portion of the order of the court below
granting the petition, for adoption.
The only legal issues that need to be resolved may then be
synthesized mainly as follows. (1) whether or not the court a
quo erred in granting the prayer for the change of the
registered proper or given name of the minor adoptee
embodied in the petition for adoption; and (2) whether or not
there was lawful ground for the change of name.

I. It is the position of petitioner that respondent judge exceeded


his jurisdiction when he additionally granted the prayer for the
change of the given or proper name of the adoptee in a petition
for adoption.
Petitioner argues that a petition for adoption and a petition for
change of name are two special proceedings which, in
substance and purpose, are different from and are not related
to each other, being respectively governed by distinct sets of
law and rules. In order to be entitled to both reliefs, namely, a
decree of adoption and an authority to change the giver or
proper name of the adoptee, the respective proceedings for
each must be instituted separately, and the substantive and
procedural requirements therefor under Articles 183 to 193 of
the Family Code in relation to Rule 99 of the Rules of Court for
adoption, and Articles 364 to 380 of the Civil Code in relation to
Rule 103 of the Rules of Court for change of name, must
correspondingly be complied with. 10
A perusal of the records, according to petitioner, shows that
only the laws and rules on adoption have been observed, but
not those for a petition for change of name. 11 Petitioner further
contends that what the law allows is the change of the surname
of the adoptee, as a matter of right, to conform with that of the
adopter and as a natural consequence of the adoption thus
granted. If what is sought is the change of the registered given
or proper name, and since this would involve a substantial
change of one's legal name, a petition for change of name
under Rule 103 should accordingly be instituted, with the

substantive and adjective


conformably satisfied. 12

requisites

therefor

being

Private respondents, on the contrary, admittedly filed the


petition for adoption with a prayer for change of name
predicated upon Section 5, Rule 2 which allows permissive
joinder of causes of action in order to avoid multiplicity of suits
and in line with the policy of discouraging protracted and
vexatious litigations. It is argued that there is no prohibition in
the Rules against the joinder of adoption and change of name
being pleaded as two separate but related causes of action in a
single petition. Further, the conditions for permissive joinder of
causes of action, i.e., jurisdiction of the court, proper venue and
joinder of parties, have been met. 13
Corollarily, petitioner insists on strict adherence to the rule
regarding change of name in view of the natural interest of the
State in maintaining a system of identification of its citizens and
in the orderly administration of justice. 14 Private respondents
argue otherwise and invoke a liberal construction and
application of the Rules, the welfare and interest of the
adoptee being the primordial concern that should be addressed
in the instant proceeding. 15
On this score, the trial court adopted a liberal stance in holding
that Furthermore, the change of name of the child from Kevin Earl
Bartolome to Aaron Joseph should not be treated strictly, it
appearing that no rights have been prejudiced by said change
of name. The strict and meticulous observation of the requisites

set forth by Rule 103 of the Rules of Court is indubitably for the
purpose of preventing fraud, ensuring that neither State nor
any third person should be prejudiced by the grant of the
petition for change of name under said rule, to a petitioner of
discernment.
The first name sought to be changed belongs to an infant barely
over a year old. Kevin Earl has not exercised full civil rights nor
engaged in any contractual obligations. Neither can he nor
petitioners on his behalf, be deemed to have any immoral,
criminal or illicit purpose for seeking said cha(n)ge of name. It
stands to reason that there is no way that the state or any
person may be so prejudiced by the action for change of Kevin
Earl's first name. In fact, to obviate any possible doubts on the
intent of petitioners, the prayer for change of name was caused
to be published together with the petition for adoption. 16
Art. 189 of the Family Code enumerates in no uncertain terms
the legal effects of adoption:
(1) For civil purposes, the adopted shall be deemed to be a
legitimate child of the adopters and both shall acquire the
reciprocal rights and obligations arising from the relationship of
parent and child, including the right of the adopted to use the
surname of the adopters;
(2) The parental authority of the parents by nature over the
adopted shall terminate and be vested in the adopters, except
that if the adopter is the spouse of the parent by nature of the
adopted, parental authority over the adopted shall be
exercised jointly by both spouses; and

(3) The adopted shall remain an intestate heir of his parents and
other blood relatives.
Clearly, the law allows the adoptee, as a matter of right and
obligation, to bear the surname of the adopter, upon issuance
of the decree of adoption. It is the change of the adoptee's
surname to follow that of the adopter which is the natural and
necessary consequence of a grant of adoption and must
specifically be contained in the order of the court, in fact, even
if not prayed for by petitioner.
However, the given or proper name, also known as the first or
Christian name, of the adoptee must remain as it was originally
registered in the civil register. The creation of an adoptive
relationship does not confer upon the adopter a license to
change the adoptee's registered Christian or first name. The
automatic change thereof, premised solely upon the adoption
thus granted, is beyond the purview of a decree of adoption.
Neither is it a mere incident in nor an adjunct of an adoption
proceeding, such that a prayer therefor furtively inserted in a
petition for adoption, as in this case, cannot properly be
granted.
The name of the adoptee as recorded in the civil register should
be used in the adoption proceedings in order to vest the court
with jurisdiction to hear and determine the same, 17 and shall
continue to be so used until the court orders otherwise.
Changing the given or proper name of a person as recorded in
the civil register is a substantial change in one's official or legal
name and cannot be authorized without a judicial order. The

purpose of the statutory procedure authorizing a change of


name is simply to have, wherever possible, a record of the
change, and in keeping with the object of the statute, a court
to which the application is made should normally make its
decree recording such change. 18
The official name of a person whose birth is registered in the
civil register is the name appearing therein. If a change in one's
name is desired, this can only be done by filing and strictly
complying with the substantive and procedural requirements
for a special proceeding for change of name under Rule 103 of
the Rules of Court, wherein the sufficiency of the reasons or
grounds therefor can be threshed out and accordingly
determined.
Under Rule 103, a petition for change of name shall be filed in
the regional trial court of the province where the person
desiring to change his name resides. It shall be signed and
verified by the person desiring his name to be changed or by
some other person in his behalf and shall state that the
petitioner has been a bona fide resident of the province where
the petition is filed for at least three years prior to such filing,
the cause for which the change of name is sought, and the
name asked for. An order for the date and place of hearing shall
be made and published, with the Solicitor General or the proper
provincial or city prosecutor appearing for the Government at
such hearing. It is only upon satisfactory proof of the veracity
of the allegations in the petition and the reasonableness of the
causes for the change of name that the court may adjudge that

the name be changed as prayed for in the petition, and shall


furnish a copy of said judgment to the civil registrar of the
municipality concerned who shall forthwith enter the same in
the civil register.
A petition for change of name being a proceeding in rem, strict
compliance with all the requirements therefor is indispensable
in order to vest the court with jurisdiction for its adjudication.
19
It is an independent and discrete special proceeding, in and
by itself, governed by its own set of rules. A fortiori, it cannot
be granted by means of any other proceeding. To consider it as
a mere incident or an offshoot of another special proceeding
would be to denigrate its role and significance as the
appropriate remedy available under our remedial law system.

of action would, therefore, appear to be called for.


By a joinder of actions, or more properly, a joinder of causes of
action, is meant the uniting of two or more demands or rights
of action in one action; the statement of more than one cause
of action in a declaration. 23 It is the union of two or more civil
causes of action, each of which could be made the basis of a
separate suit, in the same complaint, declaration or petition. A
plaintiff may under certain circumstances join several distinct
demands, controversies or rights of action in one declaration,
complaint or petition. 24

The Solicitor General correctly points out the glaring defects of


the subject petition insofar as it seeks the change of name of
the adoptee, 20 all of which taken together cannot but lead to
the conclusion that there was no petition sufficient in form and
substance for change of name as would rightfully deserve an
order therefor. It would be procedurally erroneous to employ a
petition for adoption to effect a change of name in the absence
of the corresponding petition for the latter relief at law.

As can easily be inferred from the above definitions, a party is


generally not required to join in one suit several distinct causes
of action. The joinder of separate causes of action, where
allowable, is permissive and not mandatory in the absence of a
contrary statutory provision, even though the causes of action
arose from the same factual setting and might under applicable
joinder rules be joined. 25 Modern statutes and rules governing
joinders are intended to avoid a multiplicity of suits and to
promote the efficient administration of justice wherever this
may be done without prejudice to the rights of the litigants. To
achieve these ends, they are liberally construed. 26

Neither can the allowance of the subject petition, by any


stretch of imagination and liberality, be justified under the rule
allowing permissive joinder of causes of action. Moreover, the
reliance by private respondents on the pronouncements in Briz
vs. Brit, et al. 21 and Peyer vs. Martinez, et al. 22 is misplaced. A
restatement of the rule and jurisprudence on joinder of causes

While joinder of causes of action is largely left to the option of


a party litigant, Section 5, Rule 2 of our present Rules allows
causes of action to be joined in one complaint conditioned
upon the following requisites: (a) it will not violate the rules on
jurisdiction, venue and joinder of parties; and (b) the causes of
action arise out of the same contract, transaction or relation

between the parties, or are for demands for money or are of


the same nature and character.
The objectives of the rule or provision are to avoid a multiplicity
of suits where the same parties and subject matter are to be
dealt with by effecting in one action a complete determination
of all matters in controversy and litigation between the parties
involving one subject matter, and to expedite the disposition of
litigation at minimum cost. The provision should be construed
so as to avoid such multiplicity, where possible, without
prejudice to the rights of the litigants. Being of a remedial
nature, the provision should be liberally construed, to the end
that related controversies between the same parties may be
adjudicated at one time; and it should be made effectual as far
as practicable, 27 with the end in view of promoting the efficient
administration of justice. 28
The statutory intent behind the provisions on joinder of causes
of action is to encourage joinder of actions which could
reasonably be said to involve kindred rights and wrongs,
although the courts have not succeeded in giving a standard
definition of the terms used or in developing a rule of universal
application. The dominant idea is to permit joinder of causes of
action, legal or equitable, where there is some substantial unity
between them. 29 While the rule allows a plaintiff to join as
many separate claims as he may have, there should
nevertheless be some unity in the problem presented and a
common question of law and fact involved, subject always to
the restriction thereon regarding jurisdiction, venue and

joinder of parties. Unlimited joinder is not authorized. 30


Our rule on permissive joinder of causes of action, with the
proviso subjecting it to the correlative rules on jurisdiction,
venue and joinder of parties 31 and requiring a conceptual unity
in the problems presented, effectively disallows unlimited
joinder. 32
Turning now to the present petition, while it is true that there
is no express prohibition against the joinder of a petition for
adoption and for change of name, we do not believe that there
is any relation between these two petitions, nor are they of the
same nature or character, much less do they present any
common question of fact or law, which conjointly would
warrant their joinder. In short, these petitions do not rightly
meet the underlying test of conceptual unity demanded to
sanction their joinder under our Rules.
As keenly observed and correctly pointed out by the Solicitor
General A petition for adoption and a petition for change of name are
two special proceedings which, in substance and purpose, are
different from each other. Each action is individually governed
by particular sets of laws and rules. These two proceedings
involve disparate issues. In a petition for adoption, the court is
called upon to evaluate the proposed adopter's fitness and
qualifications to bring up and educate the adoptee properly
(Prasnick vs. Republic, 99 Phil. 665). On the other hand, in a
petition for change of name, no family relations are created or
affected for what is looked into is the propriety and

reasonableness of the grounds supporting the proposed


change of name (Yu vs. Republic, 17 SCRA 253).
xxx

xxx

xxx

. . . Hence, the individual merits of each issue must be


separately assessed and determined for neither action is
dependent on the other. 33
The rule on permissive joinder of: causes of action is clear.
Joinder may be allowed only if the actions show a commonality
of relationship and conform to the rules on jurisdiction, venue
and joinder of parties (Section 5, Rule 2, Rules of Court).
These conditions are wanting in the instant case. As already
pointed out in our Petition (pp. 9-10), an action for adoption
and an action for change of name are, in nature and purpose,
not related to each other and do not arise out of the same
relation between the parties. While what is cogent in an
adoption proceeding is the proposed adopter's fitness and
qualifications to adopt, a petition for change of first name may
only prosper upon proof of reasonable and compelling grounds
supporting the change requested. Fitness to adopt is not
determinative of the sufficiency of reasons justifying a change
of name. And similarly, a change of first name cannot be
justified in view of a finding that the proposed adopter was
found fit to adopt. There is just no way that the two actions can
connect and find a common ground, thus the joinder would be
improper.
In contending that adoption and change of name may be
similarly sought in one petition, private respondents rely upon

Peyer vs. Martinez and Briz vs. Briz (p. 4, Comment)


We however submit that these citations are non sequitur. In
both cases, the fact of intimacy and relatedness of the issues is
so pronounced. In Peyer, an application to pronounce the
husband an absentee is obviously intertwined with the action
to transfer the management of conjugal assets to the wife. In
Briz, an action for declaration of heirship was deemed a clear
condition precedent to an action to recover the land subject of
partition and distribution proceeding. However, the
commonality of relationship which stands out in both cases
does not characterize the present action for adoption and
change of name. Thus the rulings in Peyer and Briz find no place
in the case at bar.
Besides, it is interesting to note that although a joinder of the
two actions was, in Briz, declared feasible, the Supreme Court
did not indorse an automatic joinder and instead remanded the
matter for further proceedings, granting leave to amend the
pleadings and implead additional parties-defendants for a
complete determination of the controversy (Briz vs. Briz, 43
Phil. 763, 770). Such cautionary stance all the more emphasizes
that although joinders are generally accepted, they are not
allowed where the conditions are not satisfactorily met. 34
It furthermore cannot be said that the proposed joinder in this
instance will make for a complete determination of all matters
pertaining to the coetaneous grant of adoption and change of
name of the adoptee in one petition. As already stated, the
subject petition was grossly insufficient in form and substance

with respect to the prayer for change of name of the adoptee.


The policy of avoiding multiplicity of suits which underscores
the rule on permissive joinder of causes of action is addressed
to suits that are intimately related and also present interwoven
and dependent issues which can be most expeditiously and
comprehensively settled by having just one judicial proceeding,
but not to suits or actions whose subject matters or
corresponding reliefs are unrelated or diverse such that they
are best taken up individually.
35

In Nabus vs. Court of Appeals, et al., the Court clarified the


rule on permissive joinder of causes of action:
The rule is clearly permissive. It does not constitute an
obligatory rule, as there is no positive provision of law or any
rule of jurisprudence which compels a party to join all his
causes of action and bring them at one and the same time.
Under the present rules, the provision is still that the plaintiff
may, and not that he must, unite several causes of action
although they may be included in one of the classes specified.
This, therefore, leaves it to the plaintiff's option whether the
causes of action shall be joined in the same action, and no
unfavorable inference may be drawn from his failure or refusal
to do so. He may always file another action based on the
remaining cause or causes of action within the prescriptive
period therefor. (Emphasis supplied.)
The situation presented in this case does not warrant exception
from the Rules under the policy of liberal construction thereof
in general, and for change of name in particular, as proposed

by private respondents and adopted by respondent judge.


Liberal construction of the Rules may be invoked in situations
wherein there may be some excusable formal deficiency or
error in a pleading, provided that the same does not subvert
the essence of the proceeding and connotes at least a
reasonable attempt at compliance with the Rules. Utter
disregard of the Rules cannot justly be rationalized by harking
on the policy of liberal construction.
The Court is not impervious to the frustration that litigants and
lawyers alike would at times encounter in procedural
bureaucracy but imperative justice requires correct observance
of indispensable technicalities precisely designed to ensure its
proper dispensation. 36 It has long been recognized that strict
compliance with the Rules of Court is indispensable for the
prevention of needless delays and for the orderly and
expeditious dispatch of judicial business. 37
Procedural rules are not to be disdained as mere technicalities
that may be ignored at will to suit the convenience of a party.
Adjective law is important in ensuring the effective
enforcement of substantive rights through the orderly and
speedy administration of justice. These rules are not intended
to hamper litigants or complicate litigation but, indeed to
provide for a system under which a suitor may be heard in the
correct form and manner and at the prescribed time in a
peaceful confrontation before a judge whose authority they
acknowledge. 38
It cannot be overemphasized that procedural rules have their

own wholesome rationale in the orderly administration of


justice. Justice has to be administered according to the Rules in
order to obviate arbitrariness, caprice, or whimsicality. 39 We
have been cautioned and reminded in Limpot vs. CA, et al. that:
40

Rules of procedure are intended to ensure the orderly


administration of justice and the protection of substantive
rights in judicial and extrajudicial proceedings. It is a mistake to
propose that substantive law and adjective law are
contradictory to each other or, as has often been suggested,
that enforcement of procedural rules should never be
permitted if it will result in prejudice to the substantive rights
of the litigants. This is not exactly true; the concept is much
misunderstood. As a matter of fact, the policy of the courts is
to give both kinds of law, as complementing each other, in the
just and speedy resolution of the dispute between the parties.
Observance of both substantive rights is equally guaranteed by
due process, whatever the source of such rights, be it the
Constitution itself or only a statute or a rule of court.
xxx

xxx

xxx

. . . (T)hey are required to be followed except only when for the


most persuasive of reasons they may be relaxed to relieve a
litigant of an injustice not commensurate with the degree of his
thoughtlessness in not complying with the procedure
prescribed. . . . While it is true that a litigation is not a game of
technicalities, this does not mean that the Rules of Court may
be ignored at will and at random to the prejudice of the orderly

presentation and assessment of the issues and their just


resolution. Justice eschews anarchy.
Only exceptionally in very extreme circumstances, when a rule
deserts its proper office as an aid to justice and becomes its
great hindrance and chief enemy such that rigid application
thereof frustrates rather than promotes substantial justice, will
technicalities deserve scant consideration from the court. In
such situations, the courts are empowered, even obligated, to
suspend the operation of the rules. 41
We do not perceive any injustice that can possibly be visited
upon private respondents by following the reglementary
procedure for the change in the proper or given name that they
seek for their adopted child. We are hard put to descry the
indispensability of a change of the first name of the adoptee to
his welfare and benefit. Nor is the said change of such urgency
that would justify an exemption from or a relaxation of the
Rules. It is the State that stands to be prejudiced by a wanton
disregard of Rule 103 in this case, considering its natural
interest in the methodical administration of justice and in the
efficacious maintenance of a system of identification of its
citizens.
The danger wrought by non-observance of the Rules is that the
violation of or failure to comply with the procedure prescribed
by law prevents the proper determination of the questions
raised by the parties with respect to the merits of the case and
makes it necessary to decide, in the first place, such questions
as relate to the form of the action. The rules and procedure laid

down for the trial court and the adjudication of cases are
matters of public policy. 42 They are matters of public order and
interest which can in no wise be changed or regulated by
agreements between or stipulations by parties to an action for
their singular convenience. 43
In Garcia vs. Republic, 44 we are reminded of the definiteness in
the application of the Rules and the importance of seeking
relief under the appropriate proceeding:
. . . The procedure set by law should be delimited. One should
not confuse or misapply one procedure for another lest we
create confusion in the application of the proper remedy.
Respondent judge's unmindful disregard of procedural tenets
aimed at achieving stability of procedure is to be deplored. He
exceeded his prerogatives by granting the prayer for change of
name, his order being unsupported by both statutory and case
law. The novel but unwarranted manner in which he
adjudicated this case may be characterized as a regrettable
abdication of the duty to uphold the teachings of remedial law
and jurisprudence.
II. Petitioner avers that it was error for the lower court to grant
the petition for change of name without citing or proving any
lawful ground. Indeed, the only justification advanced for the
change of name was the fact of the adoptee's baptism under
the name Aaron Joseph and by which he has been known since
he came to live with private respondents. 45
Private respondents, through a rather stilted ratiocination,
assert that upon the grant of adoption, the subject minor

adoptee ipso facto assumed a new identification and


designation, that is, Aaron Joseph which was the name given to
him during the baptismal rites. Allowing the change of his first
name as prayed for in the petition, so they claim, merely
confirms the designation by which he is known and called in the
community in which he lives. This largely echoes the opinion of
the lower court that naming the child Aaron Joseph was
symbolic of naming him at birth, and that they, as adoptive
parents, have as much right as the natural parents to freely
select the first name of their adopted child. 46
The lower court was sympathetic to herein private respondents
and ruled on this point in this manner:
As adoptive parents, petitioner like other parents may freely
select the first name given to his/her child as it is only the
surname to which the child is entitled that is fixed by law. . . .
xxx

xxx

xxx

The given name of the minor was Kevin Earl, a name given for
no other purpose than for identification purposes in a birth
certificate by a woman who had all intentions of giving him
away. The naming of the minor as Aaron Joseph by petitioners
upon the grant of their petition for adoption is symbolic of
naming the minor at birth. 47
We cannot fathom any legal or jurisprudential basis for this
attenuated ruling of respondent judge and must thus set it
aside.
It is necessary to reiterate in this discussion that a person's

name is a word or combination of words by which he is known


and identified, and distinguished from others, for the
convenience of the world at large in addressing him, or in
speaking of or dealing with him. It is both of personal as well as
public interest that every person must have a name. The name
of an individual has two parts: the given or proper name and
the surname or family name. The giver or proper name is that
which is given to the individual at birth or at baptism, to
distinguish him from other individuals. The surname or family
name is that which identifies the family to which he belongs and
is continued from parent to child. The given name may be freely
selected by the parents for the child, but the surname to which
the child is entitled is fixed by law. 48
By Article 408 of the Civil Code, a person's birth must be
entered in the civil register. The official name of a person is that
given him in the civil register. That is his name in the eyes of the
law. 49 And once the name of a person is officially entered in the
civil register, Article 376 of the same Code seals that identity
with its precise mandate: no person can change his name or
surname without judicial authority. This statutory restriction is
premised on the interest of the State in names borne by
individuals and entities for purposes of identification. 50
By reason thereof, the only way that the name of person can be
changed legally is through a petition for change of name under
Rule 103 of the Rules of Court. 51 For purposes of an application
for change of name under Article 376 of the Civil Code and
correlatively implemented by Rule 103, the only name that may

be changed is the true or official name recorded in the civil


register. As earlier mentioned, a petition for change of name
being a proceeding in rem, impressed as it is with public
interest, strict compliance with all the requisites therefor in
order to vest the court with jurisdiction is essential, and failure
therein renders the proceedings a nullity. 52
It must likewise be stressed once again that a change of name
is a privilege, not a matter of right, addressed to the sound
discretion of the court which has the duty to consider carefully
the consequences of a change of name and to deny the same
unless weighty reasons are shown. Before a person can be
authorized to change his name, that is, his true or official name
or that which appears in his birth certificate or is entered in the
civil register, he must show proper and reasonable cause or any
convincing reason which may justify such change. 53
Jurisprudence has recognized, inter alia, the following grounds
as being sufficient to warrant a change of name: (a) when the
name is ridiculous, dishonorable or extremely difficult to write
or pronounce; (b) when the change results as a legal
consequence of legitimation or adoption; (c) when the change
will avoid confusion; (d) when one has continuously used and
been known since childhood by a Filipino name and was
unaware of alien parentage; (e) when the change is based on a
sincere desire to adopt a Filipino name to erase signs of former
alienage, all in good faith and without prejudice to anybody;
and (f) when the surname causes embarrassment and there is
no showing that the desired change of name was for a

fraudulent purpose or that the change of name would prejudice


public interest. 54
Contrarily, a petition for change of name grounded on the fact
that one was baptized by another name, under which he has
been known and which he used, has been denied inasmuch as
the use of baptismal names is not sanctioned. 55 For, in truth,
baptism is not a condition sine qua non to a change of name. 56
Neither does the fact that the petitioner has been using a
different name and has become known by it constitute proper
and reasonable cause to legally authorize a change of name. 57
A name given to a person in the church records or elsewhere or
by which be is known in the community - when at variance with
that entered in the civil register - is unofficial and cannot be
recognized as his real name. 58
The instant petition does not sufficiently persuade us to depart
from such rulings of long accepted wisdom and applicability.
The only grounds offered to justify the change of name prayed
for was that the adopted child had been baptized as Aaron
Joseph in keeping with the religious faith of private
respondents and that it was the name by which he had been
called and known by his family, relatives and friends from, the
time he came to live with private respondents. 59 Apart from
suffusing their pleadings with sanctimonious entreaties for
compassion, none of the justified grounds for a change of name
has been alleged or established by private respondents. The
legal bases chosen by them to bolster their cause have long
been struck down as unavailing for their present purposes. For,

to allow the adoptee herein to use his baptismal name, instead


of his name registered in the civil register, would be to
countenance or permit that which has always been frowned
upon. 60
The earlier quoted posturing of respondent judge, as expressed
in his assailed order that (a)s adoptive parents, petitioners like other parents may freely
select the first name given to his/her child as it is only the
surname to which the child is entitled that is fixed by law. . . .
The given name of the minor was Kevin Earl, a name given for
no other purpose than for identification purposes in a birth
certificate by a woman who had all the intentions of giving him
away. The naming of the minor as Aaron Joseph by petitioners
upon grant of their petition for adoption is symbolic of naming
the minor at birth.
and supposedly based on the authority of Republic vs. Court of
Appeals and Maximo Wong, supra, painfully misapplies the
ruling therein enunciated.
The factual backdrop of said case is not at all analogous to that
of the case at bar. In the Wong case, therein petitioner Maximo
Wong sought the change of his surname which he acquired by
virtue of the decree of adoption granted in favor of spouses
Hoong Wong and Concepcion Ty Wong. Upon reaching the age
of majority, he filed a petition in court to change his surname
from Wong to Alcala, which was his surname prior to the
adoption. He adduced proof that the use of the surname Wong
caused him embarrassment and isolation from friends and

relatives in view of a suggested Chinese ancestry when in reality


he is a Muslim Filipino residing in a Muslim community, thereby
hampering his business and social life, and that his surviving
adoptive mother consented to the change of name sought. This
Court granted the petition and regarded the change of the
surname as a mere incident in, rather than the object of, the
adoption.

right to name the minor adoptee after such right to name the
child had already been exercised by the natural parent.
Adopting parents have not been conferred such right by law,
hence, the right assertes by private respondents herein
remains but illusory. Renaming the adoptee cannot be claimed
as a right. It is merely a privilege necessitating judicial consent
upon compelling grounds. 61

It should be noted that in said case the change of surname, not


the given name, and the legal consequences thereof in view of
the adoption were at issue. That it was sought in a petition duly
and precisely filed for that purpose with ample proof of the
lawful grounds therefor only serves to reinforce the imperative
necessity of seeking relief under and through the legally
prescribed procedures.

The liberality with which this Court treats matters leading up to


adoption insofar as it carries out the beneficent purposes of
adoption and ensures to the adopted child the rights and
privileges arising therefrom, ever mindful that the paramount
consideration is the overall benefit and interest of the adopted
child, 62 should be understood in its proper context. It should
not be misconstrued or misinterpreted to extend to inferences
beyond the contemplation of law and jurisprudence.

Here, the Solicitor General meritoriously explained that:


Respondent Judge failed to distinguish between a situation
wherein a child is being named for the first time by his natural
parent, as against one wherein, a child is previously conferred
a first name by his natural parent, and such name is
subsequently sought to be disregarded and changed by the
adoptive parents. In the first case, there is no dispute that
natural parents have the right to freely select and give the
child's first name for every person, including juridical persons,
must have a name (Tolentino, A., Commentaries and
Jurisprudence on the Civil Code, Vo. I, 1987 edition, page 721).
In the second case, however, as in the case at bar, private
respondents, in their capacities as adopters, cannot claim a

The practically unrestricted freedom of the natural parent to


select the proper or given name of the child presupposes that
no other name for it has theretofore been entered in the civil
register. Once such name is registered, regardless of the
reasons for such choice and even if it be solely for the purpose
of identification, the same constitutes the official name. This
effectively authenticates the identity of the person and must
remain unaltered save when, for the most compelling reasons
shown in an appropriate proceeding, its change may merit
judicial approval.
While the right of a natural parent to name the child is
recognized, guaranteed and protected under the law, the so-

called right of an adoptive parent to re-name an adopted child


by virtue or as a consequence of adoption, even for the most
noble intentions and moving supplications, is unheard of in law
and consequently cannot be favorably considered. To repeat,
the change of the surname of the adoptee as a result of the
adoption and to follow that of the adopter does not lawfully
extend to or include the proper or given name. Furthermore,
factual realities and legal consequences, rather than
sentimentality and symbolisms, are what are of concern to the
Court.
Finally, it is understood that this decision does not entirely
foreclose and is without prejudice to, private respondents'
privilege to legally change the proper or given name of their
adopted child, provided that the same is exercised, this time,
via a proper petition for change of name. Of course, the grant
thereof is conditioned on strict compliance with all
jurisdictional requirements and satisfactory proof of the
compelling reasons advanced therefor.
WHEREFORE, on the foregoing premises, the assailed order of
respondent judge is hereby MODIFIED. The legally adopted
child of private respondents shall henceforth be officially
known as Kevin Earl Munson y Andrade unless a change thereof
is hereafter effected in accordance with law. In all other
respects, the order is AFFIRMED.
SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 148311. March 31, 2005


IN THE MATTER OF THE ADOPTION OF STEPHANIE NATHY
ASTORGA GARCIA
HONORATO B. CATINDIG, petitioner.
DECISION
SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ, J.:
May an illegitimate child, upon adoption by her natural father,
use the surname of her natural mother as her middle name?
This is the issue raised in the instant case.
The facts are undisputed.
On August 31, 2000, Honorato B. Catindig, herein petitioner,
filed a petition1 to adopt his minor illegitimate child Stephanie
Nathy Astorga Garcia. He alleged therein, among others, that
Stephanie was born on June 26, 1994;2 that her mother is
Gemma Astorga Garcia; that Stephanie has been using her
mothers middle name and surname; and that he is now a
widower and qualified to be her adopting parent. He prayed
that Stephanies middle name Astorga be changed to "Garcia,"
her mothers surname, and that her surname "Garcia" be
changed to "Catindig," his surname.
On March 23, 2001,3 the trial court rendered the assailed
Decision granting the adoption, thus:
"After a careful consideration of the evidence presented by the
petitioner, and in the absence of any opposition to the petition,
this Court finds that the petitioner possesses all the
qualifications and none of the disqualification provided for by

law as an adoptive parent, and that as such he is qualified to


maintain, care for and educate the child to be adopted; that the
grant of this petition would redound to the best interest and
welfare of the minor Stephanie Nathy Astorga Garcia. The Court
further holds that the petitioners care and custody of the child
since her birth up to the present constitute more than enough
compliance with the requirement of Article 35 of Presidential
Decree No. 603.
WHEREFORE, finding the petition to be meritorious, the same
is GRANTED. Henceforth, Stephanie Nathy Astorga Garcia is
hereby freed from all obligations of obedience and
maintenance with respect to her natural mother, and for civil
purposes, shall henceforth be the petitioners legitimate child
and legal heir. Pursuant to Article 189 of the Family Code of
the Philippines, the minor shall be known as STEPHANIE
NATHY CATINDIG.
Upon finality of this Decision, let the same be entered in the
Local Civil Registrar concerned pursuant to Rule 99 of the Rules
of Court.
Let copy of this Decision be furnished the National Statistics
Office for record purposes.
SO ORDERED."4
On April 20, 2001, petitioner filed a motion for clarification
and/or reconsideration5 praying that Stephanie should be
allowed to use the surname of her natural mother (GARCIA) as
her middle name.

On May 28, 2001,6 the trial court denied petitioners motion for
reconsideration holding that there is no law or jurisprudence
allowing an adopted child to use the surname of his biological
mother as his middle name.

the Family Code, she remains to be an intestate heir of the


latter. Thus, to prevent any confusion and needless hardship in
the future, her relationship or proof of that relationship with
her natural mother should be maintained.

Hence, the present petition raising the issue of whether an


illegitimate child may use the surname of her mother as her
middle name when she is subsequently adopted by her natural
father.

Second, there is no law expressly prohibiting Stephanie to use


the surname of her natural mother as her middle name. What
the law does not prohibit, it allows.

Petitioner submits that the trial court erred in depriving


Stephanie of a middle name as a consequence of adoption
because: (1) there is no law prohibiting an adopted child from
having a middle name in case there is only one adopting parent;
(2) it is customary for every Filipino to have as middle name the
surname of the mother; (3) the middle name or initial is a part
of the name of a person; (4) adoption is for the benefit and best
interest of the adopted child, hence, her right to bear a proper
name should not be violated; (5) permitting Stephanie to use
the middle name "Garcia" (her mothers surname) avoids the
stigma of her illegitimacy; and; (6) her continued use of
"Garcia" as her middle name is not opposed by either the
Catindig or Garcia families.
The Republic, through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG),
agrees with petitioner that Stephanie should be permitted to
use, as her middle name, the surname of her natural mother
for the following reasons:
First, it is necessary to preserve and maintain Stephanies
filiation with her natural mother because under Article 189 of

Last, it is customary for every Filipino to have a middle name,


which is ordinarily the surname of the mother. This custom has
been recognized by the Civil Code and Family Code. In fact, the
Family Law Committees agreed that "the initial or surname of
the mother should immediately precede the surname of the
father so that the second name, if any, will be before the
surname of the mother."7
We find merit in the petition.
Use Of Surname Is Fixed By Law
For all practical and legal purposes, a man's name is the
designation by which he is known and called in the community
in which he lives and is best known. It is defined as the word or
combination of words by which a person is distinguished from
other individuals and, also, as the label or appellation which he
bears for the convenience of the world at large addressing him,
or in speaking of or dealing with him.8 It is both of personal as
well as public interest that every person must have a name.
The name of an individual has two parts: (1) the given or proper
name and (2) the surname or family name. The given or proper

name is that which is given to the individual at birth or at


baptism, to distinguish him from other individuals. The
surname or family name is that which identifies the family to
which he belongs and is continued from parent to child. The
given name may be freely selected by the parents for the child,
but the surname to which the child is entitled is fixed by law.9
Thus, Articles 364 to 380 of the Civil Code provides the
substantive rules which regulate the use of surname10 of an
individual whatever may be his status in life, i.e., whether he
may be legitimate or illegitimate, an adopted child, a married
woman or a previously married woman, or a widow, thus:
"Art. 364. Legitimate and legitimated children shall principally
use the surname of the father.
Art. 365. An adopted child shall bear the surname of the
adopter.
xxx

guilty party, she shall resume her maiden name and surname.
If she is the innocent spouse, she may resume her maiden name
and surname. However, she may choose to continue employing
her former husband's surname, unless:
(1) The court decrees otherwise, or
(2) She or the former husband is married again to another
person.
Art. 372. When legal separation has been granted, the wife shall
continue using her name and surname employed before the
legal separation.
Art. 373. A widow may use the deceased husband's surname as
though he were still living, in accordance with Article 370.
Art. 374. In case of identity of names and surnames, the
younger person shall be obliged to use such additional name or
surname as will avoid confusion.

Art. 369. Children conceived before the decree annulling a


voidable marriage shall principally use the surname of the
father.

Art. 375. In case of identity of names and surnames between


ascendants and descendants, the word Junior can be used
only by a son. Grandsons and other direct male descendants
shall either:

Art. 370. A married woman may use:

(1) Add a middle name or the mother's surname,

(1) Her maiden first name and surname and add her husband's
surname, or

(2) Add the Roman numerals II, III, and so on.

(2) Her maiden first name and her husband's surname or

Law Is Silent As To The Use Of

(3) Her husband's full name, but prefixing a word indicating that
she is his wife, such as Mrs.

Middle Name

Art. 371. In case of annulment of marriage, and the wife is the

x x x"

As correctly submitted by both parties, there is no law

regulating the use of a middle name. Even Article 17611 of the


Family Code, as amended by Republic Act No. 9255, otherwise
known as "An Act Allowing Illegitimate Children To Use The
Surname Of Their Father," is silent as to what middle name a
child may use.
The middle name or the mothers surname is only considered
in Article 375(1), quoted above, in case there is identity of
names and surnames between ascendants and descendants, in
which case, the middle name or the mothers surname shall be
added.
Notably, the law is likewise silent as to what middle name an
adoptee may use. Article 365 of the Civil Code merely
provides that "an adopted child shall bear the surname of the
adopter." Also, Article 189 of the Family Code, enumerating
the legal effects of adoption, is likewise silent on the matter,
thus:
"(1) For civil purposes, the adopted shall be deemed to be a
legitimate child of the adopters and both shall acquire the
reciprocal rights and obligations arising from the relationship of
parent and child, including the right of the adopted to use the
surname of the adopters;
x x x"
However, as correctly pointed out by the OSG, the members of
the Civil Code and Family Law Committees that drafted the
Family Code recognized the Filipino custom of adding the
surname of the childs mother as his middle name. In the
Minutes of the Joint Meeting of the Civil Code and Family Law

Committees, the members approved the suggestion that the


initial or surname of the mother should immediately precede
the surname of the father, thus
"Justice Caguioa commented that there is a difference between
the use by the wife of the surname and that of the child because
the fathers surname indicates the family to which he belongs,
for which reason he would insist on the use of the fathers
surname by the child but that, if he wants to, the child may
also use the surname of the mother.
Justice Puno posed the question: If the child chooses to use the
surname of the mother, how will his name be written? Justice
Caguioa replied that it is up to him but that his point is that it
should be mandatory that the child uses the surname of the
father and permissive in the case of the surname of the
mother.
Prof. Baviera remarked that Justice Caguioas point is covered
by the present Article 364, which reads:
Legitimate and legitimated children shall principally use the
surname of the father.
Justice Puno pointed out that many names change through no
choice of the person himself precisely because of this
misunderstanding. He then cited the following example:
Alfonso Ponce Enriles correct surname is Ponce since the
mothers surname is Enrile but everybody calls him Atty. Enrile.
Justice Jose Gutierrez Davids family name is Gutierrez and his
mothers surname is David but they all call him Justice David.

Justice Caguioa suggested that the proposed Article (12) be


modified to the effect that it shall be mandatory on the child
to use the surname of the father but he may use the
surname of the mother by way of an initial or a middle
name. Prof. Balane stated that they take note of this for
inclusion in the Chapter on Use of Surnames since in the
proposed Article (10) they are just enumerating the rights of
legitimate children so that the details can be covered in the
appropriate chapter.
xxx
Justice Puno remarked that there is logic in the simplification
suggested by Justice Caguioa that the surname of the father
should always be last because there are so many traditions like
the American tradition where they like to use their second
given name and the Latin tradition, which is also followed by
the Chinese wherein they even include the Clan name.
xxx
Justice Puno suggested that they agree in principle that in
the Chapter on the Use of Surnames, they should say that
initial or surname of the mother should immediately precede
the surname of the father so that the second name, if any,
will be before the surname of the mother. Prof. Balane
added that this is really the Filipino way. The Committee
approved the suggestion."12 (Emphasis supplied)
In the case of an adopted child, the law provides that "the
adopted shall bear the surname of the adopters."13 Again, it is
silent whether he can use a middle name. What it only

expressly allows, as a matter of right and obligation, is for the


adoptee to bear the surname of the adopter, upon issuance of
the decree of adoption.14
The Underlying Intent of
Adoption Is In Favor of the
Adopted Child
Adoption is defined as the process of making a child, whether
related or not to the adopter, possess in general, the rights
accorded to a legitimate child.15 It is a juridical act, a proceeding
in rem which creates between two persons a relationship similar
to that which results from legitimate paternity and filiation.16
The modern trend is to consider adoption not merely as an act
to establish a relationship of paternity and filiation, but also as
an act which endows the child with a legitimate status.17 This
was, indeed, confirmed in 1989, when the Philippines, as a
State Party to the Convention of the Rights of the Child
initiated by the United Nations, accepted the principle that
adoption is impressed with social and moral responsibility,
and that its underlying intent is geared to favor the adopted
child.18 Republic Act No. 8552, otherwise known as the
"Domestic Adoption Act of 1998,"19 secures these rights and
privileges for the adopted.20
One of the effects of adoption is that the adopted is deemed to
be a legitimate child of the adopter for all intents and purposes
pursuant to Article 18921 of the Family Code and Section 1722
Article V of RA 8552.23

Being a legitimate child by virtue of her adoption, it follows


that Stephanie is entitled to all the rights provided by law to a
legitimate child without discrimination of any kind, including
the right to bear the surname of her father and her mother, as
discussed above. This is consistent with the intention of the
members of the Civil Code and Family Law Committees as
earlier discussed. In fact, it is a Filipino custom that the initial or
surname of the mother should immediately precede the
surname of the father.

Adoption Statutes In Favor Of

Additionally, as aptly stated by both parties, Stephanies


continued use of her mothers surname (Garcia) as her middle
name will maintain her maternal lineage. It is to be noted that
Article 189(3) of the Family Code and Section 1824, Article V of
RA 8552 (law on adoption) provide that the adoptee remains
an intestate heir of his/her biological parent. Hence, Stephanie
can well assert or claim her hereditary rights from her natural
mother in the future.

Lastly, Art. 10 of the New Civil Code provides that:

Moreover, records show that Stephanie and her mother are


living together in the house built by petitioner for them at 390
Tumana, San Jose, Baliuag, Bulacan. Petitioner provides for all
their needs. Stephanie is closely attached to both her mother
and father. She calls them "Mama" and "Papa". Indeed, they
are one normal happy family. Hence, to allow Stephanie to use
her mothers surname as her middle name will not only sustain
her continued loving relationship with her mother but will also
eliminate the stigma of her illegitimacy.
Liberal Construction of

Adoption
It is a settled rule that adoption statutes, being humane and
salutary, should be liberally construed to carry out the
beneficent purposes of adoption.25 The interests and welfare of
the adopted child are of primary and paramount
consideration,26 hence, every reasonable intendment should
be sustained to promote and fulfill these noble and
compassionate objectives of the law.27
"In case of doubt in the interpretation or application of laws, it
is presumed that the lawmaking body intended right and justice
to prevail."
This provision, according to the Code Commission, "is necessary
so that it may tip the scales in favor of right and justice when
the law is doubtful or obscure. It will strengthen the
determination of the courts to avoid an injustice which may
apparently be authorized by some way of interpreting the
law."28
Hence, since there is no law prohibiting an illegitimate child
adopted by her natural father, like Stephanie, to use, as middle
name her mothers surname, we find no reason why she should
not be allowed to do so.
WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The assailed Decision
is partly MODIFIED in the sense that Stephanie should be
allowed to use her mothers surname "GARCIA" as her middle

name.
Let the corresponding entry of her correct and complete name
be entered in the decree of adoption.
SO ORDERED.

[G.R. No. 103695. March 15, 1996]

REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, petitioner, vs. THE


COURT OF APPEALS, JAIME B. CARANTO, and
ZENAIDA P. CARANTO, respondents.
SYLLABUS
1. REMEDIAL LAW; SPECIAL PROCEEDINGS; RULE
108 OF THE RULES OF COURT; APPLICABLE IN
CASE AT BAR. - With regard to the second
assignment of error in the petition, we hold that both
the Court of Appeals and the trial court erred in
granting private respondents prayer for the correction
of the name of the child in the civil registry. Contrary
to what the trial court thought, Rule 108 of the Rules
of Court applies to this- case and because its provision
was not complied with, the decision of the trial court,
insofar as it ordered the correction of the name of the
minor, is void and without force or effect. The trial court
was clearly in error in holding Rule 108 to be
applicable only to the correction of errors concerning
the civil status of persons. This case falls under letter
(o), referring to changes of name. Indeed, it has been
the uniform ruling of this Court that Art. 412 of the Civil

Code - to implement which Rule 108 was inserted in


the Rules of Court in 1964 - covers those harmless
and innocuous changes, such as correction of a name
that is clearly misspelled. Thus, in Yu v. Republic (21
SCRA 1018 [1967]) it was held that to change Sincio
to Sencio which merely involves the substitution of the
first vowel i in the first name into the vowel e amounts
merely to the righting of a clerical error. In LabayoRowe v. Republic (168 SCRA 294 [1988]) it was held
that the change of petitioners name from Beatriz
Labayo/Beatriz Labayu to Emperatriz Labayo is a
mere innocuous alteration wherein a summary
proceeding is appropriate. Rule 108 thus applies to the
present proceeding.
2. ID.; ID.; ID.; FAILURE TO IMPLEAD THE CIVIL
REGISTRAR AS AN INDISPENSABLE PARTY AND
TO GIVE NOTICE BY PUBLICATION OF THE
PETITION FOR CORRECTION OF ENTRY
RENDERS THE PROCEEDING OF THE TRIAL
COURT NULL AND VOID; CASE AT BAR. - The
local civil registrar is thus required to be made a party
to the proceeding. He is an indispensable party,
without whom no final determination of the case can
be had. As he was not impleaded in this case much
less given notice of the proceeding, the decision of the
trial court, insofar as it granted the prayer for the
correction of entry, is void. The absence of-an
indispensable party in a case renders ineffectual all
the proceedings subsequent to the filing of the
complaint including the judgment. Nor was notice of
the petition for correction of entry published as
required by Rule 108, 4 which reads: 4. Notice and
publication. - Upon filing of the petition, the court shall,

by an order, fix the time and place for the hearing of


the same, and cause reasonable notice thereof to be
given to the persons named in the petition. The court
shall also cause the order to be published once a week
for three (3) consecutive weeks in a newspaper of
general circulation in the province. While there was
notice given by publication in this case, it was notice
of the petition for adoption made in compliance with
Rule 99, 4. In that notice only the prayer for adoption
of the minor was stated. Nothing was, mentioned that
in addition the correction of his name in the civil
registry was also being sought. The local civil registrar
-was thus deprived of notice and, consequently, of the
opportunity to be heard. The necessary consequence
of the failure to implead the civil registrar as an
indispensable party and to give notice by publication
of the petition for correction of entry was to render the
proceeding of the trial court, so far as the correction of
entry was concerned, null and void for lack of
jurisdiction both as to party and as to the subject
matter.
APPEARANCES OF COUNSEL
The Solicitor General for petitioner.
Encarnacion, De Guzman & Associates Law Office for
respondents.
DECISION
MENDOZA, J.:
This is a petition for review on certiorari of the
decision[1] of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No.
24453 which affirmed in toto the decision of Branch XVI of

the Regional Trial Court of Cavite City, granting private


respondents petition for the adoption of Midael C. Mazon
with prayer for the correction of the minors first name
Midael to Michael.
The petition below was filed on September 2, 1988 by
private respondents spouses Jaime B. Caranto and
Zenaida P. Caranto for the adoption of Midael C. Mazon,
then fifteen years old, who had been living with private
respondent Jaime B. Caranto since he was seven years
old. When private respondents were married on January
19, 1986, the minor Midael C. Mazon stayed with them
under their care and custody. Private respondents prayed
that judgement be rendered:
a) Declaring the child Michael C. Mazon the child
of petitioners for all intents and purposes;
b) Dissolving the authority vested in the natural
parents of the child; and
c) That the surname of the child be legally
changed to that of the petitioners and that the
first name which was mistakenly registered as
MIDAEL be corrected to MICHAEL.
The RTC set the case for hearing on September 21,
1988, giving notice thereof by publication in a newspaper
of general circulation in the Province of Cavite and by
service of the order upon the Department of Social Welfare
and Development and the Office of the Solicitor General.
The Solicitor General opposed the petition insofar as
it sought the correction of the name of the child from
Midael to Michael. He argued that although the correction
sought concerned only a clerical and innocuous error, it

could not be granted because the petition was basically for


adoption, not the correction of an entry in the civil registry
under Rule 108 of the Rules of Court.

1. Michael C. Mazon is, for all legal intents and


purposes, the son by adoption of petitioners
Jaime B. Caranto and Zenaida P. Caranto;

Thereafter the case was heard during which private


respondents Zenaida Caranto, Florentina Mazon (natural
mother of the child), and the minor testified. Also
presented was Carlina Perez, social worker of the
Department of Social Welfare and Development, who
endorsed the adoption of the minor, being of the opinion
that the same was in the best interest of the child.

2. Henceforth, the minors name shall be Michael


Caranto, in lieu of his original name of Michael
Mazon, or Midael Mazon, as appearing in his
record of birth;

On May 30, 1989, the RTC rendered its decision. The


RTC dismissed the opposition of the Solicitor General. on
the ground that Rule 108 of the Rules of Court
(Cancellation or Correction of Entries in the Civil Registry)
applies only to the correction of entries concerning the civil
status of persons. It cited Rule 108, 1, which provides that
any person interested in an act, event, order or decree
concerning the civil status of the persons which has been
recorded in the civil register, may file a verified petition for
the cancellation or correction of any entry relating thereto.
It held that the correction of names in the civil registry is
not one of the matters enumerated in Rule 108, 2 as
entries subject to cancellation or correction. According to
the trial court, the error could be corrected in the same
proceeding for adoption to prevent multiplicity of actions,
and inconvenience to the petitioners.
The dispositive portion of the RTC decision reads:
WHEREFORE, judgement is hereby rendered granting the
herein petition and declaring that:

3. The Local Civil Registrar of Cavite City, the


birthplace of said minor, is hereby directed to
accordingly amend (and) correct the birth
certificate, of said minor; and
4. This judgement shall retroact to September 2,
1988, the date of filing of the herein petition.
The Solicitor General appealed to the Court of
Appeals reiterating his contention that the correction of
names cannot be affected in the same proceeding for
adoption. As additional ground for his appeal, he argued
that the RTC did not acquire jurisdiction over the Case for
adoption because in the notice published in the
newspaper, the name given was Michael, instead of
Midael, which is the name of the minor given in his
Certificate of Live Birth.
On January 23,1992, the Court of Appeals affirmed in
toto the decision of the RTC. The Court of Appeals ruled
that the case of Cruz v. Republic,[2] invoked by the
petitioner in support of its plea that the trial court did not
acquire jurisdiction over the case, was inapplicable
because that case involved a substantial error. Like the
trial court, it held that to require the petitioners to file a
separate petition for correction of name would entail

additional time and expenses for them as. well as for the
Government and the Courts.
Hence this petition for review. Private respondents
were required to comment. Despite opportunity given to
them, however, they did not file any comment.
The first issue is whether on the facts stated, the RTC
acquired jurisdiction over the private respondents petition
for adoption. Petitioners contention is that the trial court did
not acquire jurisdiction over the petition for adoption
because the notice by publication did not state the true
name of the minor child. Petitioner invokes the ruling
in Cruz v. Republic.[3] There the petition for adoption and
the notice published in the newspaper gave the baptismal
name of the child -(Rosanna E. Cruz) instead of her name
in the record of birth (Rosanna E. Bucoy). it was held that
this was a substantial defect in the petition and the
published order of hearing. Indeed there was a question of
identity involved in that case. Rosanna E. Cruz could very
well be a different person from Rosanna E. Bucoy, as
common experience would indicate.
The present case is different. It involves an obvious
clerical error in the name of the child sought to be
adopted. In this case the correction involves merely the
substitution of the letters ch for the letter d, so that what
appears as Midael as given name would read Michael.
Even the Solicitor General admits that the error is a plainly
clerical one. Changing the name of the child from Midael
C. Mazon to Michael C Mazon cannot possibly cause any
confusion, because both names can be read and
pronounced with the same rhyme (tugma) and tone (tono,
tunog, himig). The purpose of the publication requirement
is to give notice so that those who have any objection to

the adoption can make their objection known. That


purpose has been served by publication of notice in this
case.
For this reason we hold that the RTC correctly granted
the petition for adoption of the minor Midael C. Mazon and
the Court of Appeals, in affirming the decision of the trial
court, correctly did so.
With regard to the second assignment of error in the
petition, we hold that both the Court of Appeals and the
trial court erred in granting private respondents prayer for
the correction of the name of the child in the civil registry.
Contrary to what the trial court thought, Rule 108 of
the Rules of Court applies to this case and because its
provision was not complied with, the decision of the trial
court, insofar as it ordered the correction of the name of
the minor, is void and without force or effect.
The trial court was clearly in error in holding Rule 108
to be applicable only to the correction of errors concerning
the civil status of persons. Rule 108, 2 plainly states:
2. Entries subject to cancellation or correction. - Upon good
and valid grounds, the following entries in the civil register
may be cancelled or corrected: (a) births; (b) marriages; (c)
deaths; (d) legal separation; (e) judgments of annulments of
marriage; (f) judgments declaring marriages void from the
beginning; (g) legitimations; (h) adoptions; (i)
acknowledgments of natural children; (j) naturalization; (k)
election, loss or recovery of citizenship; (l) civil interdiction;
(m) judicial determination of filiation; (n) voluntary
emancipation of a minor; and (o) changes of name.

This case falls under letter (o), referring to changes of


name. Indeed, it has been the uniform ruling of this Court
that Art. 412 of the Civil Code - to implement which Rule
108 was inserted in the rules of Court in 1964 - covers
those harmless and innocuous changes, such as
correction of a name that is clearly misspelled.[4] Thus,
in Yu vs. Republic[5] it was held that to change Sincio to
Sencio which merely involves the substitution of the first
vowel i in the first name into the vowel e amounts merely
to the righting of a clerical error. In Labayo-Rowe v.
Republic[6] it was held that the change of petitioners name
from Beatriz Labayo/Beatriz Labayu to Emperatriz Labayo
is a mere innocuous alteration wherein a summary
proceeding is appropriate.
Rule 108 thus applies to the present proceeding. Now
3 of this Rule provides:
3. Parties. - When cancellation or correction of an entry in the
civil register is sought, the civil registrar and all persons who
have or claim any interest which would be affected thereby
shall be made parties to the proceeding.
The local civil registrar is thus required to be made a
party to the proceeding. He is an indispensable party,
without whom no final determination of the case can be
had.[7] As he was not impleaded in this case much less
given notice of the proceeding, the decision of the trial
court, insofar as it granted the prayer for the correction of
entry, is void. The absence of an indenpensable party in a
case renders ineffectual all the proceeding subsequent to
the filling of the complaint including the judgment.[8]

Nor was notice of the petition for correction of entry


published as required by Rule 108, 4 which reads:
4. Notice and publication. - Upon filling of the petition, the
court shall, by an order, fix the time and place for the hearing
of the same, and cause reasonable notice thereof to be given to
the persons named in the petition. The court shall also cause
the order to be published once a week for three (3) consecutive
weeks in a newspaper of general circulation in the province.
While there was notice given by publication in this
case, it was notice of the petition for adoption made in
compliance with Rule 99, 4. In that notice only the prayer
for adoption of the minor was stated. Nothing was
mentioned that in addition the correction of his name in the
civil registry was also being sought. The local civil registrar
was thus deprived of notice and, consequently, of the
opportunity to be heard.
The necessary consequence of the failure to implead
the civil registrar as an indispensable party and to give
notice by publication of the petition for correction of entry
was to render the proceeding of the trial court, so far as
the correction of entry was concered, null and void for lack
of jurisdiction both as to party and as to the subject
matter.[9]
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the decision
of the Court of Appeals is MODIFIED by deleting from the
decision of the Regional Trial Court the order to the local
civil registrar to change the name MIDAEL to MICHAEL in
the birth certificate of the child. In other respects relating
to the adoption of Midael C. Mazon, the decision appealed
from is AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.

EUGENIO REYES VS MAURICIO, GR NO 175080

Subject of this petition is the Decision[1] of the Court of


Appeals dated 10 August 2006 in CA-G.R. SP No. 87148,
affirming the Decision dated 7 July 1998 and Resolution
dated 28 September 2004 of the Department of Agrarian Reform
Adjudication Board (DARAB).
Eugenio Reyes (Eugenio) was the registered owner of a
parcel of land located at Turo, Bocaue, Bulacan, with an area of
four thousand five hundred twenty-seven (4,527) square meters,
more or less, and covered by Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT)
No. 109456(M). Said title came from and cancelled TCT No. T62290 registered in the name of Eufracia and Susana Reyes,
siblings of Eugenio. The subject property was adjudicated to
Eugenio by virtue of an extrajudicial settlement among the heirs
following the death of his parents.
The controversy stemmed from a complaint filed before
the DARAB of Malolos, Bulacan by respondents Librada F.
Mauricio (Librada), now deceased, and her alleged daughter
Leonida F. Mauricio (Leonida) for annulment of contract
denominated as Kasunduan and between Librada and Eugenio
as parties. Respondents also prayed for maintenance of their
peaceful possession with damages.

Respondents alleged that they are the legal heirs of the


late Godofredo Mauricio (Godofredo), who was the lawful and
registered tenant of Eugenio through his predecessors-in-interest
to the subject land; that from 1936 until his death in May 1994,
Godofredo had been working on the subject land and introduced
improvements consisting of fruit-bearing trees, seasonal crops,
a residential house and other permanent improvements; that
through fraud, deceit, strategy and other unlawful means,
Eugenio caused the preparation of a document denominated
as Kasunduan dated 28 September 1994 to eject respondents
from the subject property, and had the same notarized by Notary
Public Ma. Sarah G. Nicolas in Pasig, Metro Manila; that
Librada never appeared before the Notary Public; that Librada
was illiterate and the contents of the Kasunduan were not read
nor explained to her; that Eugenio took undue advantage of the
weakness, age, illiteracy, ignorance, indigence and other
handicaps
of
Librada
in
the
execution
of
the Kasunduan rendering it void for lack of consent; and that
Eugenio had been employing all illegal means to eject
respondents from the subject property. Respondents prayed for
the declaration of nullity of theKasunduan and for an order for
Eugenio to maintain and place them in peaceful possession and
cultivation of the subject property. Respondents likewise
demanded payment of damages.[2] During trial, respondents

presented a leasehold contract executed between Susana and


Godofredo to reaffirm the existing tenancy agreement.[3]
Eugenio averred that no tenancy relationship existed
between him and respondents. He clarified that Godofredos
occupation of the subject premises was based on the formers
mere tolerance and accommodation. Eugenio denied signing a
tenancy agreement, nor authorizing any person to sign such an
agreement. He maintained that Librada, accompanied by a
relative, voluntarily affixed her signature to the Kasunduan and
that she was fully aware of the contents of the
document. Moreover, Librada received P50,000.00 from
Eugenio on the same day of the execution of
the Kasunduan. Eugenio also questioned the jurisdiction of the
DARAB since the principal relief sought by respondents is the
annulment of the contract, over which jurisdiction is vested on
the regular courts. Eugenio also asserted that Leonida had no
legal personality to file the present suit. [4]
Based on the evidence submitted by both parties, the
Provincial
Adjudicator[5] concluded that Godofredo was the tenant of
Eugenio, and Librada, being the surviving spouse, should be
maintained in peaceful possession of the subject land. The
dispositive portion of the decision reads:

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing,


judgment is hereby rendered in favor of plaintiff
Librada Mauricio and against defendant Eugenio
R. Reyes and order is hereby issued:
1.
void;
2.

3.

4.

Declaring the kasunduan null and


Ordering defendant to respect the
peaceful possession of herein plaintiff
Librada Mauricio over the subject
landholding;
Ordering plaintiff to return the
amount of P50,000.00 to herein
defendant;
No pronouncement as to costs.[6]

On appeal, two issues were presented to and taken up by


the DARAB, namely: (1) Whether or not there is tenancy
relation between the parties; and (2) whether or not
the Kasunduan dated 28 September 1994 is valid and
enforceable. The DARAB held that the Mauricios are former
tenants of Spouses Reyes. It found that when Spouses Reyes
died, siblings Eufracia, Susana and Eugenio, among others
inherited the subject property. Under the law, they were
subrogated to the rights and substituted to the obligations of their
late parents as the agricultural lessors over the farmholding
tenanted by respondents. Moreover, the DARAB banked on
the Kasunduang Buwisan sa Sakahan or the leasehold contract
executed by Susana in favor of Godofredo to support the tenancy
relationship. Furthermore, the DARAB declared the

other Kasunduan as void by relying on the evaluation of the

and Eugenio with respect to the disputed property. Eugenio

Provincial Adjudicator as to the legal incapacity of Librada to


enter into such a contract.[7]

attributes error on the part of the Court of Appeals in concluding


that a tenancy relationship existed between the parties despite
the absence of some of the essential requisites of a tenancy
relationship such as personal cultivation and the subject land
being agricultural. Finally, Eugenio defends the validity of
the Kasunduan entered into between him and Librada wherein
the latter agreed to vacate the subject property, in that it was
voluntarily entered into and the contents thereof were mutually
understood by the parties.[11]

Eugenio filed a motion for reconsideration which was denied by


the DARAB on 28 September 2004.[8]
Aggrieved by the DARAB ruling, Eugenio filed a petition for
review with the Court of Appeals. On 10 July 2006, the Court of
Appeals issued a resolution regarding the status of Leonida as a
legal heir and allowed her to substitute Librada, who died during
the pendency of the case.[9] On 10 August 2006, the Court of
Appeals affirmed the decision and resolution of the DARAB. It

In a Resolution dated 7 February 2007, this Court denied the


petition for failure to show that the Court of Appeals committed

sustained the factual findings of the DARAB with respect to the


tenancy relation between Godofredo and Spouses Reyes and the

reversible error in its challenged decision and resolution. The


Court also dismissed the issues raised as factual. However, upon

nullity of the Kasunduan.[10]

filing of a motion for reconsideration by Eugenio, this Court


reinstated the petition and required respondent Leonida to
comment on the petition.[12]

Undaunted, Eugenio filed the instant petition. Eugenio submits


that no tenancy relationship exists between him and
respondents. He insists that the Kasunduang Buwisan sa
Sakahan allegedly executed between Godofredo and Susana in
1993 giving the former the right to occupy and cultivate the
subject property is unenforceable against Eugenio, having been
entered into without his knowledge and consent. Eugenio further
asserts that per records of the Department of Agrarian Reform
(DAR), no leasehold contract was entered into by Godofredo

In her comment, respondent prayed for the denial of the petition


because the jurisdiction of this Court is limited to review of
errors of law and not of facts.[13]
In the main, Eugenio insists that no tenancy relationship existed
between him and Godofredo. This is a question of fact beyond
the province of this Court in a petition for review under Rule 45

of the Rules of Court in which only questions of law may be


raised.[14] Absent any of the obtaining exceptions[15] to this rule,
the findings of facts of the Provincial Adjudicator, as affirmed
by DARAB and especially by the Court of Appeals, are binding
on this Court.
The DARAB ruling outlined how the tenancy relationship
between Godofredo and the Mauricios came about, thus:
This Board, after a thorough evaluation of
the evidences, is convinced that the Mauricios are
former tenants of the parents of the herein
Defendant-Appeallant. A perusal of Exhibit H
which is the Tax Declaration of the property in
controversy proves that upon the death of the
parents of Defendant-Appellant, the property
was the subject matter of their extra-judicial
partition/settlement and this property was
initially under the ownership of the appellants
sisters, Eufracia and Susana Reyes until the same
property was finally acquired/transferred in the
name of Respondent-Appellant. Obviously, in
order to re-affirm the fact that the Mauricios are
really the tenants, Susana Reyes had voluntarily
executed the Leasehold Contract with Godofredo
Librada being the tenant on the property and to
prove that she (Susana Reyes) was the
predecessor-in-interest
of
RespondentAppeallant
Eugenio
Reyes.
x
x
x. The Kasunduang Buwisan sa Sakahan alleging
that their tenancy relationship began in the year

1973 and their agreement as to the rental shall


remain until further revised.[16]

This is a contest of Kasunduans. Respondents rely on


a Kasunduan of tenancy. Petitioners swear by a Kasunduan of
termination of tenancy.
Librada claims that her late husband had been working
on the land since 1936 until his death in 1994. She presented
the Kasunduang Buwisan sa Sakahan dated 26 May 1993 and
executed by Godofredo and Susana which reaffirmed the
leasehold tenancy over the subject land. On the other hand,
Eugenio disputes the claims of Librada and presented
another Kasunduan executed between him and Librada on 28
September 1994 which effectively terminates the leasehold
tenancy when the latter allegedly agreed to vacate the subject
premises in exchange of monetary considerations.
This second Kasunduan is the subject of the instant
complaint. In its disquisition, the DARAB nullified the
second Kasunduan, to wit:
x x x Insofar as this Kasunduan is concerned, and
after reading the transcript of the testimony of the
old woman Librada Mauricio, this Board is
convinced that indeed the purpose of the
document was to eject her from the farmholding

but that Librada Mauricio wanted to return the


money she received because the contents of the
document was never explained to her being
illiterate who cannot even read or write. This
Board is even further convinced after reading the
transcript of the testimonies that while the
document was allegedly signed by the parties in
Turo, Bocaue, Bulacan, the same document was
notarized in Pasig, Metro Manila, thus, the
Notary Public was not in a position to explain
much less ascertain the veracity of the contents
of the alleged Kasunduan as to whether or not
Plaintiff-Appellee Librada Mauricio had really
understood the contents thereof. This Board
further adheres to the principle that it cannot
substitute its own evaluation of the testimony of
the witnesses with that of the personal evaluation
of the Adjudicator a quo who, in the case at bar,
had the best opportunity to observe the demeanor
of the witness Librada Mauricio while testifying
on the circumstances relevant to the execution of
the alleged Kasunduan. Furthermore, this Board
adheres to the principle that in all contractual,
property or other relations, when one of the
parties is at a disadvantage on account of his
moral dependence, ignorance, mental weakness
or other handicap, the courts (and in the case at
bar, this Board) must be vigilant for his
protection (Art. 24, New Civil Code). In the case
at bar, Plaintiff-Appellee is already eighty-one
(81) years old who can neither read nor write,
thus, she just simply signs her name with her
thumbmark.[17]

Applying the principle that only questions of law may be


entertained by this Court, we defer to the factual ruling of the
Provincial Adjudicator, as affirmed by DARAB and the Court
of Appeals, which clearly had the opportunity to closely
examine the witnesses and their demeanor on the witness stand.
Assuming that the leasehold contract between Susana
and Godofredo is void, our conclusion remains. We agree with
the Court of Appeals that a tenancy relationship cannot be
extinguished by mere expiration of term or period in a leasehold
contract; or by the sale, alienation or the transfer of legal
possession of the landholding. Section 9 of Republic Act No.
1199 or the Agricultural Tenancy Act provides:
SECTION 9. Severance of Relationship.
The tenancy relationship is extinguished by the
voluntary surrender of the land by, or the death
or incapacity of, the tenant, but his heirs or the
members of his immediate farm household may
continue to work the land until the close of the
agricultural year. The expiration of the period
of the contract as fixed by the parties, and the
sale or alienation of the land does not of
themselves extinguish the relationship. In the
latter case, the purchaser or transferee shall
assume the rights and obligations of the
former landholder in relation to the tenant. In

case of death of the landholder, his heir or heirs


shall likewise assume his rights and obligations.
(Emphasis supplied)

Moreover, Section 10 of Republic Act No. 3844 (Code


of Agrarian Reforms of the Philippines) likewise provides:
SEC. 10. Agricultural Leasehold
Relation Not Extinguished by Expiration of
Period, etc. The agricultural leasehold relation
under this Code shall not be extinguished by
mere expiration of the term or period in a
leasehold contract nor by the sale, alienation or
transfer of the legal possession of the
landholding. In case the agricultural
lessor sells, alienates or transfers the legal
possession of the landholding, the purchaser
or transferee thereof shall be subrogated to
the rights and substituted to the obligations of
the agricultural lessor.(Emphasis supplied)

As an incidental issue, Leonidas legal standing as a party


was also assailed by Eugenio. Eugenio submitted that the
complaint was rendered moot with the death of Librada,
Godofredos sole compulsory heir. Eugenio contended that
Leonida is a mere ward of Godofredo and Librada, thus, not a
legal heir.[18]

We are in full accord with the Court of Appeals when it


ruled that Eugenio cannot collaterally attack the status of
Leonida in the instant petition.[19]
It is settled law that filiation cannot be collaterally
attacked.[20] Well-known civilista Dr. Arturo M. Tolentino, in
his book Civil Code of the Philippines, Commentaries and
Jurisprudence, noted that the aforecited doctrine is rooted from
the provisions of the Civil Code of the Philippines. He explained
thus:
The legitimacy of the child cannot be contested
by way of defense or as a collateral issue in
another action for a different purpose. The
necessity of an independent action directly
impugning the legitimacy is more clearly
expressed in the Mexican code (article 335)
which provides: The contest of the legitimacy of
a child by the husband or his heirs must be made
by proper complaint before the competent court;
any contest made in any other way is void. This
principle applies under our Family Code. Articles
170 and 171 of the code confirm this view,
because they refer to the action to impugn the
legitimacy. This action can be brought only by
the husband or his heirs and within the periods
fixed in the present articles.[21]

In

Braza

v.

City

Civil

Registrar

of Himamaylan City, Negros Occidental,[22] the Court stated that


legitimacy and filiation can be questioned only in a direct action
seasonably filed by the proper party, and not through collateral
attack.[23]
The same rule is applied to adoption such that it cannot also be
made subject to a collateral attack. In Reyes v. Sotero,[24] this
Court reiterated that adoption cannot be assailed collaterally in
a proceeding for the settlement of a decedents
estate.[25]Furthermore, in Austria v. Reyes,[26] the Court declared
that the legality of the adoption by the testatrix can be assailed
only in a separate action brought for that purpose and cannot be
subject to collateral attack.[27]

Habeas corpus

G.R. No. 139789. May 12, 2000


ERLINDA K. ILUSORIO, petitioner, vs. ERLINDA I. BILDNER and
SYLVIA K. ILUSORIO, JOHN DOE and JANE DOE, respondents.
Mesm
G.R. No. 139808. May 12, 2000
POTENCIANO ILUSORIO, MA. ERLINDA I. BILDNER, and SYLVIA
ILUSORIO, petitioners, vs. COURT OF APPEALS and ERLINDA K.
ILUSORIO, respondents.
DECISION
PARDO, J.:

Against these jurisprudential backdrop, we have to leave out the


status of Leonida from the case for annulment of
the Kasunduan that supposedly favors petitioners cause.
WHEREFORE, based on the foregoing premises, the
instant petition for review on certiorari is DENIED and the
Decision dated 10 August 2006 of the Court of Appeals in CAG.R. SP No. 87148 is AFFIRMED.
SO ORDERED.

May a wife secure a writ of habeas corpus to compel her


husband to live with her in conjugal bliss? The answer is no.
Marital rights including coverture and living in conjugal
dwelling may not be enforced by the extra-ordinary writ of
habeas corpus.
A writ of habeas corpus extends to all cases of illegal
confinement or detention,1 or by which the rightful custody of
a person is withheld from the one entitled thereto.2 Slx
"Habeas corpus is a writ directed to the person detaining
another, commanding him to produce the body of the prisoner
at a designated time and place, with the day and cause of his

capture and detention, to do, submit to, and receive


whatsoever the court or judge awarding the writ shall consider
in that behalf."3
It is a high prerogative, common-law writ, of ancient origin, the
great object of which is the liberation of those who may be
imprisoned without sufficient cause.4 It is issued when one is
deprived of liberty or is wrongfully prevented from exercising
legal custody over another person.5
The petition of Erlinda K. Ilusorio6 is to reverse the decision7 of
the Court of Appeals and its resolution8 dismissing the
application for habeas corpus to have the custody of her
husband, lawyer Potenciano Ilusorio and enforce consortium as
the wife.
On the other hand, the petition of Potenciano Ilusorio9 is to
annul that portion of the decision of the Court of Appeals giving
Erlinda K. Ilusorio visitation rights to her husband and to enjoin
Erlinda and the Court of Appeals from enforcing the visitation
rights.
The undisputed facts are as follows: Scslx
Erlinda Kalaw Ilusorio is the wife of lawyer Potenciano Ilusorio.
Potenciano Ilusorio is about 86 years of age possessed of
extensive property valued at millions of pesos. For many years,
lawyer Potenciano Ilusorio was Chairman of the Board and
President of Baguio Country Club.
On July 11, 1942, Erlinda Kalaw and Potenciano Ilusorio
contracted matrimony and lived together for a period of thirty
(30) years. In 1972, they separated from bed and board for

undisclosed reasons. Potenciano lived at Urdaneta


Condominium, Ayala Ave., Makati City when he was in Manila
and at Ilusorio Penthouse, Baguio Country Club when he was in
Baguio City. On the other hand, Erlinda lived in Antipolo City.
Out of their marriage, the spouses had six (6) children, namely:
Ramon Ilusorio (age 55); Erlinda Ilusorio Bildner (age 52);
Maximo (age 50); Sylvia (age 49); Marietta (age 48); and
Shereen (age 39).
On December 30, 1997, upon Potencianos arrival from the
United States, he stayed with Erlinda for about five (5) months
in Antipolo City. The children, Sylvia and Erlinda (Lin), alleged
that during this time, their mother gave Potenciano an
overdose of 200 mg instead of 100 mg Zoloft, an antidepressant
drug prescribed by his doctor in New York, U.S.A. As a
consequence, Potencianos health deteriorated.
On February 25, 1998, Erlinda filed with the Regional Trial
Court, Antipolo City a petition10 for guardianship over the
person and property of Potenciano Ilusorio due to the latters
advanced age, frail health, poor eyesight and impaired
judgment.
On May 31, 1998, after attending a corporate meeting in Baguio
City, Potenciano Ilusorio did not return to Antipolo City and
instead lived at Cleveland Condominium, Makati. Slxsc
On March 11, 1999, Erlinda filed with the Court of Appeals a
petition for habeas corpus to have the custody of lawyer
Potenciano Ilusorio. She alleged that respondents11 refused
petitioners demands to see and visit her husband and

prohibited Potenciano from returning to Antipolo City.


After due hearing, on April 5, 1999, the Court of Appeals
rendered decision the dispositive portion of which reads:
"WHEREFORE, in the light of the foregoing disquisitions,
judgment is hereby rendered:
"(1) Ordering, for humanitarian consideration and upon
petitioners manifestation, respondents Erlinda K. Ilusorio
Bildner and Sylvia Ilusorio-Yap, the administrator of Cleveland
Condominium or anywhere in its place, his guards and
Potenciano Ilusorios staff especially Ms. Aurora Montemayor
to allow visitation rights to Potenciano Ilusorios wife, Erlinda
Ilusorio and all her children, notwithstanding any list limiting
visitors thereof, under penalty of contempt in case of violation
of refusal thereof; xxx
"(2) ORDERING that the writ of habeas corpus previously issued
be recalled and the herein petition for habeas corpus be
DENIED DUE COURSE, as it is hereby DISMISSED for lack of
unlawful restraint or detention of the subject of the petition.
"SO ORDERED."12
Hence, the two petitions, which were consolidated and are
herein jointly decided.
As heretofore stated, a writ of habeas corpus extends to all
cases of illegal confinement or detention,13 or by which the
rightful custody of a person is withheld from the one entitled
thereto. It is available where a person continues to be
unlawfully denied of one or more of his constitutional
freedoms, where there is denial of due process, where the

restraints are not merely involuntary but are unnecessary, and


where a deprivation of freedom originally valid has later
become arbitrary.14 It is devised as a speedy and effectual
remedy to relieve persons from unlawful restraint, as the best
and only sufficient defense of personal freedom.15 Jksm
The essential object and purpose of the writ of habeas corpus
is to inquire into all manner of involuntary restraint, and to
relieve a person therefrom if such restraint is illegal.16
To justify the grant of the petition, the restraint of liberty must
be an illegal and involuntary deprivation of freedom of action.17
The illegal restraint of liberty must be actual and effective, not
merely nominal or moral.18
The evidence shows that there was no actual and effective
detention or deprivation of lawyer Potenciano Ilusorios liberty
that would justify the issuance of the writ. The fact that lawyer
Potenciano Ilusorio is about 86 years of age, or under
medication does not necessarily render him mentally
incapacitated. Soundness of mind does not hinge on age or
medical condition but on the capacity of the individual to
discern his actions.
After due hearing, the Court of Appeals concluded that there
was no unlawful restraint on his liberty.
The Court of Appeals also observed that lawyer Potenciano
Ilusorio did not request the administrator of the Cleveland
Condominium not to allow his wife and other children from
seeing or visiting him. He made it clear that he did not object to
seeing them.

As to lawyer Potenciano Ilusorios mental state, the Court of


Appeals observed that he was of sound and alert mind, having
answered all the relevant questions to the satisfaction of the
court.

involve the right of a parent to visit a minor child but the right
of a wife to visit a husband. In case the husband refuses to see
his wife for private reasons, he is at liberty to do so without
threat of any penalty attached to the exercise of his right.

Being of sound mind, he is thus possessed with the capacity to


make choices. In this case, the crucial choices revolve on his
residence and the people he opts to see or live with. The
choices he made may not appeal to some of his family members
but these are choices which exclusively belong to Potenciano.
He made it clear before the Court of Appeals that he was not
prevented from leaving his house or seeing people. With that
declaration, and absent any true restraint on his liberty, we
have no reason to reverse the findings of the Court of Appeals.

No court is empowered as a judicial authority to compel a


husband to live with his wife. Coverture cannot be enforced by
compulsion of a writ of habeas corpus carried out by sheriffs or
by any other mesne process. That is a matter beyond judicial
authority and is best left to the man and womans free choice.

With his full mental capacity coupled with the right of choice,
Potenciano Ilusorio may not be the subject of visitation rights
against his free choice. Otherwise, we will deprive him of his
right to privacy. Needless to say, this will run against his
fundamental constitutional right. Es m
The Court of Appeals exceeded its authority when it awarded
visitation rights in a petition for habeas corpus where Erlinda
never even prayed for such right. The ruling is not consistent
with the finding of subjects sanity.
When the court ordered the grant of visitation rights, it also
emphasized that the same shall be enforced under penalty of
contempt in case of violation or refusal to comply. Such
assertion of raw, naked power is unnecessary.
The Court of Appeals missed the fact that the case did not

WHEREFORE, in G. R. No. 139789, the Court DISMISSES the


petition for lack of merit. No costs.
In G. R. No. 139808, the Court GRANTS the petition and nullifies
the decision of the Court of Appeals insofar as it gives visitation
rights to respondent Erlinda K. Ilusorio. No costs.
SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 148468

January 28, 2003

ATTY. EDWARD SERAPIO, petitioner, vs.SANDIGANBAYAN


(THIRD DIVISION), PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, and
PHILIPPINE NATIONAL POLICE DIRECTOR-GENERAL LEANDRO
MENDOZA, respondents.
x---------------------------------------------------------x
G.R. No. 148769

January 28, 2003

EDWARD
SERAPIO,
SANDIGANBAYAN and
respondents.

petitioner,
PEOPLE OF

vs.HONORABLE
THE PHILIPPINES,

x---------------------------------------------------------x
G.R. No. 149116

January 28, 2003

EDWARD
SERAPIO,
petitioner,
vs.HONORABLE
SANDIGANBAYAN (THIRD DIVISION) and PEOPLE OF THE
PHILIPPINES, respondents.
CALLEJO, SR., J.:
Before the Court are two petitions for certiorari filed by
petitioner Edward Serapio, assailing the resolutions of the Third
Division of the Sandiganbayan denying his petition for bail,
motion for a reinvestigation and motion to quash, and a
petition for habeas corpus, all in relation to Criminal Case No.
26558 for plunder wherein petitioner is one of the accused
together with former President Joseph E. Estrada, Jose
"Jinggoy" P. Estrada and several others.
The records show that petitioner was a member of the Board
of Trustees and the Legal Counsel of the Erap Muslim Youth

Foundation, a non-stock, non-profit foundation established in


February 2000 ostensibly for the purpose of providing
educational opportunities for the poor and underprivileged but
deserving Muslim youth and students, and support to research
and advance studies of young Muslim educators and scientists.
Sometime in April 2000, petitioner, as trustee of the
Foundation, received on its behalf a donation in the amount of
Two Hundred Million Pesos (P200 Million) from Ilocos Sur
Governor Luis "Chavit" Singson through the latter's assistant
Mrs. Yolanda Ricaforte. Petitioner received the donation and
turned over the said amount to the Foundation's treasurer who
later deposited it in the Foundation's account with the
Equitable PCI Bank.
In the latter part of the year 2000, Gov. Singson publicly
accused then President Joseph E. Estrada and his cohorts of
engaging in several illegal activities, including its operation on
the illegal numbers game known as jueteng. This triggered the
filing with the Office of the Ombudsman of several criminal
complaints against Joseph Estrada, Jinggoy Estrada and
petitioner, together with other persons. Among such
complaints were: Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption,
versus Joseph Ejercito Estrada, Edward Serapio, et al., docketed
as OMB Crim. Case No. 0-00-1754; Graft Free Philippines
Foundation, Inc., versus Joseph Ejercito Estrada, Edward
Serapio, et al., docketed as OMB Crim. Case No. 0-00-1755; and
Leonardo De Vera, Romeo T. Capulong and Dennis B. Funa,
versus Joseph Estrada, Yolanda Ricaforte, Edward Serapio, Raul

De Guzman, Danilo Reyes and Mila Reforma, docketed as OMB


Crim. Case No. 0-00-1757.
Subsequently, petitioner filed his Counter-Affidavit dated
February 21, 2001. The other respondents likewise filed their
respective counter-affidavits. The Office of the Ombudsman
conducted a preliminary investigation of the complaints and on
April 4, 2001, issued a joint resolution recommending, inter
alia, that Joseph Estrada, petitioner and several others be
charged with the criminal offense of plunder.
On April 4, 2001, the Ombudsman filed with the Sandiganbayan
several Informations against former President Estrada, who
earlier had resigned from his post as President of the Republic
of the Philippines. One of these Informations, docketed as
Criminal Case No. 26558, charged Joseph Estrada with plunder.
On April 18, 2001, the Ombudsman filed an amended
Information in said case charging Estrada and several coaccused, including petitioner, with said crime. No bail was
recommended for the provisional release of all the accused,
including petitioner. The case was raffled to a special division
which was subsequently created by the Supreme Court. The
amended Information reads:
"That during the period from June, 1998 to January, 2001, in
the Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable
Court, accused Joseph Ejercito Estrada, THEN A PUBLIC OFFICER
BEING THEN THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF THE
PHILIPPINES, by himself AND/OR in CONNIVANCE/CONSPIRACY
with his co-accused, WHO ARE MEMBERS OF HIS FAMILY,

RELATIVES BY AFFINITY OR CONSANGUINITY, BUSINESS


ASSOCIATES, SUBORDINATES AND/OR OTHER PERSONS, BY
TAKING UNDUE ADVANTAGE OF HIS OFFICIAL POSITION,
AUTHORITY, RELATIONSHIP, CONNECTION OR INFLUENCE, did
then and there wilfully, unlawfully and criminally amass,
accumulate and acquire BY HIMSELF, DIRECTLY OR INDIRECTLY,
ill-gotten wealth in the aggregate amount OR TOTAL VALUE of
FOUR BILLION NINETY SEVEN MILLION EIGHT HUNDRED FOUR
THOUSAND ONE HUNDRED SEVENTY THREE PESOS AND
SEVENTEEN CENTAVOS [P4,097,804,173.17], more or less,
THEREBY UNJUSTLY ENRICHING HIMSELF OR THEMSELVES AT
THE EXPENSE AND TO THE DAMAGE OF THE FILIPINO PEOPLE
AND THE REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES through ANY OR A
combination OR A series of overt OR criminal acts, OR SIMILAR
SCHEMES OR MEANS, described as follows:
(a) by receiving OR collecting, directly or indirectly, on SEVERAL
INSTANCES MONEY IN THE AGGREGATE AMOUNT OF FIVE
HUNDRED FORTY-FIVE MILLION PESOS (P545,000,000.00),
MORE OR LESS, FROM ILLEGAL GAMBLING IN THE FORM OF
GIFT, SHARE, PERCENTAGE, KICKBACK OR ANY FORM OF
PECUNIARY BENEFIT, BY HIMSELF AND/OR in connivance with
co-accused CHARLIE 'ATONG' ANG, Jose 'Jinggoy' Estrada,
Yolanda T. Ricaforte, Edward Serapio, AND JOHN DOES AND
JANE DOES in consideration OF TOLERATION OR PROTECTION
OF ILLEGAL GAMBLING;
(b) by DIVERTING, RECEIVING, misappropriating, converting OR
misusing DIRECTLY OR INDIRECTLY, for HIS OR THEIR PERSONAL

gain and benefit public fund in the amount of ONE HUNDRED


THIRTY MILLION PESOS (P130,000,000.00), more or less,
representing a portion of the TWO HUNDRED MILLION PESOS
[P200,000,000.00]) tobacco excise tax share allocated for the
Province of Ilocos Sur under R.A. No. 7171, BY HIMSELF
AND/OR in CONNIVANCE with co-accused Charlie 'Atong' Ang,
Alma Alfaro, JOHN DOE a.k.a. Eleuterio Tan OR Eleuterio Ramos
Tan or Mr. Uy, and Jane Doe a.k.a. Delia Rajas, AND OTHER
JOHN DOES AND JANE DOES;
(c) by directing, ordering and compelling FOR HIS PERSONAL
GAIN AND BENEFIT, the Government Service Insurance System
(GSIS) TO PURCHASE, 351,878,000 SHARES OF STOCKS, MORE
OR LESS, and the Social Security System (SSS), 329,855,000
SHARES OF STOCK, MORE OR LESS, OF THE BELLE
CORPORATION IN THE AMOUNT OF MORE OR LESS ONE
BILLION ONE HUNDRED TWO MILLION NINE HUNDRED SIXTY
FIVE THOUSAND SIX HUNDRED SEVEN PESOS AND FIFTY
CENTAVOS [P1,102,965,607.50] AND MORE OR LESS SEVEN
HUNDRED FORTY FOUR MILLION SIX HUNDRED TWELVE
THOUSAND
AND
FOUR
HUNDRED
FIFTY
PESOS
[P744,612,450.00], RESPECTIVELY, OR A TOTAL OR MORE OR
LESS ONE BILLION EIGHT HUNDRED FORTY SEVEN MILLION FIVE
HUNDRED SEVENTY EIGHT THOUSAND FIFTY SEVEN PESOS AND
FIFTY CENTAVOS [P1,847,578,057.50]; AND BY COLLECTING OR
RECEIVING, DIRECTLY OR INDIRECTLY, BY HIMSELF AND/OR IN
CONNIVANCE WITH JOHN DOES AND JANE DOES,
COMMISSIONS OR PERCENTAGES OF SHARES OF STOCK IN THE

AMOUNT OF ONE HUNDRED EIGHTY NINE MILLION SEVEN


HUNDRED THOUSAND PESOS [189,700,000.00] MORE OR LESS,
FROM THE BELLE CORPORATION WHICH BECAME PART OF THE
DEPOSIT IN THE EQUITABLE-PCI BANK UNDER THE ACCOUNT
NAME "JOSE VELARDE";
(d) by unjustly enriching himself FROM COMMISSIONS, GIFTS,
SHARES, PERCENTAGES, KICKBACKS OR ANY FORM OF
PECUNIARY BENEFITS, IN CONNIVANCE WITH JOHN DOES AND
JANE DOES, the amount of MORE OR LESS THREE BILLION TWO
HUNDRED THIRTY THREE MILLION ONE HUNDRED FOUR
THOUSAND ONE HUNDRED SEVENTY THREE PESOS AND
SEVENTEEN CENTAVOS [P3,233,104,173.17] AND DEPOSITING
THE SAME UNDER HIS ACCOUNT NAME "JOSE VELARDE" AT
THE EQUITABLE-PCI BANK.
CONTRARY TO LAW."1
On April 5, 2001, petitioner obtained a copy of the
Ombudsman's Joint Resolution finding probable cause against
him for plunder. The next day, April 6, 2001, he filed with the
Office of the Ombudsman a Motion for Reconsideration and/or
Reinvestigation.2 Petitioner likewise filed on said date, this time
with the Sandiganbayan, an Urgent Omnibus Motion: (a) To
Hold in Abeyance the Issuance of Warrant of Arrest and Further
Proceedings; (b) To Conduct a Determination of Probable
Cause; (c) For Leave to File Accused's Motion for
Reconsideration and/or Reinvestigation; and (d) To Direct the
Ombudsman to Conduct a Reinvestigation of the Charges
against accused Edward Serapio.3

On April 10, 2001, the Ombudsman issued an order denying


petitioner's motion for reconsideration and/or reinvestigation
on the ground of lack of jurisdiction since the amended
Information charging petitioner with plunder had already been
filed with the Sandiganbayan.4
In a parallel development, the Sandiganbayan issued a
Resolution on April 25, 2001 in Criminal Case No. 26558 finding
probable cause to justify the issuance of warrants of arrest for
the accused, including petitioner. Accordingly, the
Sandiganbayan issued an Order on the same date for the arrest
of petitioner.5 When apprised of said order, petitioner
voluntarily surrendered at 9:45 p.m. on the same day to
Philippine National Police Chief Gen. Leandro Mendoza.
Petitioner has since been detained at Camp Crame for said
charge.
The Sandiganbayan set the arraignment of the accused,
including petitioner, in Criminal Case No. 26558 on June 27,
2001. In the meantime, on April 27, 2001, petitioner filed with
the Sandiganbayan an Urgent Petition for Bail which was set for
hearing on May 4, 2001.6 For his part, petitioner's co-accused
Jose "Jinggoy" Estrada filed on April 20, 2001 a Very Urgent
Omnibus Motion alleging that he was entitled to bail as a
matter of right.
During the hearing on May 4, 2001 on petitioner's Urgent
Petition for Bail, the prosecution moved for the resetting of the
arraignment of the accused earlier than the June 27, 2001
schedule. However, the Sandiganbayan denied the motion of

the prosecution and issued an order declaring that the petition


for bail can and should be heard before petitioner's
arraignment on June 27, 2001 and even before the other
accused in Criminal Case No. 26558 filed their respective
petitions for bail. Accordingly, the Sandiganbayan set the
hearing for the reception of evidence on petitioner's petition
for bail on May 21 to 25, 2001.
On May 17, 2001, four days before the hearing on petitioner's
petition for bail, the Ombudsman filed an urgent motion for
early arraignment of Joseph Estrada, Jinggoy Estrada and
petitioner and a motion for joint bail hearings of Joseph
Estrada, Jinggoy Estrada and petitioner. The following day,
petitioner filed a manifestation questioning the propriety of
including Joseph Estrada and Jinggoy Estrada in the hearing on
his (petitioner's) petition for bail.
The Sandiganbayan issued a Resolution on May 18, 2001
resetting the hearings on petitioner's petition for bail to June
18 to 28, 2001 to enable the court to resolve the prosecution's
pending motions as well as petitioner's motion that his petition
for bail be heard as early as possible, which motion the
prosecution opposed.
On May 31, 2001, the Sandiganbayan issued a Resolution
denying petitioner's April 6, 2001 Urgent Omnibus Motion. The
court ruled that the issues posed by petitioner had already
been resolved in its April 25, 2001 Resolution finding probable
cause to hold petitioner and his co-accused for trial.7 Petitioner
filed a motion for reconsideration of the said May 31, 2001

Resolution.
On June 1, 2001, the Sandiganbayan issued a resolution
requiring the attendance of petitioner as well as all the other
accused in Criminal Case No. 26558 during the hearings on the
petitions for bail under pain of waiver of cross-examination.
The Sandiganbayan, citing its inherent powers to proceed with
the trial of the case in the manner it determines best conducive
to orderly proceedings and speedy termination of the case,
directed the other accused to participate in the said bail hearing
considering that under Section 8, Rule 114 of the Revised Rules
of Court, whatever evidence is adduced during the bail hearing
shall be considered automatically reproduced at the trial.8
However, instead of proceeding with the bail hearing set by it
on June 18, 2001, the Sandiganbayan issued an Order on June
15, 2001 canceling the said bail hearing due to pending
incidents yet to be resolved and reset anew the hearing to June
26, 2001.9
On the eve of said hearing, the Sandiganbayan issued a
resolution denying petitioner's motion for reconsideration of
its May 31, 2001 Resolution. The bail hearing on June 26, 2001
did not again proceed because on said date petitioner filed with
the Sandiganbayan a motion to quash the amended
Information on the grounds that as against him, the amended
Information does not allege a combination or series of overt or
criminal acts constitutive of plunder; as against him, the
amended Information does not allege a pattern of criminal acts
indicative of an overall unlawful scheme or conspiracy; the

money alleged in paragraph (a) of the amended Information to


have been illegally received or collected does not constitute "illgotten wealth" as defined in Section 1(d) of Republic Act No.
7080; and the amended Information charges him of bribery and
illegal gambling.10 By way of riposte, the prosecution objected
to the holding of bail hearing until petitioner agreed to
withdraw his motion to quash. The prosecution contended that
petitioner's motion to quash the amended Information was
antithetical to his petition for bail.
The Sandiganbayan reset the arraignment of accused and the
hearing on the petition for bail of petitioner in Criminal Case
No. 26558 for July 10, 2001 to enable it to resolve the pending
incidents and the motion to quash of petitioner. However, even
before the Sandiganbayan could resolve the pending motions
of petitioner and the prosecution, petitioner filed with this
Court on June 29, 2001 a Petition for Habeas Corpus and
Certiorari, docketed as G.R. No. 148468, praying that the Court
declare void the questioned orders, resolutions and actions of
the Sandiganbayan on his claim that he was thereby effectively
denied of his right to due process. Petitioner likewise prayed
for the issuance of a writ of habeas corpus; that the People be
declared to have waived their right to present evidence in
opposition to his petition for bail; and, premised on the failure
of the People to adduce strong evidence of petitioner's guilt of
plunder, that he be granted provisional liberty on bail after due
proceedings.11
Meanwhile, on June 28, 2001, Jose "Jinggoy" Estrada filed with

the Sandiganbayan a motion praying that said court resolve his


motion to fix his bail.
On July 9, 2001, the Sandiganbayan issued a Resolution denying
petitioner's motion to quash the amended Information.
Petitioner, through counsel, received on said date a copy of said
resolution.12 The motion to fix bail filed by Jose "Jinggoy"
Estrada was also resolved by the Sandiganbayan.
On July 10, 2001, just before his arraignment in Criminal Case
No. 26558, petitioner manifested to the Sandiganbayan that he
was going to file a motion for reconsideration of the July 9, 2001
Resolution denying his motion to quash and for the deferment
of his arraignment. The Sandiganbayan, however, declared that
there was no provision in the Rules of Court or in the
Sandiganbayan's rules granting the right to petitioner to file a
motion for the reconsideration of an interlocutory order issued
by it and ordered petitioner to orally argue his motion for
reconsideration. When petitioner refused, the Sandiganbayan
proceeded with his arraignment. Petitioner refused to plead,
impelling the court to enter a plea of not guilty for him.
On July 20, 2001, petitioner filed with the Court a Petition for
Certiorari, docketed as G.R. No. 148769, alleging that the
Sandiganbayan acted without or in excess of jurisdiction or with
grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of
jurisdiction in issuing its July 9, 2001 Resolution denying his
motion to quash, notwithstanding the fact that material
inculpatory allegations of the amended Information against
him do not constitute the crime of plunder; and that he is

charged, under the said amended Information, for more than


one offense. Jose "Jinggoy" Estrada likewise filed petition for
certiorari with the Court docketed as G.R. No. 148965 for the
nullification of a resolution of the Sandiganbayan denying his
motion to fix bail.
On August 9, 2001, petitioner filed with the Court another
Petition for Certiorari, docketed as G.R. No. 149116, assailing
the Sandiganbayan's Resolution dated 31 May 2001 which
denied his April 6, 2001 Urgent Omnibus Motion and its June
25, 2001 Resolution denying his motion for reconsideration of
its May 31, 2001 Resolution.
Re: G.R. No. 148769
Petitioner avers that:
THE SANDIGANBAYAN ACTED WITHOUT OR IN EXCESS OF
JURISDICTION OR WITH GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION
AMOUNTING TO LACK OR EXCESS OF JURISDICTION, IN
DENYING PETITIONER SERAPIO'S MOTION TO QUASH
NOTWITHSTANDING THAT
I
THE FACTS ALLEGED IN THE AMENDED INFORMATION AS
AGAINST PETITIONER SERAPIO DO NOT CONSTITUTE THE
CRIME OF PLUNDER.
A The Amended Information, as against petitioner Serapio, does
not allege a combination or series of overt or criminal acts
constitutive of plunder.
B The Amended Information, as against petitioner Serapio, does

not allege a pattern of criminal acts indicative of an overall


unlawful scheme or conspiracy.
C The money described in paragraph (a) of the Amended
Information and alleged to have been illegally received or
collected does not constitute 'ill-gotten wealth' as defined in
Section 1(d), Republic Act No. 7080, as amended.
II
THE AMENDED INFORMATION CHARGES MORE THAN ONE
OFFENSE."13
Petitioner asserts that, on the face of the amended
Information, he is charged with plunder only in paragraph (a)
which reads:
"(a) by receiving OR collecting, directly or indirectly, on
SEVERAL INSTANCES, MONEY IN THE AGGREGATE AMOUNT OF
FIVE HUNDRED FORTY-FIVE MILLION PESOS (P545,000,000.00),
MORE OR LESS, FROM ILLEGAL GAMBLING IN THE FORM OF
GIFT, SHARE, PERCENTAGE, KICKBACK OR ANY FORM OF
PECUNIARY BENEFIT, BY HIMSELF AND/OR in connivance with
co-accused CHARLIE 'ATONG' ANG, Jose 'Jinggoy' Estrada,
Yolanda T. Ricaforte, Edward Serapio, AND JOHN DOES AND
JANE DOES, in consideration OF TOLERATION OR PROTECTION
OF ILLEGAL GAMBLING;"14
Petitioner asserts that there is no allegation in paragraph (a) of
the amended Information of a "combination or series of overt
or criminal acts" constituting plunder as described in Section
1(d) of R.A. 7080 as amended. Neither does the amended

Information allege "a pattern of criminal acts." He avers that his


single act of toleration or protection of illegal gambling
impelled by a single criminal resolution does not constitute the
requisite "combination or series of acts" for plunder. He further
claims that the consideration consisting of gifts, percentages or
kickbacks in furtherance of said resolution turned over to and
received by former President Joseph E. Estrada "on several
occasions" does not cure the defect in the amended
information. Petitioner insists that on the face of the amended
Information he is charged only with bribery or illegal gambling
and not of plunder.
Petitioner argues that the P540 million which forms part of the
P4,097,804,173.17 amassed by former President Joseph E.
Estrada in confabulation with his co-accused is not ill-gotten
wealth as defined in Section 1(d) of R.A. 7080.
We do not agree with petitioner. Section 6, Rule 110 of the
Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure provides that:
"Sec. 6 Sufficiency of complaint or information. A complaint
or information is sufficient if it states the name of the accused,
the designation of the offense given by the statute; the acts or
omissions complained of as constituting the offense; the name
of the offended party; the approximate date of the commission
of the offense; and the place where the offense was
committed.
When the offense was committed by more than one person, all
of them shall be included in the complaint or information."15
The acts or omissions complained or must be alleged in such

form as is sufficient to enable a person of common


understanding to know what offense is intended to be charged
and enable the court to know the proper judgment. The
Information must allege clearly and accurately the elements of
the crime charged. What facts and circumstances are necessary
to be included therein must be determined by reference to the
definition and elements of the specific crimes. The purpose of
the requirement of alleging all the elements of the crime in the
Information is to inform an accused of the nature of the
accusation against him so as to enable him to suitably prepare
for his defense.16 Another purpose is to enable accused, if
found guilty, to plead his conviction in a subsequent
prosecution for the same offense.17 The use of derivatives or
synonyms or allegations of basic facts constituting the offense
charged is sufficient.18
In this case, the amended Information specifically alleges that
all the accused, including petitioner, connived and conspired
with former President Joseph E. Estrada to commit plunder
"through any or a combination or a series of overt or criminal
acts or similar schemes or means." And in paragraph (a) of the
amended Information, petitioner and his co-accused are
charged with receiving or collecting, directly or indirectly, on
several instances money in the aggregate amount of
P545,000,000.00. In Jose "Jinggoy" Estrada vs. Sandiganbayan
(Third Division), et al.,19 we held that the word "series" is
synonymous with the clause "on several instances"; it refers to
a repetition of the same predicate act in any of the items in

Section 1(d) of the law. We further held that the word


"combination" contemplates the commission of at least any
two different predicate acts in any of the said items. We ruled
that "plainly, subparagraph (a) of the amended information
charges accused therein, including petitioner, with plunder
committed by a series of the same predicate act under Section
1(d)(2) of the law" and that:
"x x x Sub-paragraph (a) alleged the predicate act of receiving,
on several instances, money from illegal gambling, in
consideration of toleration or protection of illegal gambling,
and expressly names petitioner as one of those who conspired
with former President Estrada in committing the offense. This
predicate act corresponds with the offense described in item
[2] of the enumeration in Section 1(d) of R.A. No. 7080. x x x."20
It is not necessary to allege in the amended Information a
pattern of overt or criminal acts indicative of the overall
unlawful scheme or conspiracy because as Section 3 of R.A.
7080 specifically provides, the same is evidentiary and the
general rule is that matters of evidence need not be alleged in
the Information.21
The Court also ruled in Jose "Jinggoy" Estrada vs.
Sandiganbayan22 that the aggregate amount of
P4,097,804,173.17 inclusive of the P545 million alleged in
paragraph (a) of the amended information is ill-gotten wealth
as contemplated in Section 1, paragraph 1(d) of Republic Act
7080, as amended, and that all the accused in paragraph (a) to
(d) of the amended information conspired and confederated

with former President Estrada to enable the latter to amass,


accumulate or acquire ill-gotten wealth in the aggregate
amount of P4,097,804,173.17.
Under the amended Information, all the accused, including
petitioner, are charged of having conspired and confabulated
together in committing plunder. When two or more persons
conspire to commit a crime, each is responsible for all the acts
of others. In contemplation of law, the act of the conspirator is
the act of each of them.23 Conspirators are one man, they
breathe one breath, they speak one voice, they wield one arm
and the law says that the acts, words and declarations of each,
while in the pursuit of the common design, are the acts, words
and declarations of all.24
Petitioner asserts that he is charged under the amended
information of bribery and illegal gambling and others. The
Sandiganbayan, for its part, held that petitioner is not charged
with the predicate acts of bribery and illegal gambling but is
charged only with one crime that of plunder:
"THE ISSUE OF WHETHER OR NOT THE INFORMATION CHARGES
MORE THAN ONE OFFENSE
According to the accused Estradas and Edward Serapio the
information charges more than one offense, namely, bribery
(Article 210 of the Revised Penal Code), malversation of public
funds or property (Article 217, Revised Penal Code) and
violations of Sec. 3(e) of Republic Act (RA No. 3019) and Section
7(d) of RA 6713.
This contention is patently unmeritorious. The acts alleged in

the information are not charged as separate offenses but as


predicate acts of the crime of plunder.
It should be stressed that the Anti-Plunder law specifically
Section 1(d) thereof does not make any express reference to
any specific provision of laws, other than R.A. No. 7080, as
amended, which coincidentally may penalize as a separate
crime any of the overt or criminal acts enumerated therein. The
said acts which form part of the combination or series of act are
described in their generic sense. Thus, aside from
'malversation' of public funds, the law also uses the generic
terms 'misappropriation', 'conversion' or 'misuse' of said fund.
The fact that the acts involved may likewise be penalized under
other laws is incidental. The said acts are mentioned only as
predicate acts of the crime of plunder and the allegations
relative thereto are not to be taken or to be understood as
allegations charging separate criminal offenses punished under
the Revised Penal Code, the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices
Act and Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public
Officials and Employees."25
This Court agrees with the Sandiganbayan. It is clear on the face
of the amended Information that petitioner and his co-accused
are charged only with one crime of plunder and not with the
predicate acts or crimes of plunder. It bears stressing that the
predicate acts merely constitute acts of plunder and are not
crimes separate and independent of the crime of plunder.
Resultantly then, the petition is dismissed.
Re: G.R. No. 149116

Petitioner assails the May 31, 2001 Joint Resolution of the


Sandiganbayan denying his April 4, 2001 Urgent Omnibus
Motion contending that:
"GROUNDS FOR THE PETITION
THE SANDIGANBAYAN ACTED WITHOUT OR IN EXCESS OF
JURISDICTION OR WITH GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION
AMOUNTING TO LACK OR EXCESS OF JURISDICTION IN
SUMMARILY DENYING PETITIONER SERAPIO'S URGENT
OMNIBUS MOTION AND MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION (RE:
RESOLUTION DATED 31 MAY 2001), NOTWITHSTANDING THAT
THE OMBUDSMAN HAD TOTALLY DISREGARDED EXCULPATORY
EVIDENCE AND COMMITTED GRAVE AND MANIFEST ERRORS
OF LAW SERIOUSLY PREJUDICIAL TO THE RIGHTS AND
INTERESTS OF PETITIONER SERAPIO, AND THERE IS NO
PROBABLE CAUSE TO SUPPORT AN INDICTMENT FOR PLUNDER
AS AGAINST PETITIONER SERAPIO."26
Petitioner claims that the Sandiganbayan committed grave
abuse of discretion in denying his omnibus motion to hold in
abeyance the issuance of a warrant for his arrest as well as the
proceedings in Criminal Case No. 26558; to conduct a
determination of probable cause; and to direct the
Ombudsman to conduct a reinvestigation of the charges him.
Petitioner asseverates that the Ombudsman had totally
disregarded exculpatory evidence and committed grave abuse
of discretion in charging him with plunder. He further argues
that there exists no probable cause to support an indictment
for plunder as against him.27

Petitioner points out that the joint resolution of the


Ombudsman does not even mention him in relation to the
collection and receipt of jueteng money which started in 199828
and that the Ombudsman inexplicably arrived at the conclusion
that the Erap Muslim Youth Foundation was a money
laundering front organization put up by Joseph Estrada,
assisted by petitioner, even though the latter presented
evidence that said Foundation is a bona fide and legitimate
private foundation.29 More importantly, he claims, said joint
resolution does not indicate that he knew that the P200 million
he received for the Foundation came from jueteng.30
Petitioner insists that he cannot be charged with plunder since:
(1) the P200 million he received does not constitute "ill-gotten
wealth" as defined in Section 1(d) of R.A. No. 7080;31 (2) there
is no evidence linking him to the collection and receipt of
jueteng money;32 (3) there was no showing that petitioner
participated in a pattern of criminal acts indicative of an overall
unlawful scheme or conspiracy to amass, accumulate or acquire
ill-gotten wealth, or that his act of receiving the P200 million
constitutes an overt criminal act of plunder.33
Petitioner argues further that his motion for reinvestigation is
premised on the absolute lack of evidence to support a finding
of probable cause for plunder as against him,34 and hence he
should be spared from the inconvenience, burden and expense
of a public trial.35
Petitioner also avers that the discretion of government
prosecutors is not beyond judicial scrutiny. He asserts that

while this Court does not ordinarily look into the existence of
probable cause to charge a person for an offense in a given
case, it may do so in exceptional circumstances, which are
present in this case: (1) to afford adequate protection to the
constitutional rights of the accused; (2) for the orderly
administration of justice or to avoid oppression; (3) when the
acts of the officer are without or in excess of authority; and (4)
where the charges are manifestly false and motivated by the
lust for vengeance.36 Petitioner claims that he raised proper
grounds for a reinvestigation by asserting that in issuing the
questioned joint resolution, the Ombudsman disregarded
evidence exculpating petitioner from the charge of plunder and
committed errors of law or irregularities which have been
prejudicial to his interest.37 He also states that during the joint
preliminary investigations for the various charges against
Joseph Estrada and his associates, of which the plunder charge
was only one of the eight charges against Estrada et al., he was
not furnished with copies of the other complaints nor given the
opportunity to refute the evidence presented in relation to the
other seven cases, even though the evidence presented therein
were also used against him, although he was only charged in
the plunder case.38
The People maintain that the Sandiganbayan committed no
grave abuse of discretion in denying petitioner's omnibus
motion. They assert that since the Ombudsman found probable
cause to charge petitioner with the crime of plunder, the
Sandiganbayan is bound to assume jurisdiction over the case

and to proceed to try the same. They further argue that "a
finding of probable cause is merely preliminary and prefatory
of the eventual determination of guilt or innocence of the
accused," and that petitioner still has the chance to interpose
his defenses in a full blown trial where his guilt or innocence
may finally be determined.39
The People also point out that the Sandiganbayan did not
commit grave abuse of discretion in denying petitioner's
omnibus motion asking for, among others, a reinvestigation by
the Ombudsman, because his motion for reconsideration of the
Ombudsman's joint resolution did not raise the grounds of
either newly discovered evidence, or errors of law or
irregularities, which under Republic Act No. 6770 are the only
grounds upon which a motion for reconsideration may be
filed.40
The People likewise insist that there exists probable cause to
charge petitioner with plunder as a co-conspirator of Joseph
Estrada.41
This Court does not agree with petitioner.
Case law has it that the Court does not interfere with the
Ombudsman's discretion in the conduct of preliminary
investigations. Thus, in Raro vs. Sandiganbayan42 , the Court
ruled:
"x x x. In the performance of his task to determine probable
cause, the Ombudsman's discretion is paramount. Thus, in
Camanag vs. Guerrero, this Court said:

'x x x. (S)uffice it to state that this Court has adopted a policy of


non-interference in the conduct of preliminary investigations,
and leaves to the investigating prosecutor sufficient latitude of
discretion in the exercise of determination of what constitutes
sufficient evidence as will establish 'probable cause' for filing of
information against the supposed offender."
In Cruz, Jr. vs. People,43 the Court ruled thus:
"Furthermore, the Ombudsman's findings are essentially
factual in nature. Accordingly, in assailing said findings on the
contention that the Ombudsman committed a grave abuse of
discretion in holding that petitioner is liable for estafa through
falsification of public documents, petitioner is clearly raising
questions of fact here. His arguments are anchored on the
propriety or error in the Ombudsman's appreciation of facts.
Petitioner cannot be unaware that the Supreme Court is not a
trier of facts, more so in the consideration of the extraordinary
writ of certiorari where neither question of fact nor even of law
are entertained, but only questions of lack or excess of
jurisdiction or grave abuse of discretion. Insofar as the third
issue is concerned, we find that no grave abuse of discretion
has been committed by respondents which would warrant the
granting of the writ of certiorari."
Petitioner is burdened to allege and establish that the
Sandiganbayan and the Ombudsman for that matter
committed grave abuse of discretion in issuing their resolution
and joint resolution, respectively. Petitioner failed to discharge
his burden. Indeed, the Court finds no grave abuse of discretion

on the part of the Sandiganbayan and the Ombudsman in


finding probable cause against petitioner for plunder. Neither
did the Sandiganbayan abuse its discretion in denying
petitioner's motion for reinvestigation of the charges against
him in the amended Information. In its Resolution of April 25,
2001, the Sandiganbayan affirmed the finding of the
Ombudsman that probable cause exists against petitioner and
his co-accused for the crime of plunder, thus:
"In the light of the foregoing and considering the allegations of
the Amended Information dated 18 April 2001 charging the
accused with the offense of PLUNDER and examining carefully
the evidence submitted in support thereof consisting of the
affidavits and sworn statements and testimonies of
prosecution witnesses and several other pieces of
documentary evidence, as well as the respective counteraffidavits of accused former President Joseph Estrada dated
March 20, 2001, Jose "Jinggoy" Pimentel Estrada dated
February 20, 2001, Yolanda T. Ricaforte dated January 21, 2001
and Edward S. Serapio dated February 21, 2001, the Court finds
and so holds that probable cause for the offense of PLUNDER
exists to justify issuance of warrants of arrest of accused former
President Joseph Ejercito Estrada, Mayor Jose "Jinggoy"
Estrada, Charlie "Atong" Ang, Edward Serapio, Yolanda T.
Ricaforte, Alma Alfaro, John Doe a.k.a. Eleuterio Tan or
Eleuterio Ramos Tan or Mr. Uy, and Jane Doe a.k.a Delia
Rajas."44
Likewise, in its Resolution dated May 31, 2001 of petitioner's

omnibus motion, the Sandiganbayan noted that a preliminary


investigation was fully conducted in accordance with Rule II,
Administrative Order No. 7 of the Office of the Ombudsman,
pursuant to Sections 18, 23 and 27 of Republic Act No. 6770
(The Ombudsman Act of 1989); and that all the basic
complaints and evidence in support thereof were served upon
all the accused.45 It was in light of such findings that the
Sandiganbayan held that there was no basis for the allegation
that accused therein (including petitioner) were deprived of the
right to seek a reconsideration of the Ombudsman's Resolution
dated April 4, 2001 finding probable cause to charge them with
plunder after the conduct of preliminary investigation in
connection therewith. In addition, the Sandiganbayan pointed
out that petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration of the
Ombudsman's resolution, but failed to show in his motion that
there were newly discovered evidence, or that the preliminary
investigation was tainted by errors of law or irregularities,
which are the only grounds for which a reconsideration of the
Ombudsman's resolution may be granted.46
It bears stressing that the right to a preliminary investigation is
not a constitutional right, but is merely a right conferred by
statute.47 The absence of a preliminary investigation does not
impair the validity of the Information or otherwise render the
same defective and neither does it affect the jurisdiction of the
court over the case or constitute a ground for quashing the
Information.48 If the lack of a preliminary investigation does not
render the Information invalid nor affect the jurisdiction of the

court over the case, with more reason can it be said that the
denial of a motion for reinvestigation cannot invalidate the
Information or oust the court of its jurisdiction over the case.
Neither can it be said that petitioner had been deprived of due
process. He was afforded the opportunity to refute the charges
against him during the preliminary investigation.
The purpose of a preliminary investigation is merely to
determine whether a crime has been committed and whether
there is probable cause to believe that the person accused of
the crime is probably guilty thereof and should be held for
trial.49 As the Court held in Webb vs. De Leon, "[a] finding of
probable cause needs only to rest on evidence showing that
more likely than not a crime has been committed and was
committed by the suspect. Probable cause need not be based
on clear and convincing evidence of guilt, neither on evidence
establishing guilt beyond reasonable doubt and definitely, not
on evidence establishing absolute certainty of guilt.''50
Absent any showing of arbitrariness on the part of the
prosecutor or any other officer authorized to conduct
preliminary investigation, courts as a rule must defer to said
officer's finding and determination of probable cause, since the
determination of the existence of probable cause is the
function of the prosecutor.51 The Court agrees with the
Sandiganbayan that petitioner failed to establish that the
preliminary investigation conducted by the Ombudsman was
tainted with irregularity or that its findings stated in the joint
resolution dated April 4, 2001 are not supported by the facts,

and that a reinvestigation was necessary.


Certiorari will not lie to invalidate the Sandiganbayan's
resolution denying petitioner's motion for reinvestigation since
there is nothing to substantiate petitioner's claim that it gravely
abused its discretion in ruling that there was no need to
conduct a reinvestigation of the case.52
The ruling in Rolito Go vs. Court of Appeals53 that an accused
shall not be deemed to have waived his right to ask for a
preliminary investigation after he had been arraigned over his
objection and despite his insistence on the conduct of said
investigation prior to trial on the merits does not apply in the
instant case because petitioner merely prayed for a
reinvestigation on the ground of a newly-discovered evidence.
Irrefragably, a preliminary investigation had been conducted by
the Ombudsman prior to the filing of the amended Information,
and that petitioner had participated therein by filing his
counter-affidavit. Furthermore, the Sandiganbayan had already
denied his motion for reinvestigation as well as his motion for
reconsideration thereon prior to his arraignment.54 In sum
then, the petition is dismissed.
Re: G.R. No. 148468
As synthesized by the Court from the petition and the pleadings
of the parties, the issues for resolution are: (1) Whether or not
petitioner should first be arraigned before hearings of his
petition for bail may be conducted; (2) Whether petitioner may
file a motion to quash the amended Information during the
pendency of his petition for bail; (3) Whether a joint hearing of

the petition for bail of petitioner and those of the other accused
in Criminal Case No. 26558 is mandatory; (4) Whether the
People waived their right to adduce evidence in opposition to
the petition for bail of petitioner and failed to adduce strong
evidence of guilt of petitioner for the crime charged; and (5)
Whether petitioner was deprived of his right to due process in
Criminal Case No. 26558 and should thus be released from
detention via a writ of habeas corpus.
On the first issue, petitioner contends that the Sandiganbayan
committed a grave abuse of its discretion amounting to excess
or lack of jurisdiction when it deferred the hearing of his
petition for bail to July 10, 2001, arraigned him on said date and
entered a plea of not guilty for him when he refused to be
arraigned. He insists that the Rules on Criminal Procedure, as
amended, does not require that he be arraigned first prior to
the conduct of bail hearings since the latter can stand alone and
must, of necessity, be heard immediately.55 Petitioner
maintains that his arraignment before the bail hearings are set
is not necessary since he would not plead guilty to the offense
charged, as is evident in his earlier statements insisting on his
innocence during the Senate investigation of the jueteng
scandal and the preliminary investigation before the
Ombudsman.56 Neither would the prosecution be prejudiced
even if it would present all its evidence before his arraignment
because, under the Revised Penal Code, a voluntary confession
of guilt is mitigating only if made prior to the presentation of
evidence for the prosecution,57 and petitioner admitted that he

cannot repudiate the evidence or proceedings taken during the


bail hearings because Rule 114, Section 8 of the Revised Rules
of Court expressly provides that evidence present during bail
hearings are automatically reproduced during the trial.58
Petitioner likewise assures the prosecution that he is willing to
be arraigned prior to the posting of a bail bond should he be
granted bail.59
The People insist that arraignment is necessary before bail
hearings may be commenced, because it is only upon
arraignment that the issues are joined. The People stress that it
is only when an accused pleads not guilty may he file a petition
for bail and if he pleads guilty to the charge, there would be no
more need for him to file said petition. Moreover, since it is
during arraignment that the accused is first informed of the
precise charge against him, he must be arraigned prior to the
bail hearings to prevent him from later assailing the validity of
the bail hearings on the ground that he was not properly
informed of the charge against him, especially considering that,
under Section 8, Rule 114 of the Revised Rules of Court,
evidence presented during such proceedings are considered
automatically reproduced at the trial.60 Likewise, the
arraignment of accused prior to bail hearings diminishes the
possibility of an accused's flight from the jurisdiction of the
Sandiganbayan because trial in absentia may be had only if an
accused escapes after he has been arraigned.61 The People also
contend that the conduct of bail hearings prior to arraignment
would extend to an accused the undeserved privilege of being

appraised of the prosecution's evidence before he pleads guilty


for purposes of penalty reduction.62
Although petitioner had already been arraigned on July 10,
2001 and a plea of not guilty had been entered by the
Sandiganbayan on his behalf, thereby rendering the issue as to
whether an arraignment is necessary before the conduct of bail
hearings in petitioner's case moot, the Court takes this
opportunity to discuss the controlling precepts thereon
pursuant to its symbolic function of educating the bench and
bar.63
The contention of petitioner is well-taken. The arraignment of
an accused is not a prerequisite to the conduct of hearings on
his petition for bail. A person is allowed to petition for bail as
soon as he is deprived of his liberty by virtue of his arrest or
voluntary surrender.64 An accused need not wait for his
arraignment before filing a petition for bail.
In Lavides vs. Court of Appeals,65 this Court ruled on the issue
of whether an accused must first be arraigned before he may
be granted bail. Lavides involved an accused charged with
violation of Section 5(b) Republic Act No. 7610 (The Special
Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and
Discrimination Act), an offense punishable by reclusion
temporal in its medium period to reclusion perpetua. The
accused therein assailed, inter alia, the trial court's imposition
of the condition that he should first be arraigned before he is
allowed to post bail. We held therein that "in cases where it is
authorized, bail should be granted before arraignment,

otherwise the accused may be precluded from filing a motion


to quash."66
However, the foregoing pronouncement should not be taken to
mean that the hearing on a petition for bail should at all times
precede arraignment, because the rule is that a person
deprived of his liberty by virtue of his arrest or voluntary
surrender may apply for bail as soon as he is deprived of his
liberty, even before a complaint or information is filed against
him.67 The Court's pronouncement in Lavides should be
understood in light of the fact that the accused in said case filed
a petition for bail as well as a motion to quash the informations
filed against him. Hence, we explained therein that to condition
the grant of bail to an accused on his arraignment would be to
place him in a position where he has to choose between (1)
filing a motion to quash and thus delay his release on bail
because until his motion to quash can be resolved, his
arraignment cannot be held, and (2) foregoing the filing of a
motion to quash so that he can be arraigned at once and
thereafter be released on bail. This would undermine his
constitutional right not to be put on trial except upon a valid
complaint or Information sufficient to charge him with a crime
and his right to bail.68
It is therefore not necessary that an accused be first arraigned
before the conduct of hearings on his application for bail. For
when bail is a matter of right, an accused may apply for and be
granted bail even prior to arraignment. The ruling in Lavides
also implies that an application for bail in a case involving an

offense punishable by reclusion perpetua to death may also be


heard even before an accused is arraigned. Further, if the court
finds in such case that the accused is entitled to bail because
the evidence against him is not strong, he may be granted
provisional liberty even prior to arraignment; for in such a
situation, bail would be "authorized" under the circumstances.
In fine, the Sandiganbayan committed a grave abuse of its
discretion amounting to excess of jurisdiction in ordering the
arraignment of petitioner before proceeding with the hearing
of his petition for bail.
With respect to the second issue of whether petitioner may file
a motion to quash during the pendency of his petition for bail,
petitioner maintains that a motion to quash and a petition for
bail are not inconsistent, and may proceed independently of
each other. While he agrees with the prosecution that a motion
to quash may in some instances result in the termination of the
criminal proceedings and in the release of the accused therein,
thus rendering the petition for bail moot and academic, he
opines that such is not always the case; hence, an accused in
detention cannot be forced to speculate on the outcome of a
motion to quash and decide whether or not to file a petition for
bail or to withdraw one that has been filed.69 He also insists that
the grant of a motion to quash does not automatically result in
the discharge of an accused from detention nor render moot an
application for bail under Rule 117, Section 5 of the Revised
Rules of Court.70
The Court finds that no such inconsistency exists between an

application of an accused for bail and his filing of a motion to


quash. Bail is the security given for the release of a person in
the custody of the law, furnished by him or a bondsman, to
guarantee his appearance before any court as required under
the conditions set forth under the Rules of Court.71 Its purpose
is to obtain the provisional liberty of a person charged with an
offense until his conviction while at the same time securing his
appearance at the trial.72 As stated earlier, a person may apply
for bail from the moment that he is deprived of his liberty by
virtue of his arrest or voluntary surrender.73
On the other hand, a motion to quash an Information is the
mode by which an accused assails the validity of a criminal
complaint or Information filed against him for insufficiency on
its face in point of law, or for defects which are apparent in the
face of the Information.74 An accused may file a motion to
quash the Information, as a general rule, before arraignment.75
These two reliefs have objectives which are not necessarily
antithetical to each other. Certainly, the right of an accused
right to seek provisional liberty when charged with an offense
not punishable by death, reclusion perpetua or life
imprisonment, or when charged with an offense punishable by
such penalties but after due hearing, evidence of his guilt is
found not to be strong, does not preclude his right to assail the
validity of the Information charging him with such offense. It
must be conceded, however, that if a motion to quash a
criminal complaint or Information on the ground that the same
does not charge any offense is granted and the case is

dismissed and the accused is ordered released, the petition for


bail of an accused may become moot and academic.
We now resolve the issue of whether or not it is mandatory that
the hearings on the petitions for bail of petitioner and accused
Jose "Jinggoy" Estrada in Criminal Case No. 26558 and the trial
of the said case as against former President Joseph E. Estrada
be heard jointly.
Petitioner argues that the conduct of joint bail hearings would
negate his right to have his petition for bail resolved in a
summary proceeding since said hearings might be converted
into a full blown trial on the merits by the prosecution.76
For their part, the People claim that joint bail hearings will save
the court from having to hear the same witnesses and the
parties from presenting the same evidence where it would
allow separate bail hearings for the accused who are charged
as co-conspirators in the crime of plunder.77
In issuing its June 1, 2001 Order directing all accused in Criminal
Case No. 26558 to participate in the bail hearings, the
Sandiganbayan explained that the directive was made was in
the interest of the speedy disposition of the case. It stated:
" x x x The obvious fact is, if the rest of the accused other than
the accused Serapio were to be excused from participating in
the hearing on the motion for bail of accused Serapio, under
the pretext that the same does not concern them and that they
will participate in any hearing where evidence is presented by
the prosecution only if and when they will already have filed
their petitions for bail, or should they decide not to file any, that

they will participate only during the trial proper itself, then
everybody will be faced with the daunting prospects of having
to go through the process of introducing the same witness and
pieces of evidence two times, three times or four times, as
many times as there are petitions for bail filed. Obviously, such
procedure is not conducive to the speedy termination of a case.
Neither can such procedure be characterized as an orderly
proceeding."78

cases and of the factual and legal issues involving petitioner and
the other accused. After all, if this Court may echo the
observation of the United States Supreme Court, the State has
a stake, with every citizen, in his being afforded our historic
individual protections, including those surrounding criminal
prosecutions. About them, this Court dares not become
careless or complacent when that fashion has become rampant
over the earth.79

There is no provision in the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure


or the Rules of Procedure of the Sandiganbayan governing the
hearings of two or more petitions for bail filed by different
accused or that a petition for bail of an accused be heard
simultaneously with the trial of the case against the other
accused. The matter of whether or not to conduct a joint
hearing of two or more petitions for bail filed by two different
accused or to conduct a hearing of said petition jointly with the
trial against another accused is addressed to the sound
discretion of the trial court. Unless grave abuse of discretion
amounting to excess or lack of jurisdiction is shown, the Court
will not interfere with the exercise by the Sandiganbayan of its
discretion.

It must be borne in mind that in Ocampo vs. Bernabe,80 this


Court held that in a petition for bail hearing, the court is to
conduct only a summary hearing, meaning such brief and
speedy method of receiving and considering the evidence of
guilt as is practicable and consistent with the purpose of the
hearing which is merely to determine the weight of evidence
for purposes of bail. The court does not try the merits or enter
into any inquiry as to the weight that ought to be given to the
evidence against the accused, nor will it speculate on the
outcome of the trial or on what further evidence may be
offered therein. It may confine itself to receiving such evidence
as has reference to substantial matters, avoiding unnecessary
thoroughness in the examination and cross-examination of
witnesses, and reducing to a reasonable minimum the amount
of corroboration particularly on details that are not essential to
the purpose of the hearing.

It may be underscored that in the exercise of its discretion, the


Sandiganbayan must take into account not only the
convenience of the State, including the prosecution, but also
that of the accused and the witnesses of both the prosecution
and the accused and the right of accused to a speedy trial. The
Sandiganbayan must also consider the complexities of the

A joint hearing of two separate petitions for bail by two accused


will of course avoid duplication of time and effort of both the
prosecution and the courts and minimizes the prejudice to the

accused, especially so if both movants for bail are charged of


having conspired in the commission of the same crime and the
prosecution adduces essentially the same evident against
them. However, in the cases at bar, the joinder of the hearings
of the petition for bail of petitioner with the trial of the case
against former President Joseph E. Estrada is an entirely
different matter. For, with the participation of the former
president in the hearing of petitioner's petition for bail, the
proceeding assumes a completely different dimension. The
proceedings will no longer be summary. As against former
President Joseph E. Estrada, the proceedings will be a fullblown trial which is antithetical to the nature of a bail hearing.
Moreover, following our ruling in Jose Estrada vs.
Sandiganbayan, supra where we stated that Jose "Jinggoy"
Estrada can only be charged with conspiracy to commit the acts
alleged in sub-paragraph (a) of the amended Information since
it is not clear from the latter if the accused in sub-paragraphs
(a) to (d) thereof conspired with each other to assist Joseph
Estrada to amass ill-gotten wealth, we hold that petitioner can
only be charged with having conspired with the other coaccused named in sub-paragraph (a) by "receiving or collecting,
directly or indirectly, on several instances, money x x x from
illegal gambling, x x x in consideration of toleration or
protection of illegal gambling.81 Thus, with respect to
petitioner, all that the prosecution needs to adduce to prove
that the evidence against him for the charge of plunder is
strong are those related to the alleged receipt or collection of

money from illegal gambling as described in sub-paragraph (a)


of the amended Information. With the joinder of the hearing of
petitioner's petition for bail and the trial of the former
President, the latter will have the right to cross-examine
intensively and extensively the witnesses for the prosecution in
opposition to the petition for bail of petitioner. If petitioner will
adduce evidence in support of his petition after the prosecution
shall have concluded its evidence, the former President may
insist on cross-examining petitioner and his witnesses. The
joinder of the hearing of petitioner's bail petition with the trial
of former President Joseph E. Estrada will be prejudicial to
petitioner as it will unduly delay the determination of the issue
of the right of petitioner to obtain provisional liberty and seek
relief from this Court if his petition is denied by the respondent
court. The indispensability of the speedy resolution of an
application for bail was succinctly explained by Cooley in his
treatise Constitutional Limitations, thus:
"For, if there were any mode short of confinement which would
with reasonable certainty insure the attendance of the accused
to answer the accusation, it would not be justifiable to inflict
upon him that indignity, when the effect is to subject him in a
greater or lesser degree, to the punishment of a guilty person,
while as yet it is not determined that he has not committed any
crime."82
While the Sandiganbayan, as the court trying Criminal Case No.
26558, is empowered "to proceed with the trial of the case in
the manner it determines best conducive to orderly

proceedings and speedy termination of the case,"83 the Court


finds that it gravely abused its discretion in ordering that the
petition for bail of petitioner and the trial of former President
Joseph E. Estrada be held jointly. It bears stressing that the
Sandiganbayan itself acknowledged in its May 4, 2001 Order
the "pre-eminent position and superiority of the rights of
[petitioner] to have the matter of his provisional liberty
resolved . . . without unnecessary delay,"84 only to make a volte
face and declare that after all the hearing of petition for bail of
petitioner and Jose "Jinggoy" Estrada and the trial as against
former President Joseph E. Estrada should be held
simultaneously. In ordering that petitioner's petition for bail to
be heard jointly with the trial of the case against his co-accused
former President Joseph E. Estrada, the Sandiganbayan in
effect allowed further and unnecessary delay in the resolution
thereof to the prejudice of petitioner. In fine then, the
Sandiganbayan committed a grave abuse of its discretion in
ordering a simultaneous hearing of petitioner's petition for bail
with the trial of the case against former President Joseph E.
Estrada on its merits.

the original schedule for the bail hearings which was on May
2125, 2001.86

With respect to petitioner's allegations that the prosecution


tried to delay the bail hearings by filing dilatory motions, the
People aver that it is petitioner and his co-accused who caused
the delay in the trial of Criminal Case No. 26558 by their filing
of numerous manifestations and pleadings with the
Sandiganbayan.85 They assert that they filed the motion for
joint bail hearing and motion for earlier arraignment around

Sec. 4 Bail, a matter of right, exception. All persons in custody


shall be admitted to bail as a matter of right, with sufficient
sureties, or released on recognizance as prescribed by law or
this Rule x x x (b) and before conviction by the Regional Trial
Court of an offense not punishable by death, reclusion perpetua
or life imprisonment."89

They argue further that bail is not a matter of right in capital


offenses.87 In support thereof, they cite Article III, Sec 13 of the
Constitution, which states that
"All persons, except those charged with offenses punishable by
reclusion perpetua when evidence of guilt is strong, shall before
conviction be bailable by sufficient sureties, or be released on
recognizance as may be provided by law. The right to bail shall
not be impaired even when the privilege of the writ of habeas
corpus is suspended. Excessive bail shall not be required."88
The People also cited Rule 114, Secs. 7 and 4 of the Revised
Rules of Court which provide:
"Sec. 7 Capital offense or an offense punishable by reclusion
perpetua or life imprisonment, not bailable. No person
charged with a capital offense, or an offense punishable by
reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment, shall be admitted to
bail when evidence of guilt is strong, regardless of the stage of
the criminal prosecution.

Irrefragably, a person charged with a capital offense is not

absolutely denied the opportunity to obtain provisional liberty


on bail pending the judgment of his case. However, as to such
person, bail is not a matter of right but is discretionary upon the
court.90 Had the rule been otherwise, the Rules would not have
provided for an application for bail by a person charged with a
capital offense under Rule 114, Section 8 which states:
"Sec. 8 Burden of proof in bail application. At the hearing of
an application for bail filed by a person who is in custody for the
commission of an offense punishable by death, reclusion
perpetua, or life imprisonment, the prosecution has the burden
of showing that the evidence of guilt is strong. The evidence
presented during the bail hearing shall be considered
automatically reproduced at the trial but, upon motion of
either party, the court may recall any witness for additional
examination unless the latter is dead, outside the Philippines,
or otherwise unable to testify."91
Under the foregoing provision, there must be a showing that
the evidence of guilt against a person charged with a capital
offense is not strong for the court to grant him bail. Thus, upon
an application for bail by the person charged with a capital
offense, a hearing thereon must be conducted, where the
prosecution must be accorded an opportunity to discharge its
burden of proving that the evidence of guilt against an accused
is strong.92 The prosecution shall be accorded the opportunity
to present all the evidence it may deem necessary for this
purpose.93 When it is satisfactorily demonstrated that the
evidence of guilt is strong, it is the court's duty to deny the

application for bail. However, when the evidence of guilt is not


strong, bail becomes a matter of right.94
In this case, petitioner is not entitled to bail as a matter of right
at this stage of the proceedings. Petitioner's claim that the
prosecution had refused to present evidence to prove his guilt
for purposes of his bail application and that the Sandiganbayan
has refused to grant a hearing thereon is not borne by the
records. The prosecution did not waive, expressly or even
impliedly, its right to adduce evidence in opposition to the
petition for bail of petitioner. It must be noted that the
Sandiganbayan had already scheduled the hearing dates for
petitioner's application for bail but the same were reset due to
pending incidents raised in several motions filed by the parties,
which incidents had to be resolved by the court prior to the bail
hearings. The bail hearing was eventually scheduled by the
Sandiganbayan on July 10, 2001 but the hearing did not push
through due to the filing of this petition on June 29, 2001.
The delay in the conduct of hearings on petitioner's application
for bail is therefore not imputable solely to the Sandiganbayan
or to the prosecution. Petitioner is also partly to blame
therefor, as is evident from the following list of motions filed by
him and by the prosecution:
Motions filed by petitioner:

Urgent Omnibus Motion, dated April 6, 2001, for (1) leave


to file motion for reconsideration/reinvestigation and to direct
ombudsman to conduct reinvestigation; (2) conduct a
determination of probable cause as would suggest the issuance

of house arrest; (3) hold in abeyance the issuance of warrant of


arrest and other proceedings pending determination of
probable cause;

2001;98 and

The other accused in Criminal Case No. 26558 also contributed


to the aforesaid delay by their filing of the following motions:

Motion for Early Resolution, dated May 24, 2001;

Urgent Motion to Hold in Abeyance Implementation or


Service of Warrant of Arrest for Immediate Grant of bail or For
Release on Recognizance, dated April 25, 2001;

Urgent Motion to allow Accused Serapio to Vote at


Obando, Bulacan, dated May 11, 2001;

Urgent Motion for Reconsideration, dated May 22, 2001,


praying for Resolution of May 18, 2001 be set aside and bail
hearings be set at the earliest possible time;

Urgent Motion for Immediate Release on Bail or


Recognizance, dated May 27, 2001;

Motion for Reconsideration of denial of Urgent Omnibus


Motion, dated June 13, 2001, praying that he be allowed to file
a Motion for Reinvestigation; and

Motion to Quash, dated June 26, 2001.95

Motions filed by the prosecution:

Motion for Earlier Arraignment, dated May 8, 2001;96

Omnibus Motion for Examination, Testimony and


Transcription in Filipino, dated June 19, 2001.99

Motion to Quash or Suspend, dated April 24, 2001, filed


by Jinggoy Estrada, assailing the constitutionality of R.A. No.
7080 and praying that the Amended Information be quashed;

Very Urgent Omnibus Motion, dated April 30, 2001, filed


by Jinggoy Estrada, praying that he be (1)excluded from the
Amended Information for lack of probable cause; (2) released
from custody; or in the alternative, (3) be allowed to post bail;

Urgent Ex-Parte Motion to Place on House Arrest, dated


April 25, 2001, filed by Joseph and Jinggoy Estrada, praying that
they be placed on house arrest during the pendency of the
case;

Position Paper [re: House Arrest], dated May 2, 2001, filed


by Joseph and Jinggoy Estrada;

Supplemental Position Paper [re: House Arrest], dated


May 2, 2001, filed by Joseph and Jinggoy Estrada;

Motion for Joint Bail Hearings of Accused Joseph Estrada,


Jose "Jinggoy" Estrada and Edward Serapio, dated May 8,
2001;97

Omnibus Motion, dated May 7, 2001, filed by Joseph


Estrada, praying by reinvestigation of the case by the
Ombudsman or the outright dismissal of the case;

Opposition to the Urgent Motion for Reconsideration and


Omnibus Motion to Adjust Earlier Arraignment, dated May 25,

Urgent Ex-Parte Motion for Extension, dated May 2, 2001,


filed by Jinggoy Estrada, requesting for five (5) days within
which to respond to the Opposition to Motion to Quash in view

of the holidays and election-related distractions;

Opposition to Urgent Motion for Earlier Arraignment,


dated May 10, 2001, filed by Joseph Estrada;

Omnibus Manifestation on voting and custodial


arrangement, dated May 11, 2001, filed by Joseph and Jinggoy
Estrada, praying that they be placed on house arrest;

Manifestation regarding house arrest, dated May 6, 2001,


filed by Joseph and Jinggoy Estrada;

Summation regarding house arrest, dated May 23, 2001,


filed by Joseph and Jinggoy Estrada;

Urgent Manifestation & Motion, dated May 6, 2001 filed


by Jinggoy Estrada;

compelling them to be present at petitioner Serapio's hearing


for bail be reconsidered;

Motion to Quash, dated June 7, 2001, filed by Joseph


Estrada;

Still Another Manifestation, dated June 14, 2001, filed by


Joseph and Jinggoy Estrada stating that Bishop Teodoro Bacani
favors their house arrest;

Manifestation, dated June 15, 2001, filed by Joseph and


Jinggoy Estrada, waiving their right to be present at the June 18
and 21, 2001 bail hearings and reserving their right to trial with
assessors;

Manifestation, dated May 28, 2001, filed by Joseph and


Jinggoy Estrada, praying that they be allowed to be confined in
Tanay;

Omnibus Motion for Instructions: 30-Day House Arrest;


Production, Inspection and Copying of Documents; and
Possible Trial with Assessors, dated June 19, 2001, filed by
Joseph and Jinggoy Estrada;

Motion to charge as Accused Luis "Chavit" Singson, filed


by Joseph Estrada;

Urgent Motion for Additional Time to Wind Up Affairs,


dated June 20, 2001, filed by Jinggoy Estrada;

Omnibus Motion, dated June 11, 2001, filed by Joseph


and Jinggoy Estrada, seeking reconsideration of denial of
requests for house arrest, for detention in Tanay or Camp
Crame; motion for inhibition of Justice Badoy;

Manifestation, dated June 22, 2001, filed by Jinggoy


Estrada, asking for free dates for parties, claiming that denial of
bail is cruel and inhuman, reiterating request for gag order of
prosecution witnesses, availing of production, inspection and
copying of documents, requesting for status of alias case; and

Urgent Motion to Allow Accused to Clear His Desk as


Mayor of San Juan, Metro Manila, dated June 28, 2001, filed by
Jinggoy Estrada;

Motion for Reconsideration, dated June 9, 2001, filed by


Joseph and Jinggoy Estrada, praying that the resolution

Compliance, dated June 25, 2001, filed by Jinggoy Estrada,


requesting for permission to attend some municipal affairs in
San Juan, Metro Manila.100
Furthermore, the Court has previously ruled that even in cases

where the prosecution refuses to adduce evidence in


opposition to an application for bail by an accused charged with
a capital offense, the trial court is still under duty to conduct a
hearing on said application.101 The rationale for such
requirement was explained in Narciso vs. Sta. Romana-Cruz
(supra), citing Basco vs. Rapatalo:102
"When the grant of bail is discretionary, the prosecution has the
burden of showing that the evidence of guilt against the
accused is strong. However, the determination of whether or
not the evidence of guilt is strong, being a matter of judicial
discretion, remains with the judge. This discretion by the very
nature of things, may rightly be exercised only after the
evidence is submitted to the court at the hearing. Since the
discretion is directed to the weight of the evidence and since
evidence cannot properly be weighed if not duly exhibited or
produced before the court, it is obvious that a proper exercise
of judicial discretion requires that the evidence of guilt be
submitted to the court, the petitioner having the right of crossexamination and to introduce his own evidence in rebuttal."103
Accordingly, petitioner cannot be released from detention until
the Sandiganbayan conducts a hearing of his application for bail
and resolve the same in his favor. Even then, there must first
be a finding that the evidence against petitioner is not strong
before he may be granted bail.
Anent the issue of the propriety of the issuance of a writ of
habeas corpus for petitioner, he contends that he is entitled to
the issuance of said writ because the State, through the

prosecution's refusal to present evidence and by the


Sandiganbayan's refusal to grant a bail hearing, has failed to
discharge its burden of proving that as against him, evidence of
guilt for the capital offense of plunder is strong. Petitioner
contends that the prosecution launched "a seemingly endless
barrage of obstructive and dilatory moves" to prevent the
conduct of bail hearings. Specifically, the prosecution moved
for petitioner's arraignment before the commencement of bail
hearings and insisted on joint bail hearings for petitioner,
Joseph Estrada and Jinggoy Estrada despite the fact that it was
only petitioner who asked for a bail hearing; manifested that it
would present its evidence as if it is the presentation of the
evidence in chief, meaning that the bail hearings would be
concluded only after the prosecution presented its entire case
upon the accused; and argued that petitioner's motion to quash
and his petition for bail are inconsistent, and therefore,
petitioner should choose to pursue only one of these two
remedies.104 He further claims that the Sandiganbayan, through
its questioned orders and resolutions postponing the bail
hearings effectively denied him of his right to bail and to due
process of law.105
Petitioner also maintains that the issuance by the
Sandiganbayan of new orders canceling the bail hearings which
it had earlier set did not render moot and academic the petition
for issuance of a writ of habeas corpus, since said orders have
resulted in a continuing deprivation of petitioner's right to
bail.106 He argues further that the fact that he was arrested and

is detained pursuant to valid process does not by itself negate


the efficacy of the remedy of habeas corpus. In support of his
contention, petitioner cites Moncupa vs. Enrile,107 where the
Court held that habeas corpus extends to instances where the
detention, while valid from its inception, has later become
arbitrary.108
However, the People insist that habeas corpus is not proper
because petitioner was arrested pursuant to the amended
information which was earlier filed in court,109 the warrant of
arrest issuant pursuant thereto was valid, and petitioner
voluntarily surrendered to the authorities.110
As a general rule, the writ of habeas corpus will not issue where
the person alleged to be restrained of his liberty in custody of
an officer under a process issued by the court which jurisdiction
to do so.111 In exceptional circumstances, habeas corpus may
be granted by the courts even when the person concerned is
detained pursuant to a valid arrest or his voluntary surrender,
for this writ of liberty is recognized as "the fundamental
instrument for safeguarding individual freedom against
arbitrary and lawless state action" due to "its ability to cut
through barriers of form and procedural mazes."112 Thus, in
previous cases, we issued the writ where the deprivation of
liberty, while initially valid under the law, had later become
invalid,113 and even though the persons praying for its issuance
were not completely deprived of their liberty.114
The Court finds no basis for the issuance of a writ of habeas
corpus in favor of petitioner. The general rule that habeas

corpus does not lie where the person alleged to be restrained


of his liberty is in the custody of an officer under process issued
by a court which had jurisdiction to issue the same115 applies,
because petitioner is under detention pursuant to the order of
arrest issued by the Sandiganbayan on April 25, 2001 after the
filing by the Ombudsman of the amended information for
plunder against petitioner and his co-accused. Petitioner had in
fact voluntarily surrendered himself to the authorities on April
25, 2001 upon learning that a warrant for his arrest had been
issued.
The ruling in Moncupa vs. Enrile116 that habeas corpus will lie
where the deprivation of liberty which was initially valid has
become arbitrary in view of subsequent developments finds no
application in the present case because the hearing on
petitioner's application for bail has yet to commence. As stated
earlier, they delay in the hearing of petitioner's petition for bail
cannot be pinned solely on the Sandiganbayan or on the
prosecution for that matter. Petitioner himself is partly to be
blamed. Moreover, a petition for habeas corpus is not the
appropriate remedy for asserting one's right to bail.117 It cannot
be availed of where accused is entitled to bail not as a matter
of right but on the discretion of the court and the latter has not
abused such discretion in refusing to grant bail,118 or has not
even exercised said discretion. The proper recourse is to file an
application for bail with the court where the criminal case is
pending and to allow hearings thereon to proceed.
The issuance of a writ of habeas corpus would not only be

unjustified but would also preempt the Sandiganbayan's


resolution of the pending application for bail of petitioner. The
recourse of petitioner is to forthwith proceed with the hearing
on his application for bail.
IN THE LIGHT OF ALL THE FOREGOING, judgment is hereby
rendered as follows:
1 In G.R. No. 148769 and G.R. No. 149116, the petitions are
DISMISSED. The resolutions of respondent Sandiganbayan
subject of said petitions are AFFIRMED; and
2 In G.R. No. 148468, the petition is PARTIALLY GRANTED. The
resolution of respondent Sandiganbayan, Annex "L" of the
petition, ordering a joint hearing of petitioner's petition for bail
and the trial of Criminal Case No. 26558 as against former
President Joseph E. Estrada is SET ASIDE; the arraignment of
petitioner on July 10, 2001 is also SET ASIDE.
No costs.
SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 147780

May 10, 2001

PANFILO LACSON, MICHAEL RAY B. AQUINO and CESAR O.


MANCAO, petitioners, vs.SECRETARY HERNANDO PEREZ,
P/DIRECTOR LEANDRO MENDOZA, and P/SR. SUPT.
REYNALDO BERROYA, respondents.
---------------------------------------G.R. No. 147781

May 10, 2001

MIRIAM DEFENSOR-SANTIAGO, petitioner, vs.ANGELO


REYES, Secretary of National Defense, ET AL., respondents.
---------------------------------------G.R. No. 147799

May 10, 2001

RONALDO A. LUMBAO, petitioner, vs.SECRETARY


HERNANDO PEREZ, GENERAL DIOMEDIO VILLANUEVA,
P/DIRECTOR LEANDRO MENDOZA, and P/SR. SUPT.
REYNALDO BERROYA, respondents.
---------------------------------------G.R. No. 147810

May 10, 2001

THE LABAN NG DEMOKRATIKONG PILIPINO, petitioner,


vs.THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, SECRETARY HERNANDO
PEREZ, THE ARMED FORCES OF THE PHILIPPINES, GENERAL
DIOMEDIO VILLANUEVA, THE PHILIPPINE NATIONAL POLICE,
and DIRECTOR GENERAL LEANDRO MENDOZA, respondents.
RESOLUTION
MELO, J.:
On May 1, 2001, President Macapagal-Arroyo, faced by an

"angry and violent mob armed with explosives, firearms,


bladed weapons, clubs, stones and other deadly weapons"
assaulting and attempting to break into Malacaang, issued
Proclamation No. 38 declaring that there was a state of
rebellion in the National Capital Region. She likewise issued
General Order No. 1 directing the Armed Forces of the
Philippines and the Philippine National Police to suppress the
rebellion in the National Capital Region. Warrantless arrests of
several alleged leaders and promoters of the "rebellion" were
thereafter effected.
Aggrieved by the warrantless arrests, and the declaration of a
"state of rebellion," which allegedly gave a semblance of
legality to the arrests, the following four related petitions were
filed before the Court
(1) G. R. No. 147780 for prohibition, injunction, mandamus, and
habeas corpus (with an urgent application for the issuance of
temporary restraining order and/or writ of preliminary
injunction) filed by Panfilio M. Lacson, Michael Ray B. Aquino,
and Cezar O. Mancao; (2) G. R. No. 147781 for mandamus
and/or review of the factual basis for the suspension of the
privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, with prayer for the
suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, with
prayer for a temporary restraining order filed by Miriam
Defensor-Santiago; (3) G. R. No. 147799 for prohibition and
injunction with prayer for a writ of preliminary injunction
and/or restraining order filed by Ronaldo A. Lumbao; and (4) G.
R. No. 147810 for certiorari and prohibition filed by the political

party Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino.


All the foregoing petitions assail the declaration of a state of
rebellion by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and the
warrantless arrests allegedly effected by virtue thereof, as
having no basis both in fact and in law. Significantly, on May 6,
2001, President Macapagal-Arroyo ordered the lifting of the
declaration of a "state of rebellion" in Metro Manila.
Accordingly, the instant petitions have been rendered moot
and academic. As to petitioners' claim that the proclamation of
a "state of rebellion" is being used by the authorities to justify
warrantless arrests, the Secretary of Justice denies that it has
issued a particular order to arrest specific persons in
connection with the "rebellion." He states that what is extant
are general instructions to law enforcement officers and
military agencies to implement Proclamation No. 38. Indeed, as
stated in respondents' Joint Comments:
[I]t is already the declared intention of the Justice Department
and police authorities to obtain regular warrants of arrests
from the courts for all acts committed prior to and until May
1, 2001 which means that preliminary investigations will
henceforth be conducted.
(Comment, G.R. No. 147780, p. 28; G.R. No. 147781, p. 18; G.R.
No. 147799, p. 16; G.R. No. 147810, p. 24)
With this declaration, petitioners' apprehensions as to
warrantless arrests should be laid to rest.
In quelling or suppressing the rebellion, the authorities may
only resort to warrantless arrests of persons suspected of

rebellion, as provided under Section 5, Rule 113 of the Rules of


Court, if the circumstances so warrant. The warrantless arrest
feared by petitioners is, thus, not based on the declaration of a
"state of rebellion."
Moreover, petitioners' contention in G. R. No. 147780 (Lacson
Petition), 147781 (Defensor-Santiago Petition), and 147799
(Lumbao Petition) that they are under imminent danger of
being arrested without warrant do not justify their resort to the
extraordinary remedies of mandamus and prohibition, since an
individual subjected to warrantless arrest is not without
adequate remedies in the ordinary course of law. Such an
individual may ask for a preliminary investigation under Rule
112 of the Rules of Court, where he may adduce evidence in his
defense, or he may submit himself to inquest proceedings to
determine whether or not he should remain under custody and
correspondingly be charged in court. Further, a person subject
of a warrantless arrest must be delivered to the proper judicial
authorities within the periods provided in Article 125 of the
Revised Penal Code, otherwise the arresting officer could be
held liable for delay in the delivery of detained persons. Should
the detention be without legal ground, the person arrested can
charge the arresting officer with arbitrary detention. All this is
without prejudice to his filing an action for damages against the
arresting officer under Article 32 of the Civil Code. Verily,
petitioners have a surfeit of other remedies which they can
avail themselves of, thereby making the prayer for prohibition
and mandamus improper at this time (Section 2 and 3, Rule 65,

Rules of Court).1wphi1.nt
Aside from the foregoing reasons, several considerations
likewise inevitably call for the dismissal of the petitions at bar.
G.R. No. 147780
In connection with their alleged impending warrantless arrest,
petitioners Lacson, Aquino, and mancao pray that the
"appropriate court before whom the informations against
petitioners are filed be directed to desist from arraigning and
proceeding with the trial of the case, until the instant petition
is finally resolved." This relief is clearly premature considering
that as of this date, no complaints or charges have been filed
against any of the petitioners for any crime. And in the event
that the same are later filed, this Court cannot enjoin criminal
prosecution conducted in accordance with the Rules of Court,
for by that time any arrest would have been in pursuant of a
duly issued warrant.

(Ngaya-an v. Balweg, 200 SCRA 149 [1991]), a matter which


remains speculative up to this very day.
G.R. No. 147781
The petition herein is denominated by petitioner DefensorSantiago as one for mandamus. It is basic in matters relating to
petitions for mandamus that the legal right of the petitioner to
the performance of a particular act which is sought to be
compelled must be clear and complete. Mandamus will not
issue unless the right to relief is clear at the time of the award
(Palileo v. Ruiz Castro, 85 Phil. 272). Up to the present time,
petitioner Defensor Santiago has not shown that she is in
imminent danger of being arrested without a warrant. In point
of fact, the authorities have categorically stated that petitioner
will not be arrested without a warrant.
G.R. No. 147799

As regards petitioners' prayer that the hold departure orders


issued against them be declared null and void ab initio, it is to
be noted that petitioners are not directly assailing the validity
of the subject hold departure orders in their petition. They are
not even expressing intention to leave the country in the near
future. The prayer to set aside the same must be made in
proper proceedings initiated for that purpose.

Petitioner Lumbao, leader of the People's Movement against


Poverty (PMAP), for his part, argues that the declaration of a
"state of rebellion" is violative of the doctrine of separation of
powers, being an encroachment on the domain of the judiciary
which has the constitutional prerogative to "determine or
interpret" what took place on May 1, 2001, and that the
declaration of a state of rebellion cannot be an exception to the
general rule on the allocation of the governmental powers.

Anent petitioners' allegations ex abundante ad cautelam in


support of their application for the issuance of a writ of habeas
corpus, it is manifest that the writ is not called for since its
purpose is to relieve petitioners from unlawful restraint

We disagree. To be sure, Section 18, Article VII of the


Constitution expressly provides that "[t]he President shall be
the Commander-in-Chief of all armed forces of the Philippines
and whenever it becomes necessary, he may call out such

armed forces to prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion


or rebellion" Thus, we held in Integrated Bar of the Philippines
v. Hon. Zamora, (G.R. No. 141284, August 15, 2000):
x x x The factual necessity of calling out the armed forces is not
easily quantifiable and cannot be objectively established since
matters considered for satisfying the same is a combination of
several factors which are not always accessible to the courts.
Besides the absence of textual standards that the court may use
to judge necessity, information necessary to arrive at such
judgment might also prove unmanageable for the courts.
Certain pertinent information might be difficult to verify, or
wholly unavailable to the courts. In many instances, the
evidence upon which the President might decide that there is a
need to call out the armed forces may be of a nature not
constituting technical proof.
On the other hand, the President as Commander-in-Chief has a
vast intelligence network to gather information, some of which
may be classified as highly confidential or affecting the security
of the state. In the exercise of the power to call, on-the-spot
decisions may be imperatively necessary in emergency
situations to avert great loss of human lives and mass
destruction of property. x x x
(at pp.22-23)
The Court, in a proper case, may look into the sufficiency of the
factual basis of the exercise of this power. However, this is no
longer feasible at this time, Proclamation No. 38 having been
lifted.

G.R. No. 147810


Petitioner Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino is not a real partyin-interest. The rule requires that a party must show a personal
stake in the outcome of the case or an injury to himself that can
be redressed by a favorable decision so as to warrant an
invocation of the court's jurisdiction and to justify the exercise
of the court's remedial powers in his behalf (KMU Labor Center
v. Garcia, Jr., 239 SCRA 386 [1994]). Here, petitioner has not
demonstrated any injury to itself which would justify resort to
the Court. Petitioner is a juridical person not subject to arrest.
Thus, it cannot claim to be threatened by a warrantless arrest.
Nor is it alleged that its leaders, members, and supporters are
being threatened with warrantless arrest and detention for the
crime of rebellion. Every action must be brought in the name of
the party whose legal right has been invaded or infringed, or
whose legal right is under imminent threat of invasion or
infringement.
At best, the instant petition may be considered as an action for
declaratory relief, petitioner claiming that its right to freedom
of expression and freedom of assembly is affected by the
declaration of a "state of rebellion" and that said proclamation
is invalid for being contrary to the Constitution.
However, to consider the petition as one for declaratory relief
affords little comfort to petitioner, this Court not having
jurisdiction in the first instance over such a petition. Section
5[1], Article VIII of the Constitution limits the original
jurisdiction of the Court to cases affecting ambassadors, other

public ministers and consuls, and over petitions for certiorari,


prohibition, mandamus, quo warranto, and habeas corpus.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the petitions are hereby
DISMISSED. However, in G.R. No. 147780, 147781, and 147799,
respondents, consistent and congruent with their undertaking
earlier adverted to, together with their agents, representatives,
and all persons acting for and in their behalf, are hereby
enjoined from arresting petitioners therein without the
required judicial warrant for all acts committed in relation to or
in connection with the may 1, 2001 siege of Malacaang.
SO ORDERED.
G.R. No. 175864

June 8, 2007

ANISAH IMPAL SANGCA, petitioner, vs.THE CITY


PROSECUTOR OF CEBU CITY and THE PRESIDING JUDGE,
Regional Trial Court, Branch 58, Cebu City, respondents.
DECISION
YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.:
On January 4, 2007, petitioner Anisah Impal Sangca filed the
instant petition praying for the issuance of a writ of habeas
corpus and the release of Lovely Impal Adam who was detained
in the Cebu City Jail for alleged violation of Section 5, Article 2
of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 9165, otherwise known as the
Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.
The facts are as follows:
In the first week of July 2006, the Philippine Drug Enforcement
Agency (PDEA), Regional Office VII, received information that

Adam was engaged in illegal drug trafficking activities in Cebu


City and neighboring cities and municipalities. After evaluating
the information, Police Chief Inspector Josefino Ligan, PDEA VII
Asst. Regional Director for Administration/Operation, together
with FO1 Rayford A. Yap and PO2 Dindo M. Tuliao, planned an
entrapment operation.
The events leading to the arrest of Adam, as summarized in the
Resolution of the Department of Justice dated November 10,
2006, are as follows:
On July 7, 2006, at about 2:00 P.M., Yap and Tuliao were able
to contact the informant and inquired from him if he was really
sincere with his words and the latter replied affirmatively. Ligan
immediately composed a team and planned for an entrapment
operation against respondent and her cohorts. A short briefing
was conducted where Yap was tasked to receive the shabu
while Tuliao would be the back up and at the same time the
arresting officer. They prepared a Pre-Operation Report and
the same was coordinated with the Tactical Operation Center
of Cebu City Police Office. The pre-arranged signal in the
operation was that Yap would miscall them once the
transaction is consummated. x x x
On or about 9:30 P.M. of the same day, the team, including Yap,
Tuliao and the informant, proceeded to Fuente Osmea, Cebu
City for the said purpose. Upon arrival thereat, Yap and the
informant proceeded to Pizza Hut while Tuliao stayed behind
near the parking area and so with the members of the team
closely watching them. When Yap and the informant entered

Pizza Hut, respondent was already there waiting for them. They
immediately approached her and the informant introduced Yap
to respondent as his former customer. They had a short
conversation and Yap asked respondent if she has with her the
item. Respondent told him that it is in her car at the parking
area. Respondent asked where the money is. Yap told her no
problem as long as she has the item, he will give her the money.
Respondent instructed Yap to go with her at the parking area
so that she could give it to him and there, she got inside her car.
She took the shabu inside the compartment of her Toyota
Fortuner with plate number YCX 965 and handed to him one (1)
packed medium size of heat sealed transparent plastic sachet
filled with white crystalline substance believed to be shabu.
Upon receiving the said item, Yap pressed it to determine if it
was really shabu or not and when he noticed that it was shabu,
he immediately miscalled the members of the team informing
them that the transaction was consummated and subsequently
held respondent. He then introduced himself as PDEA 7
operative. Tuliao, who was just at the side of the car, assisted
Yap in apprehending the suspect. They also seized her cellular
phone and the Toyota Fortuner which she used in delivering
and transporting illegal drugs. Thereafter, they informed her
that she is under arrest for violation of Section 5, Article II, RA
9165 and likewise apprised her of the Miranda Doctrine in the
language she knew and understood but she opted to remain
silent. After which, they asked her name and she introduced
herself as Lovely Adam y Impal, 29 years old, married,

businesswoman and a resident of Celiron, Iligan City. They


brought her along with the confiscated items to their office for
proper disposition. Later on, they found out that the item that
Yap bought from respondent, marked "LA" dated 07-07-06 with
Yaps signature, weighing 50.27 grams which was submitted
before the PNP Crime Laboratory for chemical analysis, yielded
positive results for the presence of Methamphetamine
Hydrochloride or Shabu, a dangerous drug.
Respondent denies the charge against her. She claims that she
is a trader of ready to wear clothing. As such, she frequently
travels to different Asian countries to buy goods for sale in Cebu
and in Mindanao. She supplies various boutiques in Cebu City,
including Salad Dressing at SM, D. Blaz., Beauty Land and
Lovelys Closet. She also operates a beauty parlor in Talamban.
Respondent claims that on July 7, 2006, at around 10:00 in the
evening, she was at Pizza Hut, Fuente Osmea Boulevard,
together with her four children and their "yayas". A friend of
hers, Ana, had called her earlier in the day saying that she
would pay off her loan to her (respondent) at Pizza Hut that
evening. Ana arrived a short time later. They were eating when
Ana received a call over her cellphone. From the gist of it, Ana
was talking to a certain Rose. Respondent did not mind them
because the conversation was only between Ana and Rose. A
short time later, a woman, who was introduced to her by Ana
as a certain Rose, arrived. Ana and Rose then proceeded to talk
with each other, and respondent did not mind them. A while
after, respondent saw Ana hand over a parcel to Rose, and the

latter, on the other hand, hand a green bag to Ana. Rose then
left. As respondent was about to leave, Ana requested that she
be allowed to hitch a ride and respondent agreed. When they
were outside, respondent noticed a vehicle blocking her car,
making it impossible for her to back out into the road, without
hitting the car. She then beeped her car. Instead of moving their
car, one of the men went down and thereafter, entered her
vehicle and demanded for the bag that was allegedly given to
Ana by Rose. Respondent told them to ask Ana since they
claimed that it was given to Ana. However, the men pointed
their guns at respondent, including her children, claiming that
they were elements of PDEA and they were placing her under
arrest for illegal drug trafficking. They then grabbed
respondents green bag and from then on, she was never able
to recover the contents thereof, including the bag itself.
Thereafter, respondent was brought to the PDEA office where
a certain Ryan Rubi was also booked for alleged drug trafficking.
During her conversation with Ryan Rubi, she found out that he
was arrested a few hours earlier likewise by the PDEA, and
during his alleged arrest, he was required to produce a drug
trafficker in exchange for his release. Having been unable to
produce any, he was charged. The name of Rose cropped up,
and he said that during his arrest, the police officers informed
him that they were after Rose. His wife was out to raise money
for his release, or to produce a drug trafficker so that he can be
released. It was further ascertained by Ryan Rubi that this Rose
was actually arrested by the police officers but was

conditionally released on condition that she would produce


someone who would take her place. Thereafter, he claimed
that he overheard them refer to a certain Ana, who said that
she would also produce respondent to take her place. The
circumstances of respondents arrest and that of the said Ryan
Rubi are closely intertwined. In the police blotter, the vehicle
pertaining to respondent, which is the Toyota Fortuner was
ascribed to Ryan Rubi, while the latters vehicle was ascribed to
her. x x x1
The inquest prosecutor recommended the dismissal of the case
but was disapproved by the City Prosecutor. Consequently, an
information charging Adam with violation of Section 5, Article
2 of R.A. No. 9165 was filed and docketed as Criminal Case No.
CBU-77562 before the Regional Trial Court of Cebu City, Branch
58.
On petition for review before the Department of Justice,
Secretary Raul M. Gonzalez found no probable cause to hold
Adam liable for the offense charged, to wit:
A very thorough and careful scrutiny of the records, particularly
the affidavit of arrest, reveals that no payment was ever made
by the police officers for the supposed object of the buy-bust
operations. The police officers have not even alleged in their
affidavits that payment was made to respondent in exchange
for the shabu. No buy-bust money was ever presented. The
certificate of inventory does not show any buy-bust money.
These stick out like a sore thumb in the case at bar.
Suffice it to say that one of the essential elements to be

established in the prosecution of the drug "buy-bust" cases,


that is, "the delivery of the thing sold and the payment
therefore" is wanting. It was aptly said in the case of People v.
Alilin, 206 SCRA 773, that: "To sustain a conviction for selling
prohibited drugs, the same must be clearly and unmistakably
established."2
The Justice Secretary directed the City Prosecutor of Cebu City
to withdraw the information.3 PDEA filed a motion for
reconsideration but was denied by the Justice Secretary on
December 8, 2006.4
In his Comment, Judge Gabriel T. Ingles, Presiding Judge of the
Regional Trial Court of Cebu City, Branch 58, stated that at the
hearing of the motion to withdraw information on January 5,
2007, it was found that:
In the affidavit of FO1 Rayford A. Yap and PO2 Dindo M. Tuliao,
there is indeed no mention of their preparation of a buy bust
money before, during or after their briefing prior to the alleged
buy bust operation, nor is there any mention of the price or
consideration of the sale. What is merely stated is that they had
enough money.
xxxx
Further convincing this court that there was no buy bust money
prepared are the following:
a) In the "Pre-Operation Report" dated July 7, 2006, bearing
Control Number 07-07-2006-03, there is no mention of the buybust money in the operational requirements;

b) In the "Excerpt From the Records of the PDEA 7


Blotter/Logbook bearing the same date and entry number
02422;
c) In another "Excerpt From the Records of the PDEA 7
Blotter/Logbook bearing the same date and entry number
02422 there is a mention in "Facts of the Case" the recovery of
"3 bundles of boodle money with two (2) pieces of genuine five
hundred peso bills wrapped with newspaper and packed with
packaging tape." However, while the name of the suspect is
indicated in this excerpt is Lovely Adam y Impal and the
evidence enumerated are as follows:
1) one (1) medium size of heat sealed transparent plastic sachet
filled with crystalline substance believed to be shabu;
2) one (1) unit Nokia cellphone;
3) one (1) unit Toyota Fortuner with plate number XCX 956
registered under the name of Lovely Adam;"
the narration of the facts of the case in said excerpt also
included the following statement: "Likewise, the apprehending
officers seized one (1) unit cellular phone (Sony Erickson) and
the Mitsubishi Lancer with plate number GHC color black
registered under the name of Roberto Rubi, which was used by
the aforementioned suspects in transporting illegal drugs."
This Roberto Rubi could not have been arrested together with
accused herein because there is no mention of such fact in the
Affidavit of Officers Yap and Tuliao.
In fact, the head of the arresting team of herein accused

Josefino D. Liga[n] filed a Motion to Withdraw Said Excerpt


because there was an inadvertent interchange of facts in
another case obviously against Mr. Rubi.
The problem, however, is that from the Excerpts presented, it
is not clear to this court to which case the mention of boodle
money applies. This court cannot merely assume or conclude
that the boodle money has reference to the case of herein
accused because as stated, nowhere in the separate affidavits
of office[r]s Tuliao and Yap can one find any mention of such. It
is not even mentioned in the other "Excerpt" also dated July 10,
2006 also submitted by the PDEA.5
Finding that Adam could not be held liable for the crime
charged, Judge Ingles issued an Order on January 26, 2007
granting the Motion to Withdraw Information and ordering the
release of the accused, unless otherwise held for another valid
ground. The dispositive portion of the Order reads:
Accordingly, the "Motion to Withdraw Information" is hereby
GRANTED and the accused is ordered immediately released
unless another valid ground exists for her continued detention.
The prosecution and/or PDEA are/is ordered to turn over to this
court within three (3) days from receipt hereof the dangerous
drug described in the information which shall in turn be
confiscated in favor of the state for proper disposition unless
the prosecution intends to refile or file another case against the
accused which it deems appropriate as double jeopardy has not
attached.
SO ORDERED.6

A writ of habeas corpus extends to all cases of illegal


confinement or detention in which any person is deprived of his
liberty, or in which the rightful custody of any person is
withheld from the person entitled to it. Its essential object and
purpose is to inquire into all manner of involuntary restraint
and to relieve a person from it if such restraint is illegal. The
singular function of a petition for habeas corpus is to protect
and secure the basic freedom of physical liberty.7
In the instant case, records show that Adam has been released
upon order of the trial judge on January 26, 2007. Therefore,
the petition has become moot.8
WHEREFORE, the petition is DISMISSED.
SO ORDERED.
G.R. No. 160739

July 17, 2013

ANITA MANGILA, Petitioner,


vs.
JUDGE HERIBERTO M. PANGILINAN, ASST. CITY
PROSECUTOR II LUCIA JUDY SOLINAP, and
NATIONAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION (DIRECTOR
REYNALDO WYCOCO), Respondents.
DECISION
BERSAMIN, J.:
Restraint that is lawful and pursuant to a court process
cannot be inquired into through habeas corpus.

Antecedents
On June 16, 2003, seven criminal complaints charging
petitioner Anita Mangila and four others with syndicated
estafa in violation of Article 315 of the Revised Penal
Code, in relation to Presidential Decree No. 1689, and
with violations of Section 7(b) of Republic Act No. 8042
(Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipino Act of 1995)
were filed in the Municipal Trial Court in Cities in Puerto
Princesa City (MTCC), docketed as Criminal Cases No.
16916 to No. 16922. The complaints arose from the
recruiting and promising of employment by Mangila and
the others to the private complainants as overseas
contract workers in Toronto, Canada, and from the
collection of visa processing fees, membership fees and
on-line application the private complainants without lawful
authority from the Philippine Overseas Employment
Administration (POEA).1
On the following day, June 17, 2003, Judge Heriberto M.
Pangilinan, Presiding Judge of the MTCC, conducted a
preliminary investigation on the complaints. After
examining Miguel Aaron Palayon, one of the
complainants, Judge Pangilinan issued a warrant for the
arrest of Mangila and her cohorts without bail.2 On the
next day, the entire records of the cases, including the
warrant of arrest, were transmitted to the City Prosecutor
of Puerto Princesa City for further proceedings and
appropriate action in accordance with the prevailing
rules.3

As a consequence, Mangila was arrested on June 18,


2003 and detained at the headquarters on Taft Avenue,
Manila of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).4
Claiming that Judge Pangilinan did not have the authority
to conduct the preliminary investigation; that the
preliminary investigation he conducted was not yet
completed when he issued the warrant of arrest; and that
the issuance of the warrant of arrest was without
sufficient justification or without a prior finding of probable
cause, Mangila filed in the Court of Appeals (CA)a
petition for habeas corpus to obtain her release from
detention. Her petition averred that the remedy of habeas
corpus was available to her because she could no longer
file a motion to quash or a motion to recall the warrant of
arrest considering that Judge Pangilinan had already
forwarded the entire records of the case to the City
Prosecutor who had no authority to lift or recall the
warrant.5
In its resolution promulgated on October 14, 2003,6 the
CA denied the petition for habeas corpus for its lack of
merit, explaining:
As a general rule, a writ of habeas corpus will not be
granted where relief may be had or could have been
procured by resort to another general remedy. As pointed
out in Luna vs. Plaza, if petitioner is detained by virtue of
a warrant of arrest, which is allegedly invalid, the remedy
available to her is not a petition for habeas corpus but a
petition to quash the warrant of arrest or a petition for a
reinvestigation of the case by the Municipal Judge or by
the Provincial Fiscal.

Section 5, Rule 112 of the Revised Rules of Criminal


Procedure provides that the Municipal Judge who
conducted the preliminary investigation shall transmit his
resolution, together with the record of the case, including
the warrant of arrest, to the Provincial Prosecutor, who
shall review the same and order the release of an
accused who is detained if no probable cause is found
against him. Thus, the proper remedy available to
petitioner is for her to file with the Provincial Prosecutor a
motion to be released from detention on the grounds
alleged in the instant petition.
WHEREFORE, the petition for habeas corpus is DENIED
for lack of merit.
SO ORDERED.7
Mangila moved for the reconsideration of the denial of
her petition for habeas corpus,8 but the CA denied the
motion on November 19, 2003.9
Hence, this appeal via petition for review on certiorari.
Issue
Did the CA err in ruling that habeas corpus was not the
proper remedy to obtain the release of Mangila from
detention?
Ruling of the Court
The petition for review lacks merit.

The high prerogative writ of habeas corpus has been


devised as a speedy and effective remedy to relieve
persons from unlawful restraint. In Caballes v. Court of
Appeals,10 the Court discoursed on the nature of the
special proceeding of habeas corpus in the following
manner:
A petition for the issuance of a writ of habeas corpus is a
special proceeding governed by Rule 102 of the Rules of
Court, as amended. In Ex Parte Billings, it was held that
habeas corpus is that of a civil proceeding in character. It
seeks the enforcement of civil rights. Resorting to the writ
is not to inquire into the criminal act of which the
complaint is made, but into the right of liberty,
notwithstanding the act and the immediate purpose to be
served is relief from illegal restraint. The rule applies
even when instituted to arrest a criminal prosecution and
secure freedom. When a prisoner petitions for a writ of
habeas corpus, he thereby commences a suit and
prosecutes a case in that court.
Habeas corpus is not in the nature of a writ of error; nor
intended as substitute for the trial courts function. It
cannot take the place of appeal, certiorari or writ of error.
The writ cannot be used to investigate and consider
questions of error that might be raised relating to
procedure or on the merits. The inquiry in a habeas
corpus proceeding is addressed to the question of
whether the proceedings and the assailed order are, for
any reason, null and void. The writ is not ordinarily
granted where the law provides for other remedies in the
regular course, and in the absence of exceptional
circumstances. Moreover, habeas corpus should not be

granted in advance of trial. The orderly course of trial


must be pursued and the usual remedies exhausted
before resorting to the writ where exceptional
circumstances are extant. In another case, it was held
that habeas corpus cannot be issued as a writ of error or
as a means of reviewing errors of law and irregularities
not involving the questions of jurisdiction occurring during
the course of the trial, subject to the caveat that
constitutional safeguards of human life and liberty must
be preserved, and not destroyed. It has also been held
that where restraint is under legal process, mere errors
and irregularities, which do not render the proceedings
void, are not grounds for relief by habeas corpus
because in such cases, the restraint is not illegal.
Habeas corpus is a summary remedy. It is analogous to
a proceeding in rem when instituted for the sole purpose
of having the person of restraint presented before the
judge in order that the cause of his detention may be
inquired into and his statements final. The writ of habeas
corpus does not act upon the prisoner who seeks relief,
but upon the person who holds him in what is alleged to
be the unlawful authority. Hence, the only parties before
the court are the petitioner (prisoner) and the person
holding the petitioner in custody, and the only question to
be resolved is whether the custodian has authority to
deprive the petitioner of his liberty. The writ may be
denied if the petitioner fails to show facts that he is
entitled thereto ex merito justicias.
A writ of habeas corpus, which is regarded as a
"palladium of liberty," is a prerogative writ which does not
issue as a matter of right but in the sound discretion of

the court or judge. It is, however, a writ of right on proper


formalities being made by proof. Resort to the writ is not
to inquire into the criminal act of which a complaint is
made but unto the right of liberty, notwithstanding the act,
and the immediate purpose to be served is relief from
illegal restraint. The primary, if not the only object of the
writ of habeas corpus ad subjuciendum, is to determine
the legality of the restraint under which a person is
held.11 (Bold underscoring supplied for emphasis)
The object of the writ of habeas corpus is to inquire into
the legality of the detention, and, if the detention is found
to be illegal, to require the release of the detainee.
Equally well-settled however, is that the writ will not issue
where the person in whose behalf the writ is sought is out
on bail, or is in the custody of an officer under process
issued by a court or judge with jurisdiction or by virtue of
a judgment or order of a court of record.12
There is no question that when the criminal complaints
were lodged against Mangila and her cohorts on June 16,
2003,Judge Pangilinan, as the Presiding Judge of the
MTCC, was empowered to conduct preliminary
investigations involving "all crimes cognizable by the
proper court in their respective territorial jurisdictions."
His authority was expressly provided in Section 2, Rule
112 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, to wit:
Section 2.Officers authorized to conduct preliminary
investigations.
The following may conduct preliminary investigations:

(a) Provincial or City Prosecutors and their


assistants;

investigations was removed only effective on October 3,


2005 pursuant to A.M. No. 05-8-26-SC.

(b) Judges of the Municipal Trial Courts and


Municipal Circuit Trial Courts;

With Mangilas arrest and ensuing detention being by


virtue of the order lawfully issued by Judge Pangilinan,
the writ of habeas corpus was not an appropriate remedy
to relieve her from the restraint on her liberty. This is
because the restraint, being lawful and pursuant to a
court process, could not be inquired into through habeas
corpus. To quote the dictum enunciated by Justice
Malcolm in Quintos v. Director of Prisons:13

(c) National and Regional State Prosecutors; and


(d) Other officers as may be authorized by law.
Their authority to conduct preliminary investigations shall
include all crimes cognizable by the proper court in their
respective territorial jurisdictions. (2a)
Under Section 6(b) of Rule 112of the Revised Rules of
Criminal Procedure, the investigating judge could issue a
warrant of arrest during the preliminary investigation even
without awaiting its conclusion should he find after an
examination in writing and under oath of the complainant
and the witnesses in the form of searching questions and
answers that a probable cause existed, and that there
was a necessity of placing the respondent under
immediate custody in order not to frustrate the ends of
justice.1wphi1 In the context of this rule, Judge
Pangilinan issued the warrant of arrest against Mangila
and her cohorts. Consequently, the CA properly denied
Mangilas petition for habeas corpus because she had
been arrested and detained by virtue of the warrant
issued for her arrest by Judge Pangilinan, a judicial
officer undeniably possessing the legal authority to do so.
It is relevant to point out at this juncture that the authority
of the MTC and MTCC judges to conduct preliminary

The writ of habeas corpus secures to a prisoner the right


to have the cause of his detention examined and
determined by a court of justice, and to have ascertained
if he is held under lawful authority. The function of
habeas corpus, where the party who has appealed to its
aid is in custody under process, does not extend beyond
an inquiry into the jurisdiction of the court by which it was
issued and the validity of the process upon its face. It is
not a writ of error. xxx (Bold underscoring supplied for
emphasis)
Accordingly, Section 4, Rule 102 of the Rules of Court
explicitly states:
Section 4.When writ not allowed or discharge authorized.
If it appears that the person alleged to be restrained of
his liberty is in the custody of an officer under process
issued by a court or judge or by virtue of a judgment or
order of a court of record, and that the court or judge had
jurisdiction to issue the process, render the judgment, or
make the order, the writ shall not be allowed; or if the

jurisdiction appears after the writ is allowed, the person


shall not be discharged by reason of any informality or
defect in the process, judgment, or order. Nor shall
anything in this rule be held to authorize the discharge of
a person charged with or convicted of an offense in the
Philippines, or of a person suffering imprisonment under
lawful judgment. (Bold underscoring supplied for
emphasis)
Still, Mangila harps on the procedural flaws supposedly
committed by Judge Pangilinan in her attempt to
convince the Court on her entitlement to the issuance of
the writ of habeas corpus. She insists that the illegality
and invalidity of the warrant of arrest because of its
having been issued without an exhaustive examination of
the complainants and the witnesses in writing and under
oath; without a prior finding of probable cause; and
without consideration of the necessity for its issuance in
order not to frustrate the ends of justice were enough
reasons for granting the writ of habeas corpus.14
Mangila fails to persuade.
To begin with, Judge Pangilinan issued the order of
arrest after examining Palayon, one of the complainants
against Mangila and her cohorts. If he, as the
investigating judge, considered Palayons evidence
sufficient for finding probable cause against her and her
cohorts, which finding the Court justifiably presumes from
his act of referring the case and its records to the Office
of the City Prosecutor on the day immediately following
the preliminary investigation he conducted, her petition
for habeas corpus could not be the proper remedy by

which she could assail the adequacy of the adverse


finding. Even granting that there was a failure to adhere
to the law or rule, such failure would not be the
equivalent of a violation of her constitutional rights.15
Secondly, it was not procedurally correct for her to
impugn the issuance of the warrant of arrest by hinting
that the investigating judge did not at all consider the
necessity of determining the existence of probable cause
for its issuance due to time constraints and in order not to
frustrate the ends of justice, for that consideration was
presumed.
And, lastly, it was clear that under Section 5,16 Rule 112
of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, the
resolution of the investigating judge was not final but was
still subject to the review by the public prosecutor who
had the power to order the release of the detainee if no
probable cause should beultimately found against her. In
the context of the rule, Mangila had no need to seek the
issuance of the writ of habeas corpus to secure her
release from detention. Her proper recourse was to bring
the supposed irregularities attending the conduct of the
preliminary investigation and the issuance of the warrant
for her arrest to the attention of the City Prosecutor, who
had been meanwhile given the most direct access to the
entire records of the case, including the warrant of arrest,
following Judge Pangilinans transmittal of them to the
City Prosecutor for appropriate action.17 We agree with
the CA, therefore, that the writ of habeas corpus could
not be used as a substitute for another available
remedy.18

WHEREFORE, the Court AFFIRMS the resolutions


promulgated on October 14, 2003 and November 19,
2003 in C.A.-G.R. SP No. 79745; and ORDERS the
petitioner to pay the costs of suit.
SO ORDERED.

Change of NAME

G.R. No. 130277

May 9, 2002

MA. LOURDES BARRIENTOS ELEOSIDA, for and in behalf of


her minor child, CHARLES CHRISTIAN ELEOSIDA, petitioner,
vs.LOCAL CIVIL REGISTRAR OF QUEZON CITY, and CARLOS
VILLENA BORBON, respondents.
PUNO, J.:
This is a petition for review on certiorari of the Order1 of the
Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 89, which dismissed
motu proprio the petition of Ma. Lourdes Eleosida to correct
some entries in the birth certificate of her son, Charles
Christian. The birth certificate shows, among others, that the
child's full name is Charles Christian Eleosida Borbon. He was
born on May 24, 1992 to Ma. Lourdes Barrientos Eleosida and
Carlos Villena Borbon. The birth certificate also indicates that
the child's parents were married on January 10, 1985 in
Batangas City.2
On January 30, 1997, petitioner Ma. Lourdes Eleosida filed a

petition before the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City seeking


to correct the following entries in the birth certificate of her
son, Charles Christian: first, the surname "Borbon" should be
changed to "Eleosida;" second, the date of the parents'
wedding should be left blank; and third, the informant's name
should be "Ma. Lourdes B. Eleosida," instead of "Ma. Lourdes E.
Borbon." In support of her petition, petitioner alleged that she
gave birth to her son out of wedlock on May 24, 1992; that she
and the boy's father, Carlos Borbon, were never married; and
that the child is therefore illegitimate and should follow the
mother's surname. The petition impleaded the Local Registrar
of Quezon City and Carlos Villena Borbon as respondents.3
On April 23, 1997, the trial court issued a notice of hearing
stating:
"Verified petition having been filed by petitioner Ma. Lourdes
Barrientos Eleosida, praying that the entries in the Certificate
of Live Birth of her minor child, Charles Christian Eleosida
Borbon, be changed and/or corrected, such that, his last name
BORBON be deleted and instead place therein the name
ELEOSIDA, which is the surname of his mother-petitioner; the
entry "January 10, 1985 Batangas City", be likewise deleted,
since the petitioner and respondent Carlos Villena Borbon, at
the time of the minor's birth were not legally married; and the
surname BORBON of petitioner Ma. Lourdes E. Borbon under
the column Informant, be also deleted;
NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN, that this petition is set for hearing on
June 26, 1997 at 8:30 o'clock in the morning, in the Session Hall

of this Court sitting at the Ground Floor, Room 118, Hall of


Justice, Quezon City, which is ordered published once a week
for three (3) consecutive weeks, in a newspaper of general
circulation and published in Metro Manila, to be selected by
raffle, at the expense of the petitioner, at which date, time and
place, the petitioner shall appear and prove her petition, in that
all other persons having or claiming any interest thereon shall
also appear and show cause why, if any, they have, the petition
shall not be granted.1wphi1.nt
Let copies of this notice be furnished the petitioner, and
together with copies of the petition, respondent Carlos Villena
Borbon; the Offices of the Local Civil Registrar of Quezon City
and the Solicitor General, who are given fifteen (15) days from
notice of the petition, or from the last date of publication of
such notice, within which to file their opposition thereto, if any.
In the event that the Solicitor General may not be able to
appear on the scheduled hearing, to designate the City
Prosecutor of Quezon City to appear for and in behalf of the
State.
SO ORDERED."4
On June 26, 1997, the trial court issued another order setting
the date for the presentation of evidence on July 23, 1997. It
stated:
"Considering that there is no opposition filed despite notice to
the Solicitor General as contained in the notice of hearing dated
April 23, 1997 requiring that office to file their opposition, if
any, to the petition for correction of entries in the birth

certificate of minor child Charles Christian Eleosida, the


petitioner will be allowed to present compliance with the
jurisdictional requirements and at the same time initially
present evidence on July 23, 1997, at 8:30 o'clock in the
morning."5
On August 25, 1997, the trial court motu proprio dismissed the
petition for lack of merit. It ruled:
"It is an established jurisprudence that, only CLERICAL ERRORS
OF A HARMLESS AND INNOCUOUS NATURE like: misspelled
name, occupation of the parents, etc., may be the subject of a
judicial order (contemplated under Article 412 of the New Civil
Code), authorizing changes or corrections and: NOT as may
affect the CIVIL STATUS, NATIONALITY OR CITIZENSHIP OF THE
PERSONS INVOLVED.
In the present case, it is very clear that the changes desired by
the petitioner will ultimately affect the CIVIL STATUS OF
CHARLES CHRISTIAN, as she wants the Court to Direct the Civil
Registrar of Quezon City to substitute her maiden name,
ELEOSIDA, with that of BORBON; to delete the information
supplied in ITEM 12, respecting the date and place of marriage
of parents, on the ground that she was never married to
respondent CARLOS VILLENA BORBON and amend the
information in ITEM 14, respecting the name of the informant,
from MA. LOURDES E. BORBON to MA. LOURDES B. ELEOSIDA,
and is indicative of petitioner's intention and device to establish
that CHARLES CHRISTIAN's civil status as ILLEGITIMATE.
With the petition's ultimate purpose on the part of petitioner

to secure judicial order, which would authorize a change in the


civil status of CHARLES CHRISTIAN, this Court, finds the action
improper. The matters desired to be cancelled and/or changed
by petitioner cannot be considered falling under the ambit of
the words 'clerical errors of a harmless and innocuous nature.'
WHEREFORE, for LACK OF MERIT, the petition is now MOTU
PROPIO (sic) dismissed."6
Petitioner fled the instant petition for review raising the issue
of whether corrections of entries in the certificate of live birth
pursuant to Article 412 of the Civil Code, in relation to Rule 108
of the Rules of Court may be allowed even if the errors to be
corrected are substantial and not merely clerical errors of a
harmless and innocuous nature.7
The Court required the respondents to comment on the
petition. The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) filed a
Manifestation in Lieu of Comment. The OSG submitted that
even substantial errors in the civil registry may be corrected
provided that the parties aggrieved by the error avail
themselves of the appropriate adversary proceeding. Thus it
argued that even if the petition seeks the correction and
eventual change in the civil status of Charles Christian, the same
can be ordered by the court as long as all the parties who may
be affected by the entries are notified and represented.8
Respondent Carlos Borbon, on the other hand, failed to submit
his comment on the petition despite several notices from this
Court. Hence, on January 24, 2001, the Court dispensed with
the filing of respondent Borbon's comment and gave due

course to the petition.9


We find merit in the petition. Rule 108 of the Revised Rules of
Court provides the procedure for cancellation or correction of
entries in the civil registry. The proceedings under said rule may
either be summary or adversary in nature. If the correction
sought to be made in the civil register is clerical, then the
procedure to be adopted is summary. If the rectification affects
the civil status, citizenship or nationality of a party, it is deemed
substantial, and the procedure to be adopted is adversary.10
This is our ruling in Republic vs. Valencia11 where we held that
even substantial errors in a civil registry may be corrected and
the true facts established under Rule 108 provided the parties
aggrieved by the error avail themselves of the appropriate
adversary proceeding. An appropriate adversary suit or
proceeding is one where the trial court has conducted
proceedings where all relevant facts have been fully and
properly developed, where opposing counsel have been given
opportunity to demolish the opposite party's case, and where
the evidence has been thoroughly weighed and considered.
The Court further laid down the procedural requirements to
make the proceedings under Rule 108 adversary, thus:
"The pertinent sections of Rule 108 provide:
SEC. 3. Parties.When cancellation or correction of an entry in
the civil register is sought, the civil registrar and all persons who
have or claim any interest which would be affected thereby
shall be made parties to the proceeding.1wphi1.nt
SEC. 4. Notice and publication.Upon the filing of the petition,

the court shall, by an order, fix the time and place for the
hearing of the same, and cause reasonable notice thereof to be
given to the persons named in the petition. The court shall also
cause the order to be published once in a week for three 93)
consecutive weeks in a newspaper of general circulation in the
province.
SEC. 5. Opposition.The civil registrar and any person having
or claiming any interest under the entry whose cancellation or
correction is sought may, within fifteen (15) days from notice,
file his opposition thereto.
Thus, the persons who must be made parties to a proceeding
concerning the cancellation or correction of an entry in the civil
register are(1) the civil registrar, and (2) all persons who have
or claim any interest which would be affected thereby. Upon
the filing of the petition, it becomes the duty of the court to
(1) issue an order fixing the time and place for the hearing of
the petition, and (2) cause the order for hearing to be published
once a week for three (3) consecutive weeks in a newspaper of
general circulation in the province. The following are likewise
entitled to oppose the petition:--(1) the civil registrar, and (2)
any person having or claiming any interest under the entry
whose cancellation or correction is sought.
If all these procedural requirements have been followed, a
petition for correction and/or cancellation of entries in the
record of birth even if filed and conducted under Rule 108 of
the Revised Rules of Court can no longer be described as
'summary'. xxx"12

It is true in the case at bar that the changes sought to be made


by petitioner are not merely clerical or harmless errors but
substantial ones as they would affect the status of the marriage
between petitioner and Carlos Borbon, as well as the legitimacy
of their son, Charles Christian. Changes of such nature,
however, are now allowed under Rule 108 in accordance with
our ruling in Republic vs. Valencia provided that the
appropriate procedural requirements are complied with. The
records show that upon receipt of the petition, the trial court
issued a notice of hearing setting the hearing on June 26, 1997
at 8:30 in the morning at Room 118, Hall of Justice, Quezon City.
The trial court likewise ordered the publication of said notice
once a week for three (3) consecutive weeks in a newspaper of
general circulation and its posting in selected places in Metro
Manila. The notice stated that the petitioner shall prove her
petition during said hearing and all other persons having or
claiming any interest thereon shall also appear and show if
there is any reason why the petition should not be granted.
Respondents Carlos Villena Borbon, the Local Civil Registrar of
Quezon City and the Solicitor General were all furnished with a
copy of the notice of hearing together with a copy of the
petition. On June 26, 1997, the trial court issued a second order
giving the petitioner an opportunity to show compliance with
the jurisdictional requirements and to present evidence during
the hearing set on July 23, 1997. The foregoing satisfy all the
requirements of Rule 108 to make it an adversary proceeding.
It was therefore an error for the trial court to dismiss the

petition motu proprio without allowing the petitioner to


present evidence to support her petition and all the other
persons who have an interest over the matter to oppose the
same.1wphi1.nt
IN VIEW WHEREOF, the petition is GRANTED and the Order
dated August 25, 1997 of the RTC of Quezon City, Branch 89,
subject of the petition at bar is set aside. The case is
REMANDED to the court a quo for further proceedings.
SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 170340

June 29, 2007

REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, petitioner, vs.CARLITO I.


KHO, MICHAEL KHO, MERCY NONA KHO-FORTUN, HEDDY
MOIRA KHO-SERRANO, KEVIN DOGMOC KHO (Minor), and
KELLY DOGMOC KHO (Minor), respondents.
DECISION
CARPIO MORALES, J.:
Challenged via petition for review on certiorari is the October
27, 2005 Decision1 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CV
No. 78124 which affirmed the September 4, 2002 Decision2 of
the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Butuan City, Branch 5 granting
the prayer of respondents Carlito I. Kho (Carlito), Michael Kho,
Mercy Nona Kho-Fortun, and Heddy Moira Kho-Serrano for the
correction of entries in their birth certificates as well as those
of Carlitos minor children Kevin and Kelly Dogmoc Kho.
The undisputed facts are as follows:
On February 12, 2001, Carlito and his siblings Michael, Mercy
Nona and Heddy Moira filed before the RTC of Butuan City a
verified petition for correction of entries in the civil registry of
Butuan City to effect changes in their respective birth
certificates. Carlito also asked the court in behalf of his minor
children, Kevin and Kelly, to order the correction of some
entries in their birth certificates.
In the case of Carlito, he requested the correction in his birth
certificate of the citizenship of his mother to "Filipino" instead
of "Chinese," as well as the deletion of the word "married"

opposite the phrase "Date of marriage of parents" because his


parents, Juan Kho and Epifania Inchoco (Epifania), were
allegedly not legally married.
The same request to delete the "married" status of their
parents from their respective birth certificates was made by
Carlitos siblings Michael, Mercy Nona, and Heddy Moira.
With respect to the birth certificates of Carlitos children, he
prayed that the date of his and his wifes marriage be corrected
from April 27, 1989 to January 21, 2000, the date appearing in
their marriage certificate.
The Local Civil Registrar of Butuan City was impleaded as
respondent.
On April 23, 2001, Carlito et al. filed an Amended Petition3 in
which it was additionally prayed that Carlitos second name of
"John" be deleted from his record of birth; and that the name
and citizenship of Carlitos father in his (Carlitos) marriage
certificate be corrected from "John Kho" to "Juan Kho" and
"Filipino" to "Chinese," respectively.
As required, the petition was published for three consecutive
weeks4 in Mindanao Daily Patrol-CARAGA, a newspaper of
general circulation, after which it was set for hearing on August
9, 2001.
In a letter of June 18, 2001 addressed to the trial court, the city
civil registrar5 stated her observations and suggestions to the
proposed corrections in the birth records of Carlito and his
siblings but interposed no objections to the other amendments.

On the scheduled hearing of the petition on August 9, 2001,


only the counsel for respondents appeared as the Office of the
Solicitor General (OSG) had yet to enter its appearance for the
city civil registrar. The trial court thus reset the hearing to
October 9, 2001.6 On September 14, 2001,7 the OSG entered its
appearance with an authorization to the city prosecutor of
Butuan City to appear in the case and render assistance to it
(the OSG).
On January 31, 2002, respondents presented documentary
evidence showing compliance with the jurisdictional
requirements of the petition. They also presented testimonial
evidence consisting of the testimonies of Carlito and his
mother, Epifania. During the same hearing, an additional
correction in the birth certificates of Carlitos children was
requested to the effect that the first name of their mother be
rectified from "Maribel" to "Marivel."
By Decision8 of September 4, 2002, the trial court directed the
local civil registrar of Butuan City to correct the entries in the
record of birth of Carlito, as follows: (1) change the citizenship
of his mother from "Chinese" to "Filipino"; (2) delete "John"
from his name; and (3) delete the word "married" opposite the
date of marriage of his parents. The last correction was ordered
to be effected likewise in the birth certificates of respondents
Michael, Mercy Nona, and Heddy Moira.
Additionally, the trial court ordered the correction of the birth
certificates of the minor children of Carlito to reflect the date
of marriage of Carlito and Marivel Dogmoc (Marivel) as January

21, 2000, instead of April 27, 1989, and the name "Maribel" as
"Marivel."
With respect to the marriage certificate of Carlito and Marivel,
the corrections ordered pertained to the alteration of the name
of Carlitos father from "John Kho" to "Juan Kho" and the
latters citizenship from "Filipino" to "Chinese."
Petitioner, Republic of the Philippines, appealed the RTC
Decision to the CA, faulting the trial court in granting the
petition for correction of entries in the subject documents
despite the failure of respondents to implead the minors
mother, Marivel, as an indispensable party and to offer
sufficient evidence to warrant the corrections with regard to
the questioned "married" status of Carlito and his siblings
parents, and the latters citizenship.
Petitioner also faulted the trial court for ordering the change of
the name "Carlito John Kho" to "Carlito Kho" for noncompliance with jurisdictional requirements for a change of
name under Rule 103 of the Rules of Court.
By the assailed Decision of October 27, 2005, the CA denied
petitioners appeal and affirmed the decision of the trial court.
The CA found that Rule 108 of the Revised Rules of Court, which
outlines the proper procedure for cancellation or correction of
entries in the civil registry, was observed in the case.
Regarding Carlitos minor children Kevin and Kelly, the
appellate court held that the correction of their mothers first
name from "Maribel" to "Marivel" was made to rectify an

innocuous error.
As for the change in the date of the marriage of Carlito and
Marivel, albeit the CA conceded that it is a substantial
alteration, it held that the date would not affect the minors
filiation from "legitimate" to "illegitimate" considering that at
the time of their respective births in 1991 and 1993, their father
Carlitos first marriage was still subsisting as it had been
annulled only in 1999.
In light of Carlitos legal impediment to marry Marivel at the
time they were born, their children Kevin and Kelly were
illegitimate. It followed, the CA went on to state, that Marivel
was not an indispensable party to the case, the minors having
been represented by their father as required under Section 5 of
Rule 39 of the Revised Rules of Court.
Further, the CA ruled that although Carlito failed to observe the
requirements of Rule 103 of the Rules of Court, he had
complied nonetheless with the jurisdictional requirements for
correction of entries in the civil registry under Rule 108 of the
Rules of Court. The petition for correction of entry in Carlitos
birth record, it noted, falls under letter "o" of the enumeration
under Section 2 of Rule 108.
In the present petition, petitioner contends that since the
changes sought by respondents were substantial in nature,
they could only be granted through an adversarial proceeding
in which indispensable parties, such as Marivel and
respondents parents, should have been notified or impleaded.
Petitioner further contends that the jurisdictional requirements

to change Carlitos name under Section 2 of Rule 103 of the


Rules of Court were not satisfied because the Amended Petition
failed to allege Carlitos prior three-year bona fide residence in
Butuan City, and that the title of the petition did not state
Carlitos aliases and his true name as "Carlito John I. Kho."
Petitioner concludes that the same jurisdictional defects
attached to the change of name of Carlitos father.
The petition fails.
It can not be gainsaid that the petition, insofar as it sought to
change the citizenship of Carlitos mother as it appeared in his
birth certificate and delete the "married" status of Carlitos
parents in his and his siblings respective birth certificates, as
well as change the date of marriage of Carlito and Marivel
involves the correction of not just clerical errors of a harmless
and innocuous nature.10 Rather, the changes entail substantial
and controversial amendments.
For the change involving the nationality of Carlitos mother as
reflected in his birth certificate is a grave and important matter
that has a bearing and effect on the citizenship and nationality
not only of the parents, but also of the offspring.11
Further, the deletion of the entry that Carlitos and his siblings
parents were "married" alters their filiation from "legitimate"
to "illegitimate," with significant implications on their
successional and other rights.
Clearly, the changes sought can only be granted in an adversary
proceeding. Labayo-Rowe v. Republic12 explains the raison d
etre:

x x x. The philosophy behind this requirement lies in the fact


that the books making up the civil register and all documents
relating thereto shall be prima facie evidence of the facts
therein contained. If the entries in the civil register could be
corrected or changed through mere summary proceedings and
not through appropriate action wherein all parties who may be
affected by the entries are notified or represented, the door to
fraud or other mischief would be set open, the consequence of
which might be detrimental and far reaching. x x x (Emphasis
supplied)
In Republic v. Valencia,13 however, this Court ruled, and has
since repeatedly ruled, that even substantial errors in a civil
registry may be corrected through a petition filed under Rule
108.14
It is undoubtedly true that if the subject matter of a petition is
not for the correction of clerical errors of a harmless and
innocuous nature, but one involving nationality or citizenship,
which is indisputably substantial as well as controverted,
affirmative relief cannot be granted in a proceeding summary
in nature. However, it is also true that a right in law may be
enforced and a wrong may be remedied as long as the
appropriate remedy is used. This Court adheres to the principle
that even substantial errors in a civil registry may be corrected
and the true facts established provided the parties aggrieved by
the error avail themselves of the appropriate adversary
proceeding.
xxxx

What is meant by "appropriate adversary proceeding?" Blacks


Law Dictionary defines "adversary proceeding["] as follows:
One having opposing parties; contested, as distinguished from
an ex parte application, one of which the party seeking relief
has given legal warning to the other party, and afforded the
latter an opportunity to contest it. x x x 15 (Emphasis, italics and
underscoring supplied)
The enactment in March 2001 of Republic Act No. 9048,
otherwise known as "An Act Authorizing the City or Municipal
Civil Registrar or the Consul General to Correct a Clerical or
Typographical Error in an Entry and/or Change of First Name or
Nickname in the Civil Register Without Need of Judicial Order,"
has been considered to lend legislative affirmation to the
judicial precedence that substantial corrections to the civil
status of persons recorded in the civil registry may be effected
through the filing of a petition under Rule 108.16
Thus, this Court in Republic v. Benemerito17 observed that the
obvious effect of Republic Act No. 9048 is to make possible the
administrative correction of clerical or typographical errors or
change of first name or nickname in entries in the civil register,
leaving to Rule 108 the correction of substantial changes in the
civil registry in appropriate adversarial proceedings.
When all the procedural requirements under Rule 108 are thus
followed, the appropriate adversary proceeding necessary to
effect substantial corrections to the entries of the civil register
is satisfied.18 The pertinent provisions of Rule 108 of the Rules
of Court read:

SEC. 3. Parties. When cancellation or correction of an entry in


the civil registrar is sought, the civil registrar and all persons
who have or claim any interest which would be affected
thereby shall be made parties to the proceeding.
SEC. 4. Notice and publication. Upon the filing of the petition,
the court shall, by an order, fix the time and place for the
hearing of the same, and cause reasonable notice thereof to be
given to the persons named in the petition. The court shall also
cause the order to be published once in a week for three (3)
consecutive weeks in a newspaper of general circulation in the
province.
SEC. 5. Opposition. The civil registrar and any person having
or claiming any interest under the entry whose cancellation or
correction is sought may, within fifteen (15) days from notice
of the petition, or from the last date of publication of such
notice, file his opposition thereto. (Emphasis and underscoring
supplied)
There is no dispute that the trial courts Order19 setting the
petition for hearing and directing any person or entity having
interest in the petition to oppose it was posted20 as well as
published for the required period; that notices of hearings were
duly served on the Solicitor General, the city prosecutor of
Butuan and the local civil registrar; and that trial was conducted
on January 31, 2002 during which the public prosecutor, acting
in behalf of the OSG, actively participated by cross-examining
Carlito and Epifania.
What surfaces as an issue is whether the failure to implead

Marivel and Carlitos parents rendered the trial short of the


required adversary proceeding and the trial courts judgment
void.
A similar issue was earlier raised in Barco v. Court of Appeals.21
That case stemmed from a petition for correction of entries in
the birth certificate of a minor, June Salvacion Maravilla, to
reflect the name of her real father (Armando Gustilo) and to
correspondingly change her surname. The petition was granted
by the trial court.
Barco, whose minor daughter was allegedly fathered also by
Gustilo, however, sought to annul the trial courts decision,
claiming that she should have been made a party to the petition
for correction. Failure to implead her deprived the RTC of
jurisdiction, she contended.
In dismissing Barcos petition, this Court held that the
publication of the order of hearing under Section 4 of Rule 108
cured the failure to implead an indispensable party.
The essential requisite for allowing substantial corrections of
entries in the civil registry is that the true facts be established
in an appropriate adversarial proceeding. This is embodied in
Section 3, Rule 108 of the Rules of Court, which states:
Section 3. Parties. When cancellation or correction of an entry
in the civil register is sought, the civil registrar and all persons
who have or claim any interest which would be affected
thereby shall be made parties to the proceeding.
xxxx

Undoubtedly, Barco is among the parties referred to in Section


3 of Rule 108. Her interest was affected by the petition for
correction, as any judicial determination that June was the
daughter of Armando would affect her wards share in the
estate of her father. x x x.
Yet, even though Barco was not impleaded in the petition, the
Court of Appeals correctly pointed out that the defect was
cured by compliance with Section 4, Rule 108, which requires
notice by publication x x x.
xxxx
The purpose precisely of Section 4, Rule 108 is to bind the
whole world to the subsequent judgment on the petition. The
sweep of the decision would cover even parties who should
have been impleaded under Section 3, Rule 108, but were
inadvertently left out. x x x
xxxx
Verily, a petition for correction is an action in rem, an action
against a thing and not against a person. The decision on the
petition binds not only the parties thereto but the whole world.
An in rem proceeding is validated essentially through
publication. Publication is notice to the whole world that the
proceeding has for its object to bar indefinitely all who might
be minded to make an objection of any sort against the right
sought to be established. It is the publication of such notice that
brings in the whole world as a party in the case and vests the
court with jurisdiction to hear and decide it.22

Given the above ruling, it becomes unnecessary to rule on


whether Marivel or respondents parents should have been
impleaded as parties to the proceeding. It may not be amiss to
mention, however, that during the hearing on January 31, 2002,
the city prosecutor who was acting as representative of the
OSG did not raise any objection to the non-inclusion of Marivel
and Carlitos parents as parties to the proceeding.
Parenthetically, it seems highly improbable that Marivel was
unaware of the proceedings to correct the entries in her
childrens birth certificates, especially since the notices, orders
and decision of the trial court eHe were all sent to the
residence23 she shared with Carlito and the children.
It is also well to remember that the role of the court in hearing
a petition to correct certain entries in the civil registry is to
ascertain the truth about the facts recorded therein.24
With respect to the date of marriage of Carlito and Marivel,
their certificate of marriage25 shows that indeed they were
married on January 21, 2000, not on April 27, 1989. Explaining
the error, Carlito declared that the date "April 27, 1989" was
supplied by his helper, adding that he was not married to
Marivel at the time his sons were born because his previous
marriage was annulled only in 1999.26 Given the evidence
presented by respondents, the CA observed that the minors
were illegitimate at birth, hence, the correction would bring
about no change at all in the nature of their filiation.
With respect to Carlitos mother, it bears noting that she
declared at the witness stand that she was not married to Juan

Kho who died in 1959.27 Again, that testimony was not


challenged by the city prosecutor.
The documentary evidence supporting the deletion from
Carlitos and his siblings birth certificates of the entry
"Married" opposite the date of marriage of their parents,
moreover, consisted of a certification issued on November 24,
1973 by St. Joseph (Butuan City) Parish priest Eugene van Vught
stating that Juan Kho and Epifania had been living together as
common law couple since 1935 but have never contracted
marriage legally.28

beginning;
(g)
legitimations;
(h)
adoptions;
(i)
acknowledgments of natural children; (j) naturalization; (k)
election, loss or recovery of citizenship; (l) civil interdiction; (m)
judicial determination of filiation; (n) voluntary emancipation
of a minor; and (o) changes of name. (Emphasis and
underscoring supplied)
Hence, while the jurisdictional requirements of Rule 103 (which
governs petitions for change of name) were not complied with,
observance of the provisions of Rule 108 suffices to effect the
correction sought for.

A certification from the office of the city registrar, which was


appended to respondents Amended Petition, likewise stated
that it has no record of marriage between Juan Kho and
Epifania.29 Under the circumstances, the deletion of the word
"Married" opposite the "date of marriage of parents" is
warranted.

More importantly, Carlitos official transcript of record from the


Urious College in Butuan City,31 certificate of eligibility from the
Civil Service Commission,32 and voter registration record33
satisfactorily show that he has been known by his first name
only. No prejudice is thus likely to arise from the dropping of
the second name.

With respect to the correction in Carlitos birth certificate of his


name from "Carlito John" to "Carlito," the same was properly
granted under Rule 108 of the Rules of Court. As correctly
pointed out by the CA, the cancellation or correction of entries
involving changes of name falls under letter "o" of the following
provision of Section 2 of Rule 108:30

The correction of the mothers citizenship from Chinese to


Filipino as appearing in Carlitos birth record was also proper.
Of note is the fact that during the cross examination by the city
prosecutor of Epifania, he did not deem fit to question her
citizenship. Such failure to oppose the correction prayed for,
which certainly was not respondents fault, does not in any way
change the adversarial nature of the proceedings.

Section 2. Entries subject to cancellation or correction. Upon


good and valid grounds, the following entries in the civil register
may be cancelled or corrected: (a) births; (b) marriages; (c)
deaths; (d) legal separation; (e) judgments of annulment of
marriage; (f) judgments declaring marriages void from the

Also significant to note is that the birth certificates of Carlitos


siblings uniformly stated the citizenship of Epifania as "Filipino."
To disallow the correction in Carlitos birth record of his
mothers citizenship would perpetuate an inconsistency in the

natal circumstances of the siblings who are unquestionably


born of the same mother and father.
Outside the ambit of substantial corrections, of course, is the
correction of the name of Carlitos wife from "Maribel" to
"Marivel." The mistake is clearly clerical or typographical, which
is not only visible to the eyes, but is also obvious to the
understanding34 considering that the name reflected in the
marriage certificate of Carlito and his wife is "Marivel."
35

Apropos is Yu v. Republic which held that changing the


appellants Christian name of "Sincio" to "Sencio" amounts
merely to the righting of a clerical error. The change of name
from Beatriz Labayo/Beatriz Labayu to Emperatriz Labayo was
also held to be a mere innocuous alteration, which can be
granted through a summary proceeding.36 The same ruling
holds true with respect to the correction in Carlitos marriage
certificate of his fathers name from "John Kho" to "Juan Kho."
Except in said marriage certificate, the name "Juan Kho" was
uniformly entered in the birth certificates of Carlito and of his
siblings.37
WHEREFORE, the Petition is DENIED. The Decision of the Court
of Appeals is AFFIRMED.
SO ORDERED.
G.R. No. 159966. March 30, 2005
IN RE: PETITION FOR CHANGE OF NAME AND/OR
CORRECTION/CANCELLATION OF ENTRY IN CIVIL REGISTRY OF

JULIAN LIN CARULASAN WANG also known as JULIAN LIN


WANG, to be amended/corrected as JULIAN LIN WANG,
JULIAN LIN WANG, duly represented by his mother ANNA LISA
WANG, Petitioners, vs.CEBU CITY CIVIL REGISTRAR, duly
represented by the Registrar OSCAR B. MOLO, Respondents.
DECISION
TINGA, J.:
I will not blot out his name out of the book of life.
Revelation 3:5
On 22 September 2002, petitioner Julian Lin Carulasan Wang, a
minor, represented by his mother Anna Lisa Wang, filed a
petition dated 19 September 2002 for change of name and/or
correction/cancellation of entry in the Civil Registry of Julian Lin
Carulasan Wang. Petitioner sought to drop his middle name
and have his registered name changed from Julian Lin Carulasan
Wang to Julian Lin Wang.
The petition was docketed as Special Proceedings Case No.
11458 CEB and raffled to the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Cebu
City, Branch 57.
The RTC established the following facts:
Julian Lin Carulasan Wang was born in Cebu City on February
20, 1998 to parents Anna Lisa Wang and Sing-Foe Wang who
were then not yet married to each other. When his parents
subsequently got married on September 22, 1998, ...they
executed a deed of legitimation of their son so that the childs
name was changed from Julian Lin Carulasan to Julian Lin

Carulasan Wang.
The parents of Julian Lin Carulasan Wang plan to stay in
Singapore for a long time because they will let him study there
together with his sister named Wang Mei Jasmine who was
born in Singapore. Since in Singapore middle names or the
maiden surname of the mother are not carried in a persons
name, they anticipate that Julian Lin Carulasan Wang will be
discriminated against because of his current registered name
which carries a middle name. Julian and his sister might also be
asking whether they are brother and sister since they have
different surnames. Carulasan sounds funny in Singapores
Mandarin language since they do not have the letter "R" but if
there is, they pronounce it as "L." It is for these reasons that the
name of Julian Lin Carulasan Wang is requested to be changed
to Julian Lin Wang.1
On 30 April 2003, the RTC rendered a decision denying the
petition.2 The trial court found that the reason given for the
change of name sought in the petitionthat is, that petitioner
Julian may be discriminated against when studies in Singapore
because of his middle namedid not fall within the grounds
recognized by law. The trial court ruled that the change sought
is merely for the convenience of the child. Since the State has
an interest in the name of a person, names cannot be changed
to suit the convenience of the bearers. Under Article 174 of the
Family Code, legitimate children have the right to bear the
surnames of the father and the mother, and there is no reason
why this right should now be taken from petitioner Julian,

considering that he is still a minor. The trial court added that


when petitioner Julian reaches the age of majority, he could
then decide whether he will change his name by dropping his
middle name.3
Petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration of the decision but
this was denied in a resolution dated 20 May 2004.4 The trial
court maintained that the Singaporean practice of not carrying
a middle name does not justify the dropping of the middle
name of a legitimate Filipino child who intends to study there.
The dropping of the middle name would be tantamount to
giving due recognition to or application of the laws of Singapore
instead of Philippine law which is controlling. That the change
of name would not prejudice public interest or would not be for
a fraudulent purpose would not suffice to grant the petition if
the reason for the change of name is itself not reasonable.5
Petitioner then filed this Petition for Review on Certiorari
(Under Rule 45)6 arguing that the trial court has decided a
question of substance not theretofore determined by the
Court, that is: whether or not dropping the middle name of a
minor child is contrary to Article 1747 of the Family Code.
Petitioner contends that "[W]ith globalization and mixed
marriages, there is a need for the Supreme Court to rule on the
matter of dropping of family name for a child to adjust to his
new environment, for consistency and harmony among
siblings, taking into consideration the "best interest of the
child."8 It is argued that convenience of the child is a valid
reason for changing the name as long as it will not prejudice the

State and others. Petitioner points out that the middle name
"Carulasan" will cause him undue embarrassment and the
difficulty in writing or pronouncing it will be an obstacle to his
social acceptance and integration in the Singaporean
community. Petitioner also alleges that it is error for the trial
court to have denied the petition for change of name until he
had reached the age of majority for him to decide the name to
use, contrary to previous cases9 decided by this Court that
allowed a minor to petition for change of name.10

deeper inquiries regarding the true parentage of petitioner.


Hence, while petitioner Julian has a sister named Jasmine Wei
Wang, there is no confusion since both use the surname of their
father, Wang. Even assuming that it is customary in Singapore
to drop the middle name, it has also not been shown that the
use of such middle name is actually proscribed by Singaporean
law.13

The Court required the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) to


comment on the petition. The OSG filed its Comment11 positing
that the trial court correctly denied the petition for change of
name. The OSG argues that under Article 174 of the Family
Code, legitimate children have the right to bear the surnames
of their father and mother, and such right cannot be denied by
the mere expedient of dropping the same. According to the
OSG, there is also no showing that the dropping of the middle
name "Carulasan" is in the best interest of petitioner, since
mere convenience is not sufficient to support a petition for
change of name and/or cancellation of entry.12 The OSG also
adds that the petitioner has not shown any compelling reason
to justify the change of name or the dropping of the middle
name, for that matter. Petitioners allegation that the
continued use of the middle name may result in confusion and
difficulty is allegedly more imaginary than real. The OSG
reiterates its argument raised before the trial court that the
dropping of the childs middle name could only trigger much

The Court has had occasion to express the view that the State
has an interest in the names borne by individuals and entities
for purposes of identification, and that a change of name is a
privilege and not a right, so that before a person can be
authorized to change his name given him either in his certificate
of birth or civil registry, he must show proper or reasonable
cause, or any compelling reason which may justify such change.
Otherwise, the request should be denied.14

We affirm the decision of the trial court. The petition should be


denied.

The touchstone for the grant of a change of name is that there


be proper and reasonable cause for which the change is
sought.15 To justify a request for change of name, petitioner
must show not only some proper or compelling reason
therefore but also that he will be prejudiced by the use of his
true and official name. Among the grounds for change of name
which have been held valid are: (a) when the name is ridiculous,
dishonorable or extremely difficult to write or pronounce; (b)
when the change results as a legal consequence, as in
legitimation; (c) when the change will avoid confusion; (d)

when one has continuously used and been known since


childhood by a Filipino name, and was unaware of alien
parentage; (e) a sincere desire to adopt a Filipino name to erase
signs of former alienage, all in good faith and without
prejudicing anybody; and (f) when the surname causes
embarrassment and there is no showing that the desired
change of name was for a fraudulent purpose or that the
change of name would prejudice public interest.16
In granting or denying petitions for change of name, the
question of proper and reasonable cause is left to the sound
discretion of the court. The evidence presented need only be
satisfactory to the court and not all the best evidence available.
What is involved is not a mere matter of allowance or
disallowance of the request, but a judicious evaluation of the
sufficiency and propriety of the justifications advanced in
support thereof, mindful of the consequent results in the event
of its grant and with the sole prerogative for making such
determination being lodged in the courts.17
The petition before us is unlike other petitions for change of
name, as it does not simply seek to change the name of the
minor petitioner and adopt another, but instead seeks to drop
the middle name altogether. Decided cases in this jurisdiction
involving petitions for change of name usually deal with
requests for change of surname. There are only a handful of
cases involving requests for change of the given name18 and
none on requests for changing or dropping of the middle name.
Does the law allow one to drop the middle name from his

registered name? We have to answer in the negative.


A discussion on the legal significance of a persons name is
relevant at this point. We quote, thus:
For all practical and legal purposes, a man's name is the
designation by which he is known and called in the community
in which he lives and is best known. It is defined as the word or
combination of words by which a person is distinguished from
other individuals and, also, as the label or appellation which he
bears for the convenience of the world at large addressing him,
or in speaking of or dealing with him. Names are used merely
as one method of indicating the identity of persons; they are
descriptive of persons for identification, since, the identity is
the essential thing and it has frequently been held that, when
identity is certain, a variance in, or misspelling of, the name is
immaterial.
The names of individuals usually have two parts: the given
name or proper name, and the surname or family name. The
given or proper name is that which is given to the individual at
birth or baptism, to distinguish him from other individuals. The
name or family name is that which identifies the family to which
he belongs and is continued from parent to child. The given
name may be freely selected by the parents for the child; but
the surname to which the child is entitled is fixed by law.
A name is said to have the following characteristics: (1) It is
absolute, intended to protect the individual from being
confused with others. (2) It is obligatory in certain respects, for
nobody can be without a name. (3) It is fixed, unchangeable, or

immutable, at least at the start, and may be changed only for


good cause and by judicial proceedings. (4) It is outside the
commerce of man, and, therefore, inalienable and
intransmissible by act inter vivos or mortis causa. (5) It is
imprescriptible.19
This citation does not make any reference to middle names, but
this does not mean that middle names have no practical or legal
significance. Middle names serve to identify the maternal
lineage or filiation of a person as well as further distinguish him
from others who may have the same given name and surname
as he has.
Our laws on the use of surnames state that legitimate and
legitimated children shall principally use the surname of the
father.20 The Family Code gives legitimate children the right to
bear the surnames of the father and the mother,21 while
illegitimate children shall use the surname of their mother,
unless their father recognizes their filiation, in which case they
may bear the fathers surname.22
Applying these laws, an illegitimate child whose filiation is not
recognized by the father bears only a given name and his
mothers surname, and does not have a middle name. The
name of the unrecognized illegitimate child therefore identifies
him as such. It is only when the illegitimate child is legitimated
by the subsequent marriage of his parents or acknowledged by
the father in a public document or private handwritten
instrument that he bears both his mothers surname as his
middle name and his fathers surname as his surname,

reflecting his status as a legitimated child or an acknowledged


illegitimate child.
Accordingly, the registration in the civil registry of the birth of
such individuals requires that the middle name be indicated in
the certificate. The registered name of a legitimate, legitimated
and recognized illegitimate child thus contains a given or
proper name, a middle name, and a surname.
Petitioner theorizes that it would be for his best interest to drop
his middle name as this would help him to adjust more easily to
and integrate himself into Singaporean society. In support, he
cites Oshita v. Republic23 and Calderon v. Republic,24 which,
however, are not apropos both.
In Oshita, the petitioner therein, a legitimate daughter of a
Filipino mother, Buena Bartolome, and a Japanese father,
Kishimatsu Oshita, sought to change her name from Antonina
B. Oshita to Antonina Bartolome. The Court granted her
petition based on the following considerations: she had elected
Philippine citizenship upon reaching the age of majority; her
other siblings who had also elected Philippine citizenship have
been using their mothers surname; she was embarrassed to
bear a Japanese surname there still being ill feeling against the
Japanese due to the last World War; and there was no showing
that the change of name was motivated by a fraudulent
purpose or that it will prejudice public interest.
In Calderon, the Court allowed petitioner Gertrudes Josefina
del Prado, an illegitimate minor child acting through her mother
who filed the petition in her behalf, to change her name to

Gertudes Josefina Calderon, taking the surname of her


stepfather, Romeo C. Calderon, her mothers husband. The
Court held that a petition for change of name of an infant
should be granted where to do is clearly for the best interest of
the child. The Court took into consideration the opportunity
provided for the minor petitioner to eliminate the stigma of
illegitimacy which she would carry if she continued to use the
surname of her illegitimate father. The Court pronounced that
justice dictates that every person be allowed to avail of any
opportunity to improve his social standing as long as doing so
he does not cause prejudice or injury to the interests of the
State or of other people.
Petitioner cites Alfon v. Republic,25 in arguing that although
Article 174 of the Family Code gives the legitimate child the
right to use the surnames of the father and the mother, it is not
mandatory such that the child could use only one family name,
even the family name of the mother. In Alfon, the petitioner
therein, the legitimate daughter of Filomeno Duterte and
Estrella Alfon, sought to change her name from Maria Estrella
Veronica Primitiva Duterte (her name as registered in the Local
Civil Registry) to Estrella S. Alfon (the name she had been using
since childhood, in her school records and in her voters
registration). The trial court denied her petition but this Court
overturned the denial, ruling that while Article 364 of the Civil
Code states that she, as a legitimate child, should principally
use the surname of her father, there is no legal obstacle for her
to choose to use the surname of herm other to which she is

entitled. In addition, the Court found that there was ample


justification to grant her petition, i.e., to avoid confusion.
Weighing petitioners reason of convenience for the change of
his name against the standards set in the cases he cites to
support his contention would show that his justification is
amorphous, to say the least, and could not warrant favorable
action on his petition.
The factual antecedents and unique circumstances of the cited
cases are not at all analogous to the case at bar. The instant
case is clearly distinguishable from the cases of Oshita and
Alfon, where the petitioners were already of age when they
filed their petitions for change of name. Being of age, they are
considered to have exercised their discretion and judgment,
fully knowing the effects of their decision to change their
surnames. It can also be unmistakably observed that the reason
for the grant of the petitions for change of name in these two
cases was the presence of reasonable or compelling grounds
therefore. The Court, in Oshita, recognized the tangible
animosity most Filipinos had during that time against the
Japanese as a result of World War II, in addition to the fact of
therein petitioners election of Philippine citizenship. In Alfon,
the Court granted the petition since the petitioner had been
known since childhood by a name different from her registered
name and she had not used her registered name in her school
records and voters registration records; thus, denying the
petition would only result to confusion.
Calderon, on the other hand, granted the petition for change

of name filed by a mother in behalf of her illegitimate minor


child. Petitioner cites this case to buttress his argument that
he does not have to reach the age of majority to petition for
change of name. However, it is manifest in Calderon that the
Court, in granting the petition for change of name, gave
paramount consideration to the best interests of the minor
petitioner therein.
In the case at bar, the only reason advanced by petitioner for
the dropping his middle name is convenience. However, how
such change of name would make his integration into
Singaporean society easier and convenient is not clearly
established. That the continued use of his middle name would
cause confusion and difficulty does not constitute proper and
reasonable cause to drop it from his registered complete name.
In addition, petitioner is only a minor. Considering the nebulous
foundation on which his petition for change of name is based,
it is best that the matter of change of his name be left to his
judgment and discretion when he reaches the age of majority.26
As he is of tender age, he may not yet understand and
appreciate the value of the change of his name and granting of
the same at this point may just prejudice him in his rights under
our laws.
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the Petition for Review
on Certiorari is DENIED.
SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 181174

December 4, 2009

MA. CRISTINA TORRES BRAZA, PAOLO JOSEF T. BRAZA and


JANELLE ANN T. BRAZA, Petitioners, vs.THE CITY CIVIL
REGISTRAR OF HIMAMAYLAN CITY, NEGROS OCCIDENTAL,
minor PATRICK ALVIN TITULAR BRAZA, represented by LEON
TITULAR, CECILIA TITULAR and LUCILLE C. TITULAR,
Respondents.
DECISION
CARPIO MORALES, J.:
Petitioner Ma. Cristina Torres (Ma. Cristina) and Pablo Sicad
Braza, Jr. (Pablo), also known as "Pablito Sicad Braza," were
married1 on January 4, 1978. The union bore Ma. Cristinas copetitioners Paolo Josef2 and Janelle Ann3 on May 8, 1978 and
June 7, 1983, respectively, and Gian Carlo4 on June 4, 1980.
Pablo died5 on April 15, 2002 in a vehicular accident in Bandung,
West Java, Indonesia.
During the wake following the repatriation of his remains to the
Philippines, respondent Lucille Titular (Lucille) began
introducing her co-respondent minor Patrick Alvin Titular Braza
(Patrick) as her and Pablo's son. Ma. Cristina thereupon made
inquiries in the course of which she obtained Patrick's birth
certificate6 from the Local Civil Registrar of Himamaylan City,
Negros Occidental with the following entries:
Name of Child :

PATRICK ALVIN CELESTIAL TITULAR

Date of Birth :

01 January 1996

Mother :

Lucille Celestial Titular

Father :

Pablito S. Braza

Date Received at the


Local Civil Registrar :

January 13, 1997

his legitimation, the name of the father and his


acknowledgment, and the use of the last name "Braza"; 2) a
directive to Leon, Cecilia and Lucille, all surnamed Titular, as
guardians of the minor Patrick, to submit Parick to DNA testing
to determine his paternity and filiation; and 3) the declaration
of nullity of the legitimation of Patrick as stated in his birth
certificate and, for this purpose, the declaration of the marriage
of Lucille and Pablo as bigamous.

On Patricks Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction, the trial


court, by Order9 of September 6, 2007, dismissed the petition
without prejudice, it holding that in a special proceeding for
Annotation/Remarks :
"Acknowledge (sic) by the father Pablito Braza on January 13, 1997"
correction of entry, the court, which is not acting as a family
court under the Family Code, has no jurisdiction over an action
Remarks :
Legitimated by virtue of subsequent marriage
of parents
April 22,of1998
at Manila.
Henceforth,
thethe
to annul
the on
marriage
Lucille
and Pablo,
impugn
child shall be known as Patrick Alvin Titularlegitimacy
Braza (Emphasis
andand
underscoring
supplied)
of Patrick,
order Patrick
to be subjected to a DNA
test, hence, the controversy should be ventilated in an ordinary
adversarial action.
Ma. Cristina likewise obtained a copy7 of a marriage contract
Annotation :

"Late Registration"

showing that Pablo and Lucille were married on April 22, 1998,
drawing her and her co-petitioners to file on December 23,
2005 before the Regional Trial Court of Himamaylan City,
Negros Occidental a petition8 to correct the entries in the birth
record of Patrick in the Local Civil Register.
Contending that Patrick could not have been legitimated by the
supposed marriage between Lucille and Pablo, said marriage
being bigamous on account of the valid and subsisting marriage
between Ma. Cristina and Pablo, petitioners prayed for (1) the
correction of the entries in Patrick's birth record with respect to

Petitioners motion for reconsideration having been denied by


Order10 of November 29, 2007, they filed the present petition
for review.
Petitioners maintain that the court a quo may pass upon the
validity of marriage and questions on legitimacy even in an
action to correct entries in the civil registrar. Citing Cario v.
Cario,11 Lee v. Court of Appeals12 and Republic v. Kho,13 they
contend that even substantial errors, such as those sought to
be corrected in the present case, can be the subject of a
petition under Rule 108.14

The petition fails. In a special proceeding for correction of entry


under Rule 108 (Cancellation or Correction of Entries in the
Original Registry), the trial court has no jurisdiction to nullify
marriages and rule on legitimacy and filiation.
Rule 108 of the Rules of Court vis a vis Article 412 of the Civil
Code15 charts the procedure by which an entry in the civil
registry may be cancelled or corrected. The proceeding
contemplated therein may generally be used only to correct
clerical, spelling, typographical and other innocuous errors in
the civil registry. A clerical error is one which is visible to the
eyes or obvious to the understanding; an error made by a clerk
or a transcriber; a mistake in copying or writing, or a harmless
change such as a correction of name that is clearly misspelled
or of a misstatement of the occupation of the parent.
Substantial or contentious alterations may be allowed only in
adversarial proceedings, in which all interested parties are
impleaded and due process is properly observed.16
The allegations of the petition filed before the trial court clearly
show that petitioners seek to nullify the marriage between
Pablo and Lucille on the ground that it is bigamous and impugn
Patricks filiation in connection with which they ask the court to
order Patrick to be subjected to a DNA test.
Petitioners insist, however, that the main cause of action is for
the correction of Patricks birth records17 and that the rest of
the prayers are merely incidental thereto.
Petitioners position does not lie. Their cause of action is
actually to seek the declaration of Pablo and Lucilles marriage

as void for being bigamous and impugn Patricks legitimacy,


which causes of action are governed not by Rule 108 but by
A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC which took effect on March 15, 2003, and
Art. 17118 of the Family Code, respectively, hence, the petition
should be filed in a Family Court as expressly provided in said
Code.1avvphi1
It is well to emphasize that, doctrinally, validity of marriages as
well as legitimacy and filiation can be questioned only in a
direct action seasonably filed by the proper party, and not
through collateral attack such as the petition filed before the
court a quo.
Petitioners reliance on the cases they cited is misplaced.
Cario v. Cario was an action filed by a second wife against the
first wife for the return of one-half of the death benefits
received by the first after the death of the husband. Since the
second wife contracted marriage with the husband while the
latters marriage to the first wife was still subsisting, the Court
ruled on the validity of the two marriages, it being essential to
the determination of who is rightfully entitled to the death
benefits.
In Lee v. Court of Appeals, the Court held that contrary to the
contention that the petitions filed by the therein petitioners
before the lower courts were actions to impugn legitimacy, the
prayer was not to declare that the petitioners are illegitimate
children of Keh Shiok Cheng as stated in their records of birth
but to establish that they are not the lat