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[G.R. No. 124320.

March 2, 1999]

HEIRS OF GUIDO YAPTINCHAY AND ISABEL YAPTINCHAY,


NAMELY: LETICIA ENCISO-GADINGAN, EMILIO ENCISO,
AURORA ENCISO, AND NORBERTO ENCISO, REPRESENTED BY
LETICIA ENCISO-GADINGAN, ATTORNEY-IN-FACT, petitioners,
vs. HON. ROY S. DEL ROSARIO, PRESIDING JUDGE, RTC,
BRANCH 21, IMUS, CAVITE; THE REGISTER OF DEEDS FOR
TRECE MARTIRES CITY, GEORGE T. CHUA, SPS. ALFONSO NG
AND ANNABELLE CHUA, SPS. ROSENDO L. DY AND DIANA DY,
SPS. ALEXANDER NG AND CRISTINA NG, SPS. SAMUEL
MADRID AND BELEN MADRID, SPS. JOSE MADRID AND
BERNARDA MADRID, SPS. DAVID MADRID AND VIOLETA
MADRID, JONATHAN NG, SPS. VICTORIANO CHAN, JR. AND
CARMELITA CHAN, SPS. MARIE TES C. LEE AND GREGORIE
W.C. LEE, JACINTO C. NG, JR., SPS. ADELAIDO S. DE GUZMAN
AND ROSITA C. DE GUZMAN, SPS. RICARDO G. ONG AND JULIE
LIM-IT, SPS. MISAEL ADELAIDA P. SOLIMAN AND FERDINAND
SOLIMAN, SPS. MYLENE T. LIM AND ARTHUR LIM, EVELYN K.
CHUA, GOLDEN BAY REALTY AND DEVELOPMENT
CORPORATION, respondents.

DECISION
PURISIMA, J.:

At bar is a Petition for Certiorari under Rule 65 of the Revised Rules of Court assailing the
Orders dated October 25, 1995 and February 23, 1996, respectively, of Branch 21 of the
Regional Trial Court in Imus, Cavite (RTC).
The facts that matter are, as follows:
Petitioners claim that they are the legal heirs of the late Guido and Isabel Yaptinchay, the
owners-claimants of Lot No. 1131 with an area of 520,638 and Lot No. 1132 with an area of
96,235 square meters, more or less situated in Bancal, Carmona, Cavite.
On March 17, 1994, petitioners executed an Extra-Judicial Settlement of the estate of the
deceased Guido and Isabel Yaptinchay.
On August 26, 1994, petitioners discovered that a portion, if not all, of the aforesaid
properties were titled in the name of respondent Golden Bay Realty and Development
Corporation (Golden Bay) under Transfer Certificate of Title Nos. (TCT) 225254 and
225255. With the discovery of what happened to subject parcels of land, petitioners filed a
complaint for ANNULMENT and/or DECLARATION OF NULLITY OF TCT NO. 493363,
493364, 493665, 493366, 493367; and its Derivatives; As Alternative Reconveyance of Realty
WITH A PRAYER FOR A WRIT OF PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION and/or RESTRAINING
ORDER WITH DAMAGES, docketed as RTC BCV-94-127 before Branch 21 of the Regional
Trial Court in Imus, Cavite.
Upon learning that Golden Bay sold portions of the parcels of land in question, petitioners
filed with the RTC an Amended Complaint to implead new and additional defendants and to
mention the TCTs to be annulled. But the respondent court dismissed the Amended Complaint.
Petitioners moved for reconsideration of the Order dismissing the Amended Complaint. The
motion was granted by the RTC in an Order[1] dated July 7, 1995, which further allowed the
herein petitioners to file a Second Amended Complaint,[2] which they promptly did.
On August 12, 1995, the private respondents presented a Motion to Dismiss[3] on the grounds
that the complaint failed to state a cause of action, that plaintiffs did not have a right of action,
that they have not established their status as heirs, that the land being claimed is different from
that of the defendants, and that plaintiffs claim was barred by laches. The said Motion to Dismiss
was granted by the respondent court in its Order[4] dated October 25, 1995, holding that
petitioners have not shown any proof or even a semblance of it - except the allegations that they
are the legal heirs of the above-named Yaptinchays - that they have been declared the legal heirs
of the deceased couple.
Petitioners interposed a Motion for Reconsideration[5] but to no avail. The same was denied
by the RTC in its Order[6] of February 23, 1996.
Undaunted, petitioners have come before this Court to seek relief from respondent courts
Orders under attack.
Petitioners contend that the respondent court acted with grave abuse of discretion in ruling
that the issue of heirship should first be determined before trial of the case could proceed. It is
petitioners submission that the respondent court should have proceeded with the trial and
simultaneously resolved the issue of heirship in the same case.
The petition is not impressed with merit.
To begin with, petitioners Petition for Certiorari before this Court is an improper
recourse. Their proper remedy should have been an appeal. An order of dismissal, be it right or
wrong, is a final order, which is subject to appeal and not a proper subject of certiorari[7]. Where
appeal is available as a remedy, certiorari will not lie[8].
Neither did the respondent court commit grave abuse of discretion in issuing the questioned
Order dismissing the Second Amended Complaint of petitioners, as it aptly ratiocinated and
ruled:

But the plaintiffs who claimed to be the legal heirs of the said Guido and Isabel
Yaptinchay have not shown any proof or even a semblance of it - except the
allegations that they are the legal heirs of the aforementioned Yaptinchays - that
they have been declared the legal heirs of the deceased couple. Now, the
determination of who are the legal heirs of the deceased couple must be made in the
proper special proceedings in court, and not in an ordinary suit for reconveyance of
property. This must take precedence over the action for reconveyance (Elena C.
Monzon, et. al., v. Angelita Taligato, CA-G-R No. 33355, August 12, 1992).

In Litam, etc., et. al. v. Rivera[9], this court opined that the declaration of heirship must be
made in an administration proceeding, and not in an independent civil action. This doctrine was
reiterated in Solivio v. Court of Appeals[10] where the court held:

"In Litam, et al. v. Rivera, 100 Phil. 364, where despite the pendency of the special
proceedings for the settlement of the intestate estate of the deceased Rafael Litam, the
plaintiffs-appellants filed a civil action in which they claimed that they were the
children by a previous marriage of the deceased to a Chinese woman, hence, entitled
to inherit his one-half share of the conjugal properties acquired during his marriage to
Marcosa Rivera, the trial court in the civil case declared that the plaintiffs-appellants
were not children of the deceased, that the properties in question were paraphernal
properties of his wife, Marcosa Rivera, and that the latter was his only heir. On appeal
to this Court, we ruled that such declarations (that Marcosa Rivera was the only heir
of the decedent) is improper, in Civil Case No. 2071, it being within the exclusive
competence of the court in Special Proceedings No. 1537, in which it is not as yet, in
issue, and, will not be, ordinarily, in issue until the presentation of the project of
partition. (p. 378).

The trial court cannot make a declaration of heirship in the civil action for the reason that
such a declaration can only be made in a special proceeding. Under Section 3, Rule 1 of the 1997
Revised Rules of Court, a civil action is defined as one by which a party sues another for the
enforcement or protection of a right, or the prevention or redress of a wrong while a special
proceeding is a remedy by which a party seeks to establish a status, a right, or a particular fact. It
is then decisively clear that the declaration of heirship can be made only in a special proceeding
inasmuch as the petitioners here are seeking the establishment of a status or right.
We therefore hold that the respondent court did the right thing in dismissing the Second
Amended Complaint, which stated no cause of action. In Travel Wide Associated Sales (Phils.),
Inc. v. Court of Appeals[11], it was ruled that:

xxx If the suit is not brought in the name of or against the real party in interest, a
motion to dismiss may be filed on the ground that the complaint states no cause of
action.

WHEREFORE, for lack of merit, the Petition under consideration is hereby


DISMISSED. No pronouncement as to costs.
SO ORDERED.
LUISA KHO MONTAER, ALEJANDRO G.R. No. 174975
MONTAER, JR., LILLIBETH
MONTAER-BARRIOS, AND
RHODORA ELEANOR MONTAER-
DALUPAN,

Petitioners,
Present:

PUNO, C.J., Chairperson,


- versus -
CARPIO,

CORONA,

AZCUNA, and
SHARIA DISTRICT COURT, FOURTH
LEONARDO-DE CASTRO, JJ.
SHARIA JUDICIAL DISTRICT,
MARAWI CITY, LILING
DISANGCOPAN, AND ALMAHLEEN
LILING S. MONTAER,

Respondents.
Promulgated:

JANUARY 20, 2009

x-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------x

DECISION

PUNO, C.J.:
This Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition seeks to set aside the Orders of
the Sharia District Court, Fourth Sharia Judicial District, Marawi City, dated August
22, 2006[1] and September 21, 2006.[2]

On August 17, 1956, petitioner Luisa Kho Montaer, a Roman Catholic, married
Alejandro Montaer, Sr. at the Immaculate Conception Parish in Cubao, Quezon
City.[3] Petitioners Alejandro Montaer, Jr., Lillibeth Montaer-Barrios, and Rhodora
Eleanor Montaer-Dalupan are their children.[4] On May 26, 1995, Alejandro
Montaer, Sr. died.[5]

On August 19, 2005, private respondents Liling Disangcopan and her daughter,
Almahleen Liling S. Montaer, both Muslims, filed a Complaint for the judicial
partition of properties before the Sharia District Court.[6] The said complaint was
entitled Almahleen Liling S. Montaer and Liling M. Disangcopan v. the Estates and
Properties of Late Alejandro Montaer, Sr., Luisa Kho Montaer, Lillibeth K.
Montaer, Alejandro Kho Montaer, Jr., and Rhodora Eleanor K. Montaer, and
docketed as Special Civil Action No. 7-05.[7] In the said complaint, private
respondents made the following allegations: (1) in May 1995, Alejandro Montaer,
Sr. died; (2) the late Alejandro Montaer, Sr. is a Muslim; (3) petitioners are the
first family of the decedent; (4) Liling Disangcopan is the widow of the
decedent; (5) Almahleen Liling S. Montaer is the daughter of the decedent;
and (6) the estimated value of and a list of the properties comprising the estate of
the decedent.[8] Private respondents prayed for the Sharia District Court to order,
among others, the following: (1) the partition of the estate of the decedent; and
(2) the appointment of an administrator for the estate of the decedent.[9]

Petitioners filed an Answer with a Motion to Dismiss mainly on the following


grounds: (1) the Sharia District Court has no jurisdiction over the estate of the late
Alejandro Montaer, Sr., because he was a Roman Catholic; (2) private
respondents failed to pay the correct amount of docket fees; and (3) private
respondents complaint is barred by prescription, as it seeks to establish filiation
between Almahleen Liling S. Montaer and the decedent, pursuant to Article 175
of the Family Code.[10]

On November 22, 2005, the Sharia District Court dismissed the private
respondents complaint. The district court held that Alejandro Montaer, Sr. was
not a Muslim, and its jurisdiction extends only to the settlement and distribution
of the estate of deceased Muslims.[11]

On December 12, 2005, private respondents filed a Motion for


Reconsideration.[12] On December 28, 2005, petitioners filed an Opposition to the
Motion for Reconsideration, alleging that the motion for reconsideration lacked a
notice of hearing.[13] On January 17, 2006, the Sharia District Court denied
petitioners opposition.[14] Despite finding that the said motion for reconsideration
lacked notice of hearing, the district court held that such defect was cured as
petitioners were notified of the existence of the pleading, and it took cognizance
of the said motion.[15] The Sharia District Court also reset the hearing for the
motion for reconsideration.[16]

In its first assailed order dated August 22, 2006, the Sharia District Court
reconsidered its order of dismissal dated November 22, 2005.[17] The district court
allowed private respondents to adduce further evidence.[18] In its second assailed
order dated September 21, 2006, the Sharia District Court ordered the
continuation of trial, trial on the merits, adducement of further evidence, and
pre-trial conference.[19]

Seeking recourse before this Court, petitioners raise the following issues:

I.

RESPONDENT SHARIA DISTRICT COURT MARAWI CITY LACKS JURISDICTION OVER


PETITIONERS WHO ARE ROMAN CATHOLICS AND NON-MUSLIMS.
II.

RESPONDENT SHARIA DISTRICT COURT MARAWI CITY DID NOT ACQUIRE JURISDICTION
OVER THE ESTATES AND PROPERTIES OF THE LATE ALEJANDRO MONTAER, SR. WHICH IS
NOT A NATURAL OR JURIDICAL PERSON WITH CAPACITY TO BE SUED.

III.

RESPONDENT SHARIA DISTRICT COURT DID NOT ACQUIRE JURISDICTION OVER THE
COMPLAINT OF PRIVATE RESPONDENTS AGAINST PETITIONERS DUE TO NON-PAYMENT
OF THE FILING AND DOCKETING FEES.

IV.

RESPONDENT SHARIA DISTRICT COURTMARAWI CITY COMMITTED GRAVE ABUSE OF


DISCRETION AMOUNTING TO LACK OF JURISDICTION WHEN IT DENIED THE OPPOSITION
OF PETITIONERS AND THEN GRANTED THE MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION OF
RESPONDENTS LILING DISANGCOPAN, ET AL. WHICH WAS FATALLY DEFECTIVE FOR LACK
OF A NOTICE OF HEARING.

V.

RESPONDENT SHARIA DISTRICT COURTMARAWI CITY COMMITTED GRAVE ABUSE OF


DISCRETION AMOUNTING TO LACK OF JURISDICTION WHEN IT SET SPL. CIVIL ACTION 7-
05 FOR TRIAL EVEN IF THE COMPLAINT PLAINLY REVEALS THAT RESPONDENT
ALMAHLEEN LILING S. MONTAER SEEKS RECOGNITION FROM ALEJANDRO MONTAER,
SR. WHICH CAUSE OF ACTION PRESCRIBED UPON THE DEATH OF ALEJANDRO MONTAER,
SR. ON MAY 26, 1995.

In their Comment to the Petition for Certiorari, private respondents stress that
the Sharia District Court must be given the opportunity to hear and decide the
question of whether the decedent is a Muslim in order to determine whether it
has jurisdiction.[20]

Jurisdiction: Settlement of the Estate of Deceased Muslims

Petitioners first argument, regarding the Sharia District Courts


jurisdiction, is dependent on a question of fact, whether the late Alejandro
Montaer, Sr. is a Muslim. Inherent in this argument is the premise that there
has already been a determination resolving such a question of fact. It bears
emphasis, however, that the assailed orders did not determine whether the
decedent is a Muslim. The assailed orders did, however, set a hearing for the
purpose of resolving this issue.

Article 143(b) of Presidential Decree No. 1083, otherwise known as the


Code of Muslim Personal Laws of the Philippines, provides that the Sharia
District Courts have exclusive original jurisdiction over the settlement of the
estate of deceased Muslims:
ARTICLE 143. Original jurisdiction. (1) The Shari'a District Court shall have exclusive
original jurisdiction over:

xxxx

(b) All cases involving disposition, distribution and settlement of the estate of deceased
Muslims, probate of wills, issuance of letters of administration or appointment of
administrators or executors regardless of the nature or the aggregate value of the
property.

The determination of the nature of an action or proceeding is controlled by the


averments and character of the relief sought in the complaint or petition.[21] The
designation given by parties to their own pleadings does not necessarily bind the
courts to treat it according to the said designation. Rather than rely on a falsa
descriptio or defective caption, courts are guided by the substantive averments of
the pleadings.[22]

Although private respondents designated the pleading filed before the


Sharia District Court as a Complaint for judicial partition of properties, it is
a petition for the issuance of letters of administration, settlement, and
distribution of the estate of the decedent. It contains sufficient jurisdictional facts
required for the settlement of the estate of a deceased Muslim,[23] such as the
fact of Alejandro Montaer, Sr.s death as well as the allegation that he is a Muslim.
The said petition also contains an enumeration of the names of his legal heirs, so
far as known to the private respondents, and a probable list of the properties left
by the decedent, which are the very properties sought to be settled before a
probate court. Furthermore, the reliefs prayed for reveal that it is the intention of
the private respondents to seek judicial settlement of the estate of the
decedent.[24] These include the following: (1) the prayer for the partition of the
estate of the decedent; and (2) the prayer for the appointment of an
administrator of the said estate.

We cannot agree with the contention of the petitioners that the district
court does not have jurisdiction over the case because of an allegation in their
answer with a motion to dismiss that Montaer, Sr. is not a Muslim. Jurisdiction of
a court over the nature of the action and its subject matter does not depend upon
the defenses set forth in an answer[25] or a motion to dismiss.[26] Otherwise,
jurisdiction would depend almost entirely on the defendant[27] or result in having
a case either thrown out of court or its proceedings unduly delayed by simple
stratagem.[28] Indeed, the defense of lack of jurisdiction which is dependent on a
question of fact does not render the court to lose or be deprived of its
jurisdiction.[29]

The same rationale applies to an answer with a motion to dismiss.[30] In the


case at bar, the Sharia District Court is not deprived of jurisdiction simply because
petitioners raised as a defense the allegation that the deceased is not a Muslim.
The Sharia District Court has the authority to hear and receive evidence to
determine whether it has jurisdiction, which requires an a priori determination
that the deceased is a Muslim. If after hearing, the Sharia District Court
determines that the deceased was not in fact a Muslim, the district court should
dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction.

Special Proceedings

The underlying assumption in petitioners second argument, that the


proceeding before the Sharia District Court is an ordinary civil action against a
deceased person, rests on an erroneous understanding of the proceeding before
the court a quo. Part of the confusion may be attributed to the proceeding before
the Sharia District Court, where the parties were designated either as plaintiffs or
defendants and the case was denominated as a special civil action. We reiterate
that the proceedings before the court a quo are for the issuance of letters of
administration, settlement, and distribution of the estate of the deceased, which
is a special proceeding. Section 3(c) of the Rules of Court (Rules) defines a special
proceeding as a remedy by which a party seeks to establish a status, a right, or a
particular fact. This Court has applied the Rules, particularly the rules on special
proceedings, for the settlement of the estate of a deceased Muslim.[31] In a
petition for the issuance of letters of administration, settlement, and distribution
of estate, the applicants seek to establish the fact of death of the decedent and
later to be duly recognized as among the decedents heirs, which would allow
them to exercise their right to participate in the settlement and liquidation of the
estate of the decedent.[32] Here, the respondents seek to establish the fact
of Alejandro Montaer, Sr.s death and, subsequently, for private
respondent Almahleen Liling S. Montaer to be recognized as among his heirs, if
such is the case in fact.
Petitioners argument, that the prohibition against a decedent or his estate
from being a party defendant in a civil action[33] applies to a special proceeding
such as the settlement of the estate of the deceased, is misplaced. Unlike a civil
action which has definite adverse parties, a special proceeding has no definite
adverse party. The definitions of a civil action and a special proceeding,
respectively, in the Rules illustrate this difference. A civil action, in which a party
sues another for the enforcement or protection of a right, or the prevention or
redress of a wrong[34] necessarily has definite adverse parties, who are either the
plaintiff or defendant.[35] On the other hand, a special proceeding, by which a
party seeks to establish a status, right, or a particular fact,[36] has one definite
party, who petitions or applies for a declaration of a status, right, or particular
fact, but no definite adverse party. In the case at bar, it bears emphasis that the
estate of the decedent is not being sued for any cause of action. As a special
proceeding, the purpose of the settlement of the estate of the decedent is to
determine all the assets of the estate,[37] pay its liabilities,[38] and to distribute the
residual to those entitled to the same.[39]

Docket Fees

Petitioners third argument, that jurisdiction was not validly acquired for
non-payment of docket fees, is untenable. Petitioners point to private
respondents petition in the proceeding before the court a quo, which contains
an allegation estimating the decedents estate as the basis for the conclusion
that what private respondents paid as docket fees was insufficient. Petitioners
argument essentially involves two aspects: (1) whether the clerk of court
correctly assessed the docket fees; and (2) whether private respondents paid
the correct assessment of the docket fees.

Filing the appropriate initiatory pleading and the payment of the


prescribed docket fees vest a trial court with jurisdiction over the subject
matter.[40] If the party filing the case paid less than the correct amount for the
docket fees because that was the amount assessed by the clerk of court, the
responsibility of making a deficiency assessment lies with the same clerk of
court.[41] In such a case, the lower court concerned will not automatically lose
jurisdiction, because of a partys reliance on the clerk of courts insufficient
assessment of the docket fees.[42] As every citizen has the right to assume and
trust that a public officer charged by law with certain duties knows his duties
and performs them in accordance with law, the party filing the case cannot be
penalized with the clerk of courts insufficient assessment.[43] However, the
party concerned will be required to pay the deficiency.[44]

In the case at bar, petitioners did not present the clerk of courts
assessment of the docket fees. Moreover, the records do not include this
assessment. There can be no determination of whether private respondents
correctly paid the docket fees without the clerk of courts assessment.

Exception to Notice of Hearing

Petitioners fourth argument, that private respondents motion for


reconsideration before the Sharia District Court is defective for lack of a notice of
hearing, must fail as the unique circumstances in the present case constitute an
exception to this requirement. The Rules require every written motion to be set
for hearing by the applicant and to address the notice of hearing to all parties
concerned.[45] The Rules also provide that no written motion set for hearing shall
be acted upon by the court without proof of service thereof.[46] However, the
Rules allow a liberal construction of its provisions in order to promote [the]
objective of securing a just, speedy, and inexpensive disposition of every action
and proceeding.[47] Moreover, this Court has upheld a liberal construction
specifically of the rules of notice of hearing in cases where a rigid application will
result in a manifest failure or miscarriage of justice especially if a party
successfully shows that the alleged defect in the questioned final and executory
judgment is not apparent on its face or from the recitals contained therein.[48] In
these exceptional cases, the Court considers that no party can even claim a vested
right in technicalities, and for this reason, cases should, as much as possible, be
decided on the merits rather than on technicalities.[49]

The case at bar falls under this exception. To deny the Sharia District Court
of an opportunity to determine whether it has jurisdiction over a petition for the
settlement of the estate of a decedent alleged to be a Muslim would also deny its
inherent power as a court to control its process to ensure conformity with the law
and justice. To sanction such a situation simply because of a lapse in fulfilling the
notice requirement will result in a miscarriage of justice.

In addition, the present case calls for a liberal construction of the rules on notice
of hearing, because the rights of the petitioners were not affected. This Court has
held that an exception to the rules on notice of hearing is where it appears that
the rights of the adverse party were not affected.[50] The purpose for the notice of
hearing coincides with procedural due process,[51] for the court to determine
whether the adverse party agrees or objects to the motion, as the Rules do not fix
any period within which to file a reply or opposition.[52] In probate proceedings,
what the law prohibits is not the absence of previousnotice, but the absolute
absence thereof and lack of opportunity to be heard.[53] In the case at bar, as
evident from the Sharia District Courts order dated January 17, 2006, petitioners
counsel received a copy of the motion for reconsideration in question. Petitioners
were certainly not denied an opportunity to study the arguments in the said
motion as they filed an opposition to the same. Since the Sharia District Court
reset the hearing for the motion for reconsideration in the same order,
petitioners were not denied the opportunity to object to the said motion in a
hearing. Taken together, these circumstances show that the purpose for the rules
of notice of hearing, procedural process, was duly observed.
Prescription and Filiation

Petitioners fifth argument is premature. Again, the Sharia District Court has not
yet determined whether it has jurisdiction to settle the estate of the decedent. In
the event that a special proceeding for the settlement of the estate of a decedent
is pending, questions regarding heirship, including prescription in relation to
recognition and filiation, should be raised and settled in the said
proceeding.[54] The court, in its capacity as a probate court, has jurisdiction to
declare who are the heirs of the decedent.[55] In the case at bar, the
determination of the heirs of the decedent depends on an affirmative answer to
the question of whether the Sharia District Court has jurisdiction over the estate
of the decedent.

IN VIEW WHEREOF, the petition is DENIED. The Orders of the Sharia District
Court, dated August 22, 2006 and September 21, 2006 respectively, are
AFFIRMED. Cost against petitioners.
SO ORDERED.

REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, petitioner, vs. THE HON. COURT OF


APPEALS (Twentieth Division), HON. PRESIDING JUDGE
FORTUNITO L. MADRONA, RTC-BR. 35 and APOLINARIA
MALINAO JOMOC, respondents.

DECISION
CARPIO-MORALES, J.:

In In the Matter of Declaration of Presumptive Death of Absentee Spouse


Clemente P. Jomoc, Apolinaria Malinao Jomoc, petitioner, the Ormoc City,
Regional Trial Court, Branch 35, by Order of September 29, 1999, granted the
[1]

petition on the basis of the Commissioners Report and accordingly declared


[2]

the absentee spouse, who had left his petitioner-wife nine years earlier,
presumptively dead.
In granting the petition, the trial judge, Judge Fortunito L. Madrona, cited
Article 41, par. 2 of the Family Code. Said article provides that for the purpose
of contracting a valid subsequent marriage during the subsistence of a
previous marriage where the prior spouse had been absent for four
consecutive years, the spouse present must institute summary
proceedings for the declaration of presumptive death of the absentee
spouse, without prejudice to the effect of the reappearance of the absent
spouse.
The Republic, through the Office of the Solicitor General, sought to appeal
the trial courts order by filing a Notice of Appeal. [3]

By Order of November 22, 1999s, the trial court, noting that no record of
[4]

appeal was filed and served as required by and pursuant to Sec. 2(a), Rule 41
of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, the present case being a special
proceeding, disapproved the Notice of Appeal.
The Republics Motion for Reconsideration of the trial courts order of
disapproval having been denied by Order of January 13, 2000, it filed a [5]

Petition for Certiorari before the Court of Appeals, it contending that the
[6]

declaration of presumptive death of a person under Article 41 of the Family


Code is not a special proceeding or a case of multiple or separate appeals
requiring a record on appeal.
By Decision of May 5, 2004, the Court of Appeals denied the Republics
[7]

petition on procedural and substantive grounds in this wise:

At the outset, it must be stressed that the petition is not sufficient in form. It failed to
attach to its petition a certified true copy of the assailed Order dated January 13,
2000 [denying its Motion for Reconsideration of the November 22, 1999 Order
disapproving its Notice of Appeal]. Moreover, the petition questioned the [trial
courts] Order dated August 15, 1999, which declared Clemente Jomoc presumptively
dead, likewise for having been issued with grave abuse of discretion amounting to
lack of jurisdiction, yet, not even a copy could be found in the records. On this score
alone, the petition should have been dismissed outright in accordance with Sec. 3,
Rule 46 of the Rules of Court.

However, despite the procedural lapses, the Court resolves to delve deeper into the
substantive issue of the validity/nullity of the assailed order.

The principal issue in this case is whether a petition for declaration of the
presumptive death of a person is in the nature of a special proceeding. If it is, the
period to appeal is 30 days and the party appealing must, in addition to a notice of
appeal, file with the trial court a record on appeal to perfect its appeal. Otherwise, if
the petition is an ordinary action, the period to appeal is 15 days from notice or
decision or final order appealed from and the appeal is perfected by filing a notice of
appeal (Section 3, Rule 41, Rules of Court).
As defined in Section 3(a), Rule 1 of the Rules of Court, a civil action is one by which
a party sues another for the enforcement or protection of a right, or the prevention of
redress of a wrong while a special proceeding under Section 3(c) of the same rule is
defined as a remedy by which a party seeks to establish a status, a right or a particular
fact (Heirs of Yaptinchay, et al. v. Del Rosario, et al., G.R. No. 124320, March 2,
1999).

Considering the aforementioned distinction, this Court finds that the instant petition
is in the nature of a special proceeding and not an ordinary action. The petition
merely seeks for a declaration by the trial court of the presumptive death of absentee
spouse Clemente Jomoc. It does not seek the enforcement or protection of a right or
the prevention or redress of a wrong. Neither does it involve a demand of right or a
cause of action that can be enforced against any person.

On the basis of the foregoing discussion, the subject Order dated January 13, 2000
denying OSGs Motion for Reconsideration of the Order dated November 22, 1999
disapproving its Notice of Appeal was correctly issued. The instant petition, being
in the nature of a special proceeding, OSG should have filed, in addition to its
Notice of Appeal, a record on appeal in accordance with Section 19 of the Interim
Rules and Guidelines to Implement BP Blg. 129 and Section 2(a), Rule 41 of the
Rules of Court . . . (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)

The Republic (petitioner) insists that the declaration of presumptive death


under Article 41 of the Family Code is not a special proceeding involving
multiple or separate appeals where a record on appeal shall be filed and
served in like manner.
Petitioner cites Rule 109 of the Revised Rules of Court which enumerates
the cases wherein multiple appeals are allowed and a record on appeal is
required for an appeal to be perfected. The petition for the declaration of
presumptive death of an absent spouse not being included in the
enumeration, petitioner contends that a mere notice of appeal suffices.
By Resolution of December 15, 2004, this Court, noting that copy of the
[8]

September 27, 2004 Resolution requiring respondent to file her comment on


[9]

the petition was returned unserved with postmasters notation Party refused,
Resolved to consider that copy deemed served upon her.
The pertinent provisions on the General Provisions on Special
Proceedings, Part II of the Revised Rules of Court entitled SPECIAL
PROCEEDINGS, read:

RULE 72
SUBJECT MATTER AND APPLICABILITY
OF GENERAL RULES

Section 1. Subject matter of special proceedings. Rules of special proceedings are


provided for in the following:

(a) Settlement of estate of deceased persons;


(b) Escheat;
(c) Guardianship and custody of children;
(d) Trustees;
(e) Adoption;
(f) Rescission and revocation of adoption;
(g) Hospitalization of insane persons;
(h) Habeas corpus;
(i) Change of name;
(j) Voluntary dissolution of corporations;
(k) Judicial approval of voluntary recognition of minor natural children;
(l) Constitution of family home;
(m) Declaration of absence and death;
(n) Cancellation or correction of entries in the civil registry.

Sec. 2. Applicability of rules of civil actions. In the absence of special provisions, the
rules provided for in ordinary actions shall be, as far as practicable, applicable in
special proceedings. (Underscoring supplied)

The pertinent provision of the Civil Code on presumption of death


provides:

Art. 390. After an absence of seven years, it being unknown whether or not the
absentee still lives, he shall be presumed dead for all purposes, except for those of
succession.

x x x (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)

Upon the other hand, Article 41 of the Family Code, upon which the trial
court anchored its grant of the petition for the declaration of presumptive
death of the absent spouse, provides:

Art. 41. A marriage contracted by any person during the subsistence of a previous
marriage shall be null and void, unless before the celebration of the subsequent
marriage, the prior spouses had been absent for four consecutive years and the spouse
present had a well-founded belief that the absent spouses was already dead. In case of
disappearance where there is danger of death under the circumstances set forth in the
provisions of Article 391 of the Civil Code, an absence of only two years shall be
sufficient.

For the purpose pf contracting the subsequent marriage under the preceding
paragraph, the spouses present must institute a summary proceeding as provided in
this Code for the declaration of presumptive death of the absentee, without prejudice
to the effect of a reappearance of the absent spouse. (Emphasis and underscoring
supplied)

Rule 41, Section 2 of the Revised Rules of Court, on Modes of Appeal,


invoked by the trial court in disapproving petitioners Notice of Appeal,
provides:

Sec. 2. Modes of appeal. -

(a) Ordinary appeal. - The appeal to the Court of Appeals in cases decided by the
Regional Trial Court in the exercise of its original jurisdiction shall be taken by filing
a notice of appeal with the court which rendered the judgment or final order appealed
from and serving a copy thereof upon the adverse party. No record on appeal shall be
required except in special proceedings and other cases of multiple or separate
appeals where the law or these Rules so require. In such cases, the record on appeal
shall be filed and served in like manner. (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)

xxx

By the trial courts citation of Article 41 of the Family Code, it is gathered


that the petition of Apolinaria Jomoc to have her absent spouse declared
presumptively dead had for its purpose her desire to contract a valid
subsequent marriage. Ergo, the petition for that purpose is a summary
proceeding, following above-quoted Art. 41, paragraph 2 of the Family Code.
Since Title XI of the Family Code, entitled SUMMARY JUDICIAL
PROCEEDING IN THE FAMILY LAW, contains the following provision, inter
alia:

xxx

Art. 238. Unless modified by the Supreme Court, the procedural rules in this Title
shall apply in all cases provided for in this Codes requiring summary court
proceedings. Such cases shall be decided in an expeditious manner without
regard to technical rules. (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)
x x x,

there is no doubt that the petition of Apolinaria Jomoc required, and is,
therefore, a summary proceeding under the Family Code, not a special
proceeding under the Revised Rules of Court appeal for which calls for the
filing of a Record on Appeal. It being a summary ordinary proceeding, the
filing of a Notice of Appeal from the trial courts order sufficed.
That the Family Code provision on repeal, Art. 254, provides as follows:

Art. 254. Titles III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, XI and XV of Book I of Republic Act
No. 386, otherwise known as the Civil Code of the Philippines, as amended, and
Articles 17, 18, 19, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 39, 40, 41 and 42 of Presidential Decree No.
603, otherwise known as the Child and Youth Welfare Code, as amended,
and all laws, decrees, executive orders, proclamations rules and regulations, or parts
thereof, inconsistent therewith are hereby repealed, (Emphasis and underscoring
supplied),

seals the case in petitioners favor.


Finally, on the alleged procedural flaw in petitioners petition before the
appellate court. Petitioners failure to attach to his petition before the appellate
court a copy of the trial courts order denying its motion for reconsideration of
the disapproval of its Notice of Appeal is not necessarily fatal, for the rules of
procedure are not to be applied in a technical sense. Given the issue raised
before it by petitioner, what the appellate court should have done was to direct
petitioner to comply with the rule.
As for petitioners failure to submit copy of the trial courts order granting
the petition for declaration of presumptive death, contrary to the appellate
courts observation that petitioner was also assailing it, petitioners 8-page
petition filed in said court does not so reflect, it merely having assailed
[10]

the order disapproving the Notice of Appeal.


WHEREFORE, the assailed May 5, 2004 Decision of the Court of Appeals
is hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Let the case be REMANDED to it for
appropriate action in light of the foregoing discussion.
SO ORDERED.

RUFINA LUY LIM petitioner, vs. COURT OF APPEALS, AUTO TRUCK TBA
CORPORATION, SPEED DISTRIBUTING, INC., ACTIVE DISTRIBUTORS,
ALLIANCE MARKETING CORPORATION, ACTION COMPANY,
INC. respondents.

DECISION

BUENA, J.:

May a corporation, in its universality, be the proper subject of and be included in the
inventory of the estate of a deceased person?

Petitioner disputes before us through the instant petition for review on certiorari, the
decision of the Court of Appeals promulgated on 18 April 1996, in CA-GR SP No.
[1]

38617, which nullified and set aside the orders dated 04 July 1995 , 12 September [2]

1995 and 15 September 1995 of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch
[3] [4]

93, sitting as a probate court.

Petitioner Rufina Luy Lim is the surviving spouse of the late Pastor Y. Lim whose
estate is the subject of probate proceedings in Special Proceedings Q-95-23334,
entitled, "In Re: Intestate Estate of Pastor Y. Lim Rufina Luy Lim, represented by
George Luy, Petitioner".

Private respondents Auto Truck Corporation, Alliance Marketing Corporation, Speed


Distributing, Inc., Active Distributing, Inc. and Action Company are corporations
formed, organized and existing under Philippine laws and which owned real
properties covered under the Torrens system.

On 11 June 1994, Pastor Y. Lim died intestate. Herein petitioner, as surviving spouse
and duly represented by her nephew George Luy, filed on 17 March 1995, a joint
petition for the administration of the estate of Pastor Y. Lim before the Regional
[5]

Trial Court of Quezon City.

Private respondent corporations, whose properties were included in the inventory of


the estate of Pastor Y. Lim, then filed a motion for the lifting of lis pendensand
[6]

motion for exclusion of certain properties from the estate of the decedent.
[7]

In an order dated 08 June 1995, the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 93,
[8]

sitting as a probate court, granted the private respondents twin motions, in this wise:

"Wherefore, the Register of Deeds of Quezon City is hereby ordered to


lift, expunge or delete the annotation of lis pendens on Transfer
Certificates of Title Nos. 116716, 116717, 116718, 116719 and 5182 and
it is hereby further ordered that the properties covered by the same titles
as well as those properties by (sic) Transfer Certificate of Title Nos.
613494, 363123, 236236 and 263236 are excluded from these
proceedings.

SO ORDERED."

Subsequently, Rufina Luy Lim filed a verified amended petition which contained the
[9]

following averments:

"3. The late Pastor Y. Lim personally owned during his lifetime the
following business entities, to wit:

Business Entity Address:

XXXX

Alliance Marketing ,Inc. Block 3, Lot 6, Dacca

BF Homes,

Paraaque,

Metro Manila.

XXXX

Speed Distributing Inc. 910 Barrio Niog,

Aguinaldo Highway,

Bacoor, Cavite.

XXXX

Auto Truck TBA Corp. 2251 Roosevelt Avenue,

Quezon City.

XXXX

Active Distributors, Inc. Block 3, Lot 6, Dacca BF

Homes, Paraaque,
Metro Manila.

XXXX

Action Company 100 20th Avenue

Murphy, Quezon City

or

92-D Mc-Arthur Highway

Valenzuela Bulacan.

"3.1 Although the above business entities dealt and engaged in business
with the public as corporations, all their capital, assets and equity were
however, personally owned by the late Pastor Y Lim. Hence the alleged
stockholders and officers appearing in the respective articles of
incorporation of the above business entities were mere dummies of
Pastor Y. Lim, and they were listed therein only for purposes of
registration with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

"4. Pastor Lim, likewise, had Time, Savings and Current Deposits with
the following banks: (a) Metrobank, Grace Park, Caloocan City and
Quezon Avenue, Quezon City Branches and (b) First Intestate Bank
(formerly Producers Bank), Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation and
in other banks whose identities are yet to be determined.

"5. That the following real properties, although registered in the name of
the above entities, were actually acquired by Pastor Y. Lim during his
marriage with petitioner, to wit:

Corporation Title Location

XXXX

k. Auto Truck TCT No. 617726 Sto. Domingo

TBA Corporation Cainta, Rizal

q. Alliance Marketing TCT No. 27896 Prance,

Metro Manila
Copies of the above-mentioned Transfer Certificate of Title and/or Tax
Declarations are hereto attached as Annexes "C" to "W".

XXXX

"7. The aforementioned properties and/or real interests left by the late
Pastor Y. Lim, are all conjugal in nature, having been acquired by him
during the existence of his marriage with petitioner.

"8. There are other real and personal properties owned by Pastor Y. Lim
which petitioner could not as yet identify. Petitioner, however will
submit to this Honorable Court the identities thereof and the necessary
documents covering the same as soon as possible."

On 04 July 1995, the Regional Trial Court acting on petitioners motion issued an
order , thus:
[10]

"Wherefore, the order dated 08 June 1995 is hereby set aside and the
Registry of Deeds of Quezon City is hereby directed to reinstate the
annotation of lis pendens in case said annotation had already been
deleted and/or cancelled said TCT Nos. 116716, 116717, 116718,
116719 and 51282.

Further more (sic), said properties covered by TCT Nos. 613494,


365123, 236256 and 236237 by virtue of the petitioner are included in
the instant petition.

SO ORDERED."

On 04 September 1995, the probate court appointed Rufina Lim as special


administrator and Miguel Lim and Lawyer Donald Lee, as co-special administrators
[11]

of the estate of Pastor Y. Lim, after which letters of administration were accordingly
issued.

In an order dated 12 September 1995, the probate court denied anew private
[12]

respondents motion for exclusion, in this wise:

"The issue precisely raised by the petitioner in her petition is whether the
corporations are the mere alter egos or instrumentalities of Pastor Lim,
Otherwise (sic) stated, the issue involves the piercing of the corporate
veil, a matter that is clearly within the jurisdiction of this Honorable
Court and not the Securities and Exchange Commission. Thus, in the
case of Cease vs. Court of Appeals, 93 SCRA 483, the crucial issue
decided by the regular court was whether the corporation involved
therein was the mere extension of the decedent. After finding in the
affirmative, the Court ruled that the assets of the corporation are also
assets of the estate.

A reading of P.D. 902, the law relied upon by oppositors, shows that the
SECs exclusive (sic) applies only to intra-corporate controversy. It is
simply a suit to settle the intestate estate of a deceased person who,
during his lifetime, acquired several properties and put up corporations
as his instrumentalities.

SO ORDERED."

On 15 September 1995, the probate court acting on an ex parte motion filed by


petitioner, issued an order the dispositive portion of which reads:
[13]

"Wherefore, the parties and the following banks concerned herein under
enumerated are hereby ordered to comply strictly with this order and to
produce and submit to the special administrators , through this
Honorable Court within (5) five days from receipt of this order their
respective records of the savings/current accounts/time deposits and
other deposits in the names of Pastor Lim and/or corporations above-
mentioned, showing all the transactions made or done concerning
savings /current accounts from January 1994 up to their receipt of this
court order.

XXX XXX XXX

SO ORDERED."

Private respondent filed a special civil action for certiorari , with an urgent prayer for
[14]

a restraining order or writ of preliminary injunction, before the Court of Appeals


questioning the orders of the Regional Trial Court, sitting as a probate court.

On 18 April 1996, the Court of Appeals, finding in favor of herein private


respondents, rendered the assailed decision , the decretal portion of which declares:
[15]

"Wherefore, premises considered, the instant special civil action for


certiorari is hereby granted, The impugned orders issued by respondent
court on July 4,1995 and September 12, 1995 are hereby nullified and set
aside. The impugned order issued by respondent on September 15, 1995
is nullified insofar as petitioner corporations" bank accounts and records
are concerned.

SO ORDERED."

Through the expediency of Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, herein petitioner Rufina
Luy Lim now comes before us with a lone assignment of error : [16]

"The respondent Court of Appeals erred in reversing the orders of the


lower court which merely allowed the preliminary or provisional
inclusion of the private respondents as part of the estate of the late
deceased (sic) Pastor Y. Lim with the respondent Court of Appeals
arrogating unto itself the power to repeal, to disobey or to ignore the
clear and explicit provisions of Rules 81,83,84 and 87 of the Rules of
Court and thereby preventing the petitioner, from performing her duty as
special administrator of the estate as expressly provided in the said
Rules."

Petitioners contentions tread on perilous grounds.

In the instant petition for review, petitioner prays that we affirm the orders issued by
the probate court which were subsequently set aside by the Court of Appeals.

Yet, before we delve into the merits of the case, a review of the rules on jurisdiction
over probate proceedings is indeed in order.

The provisions of Republic Act 7691 , which introduced amendments to Batas


[17]

Pambansa Blg. 129, are pertinent:

"Section 1. Section 19 of Batas Pambansa Blg. 129, otherwise known as


the "Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980", is hereby amended to read
as follows:

Section 19.Jurisdiction in civil cases. Regional Trial Courts shall


exercise exclusive jurisdiction:

xxx xxx xxx

(4) In all matters of probate, both testate and intestate, where the gross
value of the estate exceeds One Hundred Thousand Pesos (P100,000) or,
in probate matters in Metro Manila, where such gross value exceeds Two
Hundred Thousand Pesos (P200,000);
xxx xxx xxx

Section 3. Section 33 of the same law is hereby amended to read as


follows:

Section 33. Jurisdiction of Metropolitan Trial Courts,


Municipal Trial Courts and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts
in Civil Cases.-Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial
Courts and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts shall exercise:

1. Exclusive original jurisdiction over civil actions and


probate proceedings, testate and intestate, including the
grant of provisional remedies in proper cases, where the
value of the personal property, estate or amount of the
demand does not exceed One Hundred Thousand
Pesos(P100,000) or, in Metro Manila where such personal
property, estate or amount of the demand does not exceed
Two Hundred Thousand Pesos (P200,000), exclusive of
interest, damages of whatever kind, attorneys fees,
litigation expenses and costs, the amount of which must be
specifically alleged, Provided, that interest, damages of
whatever kind, attorneys, litigation expenses and costs shall
be included in the determination of the filing fees, Provided
further, that where there are several claims or causes of
actions between the same or different parties, embodied in
the same complaint, the amount of the demand shall be the
totality of the claims in all the causes of action, irrespective
of whether the causes of action arose out of the same or
different transactions;

xxx xxx xxx"

Simply put, the determination of which court exercises jurisdiction over matters of
probate depends upon the gross value of the estate of the decedent.

As to the power and authority of the probate court, petitioner relies heavily on the
principle that a probate court may pass upon title to certain
properties, albeitprovisionally, for the purpose of determining whether a certain
property should or should not be included in the inventory.

In a litany of cases, We defined the parameters by which the court may extend its
probing arms in the determination of the question of title in probate proceedings.
This Court, in PASTOR, JR. vs. COURT OF APPEALS, held: [18]

"X X X As a rule, the question of ownership is an extraneous matter


which the probate court cannot resolve with finality. Thus, for the
purpose of determining whether a certain property should or should not
be included in the inventory of estate properties, the Probate Court may
pass upon the title thereto, but such determination is provisional, not
conclusive, and is subject to the final decision in a separate action to
resolve title."

We reiterated the rule in PEREIRA vs. COURT OF APPEALS : [19]

"X X X The function of resolving whether or not a certain property


should be included in the inventory or list of properties to be
administered by the administrator is one clearly within the competence
of the probate court. However, the courts determination is only
provisional in character, not conclusive, and is subject to the final
decision in a separate action which may be instituted by the parties."

Further, in MORALES vs. CFI OF CAVITE citing CUIZON vs. RAMOLETE ,


[20] [21]

We made an exposition on the probate courts limited jurisdiction:

"It is a well-settled rule that 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 equally
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."

Again, in VALERA vs. INSERTO , We had occasion to elucidate, through Mr.


[22]

Justice Andres Narvasa :


[23]

"Settled is the rule that a Court of First Instance (now Regional Trial
Court), acting as a probate court, exercises but limited jurisdiction, and
thus has no power to take cognizance of and determine the issue of title
to property claimed by a third person adversely to the decedent, unless
the claimant and all other parties having legal interest in the property
consent, expressly or impliedly, to the submission of the question to the
probate court for adjudgment, or the interests of third persons are not
thereby prejudiced, the reason for the exception being that the question
of whether or not a particular matter should be resolved by the court in
the exercise of its general jurisdiction or of its limited jurisdiction as a
special court (e.g. probate, land registration, etc.), is in reality not a
jurisdictional but in essence of procedural one, involving a mode of
practice which may be waived. x x x

x x x. These considerations assume greater cogency where, as here,


the Torrens title is not in the decedents name but in others, a
situation on which this Court has already had occasion to rule x x
x."(emphasis Ours)

Petitioner, in the present case, argues that the parcels of land covered under the
Torrens system and registered in the name of private respondent corporations should
be included in the inventory of the estate of the decedent Pastor Y. Lim, alleging that
after all the determination by the probate court of whether these properties should be
included or not is merely provisional in nature, thus, not conclusive and subject to a
final determination in a separate action brought for the purpose of adjudging once and
for all the issue of title.

Yet, under the peculiar circumstances, where the parcels of land are registered in the
name of private respondent corporations, the jurisprudence pronounced in BOLISAY
vs., ALCID is of great essence and finds applicability, thus:
[24]

"It does not matter that respondent-administratrix has evidence


purporting to support her claim of ownership, for, on the other hand,
petitioners have a Torrens title in their favor, which under the law is
endowed with incontestability until after it has been set aside in the
manner indicated in the law itself, which, of course, does not include,
bringing up the matter as a mere incident in special proceedings for the
settlement of the estate of deceased persons. x x x"

"x x x. In regard to such incident of inclusion or exclusion, We hold that


if a property covered by Torrens title is involved, the presumptive
conclusiveness of such title should be given due weight, and in the
absence of strong compelling evidence to the contrary, the holder thereof
should be considered as the owner of the property in controversy until
his title is nullified or modified in an appropriate ordinary action,
particularly, when as in the case at bar, possession of the property itself
is in the persons named in the title. x x x"
A perusal of the records would reveal that no strong compelling evidence was ever
presented by petitioner to bolster her bare assertions as to the title of the deceased
Pastor Y. Lim over the properties. Even so, P.D. 1529, otherwise known as, " The
Property Registration Decree", proscribes collateral attack on Torrens Title, hence:

"xxx xxx xxx

Section 48.Certificate not subject to collateral attack.

- A certificate of title shall not be subject to collateral attack. It cannot be


altered, modified or cancelled except in a direct proceeding in
accordance with law."

In CUIZON vs. RAMOLETE, where similarly as in the case at bar, the property
subject of the controversy was duly registered under the Torrens system, We
categorically stated:

"x x x Having been apprised of the fact that the property in question was
in the possession of third parties and more important, covered by a
transfer certificate of title issued in the name of such third parties, the
respondent court should have denied the motion of the respondent
administrator and excluded the property in question from the inventory
of the property of the estate. It had no authority to deprive such third
persons of their possession and ownership of the property. x x x"

Inasmuch as the real properties included in the inventory of the estate of the late
Pastor Y. Lim are in the possession of and are registered in the name of private
respondent corporations, which under the law possess a personality separate and
distinct from their stockholders, and in the absence of any cogency to shred the veil of
corporate fiction, the presumption of conclusiveness of said titles in favor of private
respondents should stand undisturbed.

Accordingly, the probate court was remiss in denying private respondents motion for
exclusion. While it may be true that the Regional Trial Court, acting in a restricted
capacity and exercising limited jurisdiction as a probate court, is competent to issue
orders involving inclusion or exclusion of certain properties in the inventory of the
estate of the decedent, and to adjudge, albeit, provisionally the question of title over
properties, it is no less true that such authority conferred upon by law and reinforced
by jurisprudence, should be exercised judiciously, with due regard and caution to the
peculiar circumstances of each individual case.
Notwithstanding that the real properties were duly registered under the Torrens
system in the name of private respondents, and as such were to be afforded the
presumptive conclusiveness of title, the probate court obviously opted to shut its eyes
to this gleamy fact and still proceeded to issue the impugned orders.

By its denial of the motion for exclusion, the probate court in effect acted in utter
disregard of the presumption of conclusiveness of title in favor of private respondents.
Certainly, the probate court through such brazen act transgressed the clear provisions
of law and infringed settled jurisprudence on this matter.

Moreover, petitioner urges that not only the properties of private respondent
corporations are properly part of the decedents estate but also the private respondent
corporations themselves. To rivet such flimsy contention, petitioner cited that the late
Pastor Y. Lim during his lifetime, organized and wholly-owned the five corporations,
which are the private respondents in the instant case. Petitioner thus attached as
[25]

Annexes "F" and "G" of the petition for review affidavits executed by Teresa Lim
[26] [27]

and Lani Wenceslao which among others, contained averments that the incorporators
of Uniwide Distributing, Inc. included on the list had no actual participation in the
organization and incorporation of the said corporation. The affiants added that the
persons whose names appeared on the articles of incorporation of Uniwide
Distributing, Inc., as incorporators thereof, are mere dummies since they have not
actually contributed any amount to the capital stock of the corporation and have been
merely asked by the late Pastor Y. Lim to affix their respective signatures thereon.

It is settled that a corporation is clothed with personality separate and distinct from
that of the persons composing it. It may not generally be held liable for that of the
persons composing it. It may not be held liable for the personal indebtedness of its
stockholders or those of the entities connected with it. [28]

Rudimentary is the rule that a corporation is invested by law with a personality


distinct and separate from its stockholders or members. In the same vein, a
corporation by legal fiction and convenience is an entity shielded by a protective
mantle and imbued by law with a character alien to the persons comprising it.

Nonetheless, the shield is not at all times invincible. Thus, in FIRST PHILIPPINE
INTERNATIONAL BANK vs. COURT OF APPEALS , We enunciated: [29]

"x x x When the fiction is urged as a means of perpetrating a fraud or an


illegal act or as a vehicle for the evasion of an existing obligation, the
circumvention of statutes, the achievement or perfection of a monopoly
or generally the perpetration of knavery or crime, the veil with which the
law covers and isolates the corporation from the members or
stockholders who compose it will be lifted to allow for its consideration
merely as an aggregation of individuals. x x x"

Piercing the veil of corporate entity requires the court to see through the protective
shroud which exempts its stockholders from liabilities that ordinarily, they could be
subject to, or distinguishes one corporation from a seemingly separate one, were it not
for the existing corporate fiction. [30]

The corporate mask may be lifted and the corporate veil may be pierced when a
corporation is just but the alter ego of a person or of another corporation. Where
badges of fraud exist, where public convenience is defeated; where a wrong is sought
to be justified thereby, the corporate fiction or the notion of legal entity should come
to naught.[31]

Further, the test in determining the applicability of the doctrine of piercing the veil of
corporate fiction is as follows: 1) Control, not mere majority or complete stock
control, but complete domination, not only of finances but of policy and business
practice in respect to the transaction attacked so that the corporate entity as to this
transaction had at the time no separate mind, will or existence of its own; (2) Such
control must have been used by the defendant to commit fraud or wrong, to perpetuate
the violation of a statutory or other positive legal duty, or dishonest and unjust act in
contravention of plaintiffs legal right; and (3) The aforesaid control and breach of
duty must proximately cause the injury or unjust loss complained of. The absence of
any of these elements prevent"piercing the corporate veil". [32]

Mere ownership by a single stockholder or by another corporation of all or nearly all


of the capital stock of a corporation is not of itself a sufficient reason for disregarding
the fiction of separate corporate personalities. [33]

Moreover, to disregard the separate juridical personality of a corporation, the wrong-


doing must be clearly and convincingly established. It cannot be presumed. [34]

Granting arguendo that the Regional Trial Court in this case was not merely acting in
a limited capacity as a probate court, petitioner nonetheless failed to adduce
competent evidence that would have justified the court to impale the veil of corporate
fiction. Truly, the reliance reposed by petitioner on the affidavits executed by Teresa
Lim and Lani Wenceslao is unavailing considering that the aforementioned
documents possess no weighty probative value pursuant to the hearsay rule. Besides it
is imperative for us to stress that such affidavits are inadmissible in evidence
inasmuch as the affiants were not at all presented during the course of the proceedings
in the lower court. To put it differently, for this Court to uphold the admissibility of
said documents would be to relegate from Our duty to apply such basic rule of
evidence in a manner consistent with the law and jurisprudence.

Our pronouncement in PEOPLE BANK AND TRUST COMPANY vs.


LEONIDAS finds pertinence:
[35]

"Affidavits are classified as hearsay evidence since they are not


generally prepared by the affiant but by another who uses his own
language in writing the affiants statements, which may thus be either
omitted or misunderstood by the one writing them. Moreover, the
adverse party is deprived of the opportunity to cross-examine the
affiants. For this reason, affidavits are generally rejected for being
hearsay, unless the affiant themselves are placed on the witness stand to
testify thereon."

As to the order of the lower court, dated 15 September 1995, the Court of Appeals
[36]

correctly observed that the Regional Trial Court, Branch 93 acted without jurisdiction
in issuing said order; The probate court had no authority to demand the production of
bank accounts in the name of the private respondent corporations.

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing disquisitions, the instant petition is hereby


DISMISSED for lack of merit and the decision of the Court of Appeals which
nullified and set aside the orders issued by the Regional Trial Court, Branch 93, acting
as a probate court, dated 04 July 1995 and 12 September 1995 is AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.

Bellosillo, (Chairman), Mendoza, Quisumbing, and De Leon, Jr., JJ., concur.

IN THE MATTER OF THE INTESTATE ESTATE OF DECEASED ISMAEL


REYES, THE HEIRS OF OSCAR R. REYES, petitioners,
vs. CESAR R. REYES, respondent.

DECISION
GONZAGA-REYES, J.:

In this petition for review on certiorari, petitioners seek to annul the decision of the
respondent Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 46761[1]which affirmed the
Order[2] dated January 26, 1994 of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 96, Quezon City, in
Special Proceeding No. 89-2519, a petition for issuance of letters of administration, and
the resolution dated July 28, 1999 denying their motion for reconsideration.[3]
Spouses Ismael Reyes and Felisa Revita Reyes are the registered owners of
parcels of land situated in Arayat Street, Cubao, Quezon City covered by Transfer
Certificates of Title Nos. 4983 and 3598 (39303). The spouses have seven children,
namely: Oscar, Araceli, Herminia, Aurora, Emmanuel, Cesar and Rodrigo, all surnamed
Reyes.
On April 18, 1973, Ismael Reyes died intestate. Prior to his death, Ismael Reyes
was notified by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) of his income tax deficiency which
arose out of his sale of a parcel land located in Tandang Sora, Quezon City. For failure
to settle his tax liability, the amount increased to about P172,724.40 and since no
payment was made by the heirs of deceased Ismael Reyes, the property covered by
TCT No. 4983 was levied[4] sold and eventually forfeited by the Bureau of Internal
Revenue in favor of the government.[5]
Sometime in 1976, petitioners predecessor Oscar Reyes availed of the BIRs tax
amnesty and he was able to redeem the property covered by TCT No. 4983 [6] upon
payment of the reduced tax liability in the amount of about P18,000.[7]
On May 18, 1982, the Office of the City Treasurer of Quezon City sent a notice to
Felisa Revita Reyes informing her that the Arayat properties will be sold at public
auction on August 25, 1982 for her failure to settle the real estate tax delinquency from
1974-1981.[8]
On December 15, 1986, petitioners predecessor Oscar Reyes entered into an
amnesty compromise agreement with the City Treasurer and settled the accounts of
Felisa R. Reyes.[9]
On May 10, 1989, private respondent Cesar Reyes, brother of Oscar Reyes, filed a
petition for issuance of letters of administration with the Regional Trial Court of Quezon
City praying for his appointment as administrator of the estate of the deceased Ismael
Reyes which estate included 50% of the Arayat properties covered by TCT Nos. 4983
and 3598.[10] Oscar Reyes filed his conditional opposition thereto on the ground that the
Arayat properties do not form part of the estate of the deceased as he (Oscar) had
acquired the properties by redemption and or purchase.[11]
The probate court subsequently issued letters of administration in favor of Cesar
Reyes where the latter was ordered to submit a true and complete inventory of
properties pertaining to the estate of the deceased and the special powers of attorney
executed by the other heirs who reside in the USA and that of Aurora Reyes-Dayot
conforming to his appointment as administrator.[12] Cesar Reyes filed an inventory of real
and personal properties of the deceased which included the Arayat properties with a
total area of 1,009 sq. meters.[13] On the other hand, Oscar Reyes filed his objection to
the inventory reiterating that the Arayat properties had been forfeited in favor of the
government and he was the one who subsequently redeemed the same from the BIR
using his own funds.[14]
A hearing on the inventory was scheduled where administrator Cesar Reyes was
required to present evidence to establish that the properties belong to the estate of
Ismael Reyes and the oppositor to adduce evidence in support of his objection to the
inclusion of certain properties in the inventory.[15] After hearing the parties respective
arguments, the probate court issued its Order dated January 26, 1994, the dispositive
portion of which reads:[16]

WHEREFORE, pursuant to the foregoing findings, the Court hereby modifies


the inventory submitted by the administrator and declares to belong to the
estate of the late Ismael Reyes the following properties, to wit:

1. One half (1/2) of the agricultural land located in Montalban, Rizal containing an area
of 31,054 square meters, covered by TCT 72730 with an approximate value of
P405,270.00;
2. One half (1/2) of two (2) adjoining residential lots located on Arayat Street, Cubao,
Quezon City, with total area of 1,009 square meters, more or less, covered by TCTs
No. 4983 AND 3598 (39303), with an approximate value of P3,027,000.00; but this
determination is provisional in character and shall be without prejudice to the
outcome of any action to be brought hereafter in the proper Court on the issue of
ownership of the properties; and,
3. The building constructed by and leased to Sonny Bernardo and all its rental income
from the inception of the lease, whether such income be in the possession of
oppositor, in which case he is hereby directed to account therefor, or if such income
be still unpaid by Bernardo, in which case the administrator should move to collect
the same.

Consistent with the foregoing things, either of the administrator oppositor, or


heir Felisa R. Reyes, in her personal capacity as apparent co-owner of the
Arayat Street properties, may commence the necessary proper action for
settling the issue of ownership of such properties in the Regional Trial Court in
Quezon City and to inform the Court of the commencement thereof by any of
them as soon as possible.

The administrator is hereby directed to verify and check carefully on whether


other properties, particularly the real properties allegedly situated in
Montalban, Rizal; in Marikina, Metro Manila (near Boys Town); and in
Bulacan, otherwise referred to as the Hi-Cement property truly pertained to
the estate; to determine their present condition and the status of their
ownership; and to render a report thereon in writing within thirty (30) days
from receipt of this Order.

The motion demanding for accounting to be done by oppositor Oscar Reyes is


hereby denied for being unwarranted, except whatever incomes he might
have received from Sonny Bernardo, which he is hereby directed to turn over
to the administrator within thirty (30) days from finality of this Order.

A motion for reconsideration was filed by Oscar Reyes which was denied in an
Order dated May 30, 1994.[17] He then filed his appeal with the respondent Court of
Appeals. While the appeal was pending, Oscar died and he was substituted by his
heirs, herein petitioners.
On May 6, 1999, the respondent Court issued its assailed decision which affirmed
the probate courts order. It ruled that the probate courts order categorically stated that
the inclusion of the subject properties in the inventory of the estate of the deceased
Ismael Reyes is provisional in character and shall be without prejudice to the outcome
of any action to be brought hereafter in the proper court on the issue of ownership of the
properties; that the provisional character of the inclusion of the contested properties in
the inventory as stressed in the order is within the jurisdiction of intestate court. It further
stated that although the general rule that question of title to property cannot be passed
upon in the probate court admits of exceptions, i.e. if the claimant and all other parties
having legal interest in the property consent, expressly or impliedly, to the submission of
the question to the probate court for adjudication, such has no application in the instant
case since petitioner-appellee and oppositor-appellant are not the only parties with legal
interest in the subject property as they are not the only heirs of the decedent; that it was
never shown that all parties interested in the subject property or all the heirs of the
decedent consented to the submission of the question of ownership to the intestate
court.
Petitioners filed their motion for reconsideration which was denied in a resolution
dated July 28, 1999. Hence this petition for review on certiorari alleging that the
respondent Court erred (1) in ruling that the court a quo correctly included one half (1/2)
of the Arayat properties covered by TCT Nos. 4983 and 3598 (39303) in the inventory of
the estate of the deceased Ismael Reyes (2) in upholding that the court a quo has no
jurisdiction to determine the issue of ownership.
Petitioners argue that a probate courts jurisdiction is not limited to the determination
of who the heirs are and what shares are due them as regards the estate of a deceased
person since the probate court has the power and competence to determine whether a
property should be excluded from the inventory of the estate or not, thus the Court a
quo committed a reversible error when it included the Arayat properties in the inventory
of the estate of Ismael Reyes despite the overwhelming evidence presented by
petitioner-oppositor Oscar Reyes proving his claim of ownership. Petitioners contend
that their claim of ownership over the Arayat properties as testified to by their
predecessor Oscar Reyes was based on two (2) grounds, to wit (1) his redemption of
the Arayat properties and (2) the abandonment of the properties by his co-heirs; that his
act ofredeeming the properties from the BIR in 1976 and therefter from the City
Treasurer of Quezon City using his own funds have the effect of vesting ownership to
him. Petitioners claim that private respondent is already barred from claiming the Arayat
properties since he only filed this petition 16 years after the death of Ismael Reyes and
after the prices of the real properties in Cubao have already escalated tremendously.
We find no merit in this argument.
The jurisdiction of the probate court merely relates to matters having to do with the
settlement of the estate and the probate of wills of deceased persons, and the
appointment and removal of administrators, executors, guardians and trustees.[18] The
question of ownership is as a rule, an extraneous matter which the Probate Court
cannot resolve with finality.[19] Thus, for the purpose of determining whether a certain
property should or should not be included in the inventory of estate proceeding, the
probate court may pass upon the title thereto, but such determination is provisional, not
conclusive, and is subject to the final decision in a separate action to resolve title. [20]
We find that the respondent Court did not err in affirming the provisional inclusion of
the subject properties to the estate of the deceased Ismael Reyes without prejudice to
the outcome of any action to be brought thereafter in the proper court on the issue of
ownership considering that the subject properties are still titled under the torrens system
in the names of spouses Ismael and Felisa Revita Reyes which under the law is
endowed with incontestability until after it has been set aside in the manner indicated in
the law.[21] The declaration of the provisional character of the inclusion of the subject
properties in the inventory as stressed in the order is within the jurisdiction of the
Probate Court.
Petitioners next claim that as an exception to the rule that the probate court is of
limited jurisdiction, the court has jurisdiction to resolve the issue of ownership when the
parties interested are all heirs of the deceased and they submitted the question of title
to the property, without prejudice to third persons. Petitioners allege that the parties
before the probate court were all the heirs of deceased Ismael Reyes and they were
allowed to present evidence proving ownership over the subject properties, thus private
respondent cannot argue that he did not in any way consent to the submission of the
issue of ownership to the probate court as the records of this case is replete with
evidence that he presented evidence in an attempt to prove ownership of the subject
properties.
We are not persuaded.
Settled is the rule that the Regional Trial Court acting as a probate court exercises
but limited jurisdiction, thus it has no power to take cognizance of and determine the
issue of title to property claimed by a third person adversely to the decedent, unless the
claimant and all other parties having legal interest in the property consent, expressly or
impliedly, to the submission of the question to the Probate Court for adjudgment, or the
interests of third persons are not thereby prejudiced.[22]
The facts obtaining in this case, however, do not call for the application of the
exception to the rule. It bears stress that the purpose why the probate court allowed the
introduction of evidence on ownership was for the sole purpose of determining whether
the subject properties should be included in the inventory which is within the probate
courts competence. Thus, when private respondent Cesar Reyes was appointed as
administrator of the properties in the courts Order dated July 26, 1989, he was ordered
to submit a true inventory and appraisal of the real and personal properties of the estate
which may come into his possession or knowledge which private respondent complied
with. However, petitioner Oscar Reyes submitted his objection to the inventory on the
ground that it included the subject properties which had been forfeited in favor of the
government on April 21, 1975 and which he subsequently redeemed on August 19,
1976. The Court resolved the opposition as follows:
At the hearing today of the pending incidents, it was agreed that the said
incidents could not be resolved without introduction of evidence.

Accordingly, the hearing on the inventory of real and personal properties is


hereby set on April 24, 1990 at 10:00 A.M. at which date and time the
petitioner/administrator shall be required to present evidence to establish that
the properties stated in the inventory belong to the estate of Ismael
Reyes. The oppositor shall thereafter adduce his evidence in support of his
objection to the inclusion of certain properties of the estates in the inventory.

Notably, the Probate Court stated, from the start of the hearing, that the hearing
was for the merits of accounting and inventory, thus it had jurisdiction to hear the
opposition of Oscar Reyes to the inventory as well as the respective evidence of the
parties to determine for purposes of inventory alone if they should be included therein or
excluded therefrom. In fact, the probate court in its Order stated that for resolution is the
matter of the inventory of the estate, mainly to consider what properties should be
included in the inventory and what should not be included. There was nothing on record
that both parties submitted the issue of ownership for its final resolution. Thus the
respondent Court did not err in ruling that the trial court has no jurisdiction to pass upon
the issue of ownership conclusively.
In fact, the probate court, aware of its limited jurisdiction declared that its
determination of the ownership was merely provisional and suggested that either the
administrator or the widow Felisa Reyes may commence the proper action in the
Regional Trial Court. Moreover, the court admitted that it was not competent to pass
upon the ownership of the subject properties, thus:

Although the testimony of the oppositor should have greater persuasive value
than that of the petitioner/administrator, mainly because it agrees closely with
the recitals of facts found in the several public documents submitted as
evidence in this case and is corroborated to the greatest extent by the fact
that the properties were, indeed, abandoned in his possession since 1975
until the present, his alleged ownership of the Arayat Street properties cannot
still be sustained in a manner which would warrant their exclusion from the
administrators inventory.

To begin with, there are portions in the records which show that the oppositor
himself was somehow uncertain about his rights on the properties and the
basis therefor. During his cross-examination (tsn, Oct. 4, 1991), he gave the
following statements:

xx xx xx
(Atty. Habitan)
Q: And if we will add the other taxes you have paid, (you) are now claiming to be the owner
of the Arayat property because you have paid all these taxes?
A: The amounts I have paid and all the expenses I have and if I had not paid all these
amounts the property in question would have been lost, sir.
Q: So, in effect, you are now claiming ownership over the property, I want a categorical
answer, Mr. Witness?
A: If I am going to sum up all these expenses, my share in the Hi-Cement property, my share
in the Bulacan property, the amount of the property in Cubao is small and also all my
sufferings because of the property in Cubao, this cannot be paid in terms of money, sir.
(tsn, Oct. 4, 1991, pp. 10-12)

On re-direct examination (tsn, Sept. 18, 1992), he clarified his statements as


follows:

xx xx xx
(Atty, Javellana)
Q: Mr. Reyes, on cross-examination, you were asked by the petitioners counsel whether
because you had paid the BIR P17,872.44 you are now claiming to be the owner of the
property in Arayat Street to which you answered no, will you explain your answer?
A: When I paid almost P18,000.00, it does not mean that I claim the property already; on the
contrary, I have my own reasons to claim it now on other conditions which are the
following: number one, there was a levy by the BIR on the property, it was forfeited due
to delinquency of real estate taxes; number two, for abandonment, when my mother,
brother(s) and sisters left the property, they told me it is my problem and I should take
care of it. Number three, the disposition, my mother, my brothers and sisters sold the
property of my father, the Hi-Cement and the property in Visayas Street without giving
my share. And another thing I have to sell my own property, my own assets so that I can
redeem from the BIR the Arayat property and which I did with my personal funds, and
number five, nobody helped me in my problems regarding those properties, I was alone
and so I felt that the property in Arayat is mine.
xx xx xx

(tsn, Sept. 18, 1992, pp. 2-3)

Notwithstanding his clarifying statements on redirect examination, the


impression of the Court on the issue is not entirely favorable to him. Apart
from the absence of a specific document of transfer, the circumstances and
factors he gave may not suffice in and by themselves to convey or transfer
title, for, at best, they may only be the basis of such transfer. They may be
considered as proof of the intention to dispose in his favor or as evidence of a
set off among the heirs, which seems to be what he has in mind. There might
also be substance in his assertions about the abandonment in his favor,
which, if raised in the proper action, could constitute either prescription or
laches. It is hardly needed to stress, therefore, that more than these are
required to predicate the exclusion of the properties from the inventory.

Another obtrusive reality stands out to invite notice: the BIR levy was only
made on the property covered in TCT 4983 and did not include the
property covered in TCT 3598 (39303). This somehow detracts from the
logic of the oppositors assertion of ownership of the entire Arayat Street
properties; even if his assertion is valid and true, it can encompass, at most,
only the property subject of the BIRs levy and declaration of forfeiture (i.e.,
TCT 4983), not the property covered by TCT 3598 (39303).

These pronouncements should not by any means diminish or deprive the


oppositor of whatever rights or properties he believes or considers to be
rightfully his. Although the circumstances and factors he has given to the
Court herein may have legal consequences that could have defeated
opposing-claims and rendered oppositors claim on the properties
unassailable, this Courts competence to adjudicate thus in this proceedings is
clearly non-existent. In Baybayan vs. Aquino (149 SCRA 186), it was held
that the question of ownership of a property alleged to be part of the estate
must be submitted to the Regional Trial Court in the exercise of its general
jurisdiction.

This ruling then, cannot be a final adjudication on the present and existing
legal ownership of the properties. Whatever is declared herein ought not to
preclude oppositor from prosecuting an ordinary action for the purpose of
having his claims or rights established over the properties. If he still cares
hereafter to prosecute such claim of ownership adversely to the estate and
the apparent co-owner, his mother Felisa. As stated in Valera, et al. vs.
Judge Inserto, et al. (149 SCRA 533), this Court, acting as a probate court,
exercises but limited jurisdiction; accordingly, its determination that property
should be included in the inventory or not is within its probate jurisdiction, but
such determination is only provisional in character, not conclusive, and is
subject to the final decision in a separate action that may be instituted by the
parties.

xx xx xx

The aforecited findings clarify that there were several reasons for having the
issue of ownership ventilated elsewhere. Apart from the fact that only one-half
of the two lots known as the Arayat property (i.e., the half that could pertain to
the estate) could be settled herein, there was the realization that the evidence
adduced so far (including that bearing on the oppositors basis for excluding
from the estate the property) was inadequate or otherwise inconclusive.

A practical way of looking at the problem is that this Court, sitting herein as an
intestate court, does not consider itself competent to rule on the ownership of
the entire Arayat property.

Finally, anent private respondents allegation that the instant petition was filed one
day late, hence should be dismissed, we find the same to be devoid of merit. Petitioners
received copy of the decision denying their motion for reconsideration on August 13,
1999, thus they have until August 28, 1999 within which to file petition for review.
Petitioners filed their motion for extension on August 27, 1999 praying for 30 days
extension from August 28, 1999 or until September 27, 1999 to file their petition which
this Court granted. Petitioners filed their petition on September 27, 1999, which is within
the period given by the Court.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the petition for review is DENIED.
SO ORDERED.

MAURICIA ALEJANDRINO, petitioner, vs. THE HONORABLE COURT


OF APPEALS, HON. BENIGNO G. GAVIOLA, RTC-9, CEBU CITY,
and LICERIO P. NIQUE, respondents.

DECISION
ROMERO, J.:

Questioned in this petition for review on certiorari is the Decision[1] of the Court of Appeals
which ruled that the trial court, in an action for quieting of title, did not act in excess of
jurisdiction when it issued an order for the segregation of property, after the finality of its
decision.
The facts show that the late spouses Jacinto Alejandrino and Enrica Labunos left their six
children named Marcelino, Gregorio, Ciriaco, Mauricia, Laurencia and Abundio a 219-square-
meter lot in Mambaling, Cebu City identified as Lot No. 2798 and covered by Transfer
Certificate of Title No. 19658. Upon the demise of the Alejandrino spouses, the property should
have been divided among their children with each child having a share of 36.50 square meters.
However, the estate of the Alejandrino spouses was not settled in accordance with the procedure
outlined in the Rules of Court.
Petitioner Mauricia (one of the children) allegedly purchased 12.17 square meters of
Gregorios share, 36.50 square meters of Ciriacos share and 12.17 square meters of Abundios
share thereby giving her a total area of 97.43 square meters, including her own share of 36.50
square meters. It turned out, however, that a third party named Licerio Nique, the private
respondent in this case, also purchased portions of the property, to wit: 36.50 square meters from
Laurencia, 36.50 square meters from Gregorio through Laurencia, 12.17 square meters from
Abundio also through Laurencia and 36.50 square meters from Marcelino or a total area of
121.67 square meters of the Alejandrino property.[2]
However, Laurencia (the alleged seller of most of the 121.67 square meters of the property)
later questioned the sale in an action for quieting of title and damages against private respondent
Nique. It was docketed as Civil Case No. CEB-7038 in the Regional Trial Court of Cebu City,
Branch 9, presided by Judge Benigno G. Gaviola. In due course, the lower court rendered a
decision on November 27, 1990 disposing of the case as follows:
WHEREFORE, the Court hereby renders judgment in favor of defendant and
against plaintiff, dismissing the complaint filed by plaintiff against
defendant, and on the Counterclaim and prayer of defendant in its Answer,
the Court hereby declares defendant as the owner in fee simple of the share
of plaintiff Laurencia Alejandrino and the shares of Marcelino, Gregorio and
Abundio, all surnamed Alejandrino, of the parcel of land known as Lot No.
2798 and covered by Transfer Certificate of Title No. 19658 which 4 shares
totals an area of 146 square meters more or less; and the Court further Orders
plaintiff to:
1. Vacate the premises subject of the complaint and surrender the
property to defendant to the extent of the 4 shares
aforementioned;
2. Pay the defendant the amount of P15,000.00 as litigation and
necessary expenses; the sum of P10,000.00 as reimbursement for
attorneys fees; the sum of P10,000.00 as moral damages and
P10,000.00 as exemplary damages;
3. Plus costs.

SO ORDERED.[3]

Laurencia appealed the decision to the Court of Appeals under CA-G.R. CV No. 33433 but
later withdrew the same.[4] On April 13, 1992, the Court of Appeals considered the appeal
withdrawn in accordance with Rule 50 of the Rules of Court.[5]
Meanwhile, herein petitioner Mauricia Alejandrino filed on May 5, 1992 before the
Regional Trial Court of Cebu City, Branch VII, a complaint for redemption and recovery of
properties with damages against private respondent Nique that was docketed as Civil Case No.
CEB-11673. Adelino B. Sitoy, Laurencias counsel in Civil Case No. CEB-7038, filed Civil Case
No. CEB-11673 for petitioner Mauricia.
The amended complaint in the latter case dated May 17, 1992 alleged that private
respondent Nique never notified petitioner Mauricia of the purchase of 121.67 square meters of
the undivided Lot No. 2798 nor did he give petitioner Mauricia the preemptive right to buy the
area as a co-owner of the same lot. As such co-owner, petitioner Mauricia manifested her
willingness to deposit with the court the amount of P29,777.78, the acquisition cost of the
portion purchased by private respondent Nique. Petitioner Mauricia also alleged that she
demanded from private respondent the area of around 24.34 square meters that the latter had
unduly, baselessly and maliciously claimed as his own but which, as part of Lot No. 2798,
actually belongs to her. The amended complaint prayed that petitioner Mauricia be allowed to
redeem the area of 121.67 square meters under the redemption price of P29,777.78 and that
private respondent Nique be ordered to execute the necessary documents for the redemption and
the eventual transfer of certificate of title to her. The amended complaint further prayed for the
return to petitioner Mauricia of the 24.34-square-meter portion of the lot and for damages
amounting to P115,000 and attorneys fees of P30,000.
On August 2, 1993, the lower court granted the motion to admit the amended complaint and
forthwith ordered the defendant therein to file an amended answer.
In Civil Case No. CEB-7038 in the meantime, private respondent filed a motion for the
segregation of the 146-square-meter portion of the property that had been declared by the trial
court as his own by virtue of purchase. On May 6, 1993, the trial court issued an order the
pertinent portions of which read as follows:

ORDER

For resolution is a `Motion to Order Segregation of 146 Square Meters In Lot


No. 2798 dated January 15, 1993 filed by defendant and the `Opposition
thereto dated February 2, 1992 by plaintiff. Movant-defendant also filed a
rejoinder dated February 15, 1993 to the Opposition.
After going over the allegations in the motion, the opposition thereto and the
rejoinder as well as the records of the case, particularly the decision rendered
by this Court and the Order dated October 28, 1992, denying the motion for
reconsideration filed by plaintiffs and allowing the issuance of a writ of
execution, the Court is inclined to Grant the instant motion.
xxxxxxxxxxxx

In addition thereto, the Court makes the following observation:

1. Plaintiff (oppositor) has a total share of 146 square meters. This is admitted
by her in her complaint (par. 4 thereof). In the decision rendered by this
Court, this share now belongs to defendant movant by way of sale. The
decision of this Court has long become final.

2. The total area of the land is 219 sq. meters (par. 2 of complaint), thus, the
share of Mauricia Alejandrino is only 73 square meters.

3. As early as June 10, 1983, Mauricia Alejandrino and Laurencia Alejandrino


had entered into an 'Extrajudicial Settlement of Estate' whereby they
agreed to divide the land subject of this case with Laurencia Alejandrino
owning 146 square meters in the frontage and Mauricia Alejandrino
owning 75 square meters in the back portion (Exh. '16', Extrajudicial
Settlement of Estate, par. 1) (underscoring supplied), and that the parties
assure each other and their successor in interest that a right of way of
two meters is granted to each party by the other permanently (Exh. '16',
par. 2). This partition is signed by the parties and their
witnesses. Although not notarized, it is certainly valid as between the
parties, Maurecia (sic) Alejandrino, being an immediate party, may not
renege on this.

4. Since the share of defendant Licerio P. Nique is specifically known to be


146 square meters, and that its location shall be on the `frontage of the
property while the 73 square meters of Maurecia (sic) Alejandrino shall
be at the back portion, then, the Court cannot see its way clear, why the
146 sq. meters share of defendant may not be segregated.

5. The contention by oppositor that the `segregation of defendants share of


146 sq. meters from Lot No. 2798 was not decreed in the judgment is a
rather narrow way of looking at the judgment. Paragraph 1 of the
dispositive portion of the judgment by this Court, Orders plaintiff to
`vacate the premises subject of the complaint and surrender the property
to defendant to the extent of the 4 shares aforementioned. The 4 shares
of Laurencia Alejandrino of 146 sq. meters can be segregated because
Laurencia and Maurecia had already executed an extrajudicial partition
indicating where their respective shares shall be located (Exh. `16). To
deny the segregation is to make the decision of this Court just about
valueless is not altogether useless. The matter of allowing the
segregation should be read into the decision.

The bottomline is still that plaintiff Laurencia, despite the fact that the decision
of this Court had long become final; and despite the fact that she even
withdraw (sic) her appeal, she still is enjoying the fruits of the property to the
exclusion of the rightful owner.
WHEREFORE, the Court hereby Grants the motion. The defendant Licerio
Nique may proceed to segregate his 2146 (sic) sq. meters from Lot NO. 2798
covered by TCT No. 19658, by having the same surveyed by a competent
Geodetic Engineer, at the expense of movant-defendant.
SO ORDERED.[6]
Petitioner Mauricia questioned this order of the lower court in a petition for certiorari and
prohibition with prayer for the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction filed before the Court
of Appeals. In due course, the Court of Appeals dismissed the petition in a Decision promulgated
on August 25, 1993.
The Court of Appeals stated that, in issuing the questioned order of May 6, 1993, the
respondent court was merely performing its job of seeing to it that execution of a final judgment
must conform to that decreed in the dispositive part of the decision. It ratiocinated thus:
x x x. In ordering the segregation of the 146 square meters, respondent Judge
correctly referred to the text of the decision to ascertain which portion of the
land covered by TCT No. 19658 was actually sold by Laurencia Alejandrino
(sister of herein petitioner Mauricia) to private respondent Nique. The
respondent Judge did not err in relying upon Exhibit `16', the Deed of
Extrajudicial Settlement, dated June 10, 1983, mentioned in page 3 of the
Decision. Pertinent portion of Exhibit `16 reads:
`NOW, THEREFORE, the above-named parties-heirs hereby
stipulates (sic), declare and agree as follows:

`1. That the parties have agreed to divide the parcel of land with Laurencia
Alejandrino owning 146 square meters in the frontage and Mauricia Alejandrino 73
square meters in the back portions;

`2. That the parties mutually and reciprocally assure each other and their successor of
interest (sic) that a right of way of two meters is granted to each party to the other
permanently. (underscoring supplied, Annex `1, Comment, p. 65, Rollo)

duly signed by herein petitioner and witnessed by private respondent Nique. It


readily reveals that when Laurencia subsequently sold her shares to herein
private respondent, per the Deed of Absolute Sale dated October 29, 1986
(Exhs. `B and `10), the parties must have referred to the 146 square meters in
the frontage described in said document, Exhibit `16. Laurencia had no
authority to sell more, or, less, than that agreed upon in the extrajudicial
settlement between her and herein petitioner Mauricia. Insofar as the latter is
concerned, she is estopped from claiming that said extrajudicial settlement was
a fatally defective instrument because it was not notarized nor published. What
is important is that private respondent personally knew about Laurencia and
Mauricias agreement because he was a witness to said agreement and he relied
upon it when he purchased the 146 square meters from Laurencia.
It cannot be validly claimed by petitioner that she was deprived of her property
without due process of law considering that private respondent is merely
segregating the portion of the land actually sold to him by Laurencia
Alejandrino and it does not affect the 73 square meters that properly pertain to
petitioner.
Moreover, the Supreme Court has ruled that where there is ambiguity caused by an
omission or mistake in the dispositive portion of a decision the court may clarify such
ambiguity by an amendment even after the judgment had become final, and for this
purpose it may resort to the pleadings filed by the parties, the courts finding of facts and
conclusions of law as expressed in the body of the decision (Republic Surety and
Insurance Co., Inc., et al., versus Intermediate Appellate Court, et al., 152 SCRA 309).
The assailed order, in effect, clarifies the exact location of the 146 square meters
pursuant to Exhibit `16. Respondent court did not act in excess of its jurisdiction. Hence,
writs of certiorari and prohibition do not lie in this case.[7]
Petitioner Mauricia filed a motion for the reconsideration of the Court of Appeals decision.
However, on February 15, 1994, the Court of Appeals denied the same for lack of merit there
being no new ground or compelling reason that justifies a reconsideration of its Decision.[8]
In the instant petition for review on certiorari, petitioner assails the decision of the Court of
Appeals, contending that the lower court acted beyond its jurisdiction in ordering the segregation
of the property bought by private respondent as the same was not decreed in its judgment, which
had long become final and executory. Petitioner argues that partition of the property cannot be
effected because private respondent is also a defendant in Civil Case No. CEB-11673. She
asserts that Exhibit 16, the extrajudicial settlement of estate referred to in the questioned order of
the lower court, was not discussed in the decision of the lower court and even if it were, she
could not be bound thereby considering that she was not a party litigant in Civil Case No. CEB-
7038. She questions the validity of the deed of extrajudicial settlement because it was not
notarized or published.
In his comment on the petition, private respondent alleges that although petitioner was not a
party litigant in Civil Case No. CEB-7038, she is estopped from questioning the decision in that
case and filing the instant petition because she had knowledge of the existence of said case
where res judicata had set in. He adds that the instant petition was filed in violation of Circular
No. 28-91 on forum shopping in that the Petitioner in the instant petition whose counsel is also
the counsel of plaintiff-appellant Laurencia Alejandrino in CA-G.R. CV No. x x x, had filed a
civil action Civil Case No. CEB-11673 x x x for REDEMPTION & RECOVERY OF
PROPERTIES WITH DAMAGES, which is presently pending before Branch 7 of the Regional
Trial Court of Cebu City. He asserts that the lower court did not exceed its jurisdiction and/or
commit grave abuse of discretion in granting his motion for segregation of the 146 square meters
of the land involved that rightfully belonged to him in accordance with the decision of the lower
court. He charges counsel for petitioner with exhibiting unethical conduct and practice in
appearing as counsel for petitioner in Civil Case No. CEB-11673 after he had appeared for
complainant Laurencia in CA-G.R. CV No. 33433 or Civil Case No. CEB-7038.
Under the circumstances of this case, the ultimate issue that needs determination is whether
or not as an heir of the Alejandrino property, Laurencia may validly sell specific portions thereof
to a third party.
Article 1078 of the Civil Code provides that where there are two or more heirs, the whole
estate of the decedent is, before partition, owned in common by such heirs, subject to the
payment of the debts of the deceased. Under a co-ownership, the ownership of an undivided
thing or right belongs to different persons.[9] Each co-owner of property which is held pro
indiviso exercises his rights over the whole property and may use and enjoy the same with no
other limitation than that he shall not injure the interests of his co-owners. The underlying
rationale is that until a division is made, the respective share of each cannot be determined and
every co-owner exercises, together with his co-participants, joint ownership over the pro
indiviso property, in addition to his use and enjoyment of the same.[10]
Although the right of an heir over the property of the decedent is inchoate as long as the
estate has not been fully settled and partitioned,[11] the law allows a co-owner to exercise rights of
ownership over such inchoate right. Thus, the Civil Code provides:

ART. 493. 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.

With respect to properties shared in common by virtue of inheritance, alienation of a pro


indiviso portion thereof is specifically governed by Article 1088 that provides:
ART. 1088. Should any of the heirs sell his hereditary rights to a stranger
before the partition, any or all of the co-heirs may be subrogated to the rights
of the purchaser by reimbursing him for the price of the sale, provided they
do so within the period of one month from the time they were notified in
writing of the sale by the vendor.
In the instant case, Laurencia was within her hereditary rights in selling her pro
indiviso share in Lot No. 2798. However, because the property had not yet been partitioned in
accordance with the Rules of Court, no particular portion of the property could be identified as
yet and delineated as the object of the sale. Thus, interpreting Article 493 of the Civil Code
providing that an alienation of a co-owned property shall be limited to the portion which may be
allotted to (the seller) in the division upon the termination of the co-ownership, the Court said:
x x x (p)ursuant to this law, a co-owner has the right to alienate his pro-
indiviso share in the co-owned property even without the consent of the other
co-owners. Nevertheless, as a mere part owner, he cannot alienate the shares
of the other co-owners. The prohibition is premised on the elementary rule
that `no one can give what he does not have (Nemo dat quod non habet).
Thus, we held in Bailon-Casilao vs. Court of Appeals (G.R. No. 78178, April
15, 1988, 160 SCRA 738, 745), viz:

`x x x since a co-owner is entitled to sell his undivided share, a sale of the entire
property by one co-owner without the consent of the other co-owners is not null and
void. However, only the rights of the co-owner-seller are transferred, thereby making
the buyer a co-owner of the property.

`The proper action in cases like this is not for the nullification of the sale or for the recovery of
possession of the thing owned in common from the third person who substituted the co-owner or
co-owners who alienated their shares, but the DIVISION of the common property of the co-
owners who possessed and administered it.[12]

The legality of Laurencias alienation of portions of the estate of the Alejandrino spouses was
settled in Civil Case No. CEB-7038. The decision in that case had become final and executory
with Laurencias withdrawal of her appeal. When private respondent filed a motion for the
segregation of the portions of the property that were adjudged in his favor, private respondent
was in effect calling for the partition of the property. However, under the law, partition of the
estate of a decedent may only be effected by (1) the heirs themselves extrajudicially, (2) by the
court in an ordinary action for partition, or in the course of administration proceedings, (3) by the
testator himself, and (4) by the third person designated by the testator.[13]
The trial court may not, therefore, order partition of an estate in an action for quieting of
title. As there is no pending administration proceedings, the property of the Alejandrino spouses
can only be partitioned by the heirs themselves in an extrajudicial settlement of estate. However,
evidence on the extrajudicial settlement of estate was offered before the trial court and it became
the basis for the order for segregation of the property sold to private respondent. Petitioner
Mauricia does not deny the fact of the execution of the deed of extrajudicial settlement of the
estate. She only questions its validity on account of the absence of notarization of the document
and the non-publication thereof.
On extrajudicial settlement of estate, Section 1 of Rule 74 of the Rules of Court provides:
If the decedent left no will and no debts and the heirs are all of age, or the
minors are represented by their judicial or legal representatives duly
authorized for the purpose, the parties may, without securing letters of
administration, divide the estate among themselves as they see fit by means
of a public instrument filed in the office of the register of deeds, and should
they disagree, they may do so in an ordinary action for partition. 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.
Notarization of the deed of extrajudicial settlement has the effect of making it a public
document[14] that can bind third parties. However, this formal requirement appears to be
superseded by the substantive provision of the Civil Code that states:
ART. 1082. Every act which is 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.
By this provision, it appears that when a co-owner sells his inchoate right in the co-
ownership, he expresses his intention to put an end to indivision among (his) co-heirs. Partition
among co-owners may thus be evidenced by the overt act of a co-owner of renouncing his right
over the property regardless of the form it takes. In effect, Laurencia expressed her intention to
terminate the co-ownership by selling her share to private respondent.
Moreover, the execution of the deed of extrajudicial settlement of the estate reflected the
intention of both Laurencia and petitioner Mauricia to physically divide the property. Both of
them had acquired the shares of their brothers and therefore it was only the two of them that
needed to settle the estate. The fact that the document was not notarized is no hindrance to its
effectivity as regards the two of them. The partition of inherited property need not be embodied
in a public document. In this regard, Tolentino subscribes to that opinion when he states as
follows:
x x x. We believe, however, that the public instrument is not essential to the
validity of the partition. This is not one of those contracts in which form is of
the essence. The public instrument is necessary only for the registration of the
contract, but not for its validity. The validity of an oral contract among the
heirs, terminating the co-ownership, has been recognized by the Supreme
Court in a decision x x x (where) that tribunal said: `An agreement among the
heirs that a certain lot should be sold and its proceeds paid to one of them is a
valid oral contract, and the same has the force of law between the parties from
and after the original assent thereto, and no one of them may withdraw or
oppose its execution without the consent of all.

In a still later case, the Supreme Court held that `partition among heirs or renunciation of an
inheritance by some of them is not exactly a conveyance for the reason that it does not involve
transfer of property from one to the other, but rather a confirmation or ratification of title or right
to property by the heir renouncing in favor of another heir accepting and receiving the
inheritance. Hence, the court concluded, `it is competent for the heirs of an estate to enter into an
oral agreement for distribution of the estate among themselves.[15]

The deed of extrajudicial settlement executed by Mauricia and Laurencia evidence their
intention to partition the property. It delineates what portion of the property belongs to each
other. That it was not notarized is immaterial in view of Mauricias admission that she did
execute the deed of extrajudicial settlement. Neither is the fact that the trial court only mentioned
the existence of such document in its decision in Civil Case No. CEB-7028. That document was
formally offered in evidence and the court is deemed to have duly considered[16] it in deciding the
case. The court has in its favor the presumption of regularity of the performance of its task that
has not been rebutted by petitioner Mauricia. Neither may the fact that the other heirs of the
Alejandrino spouses, named Marcelino, Gregorio, Ciriaco and Abundio did not participate in the
extrajudicial settlement of estate affect its validity. In her amended complaint in Civil Case No.
CEB-11673, petitioner Mauricia herself admitted having acquired by purchase the rights over the
shares of her brothers.
On the part of Laurencia, the court found that she had transmitted her rights over portions
she had acquired from her brothers to private respondent Nique. The sale was made after the
execution of the deed of extrajudicial settlement of the estate that private respondent himself
witnessed. The extrajudicial settlement of estate having constituted a partition of the property,
Laurencia validly transferred ownership over the specific front portion of the property with an
area of 146 square meters.
The trial court, therefore, did not abuse its discretion in issuing the order for the segregation
of the property. In so doing, it was merely reiterating the partition of the property by petitioner
Mauricia and her sister Laurencia that was embodied in the deed of extrajudicial settlement of
estate. The order may likewise be deemed as a clarification of its decision that had become final
and executory. Such clarification was needed lest proper execution of the decision be rendered
futile.
The Court finds no merit in the issue of forum shopping raised by private respondent. Forum
shopping exists where the elements of litis pendentia are present or where a final judgment in
one case will amount to res judicata in the other.[17] Because the judgment in Civil Case No.
CEB-7028 is already final and executory, the existence of res judicata is determinative of
whether or not petitioner is guilty of forum shopping. For the principle of res judicata to apply,
the following must be present: (1) a decision on the merits; (2) by a court of competent
jurisdiction; (3) the decision is final; and (4) the two actions involve identical parties, subject
matter and causes of action.[18] The fourth element is not present in this case. The parties are not
identical because petitioner was not impleaded in Civil Case No. CEB-7028. While the subject
matter may be the same property of the Alejandrino spouses, the causes of action are different.
Civil Case No. CEB-7028 is an action for quieting of title and damages while Civil Case No.
CEB-11673 is for redemption and recovery of properties.
It appears moreover, that private respondents argument on forum shopping is anchored on
the fact that counsel for both plaintiffs in those two cases is one and the same, thereby implying
that the same counsel merely wanted to prevail in the second case after having failed to do so in
the first. The records show, however, that Laurencia executed an affidavit[19] consenting to the
appearance of her counsel in any case that petitioner Mauricia might file against private
respondent. She affirmed in that affidavit that she could be included even as a defendant in any
case that petitioner Mauricia would file because she fully agree(d) with whatever cause of action
Mauricia would have against private respondent. Such a statement can hardly constitute a proper
basis for a finding of forum shopping, much less evidence of misconduct on the part of counsel.
As noted earlier, the two cases have different causes of action and the two plaintiffs who would
have conflicting claims under the facts of the case actually presented a united stand against
private respondent. If there is any charge that could be leveled against counsel, it is his lack of
thoroughness in pursuing the action for quieting of title. As counsel for plaintiff therein, he could
have impleaded petitioner Mauricia knowing fully well her interest in the property involved in
order to avoid multiplicity of suits. However, such an omission is not a sufficient ground for
administrative sanction.
WHEREFORE, the instant petition for review on certiorari is hereby DENIED for lack of
merit. Costs against petitioner.
SO ORDERED.
[G.R. No. 120575. December 16, 1998]

DR. OLIVIA S. PASCUAL, in her capacity as special administratrix


of the estate of the late DON ANDRES PASCUAL and as executrix of
the testate estate of the late DOA ADELA S.
PASCUAL, petitioner, vs. COURT OF APPEALS; JUDGE
MANUEL S. PADOLINA, Regional Trial Court of Pasig, Branch 162;
DEPUTY SHERIFF CARLOS G. MAOG; and ATTY.JESUS I.
SANTOS, respondents.

DECISION
PANGANIBAN, J.:

The extraordinary action to annul a final judgment is restricted to the grounds provided by
law, in order to prevent it from being used by a losing party to make a complete farce of a duly
promulgated decision that has long become final and executory.

The Case

Before us is a Petition for Review on Certiorari challenging the June 7, 1995 Decision of
the Court of Appeals[1] in CA-GR SP No. 34487, denying the Petition for Annulment of
Judgment. The dispositive portion of the assailed Decision reads:[2]

WHEREFORE, and upon all the foregoing considerations, the petition is hereby
DISMISSED, with costs against the petitioner.

The Facts

Don Andres Pascual died intestate on October 12, 1973 and was survived by (1) his widow,
Doa Adela Soldevilla Pascual; (2) the children of his full blood brother, Wenceslao Pascual Sr. --
Esperanza C. Pascual-Bautista, Manuel C. Pascual, Jose C. Pascual, Susana C. Pascual-Guerrero,
Erlinda C. Pascual and Wenceslao C. Pascual Jr.; (3) the children of his half blood brother Pedro
Pascual -- Avelino Pascual, Isosceles Pascual, Leida Pascual-Martinez, Virginia Pascual-Ner,
Nona Pascual-Fernando, Octavio Pascual and Geranaia Pascual-Dubert; (4) the intestate estate of
his full blood brother Eleuterio T. Pascual represented by Mamerta P. Fugoso, Abraham S.
Sarmiento III, Dominga M. Pascual, Regina Sarmiento-Macaibay, Dominga P. San Diego, Nelia
P. Marquez, Silvestre M. Pascual and Eleuterio M. Pascual; and (5) the acknowledged natural
children of his full blood brother Eligio Pascual -- Hermes S. Pascual and Olivia S. Pascual
(herein petitioner).
On December 11, 1973, Doa Adela (the surviving spouse) filed with the then Court of First
Instance (CFI) of Pasig, Rizal, a petition for letters of administration over the estate of her
husband.[3] After due notice and hearing, the CFI appointed her special administratrix.[4] To assist
her with said proceedings, Doa Adela hired, on February 24, 1974, Atty. Jesus I. Santos, herein
private respondent, as her counsel for a fee equivalent to fifteen (15) percent of the gross estate
of the decedent.
When Batas Pambansa Blg. 129 took effect, the petition was
reassigned to the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Pasig, Branch 162, presided by Judge Manuel
Padolina. On November 4, 1985, the heirs of the decedent moved for the approval of their
Compromise Agreement, stipulating that three fourths (3/4) of the estate would go to Doa Adela
and one fourth (1/4) to the other heirs. The intestate court approved said Agreement on
December 10, 1985.
On August 18, 1987, while the settlement was still pending, Doa Adela died, leaving a will
which named the petitioner as the sole universal heir. The latter filed at the Regional Trial Court
of Malabon, Branch 72, a petition for the probate of said will.
On September 30, 1987, the RTC of Pasig denied the motion to reiterate hereditary rights,
which was filed by petitioner and her brother. The Court reasoned that, as illegitimate children of
the brother of the decedent, they were barred from acquiring any hereditary right to her intestate
estate under Article 992 of the Civil Code.[5] On December 17, 1987, it ordered that the private
respondents lien on the hereditary share of Doa Adela be entered into the records.
Six years after Doa Adelas death, on January 19, 1994, to be exact, Judge Padolina rendered
a Decision which disposed as follows:[6]

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, let the manner of partition of the estate of
Don Andres Pascual be as follows:

One fourth (1/4) of the properties, personal and real, to the heirs of Don Andres
Pascual in accordance with the provisions of the Compromise Agreement of October
16, 1985;

Three-fourths (3/4) of the properties personal and real, to the estate of Doa Adela
Soldevilla Pascual, in accordance with the Compromise Agreement of October 16,
1985.

To this end, let the Register of Deeds of the provinces or cities where all real
properties of the estate [lie], cancel the certificates of title in the name of Don Andres
Pascual (married to Doa Adela S. Pascual), and issue new Certificates of Title in the
manner of partition above-mentioned indicating therein the portions they are entitled
to.
With respect to the shares of stock in Liberty Insurance Corporation and San
Francisco Del Monte Bank, and the proceeds of the sale of the real properties of the
estate and all monies and other personal properties of the estate, the same being
capable of physical distribution, [l]et [them] be distributed in accordance with the
portions so delineated.

This Court awards the attorneys fees of Atty. Jesus Santos equivalent to 15% of the
share of the estate of Doa Adela S. Pascual.

Finally, it is hereby decreed that any and all properties of the estate of Don Andres
Pascual, whether real or personal, which may have not been included in the inventory
of properties afore-listed in this decision, for any reason whatsoever, and which may
later on be uncovered or found in the future, shall likewise be apportioned and
distributed, as follows:

1. One-fourth (1/4) of the properties, personal and real, to the heirs of Don
Andres Pascual in accordance with the provisions of the Compromise
Agreement of October 16, 1985; and

2. Three-fourths (3/4) of the properties, personal and real, to the estate of Doa
Adela Soldevilla Pascual, in accordance with the Compromise Agreement
of October 16, 1985.

All the parties are reminded to strictly comply with the above conditions.

After said Decision had become final and executory, the private respondent filed on March
25, 1994 a Motion for the Issuance of a Writ of Execution insofar as the payment of his attorneys
fees was concerned. Despite opposition from the petitioner, the motion was granted in the April
19, 1994 Order of the intestate court, directing the issuance of a writ of execution in the partial
amount of P2,000,000.00 in favor of movant[,] Atty. Jose I. Santos to be implemented against
the share of Doa Adela S. Pascual, upon payment by the movant of the prescribed docket fees for
the said partial amount.[7]
The following day, April 20, 1994, Branch Clerk of Court Arturo V. Camacho issued a Writ
of Execution;[8] and Sheriff Carlos G. Maog, a Notice of Garnishment to the San Francisco Del
Monte Rural Bank (SFDM Avenue, Quezon City), garnishing deposits and shares of stocks
belonging to the estate of Doa Adela sufficient to cover the amount of P2 million.[9]
Two days later, petitioner moved for the reconsideration and the quashal of the Writ of
Execution,[10] which the RTC of Pasig denied in its Order of June 29, 1994.[11] Private respondent
countered with two motions to order petitioner to comply with the writ of garnishment and to
compel her to appear and explain her failure to comply with the writ.
Feeling aggrieved, petitioner filed with the Court of Appeals (CA) a petition for annulment
of the award of attorneys fees in the January 19, 1994 Decision of the trial court; the Order of
April 19, 1994, granting a Writ of Execution; the Writ of Execution dated April 20, 1994; and
the Order of June 29, 1994, denying petitioners motion for reconsideration.
As stated earlier, the appellate court dismissed the petition, ruling that the intestate court had
jurisdiction to make the questioned award and that petitioner had been accorded due process. It
noted that the private respondent had filed his claim as early as the first quarter of 1974; and that,
in its order of December 17, 1987, the trial court had entered the attorneys lien into the
records. It upheld the jurisdiction of the intestate court on the ground that, although not incurred
by the deceased during his lifetime, the monetary claim was related to the ordinary acts of
administration of the estate. The CA similarly declared that the petitioner had been accorded due
process. It noted that, despite knowledge of the claim, she did not oppose or hint at any
resistance to the payment of said claim. She also chose not to move for reconsideration or to file
an appeal after the award had been made. Indubitably, the award became final and executory.
Hence, this petition.[12] On October 21, 1997, after the case was submitted for resolution by
the original parties, Crisanto S. Cornejo and the other heirs of Doa Adela filed an Omnibus
Motion, which in sum, alleged that Judge Padolina conspired with petitioner and private
respondent to place the entire Pascual estate under their control. Allegedly, Judge Padolina, in
his Order of October 7, 1988, negated Cornejo and Jose Pascuals letter of administration by
directing them to refrain [from] initiating any move to dispossess or eject Olivia S. Pascual from
her residence; to refrain from advertising any property of the estate for sale without prior motion
duly filed therefor with due notice to all parties and prior approval of the Court; not to interfere
in the management of the bank and to deposit immediately in a reputable bank in the name of the
estate rentals due the estate until after the said motion shall have been resolved by the
Court. They claim that, without any hearing or notice to them, the judge approved and awarded
the attorneys fees of private respondent, who was purportedly his classmate
and compadre. Finally, petitioner replaced Cornejo as judicial administrator on March 6, 1989
five months after the latter had served as such.
Furthermore, they allege that, in the settlement of Doa Adelas estate, private respondent
filed a similar collection case before the Regional Trial Court of Malabon, Branch 73 which was,
however, dismissed for violating the rules against forum shopping. Private respondent allegedly
filed another collection case before the Regional Trial Court of Makati, Branch 66, wherein
petitioner, in her Answer, alleged that she had paid him approximately P8 million from the time
his services were engaged, aside from some unreported commissions from tenants, squatters and
other businesses included in the Pascual estate.
Consequently, petitioners-in-intervention pray for (1) the inhibition and/or disqualification
of Judge Padolina from hearing Sp. Proc. No. 7554 or, alternatively, another raffle of the case to
any other RTC branch in Pasig or Manila; (2) the consolidation of Sp. Proc. No. 7554 (Intestate
Estate of Andres Pascual) with Sp. Proc No. 136-MN (Testate Estate of Adela Pascual) or both
with Sp. Proc. No. 88948, filed before the RTC of Manila, Branch 40, presided by Judge Felipe
R. Pacquing (Intestate Estate of Toribia Tolentino Soldevilla, mother of Doa Adela Pascual); (3)
the investigation of the authenticity, preparation and legal compliance of Doa Adela Pascuals
Last Will and Testament dated December 27, 1978, more specifically, the private respondents
participation in designating petitioner as Doa Adelas sole universal heir; (4) the setting aside of
the Decisions rendered by respondent judge in Sp. Proc. No. 7554 dated January 19, 1994, and
by Judge Benjamin del Mundo-Aquino in Sp. Proc. No. 136-MN; and (5) the reopening of both
cases and their remand to the court a quo.
In their separate Comments, both petitioner and private respondent oppose the grant of this
Omnibus Motion for being untimely and improper.

The Issues

In her Memorandum,[13] petitioner alleges that the reversal of the assailed Decision is called
for, in view of the following compelling reasons:[14]

a. The portion of the decision dated January 19, 1994 awarding attorneys fees is void
from the beginning because it was made after xxx [the] trial court had lost its
jurisdiction over the attorneys client by reason of her death[;]

b. The questioned portion of the decision of xxx [the] trial court is void because it
deprived the heirs of Doa Adela due process of law[;]

c. The questioned portion of the decision of respondent trial court is void from the
beginning because the body of the decision does not state the facts and the law upon
which the award is based[;]

d. Petitioner has not lost her right to question the conclusion of respondent trial court
on the amount of attorneys fees[;] and

e. The writ of execution was wrongfully issued."

The Court believes that the resolution of this case hinges on the following issues: (1) Did the
trial court have jurisdiction to make the questioned award of attorneys fees? (2) Were the heirs of
Doa Adela, who were represented by petitioner, deprived of due process? (3) Were there factual
and legal bases for the award of attorneys fees? Additionally, the Court will dispose of Crisanto
S. Cornejos Omnibus Motion.

The Courts Ruling

The Petition is devoid of merit. Likewise, the Omnibus Motion is unmeritorious.


The failure to perfect an appeal in the manner and within the period fixed by law renders the
decision final and executory. Consequently, no court can exercise appellate jurisdiction to review
such decision.[15] Upon the other hand, the extraordinary action to annul a final judgment is
limited to the grounds provided by law and cannot be used as a stratagem to reopen the entire
controversy and thereby make a complete farce of a duly promulgated decision that has long
become final and executory.[16] Accordingly, this review shall consider only matters pertaining to
the jurisprudential grounds for the annulment of a final judgment:[17]

xxx Annulment of judgment may xxx be based on the ground that [either] a judgment is
void for want of jurisdiction or the judgment was obtained by extrinsic fraud. xxxx.[18]

Petitioner does not allege extrinsic fraud, but bases her petition only on alleged lack of
jurisdiction and due process.

First Issue:
Jurisdiction over the Person of the Defendant

Petitioner insistently argues that the January 19, 1994 RTC Decision, insofar as it awarded
attorneys fees, was void from the beginning because the intestate court had lost jurisdiction over
the person of Doa Adela (the attorneys client) due to her death.
The argument is untenable. The basic flaw in the argument is the misapplication of the rules
on the extinction of a civil action[19] in special proceedings. The death of Doa Adela did not ipso
facto extinguish the monetary claim of private respondent or require him to refile his claim with
the court hearing the settlement of her testate estate. Had he filed the claim against Doa Adela
personally, the rule would have applied. However, he did so against the estate of Don Andres.
Thus, where an appointed administrator dies, the applicable rule is Section 2, Rule 82 of the
Rules of Court, which requires the appointment of a new administrator, viz.:

Sec. 2. Court may remove or accept resignation of executor or


administrator. Proceedings upon death, resignation, or removal.x x x When an
executor or administrator dies, resigns, or is removed, the remaining executor or
administrator may administer the trust alone, unless the court grants letter to someone
to act with him. If there is no remaining executor or administrator, administration may
be granted to any suitable person.

The rule does not have the effect of divesting the intestate court of jurisdiction. Its
jurisdiction subsists because the proper party in this case is the estate of Don Andres, which is
distinct and separate from that of Doa Adela who merely served as the formers
administratrix. Doa Adela was merely a representative party,[20]and the claim was an item of the
administrative expense of Don Andres estate. It is well-settled that a monetary claim against the
person administering an estate, in relation to his or her acts of administration, in its ordinary
course, can be filed at the court where a special proceeding for the settlement of the estate is
pending.[21]
Hence, in spite of the death of the appointed administratrix, it was the duty of the intestate
court to determine whether the private respondents claim was allowable as administrative
expense if it was obtained in reference to the management of the estate; the performance of legal
services which the administratrix herself could not perform; the prosecution or defense of actions
or suits on behalf of or against the estate; or the discovery, recovery or preservation of properties
of the estate.[22] In other words, the intestate court has a mandate to resolve whether the said
claim is a necessary expense in the care, management and settlement of the estate.[23] For the
same reason, the fact that the private respondents lien was recorded four months after the
administratrix had died is of no moment.

Payment of Separate Docket Fees Is Not Necessary

While not exactly a ground for annulment, the Court has held that it is the payment of the
prescribed docket fee that vests a trial court with jurisdiction over the subject matter or nature of
the action.[24] Petitioner avers that the intestate court had no jurisdiction to award the disputed
attorneys fees before private respondent paid docket fees, as required in Lacson v. Reyes.[25]
The argument is untenable. The Court required in Lacson the payment of a separate docket
fee, since the lawyers motion for attorneys fees was in the nature of an action commenced by a
lawyer against his client. In contrast, the private respondent filed a claim for his attorneys fees
against the estate of Don Andres. The difference in the modes of action taken
renders Lacson inapplicable to the case at bar.
In addition, where the judgment awards a claim not specified in the pleadings, or if
specified, its amount was left for the courts determination, the additional filing fees shall
constitute a lien on the judgment.[26] In its Order dated April 19, 1994, the intestate court required
the payment of the docket fee for the claim. In fact, the private respondent paid the prescribed
docket and additional filing fees.

Second Issue:
Heirs of Doa Adela Were Not Deprived of Due Process

Asserting that she and the other heirs of the deceased administratrix were denied due process
of law, petitioner disputes the following finding of the CA:[27]

We can neither view with favor the petitioners contention that the award was made
without giving the heirs of Doa Adela due process of law. It must be remembered that
long before the xxx Judges questioned Decision was rendered, the petitioner was
named special administratrix of the share of Doa Adela in the estate of Don Andres
xxx. As such special administratrix, the petitioner should have been aware of all her
duties and responsibilities, one of which was to protect the estate from any
disbursements based on claims not chargeable to the estate. She should have known
that notice to her of the attorneys lien would have amounted to notice to the heirs of
Doa Adela as well.
According to her, want of due process prevented the heirs from contesting the claim and
submitting evidence to show that partial payments had been previously given to private
respondent.
The Court is not convinced. If admitted by the administrator or executor, a claim according
to Rule 86 of Section 11[28] may be allowed by the court without any hearing. Respondent court
found that the claim was indeed admitted and uncontested, as shown below:

xxx From the date of her appointment as special administratrix of the estate of Doa
Adela on September 28, 1989 up to and beyond the time the challenged Decision
became final and executory, there was nary a pip from the petitioner as such
administratrix in opposition to the satisfaction of the subject attorneys lien. To repeat
what the respondent Judge said in his aforementioned Order, there has been no
opposition nor any hint of discord or resistance from the special administratrix or any
other party as to this fact.

As if this were not enough, in a tacit acknowledgment of the validity of the subject
contract of attorneys fees and acceptance of the enforcement thereof, the petitioner
had been giving partial payments to the private respondent on the said contract.

Then, after becoming aware of the rendition of the respondent Judges Decision wherein the
questioned award of attorneys fees was decreed, which was as good a time as any to assail its
propriety, the petitioners maintained her silence and chose not to file any motion for the
reconsideration of the Decision or appeal therefrom.Due to the petitioners own fault and
negligence, the Decision became final and executory. The petitioner must therefore bear the
consequences of the maxim [E]quity aids the vigilant, not those who slumber on their right.[29]

Besides, the petitioner had ample time to contest the claim. From her appointment as special
administratrix until January 19, 1994 when the RTC Decision was rendered, she had all the time
to oppose the claim. This was the proper time to raise any objection. When she received said
Decision on February 8, 1994, again she had the chance to question the claim in a motion for
reconsideration or an appeal, and yet she opted not to take advantage of these remedies.
Such facts conclusively prove that petitioner was not deprived of due process, the essence of
which is the right to be heard.[30] Where a person is not heard because he or she has chosen not to
give his or her side of the case, such right is not violated.[31] If one who has a right to speak
chooses to be silent, one cannot later complain of being unduly silenced.

Third Issue:
Factual and Legal Bases of the Award of Attorneys Fees

Petitioner alleges that the award of attorneys fees contained in the fallo is void ab initio, as
the intestate court failed to state the factual or legal bases therefor in the body of the Decision, in
violation of Article VIII, Section 14 of the Constitution.[32]
The Court disagrees. The legal and factual bases of the award were stated in the body of the
January 19, 1994 RTC Decision. In recounting the significant events leading to [the] eventual
culmination[33] of the case, the trial court revealed the importance of the services of private
respondent, who represented the estate,argued for the intestate courts approval of the
Compromise Agreement, and rendered legal advice on the final distribution of the properties of
the estate.
One must also consider that, unlike in the cases cited by petitioner,[34] the award of attorneys
fees herein is not in the concept of damages based on Article 2208 of the Civil Code which, as an
exception to the general rule not to impose a penalty on the right to litigate, is but a
compensation for services rendered. Thus, the legal proceedings that took place and the
agreement between attorney and client were more than sufficient proof of the legality of the
award. These factual and legal bases, unlike in cases where attorneys fees are granted in the
concept of damages, are not unknown to the parties in the case at bar.

Reasonable Attorneys Fees

Petitioner avers that she has not lost her right to question the amount of attorneys fees
awarded to the private respondent, insisting that it was unreasonable, as it countenance[d]
exploitation for speculative profit on account of the estates enormous value.
The Court disagrees. Although attorneys fees are always subject to judicial
control,[35] delving into its reasonableness involves going into its merits, an action that is
procedurally impermissible at this late time and in these proceedings. Be it remembered that
petitioner filed not an appeal, but a Petition to Annul a Final Judgment. In any event, the Court
finds no evidence to show that the stipulated amount of attorneys fees was illegal; immoral; or in
contravention of law, good morals, good customs, public order or public policy. It is therefore
enforceable as the law between the parties.[36]
The reasonableness of the stipulated attorneys fees finds support in Law Firm of Raymundo
A. Armovit v. Court of Appeals,[37] which upheld the payment of twenty percent of all recoveries
as attorneys fees in a foreclosure case, in which counsel succeeded in preventing the foreclosure
of his clients property and in obtaining for the latter P2.7 million in unpaid rentals. In the present
case, petitioners averment that the fees in question are not proportionate to the services rendered
by private respondent fails to consider the numerous properties involved and the private
respondents labor for thirteen years, during which time he became responsible for the estate of
Don Andres. In fact, the established standards in fixing attorneys fees calls for the upholding of
the award.[38]

Additional Issue:
Intervention Not Allowed

Clearly understood, the Omnibus Motion is really a disguised motion for intervention.
Rule 19 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure,[39] which was already in effect when the
Omnibus Motion was filed on October 21, 1997, provides the guidelines for intervention:

SECTION 1. Who may intervene.A person who has a legal interest in the matter in
litigation, or in the success of either of the parties, or an interest against both, or is so
situated as to be adversely affected by a distribution or other disposition of property in
the custody of the court or of an officer thereof may, with leave of court, be allowed
to intervene in the action. The court shall consider whether or not the intervention will
unduly delay or prejudice the adjudication of the rights of the original parties, and
whether or not the intervenors rights may be fully protected in a separate proceeding.
(2[a], [b]a, R12)

Cornejo and his co-movants claim that their inheritance is being dissipated; thus, they seek
permission to intervene in this case. Obviously, however, they filed the motion beyond the
prescribed period. Section 2 of the aforecited Rule allows intervention at any time before
rendition of judgment by the trial court. This motion was filed only after the parties had
submitted their memoranda and many years after both the RTC and the CA had rendered their
decisions.
Further, the motion lacks substance. Any misconduct or violation of judicial responsibility
allegedly committed by Judge Padolina is not a proper subject of intervention. The reason is
simple: he is merely a nominal party in an action for annulment of a final judgment. That private
respondent filed Civil Case No. 95-102-MN to collect his attorneys fees does not affect the
validity or finality of the January 19, 1994 Decision or the award of attorneys fees in the
settlement of the estate of the husband of Doa Adela. In fact, it was dismissed for violation of the
rule against forum shopping. As the reopening of the probate of the latters will was not relevant
to the annulment of said award, the consolidation of the cases mentioned was similarly
improper. Inexistent is the connection between the settlement of both decedents estate and that of
Toribia Tolentino Soldevillas. It is very clear that the motion for intervention has absolutely no
merit.
WHEREFORE, the Petition and the Omnibus Motion are hereby DENIED, and the assailed
Decision is AFFIRMED. Costs against petitioner.
SO ORDERED.
Davide, Jr., C. J., Melo, Vitug, and Quisumbing JJ., concur.

G.R. No. L-41171 July 23, 1987

INTESTATE ESTATE OF THE LATE VITO BORROMEO, PATROCINIO BORROMEO-


HERRERA, petitioner,
vs.
FORTUNATO BORROMEO and HON. FRANCISCO P. BURGOS, Judge of the Court of First
Instance of Cebu, Branch II, respondents.
x - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -x

No. L-55000 July 23, 1987

IN THE MATTER OF THE ESTATE OF VITO BORROMEO, DECEASED, PILAR N. BORROMEO,


MARIA B. PUTONG, FEDERICO V. BORROMEO, JOSE BORROMEO, CONSUELO B.
MORALES, AND CANUTO V. BORROMEO, JR., heirs-appellants,
vs.
FORTUNATO BORROMEO, claimant-appellee.

x - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -x

No. L-62895 July 23, 1987

JOSE CUENCO BORROMEO, petitioner,


vs.
HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS, HON. FRANCISCO P. BURGOS, As presiding Judge of
the (now) Regional Trial Court, Branch XV, Region VII, RICARDO V. REYES, as Administrator
of the Estate of Vito Borromeo in Sp. Proc. No. 916-R, NUMERIANO G. ESTENZO and
DOMINGO L. ANTIGUA, respondents.

x - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -x

No. L-63818 July 23, 1987

DOMINGO ANTIGUA AND RICARDO V. REYES, as Administrator of the Intestate Estate of


VITO BORROMEO, Sp. Proceedings No. 916-R, Regional Trial Court of Cebu, joined by HON.
JUDGE FRANCISCO P. BURGOS, as Presiding Judge of Branch XV of the Regional Trial
Court of Cebu, as a formal party, and ATTYS. FRANCIS M. ZOSA, GAUDIOSO RUIZ and
NUMERIANO ESTENZO, petitioners,
vs.
HONORABLE INTERMEDIATE APPELLATE COURT, JOSE CUENCO BORROMEO, and PETRA
O. BORROMEO, respondents.

x - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -x

No. L-65995 July 23, 1987

PETRA BORROMEO, VITALIANA BORROMEO, AMELINDA BORROMEO, and JOSE CUENCO


BORROMEO,petitioners,
vs.
HONORABLE FRANCISCO P. BURGOS, Presiding Judge of Branch XV, Regional Trial Court
of Cebu; RICARDO V. REYES, Administrator of the Estate of VITO BORROMEO in Sp. Proc.
No. 916-R; and DOMINGO L. ANTIGUA, respondents.

GUTIERREZ, JR., J.:

These cases before us all stem from SP. PROC. NO. 916-R of the then Court of First Instance of
Cebu.

G.R. No. 41171


Vito Borromeo, a widower and permanent resident of Cebu City, died on March 13, 1952, in
Paranaque, Rizal at the age of 88 years, without forced heirs but leaving extensive properties in the
province of Cebu.

On April 19, 1952, Jose Junquera filed with the Court of First Instance of Cebu a petition for the
probate of a one page document as the last will and testament left by the said deceased, devising all
his properties to Tomas, Fortunato and Amelia, all surnamed Borromeo, in equal and undivided
shares, and designating Junquera as executor thereof. The case was docketed as Special
Proceedings No. 916-R. The document, drafted in Spanish, was allegedly signed and thumbmarked
by the deceased in the presence of Cornelio Gandionco, Eusebio Cabiluna, and Felixberto Leonardo
who acted as witnesses.

Oppositions to the probate of the will were filed. On May 28, 1960, after due trial, the probate court
held that the document presented as the will of the deceased was a forger9y.

On appeal to this Court, the decision of the probate court disallowing the probate of the will was
affirmed in Testate Estate of Vito Borromeo, Jose H. Junquera et al. v. Crispin Borromeo et al. (19
SCRA 656).

The testate proceedings was converted into an intestate proceedings. Several parties came before
the court filing claims or petitions alleging themselves as heirs of the intestate estate of Vito
Borromeo.

The following petitions or claims were filed:

1. On August 29, 1967, the heirs of Jose Ma. Borromeo and Cosme Borromeo filed a petition
for declaration of heirs and determination of heirship. There was no opposition filed against
said petition.

2. On November 26, 1967, Vitaliana Borromeo also filed a petition for declaration as heir.
The heirs of Jose Ma. Borromeo and Cosme Borromeo filed an opposition to this petition.

3. On December 13, 1967, Jose Barcenilla, Jr., Anecita Ocampo de Castro, Ramon
Ocampo, Lourdes Ocampo, Elena Ocampo, Isagani Morre, Rosario Morre, Aurora Morre,
Lila Morre, Lamberto Morre, and Patricia Morre, filed a petition for declaration of heirs and
determination of shares. The petition was opposed by the heirs of Jose and Cosme
Borromeo.

4. On December 2, 1968, Maria Borromeo Atega, Luz Borromeo, Hermenegilda Borromeo


Nonnenkamp, Rosario Borromeo, and Fe Borromeo Queroz filed a claim. Jose Cuenco
Borromeo, Crispin Borromeo, Vitaliana Borromeo and the heirs of Carlos Borromeo
represented by Jose Talam filed oppositions to this claim.

When the aforementioned petitions and claims were heard jointly, the following facts were
established:

1. Maximo Borromeo and Hermenegilda Galan, husband and wife (the latter having predeceased the
former), were survived by their eight (8) children, namely,

Jose Ma. Borromeo


Cosme Borromeo

Pantaleon Borromeo

Vito Borromeo

Paulo Borromeo

Anecita Borromeo

Quirino Borromeo and

Julian Borromeo

2. Vito Borromeo died a widower on March 13, 1952, without any issue, and all his brothers and
sisters predeceased him.

3. Vito's brother Pantaleon Borromeo died leaving the following children:

a. Ismaela Borromeo,who died on Oct. 16, 1939

b. Teofilo Borromeo, who died on Aug. 1, 1955, or 3 years after the death of Vito Borromeo.
He was married to Remedios Cuenco Borromeo, who died on March 28, 1968. He had an
only son-Atty. Jose Cuenco Borromeo one of the petitioners herein.

c. Crispin Borromeo, who is still alive.

4. Anecita Borromeo, sister of Vito Borromeo, died ahead of him and left an only daughter, Aurora B.
Ocampo, who died on Jan. 30, 1950 leaving the following children:

a. Anecita Ocampo Castro

b. Ramon Ocampo

c. Lourdes Ocampo

d. Elena Ocampo, all living, and

e. Antonieta Ocampo Barcenilla (deceased), survived by claimant Jose Barcenilla, Jr.

5. Cosme Borromeo, another brother of Vito Borromeo, died before the war and left the following
children:

a. Marcial Borromeo

b. Carlos Borromeo,who died on Jan. 18, 1965,survived by his wife, Remedios Alfonso, and
his only daughter, Amelinda Borromeo Talam

c. Asuncion Borromeo
d. Florentina Borromeo, who died in 1948.

e. Amilio Borromeo, who died in 1944.

f. Carmen Borromeo, who died in 1925.

The last three died leaving no issue.

6. Jose Ma. Borromeo, another brother of Vito Borromeo, died before the war and left the following
children:

a. Exequiel Borromeo,who died on December 29, 1949

b. Canuto Borromeo, who died on Dec. 31, 1959, leaving the following children:

aa. Federico Borromeo

bb. Marisol Borromeo (Maria B. Putong, Rec. p. 85)

cc. Canuto Borromeo, Jr.

dd. Jose Borromeo

ee. Consuelo Borromeo

ff. Pilar Borromeo

gg. Salud Borromeo

hh. Patrocinio Borromeo Herrera

c. Maximo Borromeo, who died in July, 1948

d. Matilde Borromeo, who died on Aug. 6, 1946

e. Andres Borromeo, who died on Jan. 3, 1923, but survived by his children:

aa. Maria Borromeo Atega

bb. Luz Borromeo

cc. Hermenegilda Borromeo Nonnenkamp

dd. Rosario Borromeo

ee. Fe Borromeo Queroz

On April 10, 1969, the trial court, invoking Art. 972 of the Civil Code, issued an order declaring the
following, to the exclusion of all others, as the intestate heirs of the deceased Vito Borromeo:
1. Jose Cuenco Borromeo

2. Judge Crispin Borromeo

3. Vitaliana Borromeo

4. Patrocinio Borromeo Herrera

5. Salud Borromeo

6. Asuncion Borromeo

7. Marcial Borromeo

8. Amelinda Borromeo de Talam, and

9. The heirs of Canuto Borromeo

The court also ordered that the assets of the intestate estate of Vito Borromeo shall be divided into
4/9 and 5/9 groups and distributed in equal and equitable shares among the 9 abovenamed declared
intestate heirs.

On April 21 and 30, 1969, the declared heirs, with the exception of Patrocinio B. Herrera, signed an
agreement of partition of the properties of the deceased Vito Borromeo which was approved by the
trial court, in its order of August 15, 1969. In this same order, the trial court ordered the
administrator, Atty Jesus Gaboya, Jr., to partition the properties of the deceased in the way and
manner they are divided and partitioned in the said Agreement of Partition and further ordered that
40% of the market value of the 4/9 and 5/9 of the estate shall be segregated. All attorney's fees shall
be taken and paid from this segregated portion.

On August 25, 1972, respondent Fortunato Borromeo, who had earlier claimed as heir under the
forged will, filed a motion before the trial court praying that he be declared as one of the heirs of the
deceased Vito Borromeo, alleging that he is an illegitimate son of the deceased and that in the
declaration of heirs made by the trial court, he was omitted, in disregard of the law making him a
forced heir entitled to receive a legitime like all other forced heirs. As an acknowledged illegitimate
child, he stated that he was entitled to a legitime equal in every case to four-fifths of the legitime of
an acknowledged natural child.

Finding that the motion of Fortunato Borromeo was already barred by the order of the court dated
April 12, 1969 declaring the persons named therein as the legal heirs of the deceased Vito
Borromeo, the court dismissed the motion on June 25, 1973.

Fortunato Borromeo filed a motion for reconsideration. In the memorandum he submitted to support
his motion for reconsideration, Fortunato changed the basis for his claim to a portion of the estate.
He asserted and incorporated a Waiver of Hereditary Rights dated July 31, 1967, supposedly signed
by Pilar N. Borromeo, Maria B. Putong, Jose Borromeo, Canuto V. Borromeo, Jr., Salud Borromeo,
Patrocinio Borromeo-Herrera, Marcial Borromeo, Asuncion Borromeo, Federico V. Borromeo,
Consuelo B. Morales, Remedios Alfonso and Amelinda B. Talam In the waiver, five of the nine heirs
relinquished to Fortunato their shares in the disputed estate. The motion was opposed on the ground
that the trial court, acting as a probate court, had no jurisdiction to take cognizance of the claim; that
respondent Fortunato Borromeo is estopped from asserting the waiver agreement; that the waiver
agreement is void as it was executed before the declaration of heirs; that the same is void having
been executed before the distribution of the estate and before the acceptance of the inheritance; and
that it is void ab initio and inexistent for lack of subject matter.

On December 24, 1974, after due hearing, the trial court concluding that the five declared heirs who
signed the waiver agreement assigning their hereditary rights to Fortunato Borromeo had lost the
same rights, declared the latter as entitled to 5/9 of the estate of Vito Borromeo.

A motion for reconsideration of this order was denied on July 7, 1975.

In the present petition, the petitioner seeks to annul and set aside the trial court's order dated
December 24, 1974, declaring respondent Fortunato Borromeo entitled to 5/9 of the estate of Vito
Borromeo and the July 7, 1975 order, denying the motion for reconsideration.

The petitioner argues that the trial court had no jurisdiction to take cognizance of the claim of
respondent Fortunato Borromeo because it is not a money claim against the decedent but a claim
for properties, real and personal, which constitute all of the shares of the heirs in the decedent's
estate, heirs who allegedly waived their rights in his favor. The claim of the private respondent under
the waiver agreement, according to the petitioner, may be likened to that of a creditor of the heirs
which is improper. He alleges that the claim of the private respondent under the waiver agreement
was filed beyond the time allowed for filing of claims as it was filed only sometime in 1973, after
there had been a declaration of heirs (April 10, 1969), an agreement of partition (April 30, 1969), the
approval of the agreement of partition and an order directing the administrator to partition the estate
(August 15, 1969), when in a mere memorandum, the existence of the waiver agreement was
brought out.

It is further argued by the petitioner that the document entitled " waiver of Hereditary Rights"
executed on July 31, 1967, aside from having been cancelled and revoked on June 29, 1968, by
Tomas L. Borromeo, Fortunato Borromeo and Amelia Borromeo, is without force and effect because
there can be no effective waiver of hereditary rights before there has been a valid acceptance of the
inheritance the heirs intend to transfer. Pursuant to Article 1043 of the Civil Code, to make
acceptance or repudiation of inheritance valid, the person must be certain of the death of the one
from whom he is to inherit and of his right to the inheritance. Since the petitioner and her co-heirs
were not certain of their right to the inheritance until they were declared heirs, their rights were,
therefore, uncertain. This view, according to the petitioner, is also supported by Article 1057 of the
same Code which directs heirs, devicees, and legatees to signify their acceptance or repudiation
within thirty days after the court has issued an order for the distribution of the estate.

Respondent Fortunato Borromeo on the other hand, contends that under Article 1043 of the Civil
Code there is no need for a person to be first declared as heir before he can accept or repudiate an
inheritance. What is required is that he must first be certain of the death of the person from whom he
is to inherit and that he must be certain of his right to the inheritance. He points out that at the time of
the signing of the waiver document on July 31, 1967, the signatories to the waiver document were
certain that Vito Borromeo was already dead as well as of their rights to the inheritance as shown in
the waiver document itself.

With respect to the issue of jurisdiction of the trial court to pass upon the validity of the waiver of
hereditary rights, respondent Borromeo asserts that since the waiver or renunciation of hereditary
rights took place after the court assumed jurisdiction over the properties of the estate it partakes of
the nature of a partition of the properties of the estate needing approval of the court because it was
executed in the course of the proceedings. lie further maintains that the probate court loses
jurisdiction of the estate only after the payment of all the debts of the estate and the remaining estate
is distributed to those entitled to the same.

The prevailing jurisprudence on waiver of hereditary rights is that "the properties included in an
existing inheritance cannot be considered as belonging to third persons with respect to the heirs,
who by fiction of law continue the personality of the former. Nor do such properties have the
character of future property, because the heirs acquire a right to succession from the moment of the
death of the deceased, by principle established in article 657 and applied by article 661 of the Civil
Code, according to which the heirs succeed the deceased by the mere fact of death. More or less,
time may elapse from the moment of the death of the deceased until the heirs enter into possession
of the hereditary property, but the acceptance in any event retroacts to the moment of the death, in
accordance with article 989 of the Civil Code. The right is vested, although conditioned upon the
adjudication of the corresponding hereditary portion."(Osorio v. Osorio and Ynchausti Steamship
Co., 41 Phil., 531). The heirs, therefore, could waive their hereditary rights in 1967 even if the order
to partition the estate was issued only in 1969.

In this case, however, the purported "Waiver of Hereditary Rights" cannot be considered to be
effective. For a waiver to exist, three elements are essential: (1) the existence of a right; (2) the
knowledge of the existence thereof; and (3) an intention to relinquish such right. (People v. Salvador,
(CA) 53 O.G. No. 22, p. 8116, 8120). The intention to waive a right or advantage must be shown
clearly and convincingly, and when the only proof of intention rests in what a party does, his act
should be so manifestly consistent with, and indicative of an intent to, voluntarily relinquish the
particular right or advantage that no other reasonable explanation of his conduct is possible (67 C.J.,
311). (Fernandez v. Sebido, et al., 70 Phil., 151, 159).

The circumstances of this case show that the signatories to the waiver document did not have the
clear and convincing intention to relinquish their rights, Thus: (1) On October 27, 1967. Fortunato,
Tomas, and Amelia Borromeo filed a pleading entitled "Compliance" wherein they submitted a
proposal for the amicable settlement of the case. In that Compliance, they proposed to concede to
all the eight (8) intestate heirs of Vito Borromeo all properties, personal and real, including all cash
and sums of money in the hands of the Special Administrator, as of October 31, 1967, not contested
or claimed by them in any action then pending in the Court of First Instance of Cebu. In turn, the
heirs would waive and concede to them all the 14 contested lots. In this document, the respondent
recognizes and concedes that the petitioner, like the other signatories to the waiver document, is an
heir of the deceased Vito Borromeo, entitled to share in the estate. This shows that the "Waiver of
Hereditary Rights" was never meant to be what the respondent now purports it to be. Had the intent
been otherwise, there would not be any reason for Fortunato, Tomas, and Amelia Borromeo to
mention the heirs in the offer to settle the case amicably, and offer to concede to them parts of the
estate of the deceased; (2) On April 21 and 30, 1969, the majority of the declared heirs executed an
Agreement on how the estate they inherited shall be distributed. This Agreement of Partition was
approved by the trial court on August 15, 1969; (3) On June 29, 1968, the petitioner, among others,
signed a document entitled Deed of Assignment" purporting to transfer and assign in favor of the
respondent and Tomas and Amelia Borromeo all her (Patrocinio B. Herrera's) rights, interests, and
participation as an intestate heir in the estate of the deceased Vito Borromeo. The stated
consideration for said assignment was P100,000.00; (4) On the same date, June 29, 1968, the
respondent Tomas, and Amelia Borromeo (assignees in the aforementioned deed of assignment) in
turn executed a "Deed of Reconveyance" in favor of the heirs-assignors named in the same deed of
assignment. The stated consideration was P50,000.00; (5) A Cancellation of Deed of Assignment
and Deed of Reconveyance was signed by Tomas Borromeo and Amelia Borromeo on October 15,
1968, while Fortunato Borromeo signed this document on March 24, 1969.

With respect to the issue of jurisdiction, we hold that the trial court had jurisdiction to pass upon the
validity of the waiver agreement. It must be noted that in Special Proceedings No. 916-R the lower
court disallowed the probate of the will and declared it as fake. Upon appeal, this Court affirmed the
decision of the lower court on March 30, 1967, in G.R. No. L-18498. Subsequently, several parties
came before the lower court filing claims or petitions alleging themselves as heirs of the intestate
estate of Vito Borromeo. We see no impediment to the trial court in exercising jurisdiction and trying
the said claims or petitions. Moreover, the jurisdiction of the trial court extends to matters incidental
and collateral to the exercise of its recognized powers in handling the settlement of the estate.

In view of the foregoing, the questioned order of the trial court dated December 24, 1974, is hereby
SET ASIDE.

G.R. No. 55000

This case was originally an appeal to the Court of Appeals from an order of the Court of First
Instance of Cebu, Branch 11, dated December 24, 1974, declaring the waiver document earlier
discussed in G.R. No. 41171 valid. The appellate court certified this case to this Court as the
questions raised are all of law.

The appellants not only assail the validity of the waiver agreement but they also question the
jurisdiction of the lower court to hear and decide the action filed by claimant Fortunato Borromeo.

The appellants argue that when the waiver of hereditary right was executed on July 31, 1967, Pilar
Borromeo and her children did not yet possess or own any hereditary right in the intestate estate of
the deceased Vito Borromeo because said hereditary right was only acquired and owned by them on
April 10, 1969, when the estate was ordered distributed.

They further argue that in contemplation of law, there is no such contract of waiver of hereditary right
in the present case because there was no object, which is hereditary right, that could be the subject
matter of said waiver, and, therefore, said waiver of hereditary right was not only null and void ab
initio but was inexistent.

With respect to the issue of jurisdiction, the appellants contend that without any formal pleading filed
by the lawyers of Fortunato Borromeo for the approval of the waiver agreement and without notice to
the parties concerned, two things which are necessary so that the lower court would be vested with
authority and jurisdiction to hear and decide the validity of said waiver agreement, nevertheless, the
lower court set the hearing on September 25, 1973 and without asking for the requisite pleading.
This resulted in the issuance of the appealed order of December 24, 1974, which approved the
validity of the waiver agreement. The appellants contend that this constitutes an error in the exercise
of jurisdiction.

The appellee on the other hand, maintains that by waiving their hereditary rights in favor of Fortunato
Borromeo, the signatories to the waiver document tacitly and irrevocably accepted the inheritance
and by virtue of the same act, they lost their rights because the rights from that moment on became
vested in Fortunato Borromeo.

It is also argued by the appellee that under Article 1043 of the Civil Code there is no need for a
person to be declared as heir first before he can accept or repudiate an inheritance. What is required
is that he is certain of the death of the person from whom he is to inherit, and of his right to the
inheritance. At the time of the signing of the waiver document on July 31, 1967, the signatories to the
waiver document were certain that Vito Borromeo was already dead and they were also certain of
their right to the inheritance as shown by the waiver document itself.
On the allegation of the appellants that the lower court did not acquire jurisdiction over the claim
because of the alleged lack of a pleading invoking its jurisdiction to decide the claim, the appellee
asserts that on August 23, 1973, the lower court issued an order specifically calling on all oppositors
to the waiver document to submit their comments within ten days from notice and setting the same
for hearing on September 25, 1973. The appellee also avers that the claim as to a 5/9 share in the
inheritance involves no question of title to property and, therefore, the probate court can decide the
question.

The issues in this case are similar to the issues raised in G.R. No. 41171. The appellants in this
case, who are all declared heirs of the late Vito Borromeo are contesting the validity of the trial
court's order dated December 24, 1974, declaring Fortunato Borromeo entitled to 5/9 of the estate of
Vito Borromeo under the waiver agreement.

As stated in G.R. No. 41171, the supposed waiver of hereditary rights can not be validated. The
essential elements of a waiver, especially the clear and convincing intention to relinquish hereditary
rights, are not found in this case.

The October 27, 1967 proposal for an amicable settlement conceding to all the eight (8) intestate
heirs various properties in consideration for the heirs giving to the respondent and to Tomas, and
Amelia Borromeo the fourteen (14) contested lots was filed inspite of the fact that on July 31, 1967,
some of the heirs had allegedly already waived or sold their hereditary rights to the respondent.

The agreement on how the estate is to be distributed, the June 29, 1968 deed of assignment, the
deed of reconveyance, and the subsequent cancellation of the deed of assignment and deed of
reconveyance all argue against the purported waiver of hereditary rights.

Concerning the issue of jurisdiction, we have already stated in G.R. No. 41171 that the trial court
acquired jurisdiction to pass upon the validity of the waiver agreement because the trial court's
jurisdiction extends to matters incidental and collateral to the exercise of its recognized powers in
handling the settlement of the estate.

The questioned order is, therefore, SET ASIDE.

G.R. No. 62895

A motion dated April 28, 1972, was filed by Atty. Raul M. Sesbreno, representative of some of the
heirs-distributees, praying for the immediate closure of Special Proceeding No. 916-R. A similar
motion dated May 29, 1979 was filed by Atty. Jose Amadora. Both motions were grounded on the
fact that there was nothing more to be done after the payment of all the obligations of the estate
since the order of partition and distribution had long become final.

Alleging that respondent Judge Francisco P. Burgos failed or refused to resolve the aforesaid
motions, petitioner Jose Cuenco Borromeo-filed a petition for mandamus before the Court of
Appeals to compel the respondent judge to terminate and close Special Proceedings No. 916-R.

Finding that the inaction of the respondent judge was due to pending motions to compel the
petitioner, as co-administrator, to submit an inventory of the real properties of the estate and an
accounting of the cash in his hands, pending claims for attorney's fees, and that mandamus will not
lie to compel the performance of a discretionary function, the appellate court denied the petition on
May 14, 1982. The petitioner's motion for reconsideration was likewise denied for lack of merit.
Hence, this petition.
The petitioner's stand is that the inaction of the respondent judge on the motion filed on April 28,
1972 for the closure of the administration proceeding cannot be justified by the filing of the motion for
inventory and accounting because the latter motion was filed only on March 2, 1979. He claimed that
under the then Constitution, it is the duty of the respondent judge to decide or resolve a case or
matter within three months from the date of its submission.

The respondents contend that the motion to close the administration had already been resolved
when the respondent judge cancelled all settings of all incidents previously set in his court in an
order dated June 4, 1979, pursuant to the resolution and restraining order issued by the Court of
Appeals enjoining him to maintain status quo on the case.

As stated in G.R. No. 41171, on April 21 and 30, 1969, the declared heirs, with the exception of
Patrocinio B. Herrera, signed an agreement of partition of the properties of the deceased Vito
Borromeo which was approved by the trial court, in its order dated August 15, 1969. In this same
order, the trial court ordered the administrator, Atty. Jesus Gaboya, Jr., to partition the properties of
the deceased in the way and manner they are divided and partitioned in the said Agreement of
Partition and further ordered that 40% of the market value of the 4/9 and 5/9 of the estate shall be
segregated and reserved for attorney's fees.

According to the manifestation of Judge Francisco Burgos dated July 5, 1982, (p. 197, Rollo, G. R.
No. 41171) his court has not finally distributed to the nine (9) declared heirs the properties due to the
following circumstances:

1. The court's determination of the market value of the estate in order to segregate the 40%
reserved for attorney's fees;

2. The order of December 24, 1974, declaring Fortunato Borromeo as beneficiary of the 5/9
of the estate because of the waiver agreement signed by the heirs representing the 5/9
group which is still pending resolution by this Court (G.R. No. 4117 1);

3. The refusal of administrator Jose Cuenco Borromeo to render his accounting; and

4. The claim of Marcela Villegas for 1/2 of the estate causing annotations of notices of lis
pendens on the different titles of the properties of the estate.

Since there are still real properties of the estate that were not vet distributed to some of the declared
heirs, particularly the 5/9 group of heirs due to the pending resolution of the waiver agreement, this
Court in its resolution of June 15, 1983, required the judge of the Court of First Instance of Cebu,
Branch 11, to expedite the determination of Special Proceedings No. 916-R and ordered the co-
administrator Jose Cuenco Borromeo to submit an inventory of real properties of the estate and to
render an accounting of cash and bank deposits realized from rents of several properties.

The matter of attorney's fees shall be discussed in G.R. No. 65995.

Considering the pronouncements stated in:

1. G.R. No. 41171 & G.R. No. 55000, setting aside the Order of the trial court dated
December 24, 1974;

2. G.R. No. 63818, denying the petition for review seeking to modify the decision of the
Intermediate Appellate Court insofar as it disqualifies and inhibits Judge Francisco P. Burgos
from further hearing the Intestate Estate of Vito Borromeo and ordering the remand of the
case to the Executive,Judge of the Regional trial Court of Cebu for re-raffling; and

3. G.R. No. 65995, granting the petition to restrain the respondents from further acting on
any and all incidents in Special proceedings No. 916-11 because of the affirmation of the
decision of the Intermediate Appellate Court in G.R. No. 63818.

the trial court may now terminate and close Special Proceedings No. 916-R, subject to the
submission of an inventory of the real properties of the estate and an accounting of the call and bank
deposits of the petitioner, as co-administrator of the estate, if he has not vet done so, as required by
this Court in its Resolution dated June 15, 1983. This must be effected with all deliberate speed.

G.R. No. 63818

On June 9, 1979, respondents Jose Cuenco Borromeo and Petra 0. Borromeo filed a motion for
inhibition in the Court of First Instance of Cebu, Branch 11, presided over by Judge Francisco P.
Burgos to inhibit the judge from further acting in Special Proceedings No. 916-R. 'The movants
alleged, among others, the following:

xxx xxx xxx

6. To keep the agitation to sell moving, Atty. Antigua filed a motion for the production of the
certificates of title and to deposit the same with the Branch Clerk of Court, presumably for the
ready inspection of interested buyers. Said motion was granted by the Hon. Court in its order
of October 2, 1978 which, however, became the subject of various motions for
reconsideration from heirs-distributees who contended that as owners they cannot be
deprived of their titles for the flimsy reasons advanced by Atty, Antigua. In view of the
motions for reconsideration, Atty Antigua ultimately withdraw his motions for production of
titles.

7. The incident concerning the production of titles triggered another incident involving Atty.
Raul H. Sesbreno who was then the counsel of herein movants Petra O. Borromeo and
Amelinda B. Talam In connection with said incident, Atty. Sesbreno filed a pleading which
the tion. presiding, Judge Considered direct contempt because among others, Atty.
Sesbreno insinuated that the Hon. Presiding Judge stands to receive "fat commission" from
the sale of the entire property. Indeed, Atty. Sesbreno was seriously in danger of being
declared in contempt of court with the dim prospect of suspension from the practice of his
profession. But obviously to extricate himself from the prospect of contempt and suspension.
Atty. Sesbreno chose rapproachment and ultimately joined forces with Atty. Antigua, et al.,
who, together, continued to harass administrator

xxx xxx xxx

9. The herein movants are informed and so they allege, that a brother of the Hon. Presiding
Judge is married to a sister of Atty. Domingo L. Antigua.

10. There is now a clear tug of war bet ween Atty. Antigua, et al. who are agitating for the
sale of the entire estate or to buy out the individual heirs, on the one hand, and the herein
movants, on the other, who are not willing to sell their distributive shares under the terms and
conditions presently proposed. In this tug of war, a pattern of harassment has become
apparent against the herein movants, especially Jose Cuenco Borromeo. Among the
harassments employed by Atty Antigua et al. are the pending motions for the removal of
administrator Jose Cuenco Borromeo, the subpoena duces tecum issued to the bank which
seeks to invade into the privacy of the personal account of Jose Cuenco Borromeo, and the
other matters mentioned in paragraph 8 hereof. More harassment motions are expected until
the herein movants shall finally yield to the proposed sale. In such a situation, the herein
movants beg for an entirely independent and impartial judge to pass upon the merits of said
incidents.

11. Should the Hon. Presiding Judge continue to sit and take cognizance of this proceeding,
including the incidents above-mentioned, he is liable to be misunderstood as being biased in
favor of Atty Antigua, et al. and prejudiced against the herein movants. Incidents which may
create this impression need not be enumerated herein. (pp. 39-41, Rollo)

The motion for inhibition was denied by Judge Francisco P. Burgos. Their motion for reconsideration
having been denied, the private respondents filed a petition for certiorari and/or prohibition with
preliminary injunction before the Intermediate Appellate Court.

In the appellate court, the private respondents alleged, among others, the following:

xxx xxx xxx

16. With all due respect, petitioners regret the necessity of having to state herein that
respondent Hon. Francisco P. Burgos has shown undue interest in pursing the sale initiated
by Atty. Domingo L. Antigua, et al. Significantly, a brother of respondent Hon. Francisco P.
Burgos is married to a sister of Atty. Domingo L. Antigua.

17. Evidence the proposed sale of the entire properties of the estate cannot be legally done
without the conformity of the heirs-distributees because the certificates of title are already
registered in their names Hence, in pursuit of the agitation to sell, respondent Hon. Francisco
P. Burgos urged the heirs-distributees to sell the entire property based on the rationale that
proceeds thereof deposited in the bank will earn interest more than the present income of the
so called estate. Most of the heirs-distributees, however.have been petitioner timid to say
their piece. Only the 4/9 group of heirs led by Jose Cuenco Borromeo have had the courage
to stand up and refuse the proposal to sell clearly favored by respondent Hon. Francisco P.
Burgos.

xxx xxx xxx

20. Petitioners will refrain from discussing herein the merits of the shotgun motion of Atty.
Domingo L. Antigua as well as other incidents now pending in the court below which smack
of harassment against the herein petitioners. For, regardless of the merits of said incidents,
petitioners respectfully contend that it is highly improper for respondent Hon. Francisco P.
Burgos to continue to preside over Sp. Proc. No. 916-R by reason of the following
circumstances:

(a) He has shown undue interest in the sale of the properties as initiated by Atty.
Domingo L. Antigua whose sister is married to a brother of respondent.

(b) The proposed sale cannot be legally done without the conformity of the heirs-
distributees, and petitioners have openly refused the sale, to the great
disappointment of respondent.
(c) The shot gun motion of Atty. Antigua and similar incidents are clearly intended to
harass and embarrass administrator Jose Cuenco Borromeo in order to pressure him
into acceding to the proposed sale.

(d) Respondent has shown bias and prejudice against petitioners by failing to resolve
the claim for attorney's fees filed by Jose Cuenco Borromeo and the late Crispin
Borromeo. Similar claims by the other lawyers were resolved by respondent after
petitioners refused the proposed sale. (pp. 41-43, Rollo)

On March 1, 1983, the appellate court rendered its decision granting the petition for certiorari and/or
prohibition and disqualifying Judge Francisco P. Burgos from taking further cognizance of Special
Proceedings No. 916-R. The court also ordered the transmission of the records of the case to the
Executive Judge of the Regional Trial Court of Region VII for re-raffling.

A motion for reconsideration of the decision was denied by the appellate court on April 11, 1983.
Hence, the present petition for review seeking to modify the decision of the Intermediate Appellate
Court insofar as it disqualifies and inhibits Judge Francisco P. Burgos from further hearing the case
of Intestate Estate of Vito Borromeo and orders the remand of the case to the Executive Judge of
the Regional Trial Court of Cebu for re-raffling.

The principal issue in this case has become moot and academic because Judge Francisco P.
Burgos decided to retire from the Regional Trial Court of Cebu sometime before the latest
reorganization of the judiciary. However, we decide the petition on its merits for the guidance of the
judge to whom this case will be reassigned and others concerned.

The petitioners deny that respondent Jose Cuenco Borromeo has been harassed. They contend that
Judge Burgos has benn shown unusual interest in the proposed sale of the entire estate for
P6,700,000.00 in favor of the buyers of Atty. Antigua. They claim that this disinterest is shown by the
judge's order of March 2, 1979 assessing the property of the estate at P15,000,000.00. They add
that he only ordered the administrator to sell so much of the properties of the estate to pay the
attorney's fees of the lawyers-claimants. To them, the inhibition of Judge Burgos would have been
unreasonable because his orders against the failure of Jose Cuenco Borromeo, as administrator, to
give an accounting and inventory of the estate were all affirmed by the appellate court. They claim
that the respondent court, should also have taken judicial notice of the resolution of this Court
directing the said judge to "expedite the settlement and adjudication of the case" in G.R. No. 54232.
And finally, they state that the disqualification of judge Burgos would delay further the closing of the
administration proceeding as he is the only judge who is conversant with the 47 volumes of the
records of the case.

Respondent Jose Cuenco Borromeo, to show that he had been harassed. countered that Judge
Burgos appointed Ricardo V. Reyes as co-administrator of the estate on October 11, 1972, yet
Borromeo was singled out to make an accounting of what t he was supposed to have received as
rentals for the land upon which the Juliana Trade Center is erected, from January, 1977 to February
1982, inclusive, without mentioning the withholding tax for the Bureau of Internal Revenue. In order
to bolster the agitation to sell as proposed by Domingo L. Antigua, Judge Burgos invited Antonio
Barredo, Jr., to a series of conferences from February 26 to 28, 1979. During the conferences, Atty.
Antonio Barredo, Jr., offered to buy the shares of the heirs-distributees presumably to cover up the
projected sale initiated by Atty. Antigua.

On March 2, 1979, or two days after the conferences, a motion was filed by petitioner Domingo L.
Antigua praying that Jose Cuenco Borromeo be required to file an inventory when he has already
filed one to account for cash, a report on which the administrators had already rendered: and to
appear and be examined under oath in a proceeding conducted by Judge Burgos lt was also prayed
that subpoena duces tecum be issued for the appearance of the Manager of the Consolidated Bank
and Trust Co., bringing all the bank records in the name of Jose Cuenco Borromeo jointly with his
wife as well as the appearance of heirs-distributees Amelinda Borromeo Talam and another heir
distributee Vitaliana Borromeo. Simultaneously with the filing of the motion of Domingo Antigua, Atty.
Raul H. Sesbreno filed a request for the issuance of subpoena duces tecum to the Manager of
Consolidated Bank and 'Trust Co., Inc.; Register of Deeds of Cebu City; Register of Deeds for the
Province of Cebu and another subpoena duces tecum to Atty. Jose Cuenco Borromeo.

On the same date, the Branch Clerk of Court issued a subpoena duces tecum to the Managert of the
bank, the Register of deeds for the City of Cebu, the Register of Deeds for the Province, of Cebu.
and to Jose Cuenco Borromeo.

On the following day, March 3, 1979, Atty Gaudioso v. Villagonzalo in behalf of the heirs of Marcial
Borromeo who had a common cause with Atty Barredo, Jr., joined petitioner Domingo L. Antigua by
filing a motion for relief of the administrator.

On March 5, 1979, Atty. Villagonzalo filed a request for the issuance of a subpoena duces tecum to
private respondent Jose Cuenco Borromeo to bring and produce all the owners" copies of the titles
in the court presided order by Judge Burgos.

Consequently.the Branch Clerk of Court issued a subpoena duces tecum commanding Atty. Jose
Cuenco Borromeo to bring and produce the titles in court.

All the above-incidents were set for hearing on June 7, 1979 but on June 14, 1979, before the date
of the hearing, Judge Burgos issued an order denying the private respondents' motion for
reconsideration and the motion to quash the subpoena. 1avv phi1

It was further argued by the private respondents that if ,judge Francisco P. Burgos is not inhibited or
disqualified from trying Sp. Proc. No. 916-R, there would be a miscarriage of justice Because for the
past twelve years, he had not done anything towards the closure of the estate proceedings except to
sell the properties of the heirs-distributees as initiated by petitioner Domingo L. Antigua at 6.7 million
pesos while the Intestate Court had already evaluated it at 15 million pesos.

The allegations of the private respondents in their motion for inhibition, more specifically, the
insistence of the trial judge to sell the entire estate at P6,700,000.00, where 4/9 group of heirs
objected, cannot easily be ignored. Suspicion of partiality on the part of a trial judge must be avoided
at all costs. In the case of Bautista v. Rebeuno (81 SCRA 535), this Court stated:

... The Judge must maintain and preserve the trust and faith of the parties litigants. He must
hold himself above reproach and suspicion. At the very first sign of lack of faith and trust to
his actions, whether well grounded or not, the Judge has no other alternative but inhibit
himself from the case. A judge may not be legally Prohibited from sitting in a litigation, but
when circumstances appear that will induce doubt to his honest actuations and probity in
favor or of either partly or incite such state of mind, he should conduct a careful self-
examination. He should exercise his discretion in a way that the people's faith in the Courts
of Justice is not impaired, "The better course for the Judge under such circumstances is to
disqualify himself "That way he avoids being misunderstood, his reputation for probity and
objectivity is preserve ed. what is more important, the Ideal of impartial administration of
justice is lived up to.
In this case, the fervent distrust of the private respondents is based on sound reasons. As Earlier
stated, however, the petition for review seeking to modify the decision of the Intermediate Appellate
Court insofar as it disqualifies and inhibits Judge Francisco P. Burgos from further hearing the
Intestate Estate of Vito Borromeo case and ordering the remand of the case to the Executive Judge
of the Regional Trial Court for re-raffling should be DENIED for the decision is not only valid but the
issue itself has become moot and academic.

G.R. No. 65995

The petitioners seek to restrain the respondents from further acting on any and all incidents in
Special Proceedings No. 916-R during the pendency of this petition and No. 63818. They also pray
that all acts of the respondents related to the said special proceedings after March 1, 1983 when the
respondent Judge was disqualified by the appellate court be declared null and void and without force
and effect whatsoever.

The petitioners state that the respondent Judge has set for hearing all incidents in Special
Proceedings No. 916-R, including the reversion from the heirs-distributees to the estate, of the
distributed properties already titled in their names as early as 1970, notwithstanding the pending
inhibition case elevated before this Court which is docketed as G.R. No. 63818.

The petitioners further argue that the present status of Special Proceeding No. 916-R requires only
the appraisal of the attorney's fees of the lawyers-claimants who were individually hired by their
respective heirs-clients, so their attorney's fees should be legally charged against their respective
clients and not against the estate.

On the other hand, the respondents maintain that the petition is a dilatory one and barred by res
judicata because this Court on July 8, 1981, in G.R. No. 54232 directed the respondent Judge to
expedite the settlement and liquidation of the decedent's estate. They claim that this resolution,
which was already final and executory, was in effect reversed and nullified by the Intermediate
Appellate Court in its case-AC G.R.-No. SP - 11145 — when it granted the petition for certiorari and
or prohibition and disqualified Judge Francisco P. Burgos from taking further cognizance of Special
Proceedings No. 916R as well as ordering the transmission of the records of the case to the
Executive Judge of the Regional Trial Court of Region VII for re-raffling on March 1, 1983, which was
appealed to this Court by means of a Petition for Review (G.R. No. 63818).

We agree with the petitioners' contention that attorney's fees are not the obligation of the estate but
of the individual heirs who individually hired their respective lawyers. The portion, therefore, of the
Order of August 15, 1969, segregating the exhorbitantly excessive amount of 40% of the market
value of the estate from which attorney's fees shall be taken and paid should be deleted.

Due to our affirmance of the decision of the Intermediate Appellate Court in G.R. No. 63818, we
grant the petition.

WHEREFORE, —

(1) In G.R. No. 41171, the order of the respondent judge dated December 24, 1974,
declaring the respondent entitled to 5/9 of the estate of the late Vito Borromeo and the order
dated July 7, 1975, denying the petitioner's motion for reconsideration of the aforementioned
order are hereby SET ASIDE for being NULL and VOID;

(2) In G.R. No. 55000, the order of the trial court declaring the waiver document valid is
hereby SET ASIDE;
(3) In G.R. No. 63818, the petition is hereby DENIED. The issue in the decision of the
Intermediate Appellate Court disqualifying and ordering the inhibition of Judge Francisco P.
Burgos from further hearing Special Proceedings No. 916-R is declared moot and academic.
The judge who has taken over the sala of retired Judge Francisco P. Burgos shall
immediately conduct hearings with a view to terminating the proceedings. In the event that
the successor-judge is likewise disqualified, the order of the Intermediate Appellate Court
directing the Executive Judge of the Regional Trial Court of Cebu to re-raffle the case shall
be implemented:

(4) In G.R. No. 65995, the petition is hereby GRANTED. 'The issue seeking to restrain Judge
Francisco P. Burgos from further acting in G.R. No. 63818 is MOOT and ACADEMIC:

(5) In G.R, No, 62895, the trial court is hereby ordered to speedily terminate the close
Special Proceedings No. 916-R, subject to the submission of an inventory of the real
properties of the estate and an accounting of the cash and bank deposits by the petitioner-
administrator of the estate as required by this Court in its Resolution dated June 15, 1983;
and

(6) The portion of the Order of August 15, 1969, segregating 40% of the market value of the
estate from which attorney's fees shall be taken and paid should be, as it is hereby
DELETED. The lawyers should collect from the heirs-distributees who individually hired
them, attorney's fees according to the nature of the services rendered but in amounts which
should not exceed more than 20% of the market value of the property the latter acquired
from the estate as beneficiaries.

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 Resolution 4 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 Felicisimo’s 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. M-3708
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
decedent’s 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 ₱30,304,178.00 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 Felicisimo’s 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 dismissal 10of 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 respondent’s 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 Felicisimo’s 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 Felicisimo’s
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 respondent’s marriage to Felicisimo was void and bigamous because it
was performed during the subsistence of the latter’s 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 one’s 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 deceased’s children to him at his Alabang address, and the deceased’s calling cards 49 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 Felicidad’s 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 Felicidad’s 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 petitioner’s husband entitled to exercise control
over conjugal assets. As he is bound by the Decision of his own country’s 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 marriedto 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. Ibay-Somera 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." 59In 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)

xxxx
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. The Van 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. 1aw phi 1.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 Court’s 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

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 Felicisimo’s 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

With regard to respondent’s 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 in Garcia, however, the Court cannot take judicial notice of foreign laws as they must be
alleged and proved. 73

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.

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 Felicisimo’s 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. 78 In 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 party’s own evidence and not upon the
weakness of the opponent’s defense. x x x 81

In view of the foregoing, we find that respondent’s 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.

G.R. No. 189121 July 31, 2013

AMELIA GARCIA-QUIAZON, JENNETH QUIAZON and MARIA JENNIFER


QUIAZON, Petitioners,
vs.
MA. LOURDES BELEN, for and in behalf of MARIA LOURDES ELISE QUIAZON, Respondent.

DECISION

PEREZ, J.:

This is a Petition for Review on Certiorari filed pursuant to Rule 45 of the Revised Rules of Court,
primarily assailing the 28 November 2008 Decision rendered by the Ninth Division of the Court of
Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 88589,1the decretal portion of which states:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the appeal is hereby DENIED. The assailed Decision dated
March 11, 2005, and the Order dated March 24, 2006 of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 275, Las
Piñas City are AFFIRMED in toto.2

The Facts
This case started as a Petition for Letters of Administration of the Estate of Eliseo Quiazon (Eliseo),
filed by herein respondents who are Eliseo’s common-law wife and daughter. The petition was
opposed by herein petitioners Amelia Garcia-Quaizon (Amelia) to whom Eliseo was married. Amelia
was joined by her children, Jenneth Quiazon (Jenneth) and Maria Jennifer Quiazon (Jennifer).

Eliseo died intestate on 12 December 1992.

On 12 September 1994, Maria Lourdes Elise Quiazon (Elise), represented by her mother, Ma.
Lourdes Belen (Lourdes), filed a Petition for Letters of Administration before the Regional Trial Court
(RTC) of Las Piñas City.3 In her Petition docketed as SP Proc. No. M-3957, Elise claims that she is
the natural child of Eliseo having been conceived and born at the time when her parents were both
capacitated to marry each other. Insisting on the legal capacity of Eliseo and Lourdes to marry, Elise
impugned the validity of Eliseo’s marriage to Amelia by claiming that it was bigamous for having
been contracted during the subsistence of the latter’s marriage with one Filipito Sandico (Filipito). To
prove her filiation to the decedent, Elise, among others, attached to the Petition for Letters of
Administration her Certificate of Live Birth4 signed by Eliseo as her father. In the same petition, it was
alleged that Eliseo left real properties worth ₱2,040,000.00 and personal properties worth
₱2,100,000.00. In order to preserve the estate of Eliseo and to prevent the dissipation of its value,
Elise sought her appointment as administratrix of her late father’s estate.

Claiming that the venue of the petition was improperly laid, Amelia, together with her children,
Jenneth and Jennifer, opposed the issuance of the letters of administration by filing an
Opposition/Motion to Dismiss.5 The petitioners asserted that as shown by his Death
Certificate, 6 Eliseo was a resident of Capas, Tarlac and not of Las Piñas City, at the time of his
death. Pursuant to Section 1, Rule 73 of the Revised Rules of Court,7 the petition for settlement of
decedent’s estate should have been filed in Capas, Tarlac and not in Las Piñas City. In addition to
their claim of improper venue, the petitioners averred that there are no factual and legal bases for
Elise to be appointed administratix of Eliseo’s estate.

In a Decision8 dated 11 March 2005, the RTC directed the issuance of Letters of Administration to
Elise upon posting the necessary bond. The lower court ruled that the venue of the petition was
properly laid in Las Piñas City, thereby discrediting the position taken by the petitioners that Eliseo’s
last residence was in Capas, Tarlac, as hearsay. The dispositive of the RTC decision reads:

Having attained legal age at this time and there being no showing of any disqualification or
incompetence to serve as administrator, let letters of administration over the estate of the decedent
Eliseo Quiazon, therefore, be issued to petitioner, Ma. Lourdes Elise Quiazon, after the approval by
this Court of a bond in the amount of ₱100,000.00 to be posted by her.9

On appeal, the decision of the trial court was affirmed in toto in the 28 November 2008
Decision10 rendered by the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R.CV No. 88589. In validating the findings of
the RTC, the Court of Appeals held that Elise was able to prove that Eliseo and Lourdes lived
together as husband and wife by establishing a common residence at No. 26 Everlasting Road,
Phase 5, Pilar Village, Las Piñas City, from 1975 up to the time of Eliseo’s death in 1992. For
purposes of fixing the venue of the settlement of Eliseo’s estate, the Court of Appeals upheld the
conclusion reached by the RTC that the decedent was a resident of Las Piñas City. The petitioners’
Motion for Reconsideration was denied by the Court of Appeals in its Resolution11 dated 7 August
2009.

The Issues
The petitioners now urge Us to reverse the assailed Court of Appeals Decision and Resolution on
the following grounds:

I. THE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED IN AFFIRMING THAT ELISEO QUIAZON


WAS A RESIDENT OF LAS PIÑAS AND THEREFORE, THE PETITION FOR LETTERS OF
ADMINISTRATION WAS PROPERLY FILED WITH THE RTC OF LAS PIÑAS;

II. THE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED IN DECLARING THAT AMELIA GARCIA-
QUIAZON WAS NOT LEGALLY MARRIED TO ELISEO QUIAZON DUE TO PREEXISTING
MARRIAGE; AND

III. THE COURT OF APPEALS OVERLOOKED THE FACT THAT ELISE QUIAZON HAS
NOT SHOWN ANY INTEREST IN THE PETITION FOR LETTERS OF ADMINISTRATION.12

The Court’s Ruling

We find the petition bereft of merit.

Under Section 1, Rule 73 of the Rules of Court, the petition for letters of administration of the estate
of a decedent should be filed in the RTC of the province where the decedent resides at the time of
his death:

Sec. 1.Where estate of deceased persons settled. – If the decedent is an inhabitant of the
Philippines at the time of his death, whether a citizen or an alien, his will shall be proved, or letters of
administration granted, and his estate settled, in the Court of First Instance now Regional Trial Court
in the province in which he resides at the time of his death, and if he is an inhabitant of a foreign
country, the Court of First Instance now Regional Trial Court of any province in which he had estate.
The court first taking cognizance of the settlement of the estate of a decedent, shall exercise
jurisdiction to the exclusion of all other courts. The jurisdiction assumed by a court, so far as it
depends on the place of residence of the decedent, or of the location of his estate, shall not be
contested in a suit or proceeding, except in an appeal from that court, in the original case, or when
the want of jurisdiction appears on the record. (Emphasis supplied).

The 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.13Even where the statute uses word
"domicile" still it is construed as meaning residence and not domicile in the technical sense.14 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."15In 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.16 It signifies physical presence in a place and actual stay thereat.17 Venue for ordinary civil
actions and that for special proceedings have one and the same meaning.18 As thus defined,
"residence," in the context of venue provisions, means nothing more than a person’s actual
residence or place of abode, provided he resides therein with continuity and consistency.19

Viewed in light of the foregoing principles, the Court of Appeals cannot be faulted for affirming the
ruling of the RTC that the venue for the settlement of the estate of Eliseo was properly laid in Las
Piñas City. It is evident from the records that during his lifetime, Eliseo resided at No. 26 Everlasting
Road, Phase 5, Pilar Village, Las Piñas City. For this reason, the venue for the settlement of his
estate may be laid in the said city.

In opposing the issuance of letters of administration, the petitioners harp on the entry in Eliseo’s
Death Certificate that he is a resident of Capas, Tarlac where they insist his estate should be settled.
While the recitals in death certificates can be considered proofs of a decedent’s residence at the
time of his death, the contents thereof, however, is not binding on the courts. Both the RTC and the
Court of Appeals found that Eliseo had been living with Lourdes, deporting themselves as husband
and wife, from 1972 up to the time of his death in 1995. This finding is consistent with the fact that in
1985, Eliseo filed an action for judicial partition of properties against Amelia before the RTC of
Quezon City, Branch 106, on the ground that their marriage is void for being bigamous.20 That Eliseo
went to the extent of taking his marital feud with Amelia before the courts of law renders untenable
petitioners’ position that Eliseo spent the final days of his life in Tarlac with Amelia and her children.
It disproves rather than supports petitioners’ submission that the lower courts’ findings arose from an
erroneous appreciation of the evidence on record. Factual findings of the trial court, when affirmed
by the appellate court, must be held to be conclusive and binding upon this Court.21

Likewise unmeritorious is petitioners’ contention that the Court of Appeals erred in declaring
Amelia’s marriage to Eliseo as void ab initio. In a void marriage, it was though no marriage has taken
place, thus, it cannot be the source of rights. Any interested party may attack the marriage directly or
collaterally. A void marriage can be questioned even beyond the lifetime of the parties to the
marriage.22 It must be pointed out that at the time of the celebration of the marriage of Eliseo and
Amelia, the law in effect was the Civil Code, and not the Family Code, making the ruling in Niñal v.
Bayadog23 applicable four-square to the case at hand. In Niñal, the Court, in no uncertain terms,
allowed therein petitioners to file a petition for the declaration of nullity of their father’s marriage to
therein respondent after the death of their father, by contradistinguishing void from voidable
marriages, to wit:

Consequently, void marriages can be questioned even after the death of either party but voidable
marriages can be assailed only during the lifetime of the parties and not after death of either, in
which case the parties and their offspring will be left as if the marriage had been perfectly valid. That
is why the action or defense for nullity is imprescriptible, unlike voidable marriages where the action
prescribes. Only the parties to a voidable marriage can assail it but any proper interested party may
attack a void marriage.24

It was emphasized in Niñal that in a void marriage, no marriage has taken place and it cannot be the
source of rights, such that any interested party may attack the marriage directly or collaterally
without prescription, which may be filed even beyond the lifetime of the parties to the marriage.25

Relevant to the foregoing, there is no doubt that Elise, whose successional rights would be
prejudiced by her father’s marriage to Amelia, may impugn the existence of such marriage even after
the death of her father. The said marriage may be questioned directly by filing an action attacking
the validity thereof, or collaterally by raising it as an issue in a proceeding for the settlement of the
estate of the deceased spouse, such as in the case at bar. Ineluctably, Elise, as a compulsory
heir,26 has a cause of action for the declaration of the absolute nullity of the void marriage of Eliseo
and Amelia, and the death of either party to the said marriage does not extinguish such cause of
action.

Having established the right of Elise to impugn Eliseo’s marriage to Amelia, we now proceed to
determine whether or not the decedent’s marriage to Amelia is void for being bigamous.
Contrary to the position taken by the petitioners, the existence of a previous marriage between
Amelia and Filipito was sufficiently established by no less than the Certificate of Marriage issued by
the Diocese of Tarlac and signed by the officiating priest of the Parish of San Nicolas de Tolentino in
Capas, Tarlac. The said marriage certificate is a competent evidence of marriage and the
certification from the National Archive that no information relative to the said marriage exists does
not diminish the probative value of the entries therein. We take judicial notice of the fact that the first
marriage was celebrated more than 50 years ago, thus, the possibility that a record of marriage can
no longer be found in the National Archive, given the interval of time, is not completely remote.
Consequently, in the absence of any showing that such marriage had been dissolved at the time
Amelia and Eliseo’s marriage was solemnized, the inescapable conclusion is that the latter marriage
is bigamous and, therefore, void ab initio.27

Neither are we inclined to lend credence to the petitioners’ contention that Elise has not shown any
interest in the Petition for Letters of Administration.

Section 6, Rule 78 of the Revised Rules of Court lays down the preferred persons who are entitled to
the issuance of letters of administration, thus:

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:

(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 no such creditor competent and willing to serve, it may be granted to such other
person as the court may select.

Upon the other hand, Section 2 of Rule 79 provides that a petition for Letters of Administration must
be filed by an interested person, thus:

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, so far as known to the petitioner:

(a) The jurisdictional facts;

(b) The names, ages, and residences of the heirs, and the names and residences of the
creditors, of the decedent;

(c) The probable value and character of the property of the estate;

(d) The name of the person for whom letters of administration are prayed.

But no defect in the petition shall render void the issuance of letters of administration.
An "interested party," in estate proceedings, is one who would be benefited in the estate, such as an
heir, or one who has a claim against the estate, such as a creditor. Also, in estate proceedings, the
phrase "next of kin" refers to those whose relationship with the decedent Is such that they are
entitled to share in the estate as distributees.28

In the instant case, Elise, as a compulsory heir who stands to be benefited by the distribution of
Eliseo’s estate, is deemed to be an interested party. With the overwhelming evidence on record
produced by Elise to prove her filiation to Eliseo, the petitioners’ pounding on her lack of interest in
the administration of the decedent’s estate, is just a desperate attempt to sway this Court to reverse
the findings of the Court of Appeals. Certainly, the right of Elise to be appointed administratix of the
estate of Eliseo is on good grounds. It is founded on her right as a compulsory heir, who, under the
law, is entitled to her legitimate after the debts of the estate are satisfied.29 Having a vested right in
the distribution of Eliseo’s estate as one of his natural children, Elise can rightfully be considered as
an interested party within the purview of the law.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the petition is DENIED for lack of merit. Accordingly, the Court
of Appeals assailed 28 November 2008 Decision and 7 August 2009 Resolution, arc AFFIRMED in
toto.

G.R. Nos. L-21938-39 May 29, 1970

VICENTE URIARTE, petitioner,


vs.
THE COURT OF FIRST INSTANCE OF NEGROS OCCIDENTAL (12th Judicial District) THE
COURT OF FIRST INSTANCE OF MANILA, BRANCH IV, JUAN URIARTE ZAMACONA and
HIGINIO URIARTE, respondents.

Norberto J. Quisumbing for petitioner.

Tañada, Teehankee & Carreon for respondents.

DIZON, J.:

On October 3, 1963 petitioner Vicente Uriarte filed an original petition for certiorari — docketed as
G.R. L-21938 — against the respondents Juan Uriarte Zamacona, Higinio Uriarte, and the Courts of
First Instance of Negros Occidental and of Manila, Branch IV, who will be referred to hereinafter as
the Negros Court and the Manila Court, respectively — praying:

... that after due proceedings judgment be rendered annulling the orders of 19 April
1963 (Annex 'H') and 11 July 1963 (Annex 'I') of respondent Negros court dismissing
the first instituted Special Proceeding No. 6344, supra, and the order of 1 July 1963
(Annex 'K') of respondent Manila court denying petitioner's omnibus motion to
intervene and to dismiss the later-instituted Special Proceeding No. 51396, supra,
both special proceedings pertaining to the settlement of the same estate of the same
deceased, and consequently annulling all proceedings had in Special Proceeding
No. 51396; supra, of the respondent Manila court as all taken without jurisdiction.
For the preservation of the rights of the parties pending these proceedings, petitioner
prays for the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction enjoining respondents Manila
court, Juan Uriarte Zamacona and Higinio Uriarte from proceeding with Special
Proceeding No. 51396, supra, until further orders of this Court.

Reasons in support of said petition are stated therein as follows:

6. Respondent Negros court erred in dismissing its Special Proceeding No. 6344,
supra, and failing to declare itself 'the court first taking cognizance of the settlement
of the estate of' the deceased Don Juan Uriarte y Goite as prescribed in Rule 75
section 1 of the Rules of Court. Respondent Manila court erred in failing to dismiss its
Special Proceeding No. 51396, supra, notwithstanding proof of prior filing of Special
Proceeding No. 6344, supra, in the Negros court.

The writ of preliminary injunction prayed for was granted and issued by this Court on October 24,
1963.

On April 22, 1964 petitioner filed against the same respondents a pleading entitled
SUPPLEMENTAL PETITION FOR MANDAMUS — docketed in this Court as G.R. No. L-21939 —
praying, for the reasons therein stated, that judgment be rendered annulling the orders issued by the
Negros Court on December 7, 1963 and February 26, 1964, the first disapproving his record on
appeal and the second denying his motion for reconsideration, and further commanding said court to
approve his record on appeal and to give due course to his appeal. On July 15, 1964 We issued a
resolution deferring action on this Supplemental Petition until the original action for certiorari (G.R. L-
21938) is taken up on the merits.

On October 21, 1963 the respondents in G.R. L-21938 filed their answer traversing petitioner's
contention that the respondent courts had committed grave abuse of discretion in relation to the
matters alleged in the petition for certiorari.

It appears that on November 6, 1961 petitioner filed with the Negros Court a petition for the
settlement of the estate of the late Don Juan Uriarte y Goite (Special Proceeding No. 6344) alleging
therein, inter alia, that, as a natural son of the latter, he was his sole heir, and that, during the lifetime
of said decedent, petitioner had instituted Civil Case No. 6142 in the same Court for his compulsory
acknowledgment as such natural son. Upon petitioner's motion the Negros Court appointed the
Philippine National Bank as special administrator on November 13, 1961 and two days later it set the
date for the hearing of the petition and ordered that the requisite notices be published in accordance
with law. The record discloses, however, that, for one reason or another, the Philippine, National
Bank never actually qualified as special administrator.

On December 19, 1961, Higinio Uriarte, one of the two private respondents herein, filed an
opposition to the above-mentioned petition alleging that he was a nephew of the deceased Juan
Uriarte y Goite who had "executed a Last Will and Testament in Spain, a duly authenticated copy
whereof has been requested and which shall be submitted to this Honorable Court upon receipt
thereof," and further questioning petitioner's capacity and interest to commence the intestate
proceeding.

On August 28, 1962, Juan Uriarte Zamacona, the other private respondent, commenced Special
Proceeding No. 51396 in the Manila Court for the probate of a document alleged to be the last will of
the deceased Juan Uriarte y Goite, and on the same date he filed in Special Proceeding No. 6344 of
the Negros Court a motion to dismiss the same on the following grounds: (1) that, as the deceased
Juan Uriarte y Goite had left a last will, there was no legal basis to proceed with said intestate
proceedings, and (2) that petitioner Vicente Uriarte had no legal personality and interest to initiate
said intestate proceedings, he not being an acknowledged natural son of the decedent. A copy of the
Petition for Probate and of the alleged Will were attached to the Motion to Dismiss.

Petitioner opposed the aforesaid motion to dismiss contending that, as the Negros Court was first to
take cognizance of the settlement of the estate of the deceased Juan Uriarte y Goite, it had acquired
exclusive jurisdiction over same pursuant to Rule 75, Section 1 of the Rules of Court.

On April 19, 1963, the Negros Court sustained Juan Uriarte Zamacona's motion to dismiss and
dismissed the Special Proceeding No. 6344 pending before it. His motion for reconsideration of said
order having been denied on July 27, 1963, petitioner proceeded to file his notice of appeal, appeal
bond and record on appeal for the purpose of appealing from said orders to this court on questions
of law. The administrator with the will annexed appointed by the Manila Court in Special Proceeding
No. 51396 objected to the approval of the record on appeal, and under date of December 7, 1963
the Negros Court issued the following order:

Oppositor prays that the record on appeal filed by the petitioner on July 27, 1963, be
dismissed for having been filed out of time and for being incomplete. In the
meantime, before the said record on appeal was approved by this Court, the
petitioner filed a petition for certiorari before the Supreme Court entitled Vicente
Uriarte, Petitioner, vs. Court of First Instance of Negros Occidental, et al., G.R. No. L-
21938, bringing this case squarely before the Supreme Court on questions of law
which is tantamount to petitioner's abandoning his appeal from this Court.

WHEREFORE, in order to give way to the certiorari, the record on appeal filed by the
petitioner is hereby disapproved.

In view of the above-quoted order, petitioner filed the supplemental petition for mandamus
mentioned heretofore.

On April 15, 1963 Vicente Uriarte filed an Omnibus Motion in Special Proceeding No. 51396 pending
in the Manila Court, asking for leave to intervene therein; for the dismissal of the petition and the
annulment of the proceedings had in said special proceeding. This motion was denied by said court
in its order of July 1 of the same year.

It is admitted that, as alleged in the basic petition filed in Special Proceeding No. 6344 of the Negros
Court, Vicente Uriarte filed in the same court, during the lifetime of Juan Uriarte y Goite, Civil Case
No. 6142 to obtain judgment for his compulsory acknowledgment as his natural child. Clearly
inferrable from this is that at the time he filed the action, as well as when he commenced the
aforesaid special proceeding, he had not yet been acknowledged as natural son of Juan Uriarte y
Goite. Up to this time, no final judgment to that effect appears to have been rendered.

The record further discloses that the special proceeding before the Negros Court has not gone
farther than the appointment of a special administrator in the person of the Philippine National Bank
who, as stated heretofore, failed to qualify.

On the other hand, it is not disputed that, after proper proceedings were had in Special Proceeding
No. 51396, the Manila Court admitted to probate the document submitted to, it as the last will of
Juan Uriarte y Goite, the petition for probate appearing not to have been contested. It appears
further that, as stated heretofore, the order issued by the Manila Court on July 1, 1963 denied
petitioner. Vicente Uriarte's Omnibus Motion for Intervention, Dismissal of Petition and Annulment of
said proceedings.
Likewise, it is not denied that to the motion to dismiss the special proceeding pending before the
Negros Court filed by Higinio Uriarte were attached a copy of the alleged last will of Juan Uriarte y
Goite and of the petition filed with the Manila Court for its probate. It is clear, therefore, that almost
from the start of Special Proceeding No. 6344, the Negros Court and petitioner Vicente Uriarte knew
of the existence of the aforesaid last will and of the proceedings for its probate.

The principal legal questions raised in the petition for certiorari are (a) whether or not the Negros
Court erred in dismissing Special Proceeding No. 6644, on the one hand, and on the other, (b)
whether the Manila Court similarly erred in not dismissing Special Proceeding No. 51396
notwithstanding proof of the prior filing of Special Proceeding No. 6344 in the Negros Court.

Under the Judiciary Act of 1948 [Section 44, paragraph (e)], Courts of First Instance have original
exclusive jurisdiction over "all matters of probate," that is, over special proceedings for the settlement
of the estate of deceased persons — whether they died testate or intestate. While their jurisdiction
over such subject matter is beyond question, the matter of venue, or the particular Court of First
Instance where the special proceeding should be commenced, is regulated by former Rule 75,
Section 1 of the Rules of Court, now Section 1, Rule 73 of the Revised Rules of Court, which
provides that the estate of a decedent inhabitant of the Philippines at the time of his death, whether
a citizen or an alien, shall be in the court of first instance in the province in which he resided at the
time of his death, and if he is an inhabitant of a foreign country, the court of first instance of any
province in which he had estate. Accordingly, when the estate to be settled is that of a non-resident
alien — like the deceased Juan Uriarte y Goite — the Courts of First Instance in provinces where the
deceased left any property have concurrent jurisdiction to take cognizance of the proper special
proceeding for the settlement of his estate. In the case before Us, these Courts of First Instance are
the Negros and the Manila Courts — province and city where the deceased Juan Uriarte y Goite left
considerable properties. From this premise petitioner argues that, as the Negros Court had first
taken cognizance of the special proceeding for the settlement of the estate of said decedent (Special
Proceeding No. 6344), the Manila Court no longer had jurisdiction to take cognizance of Special
Proceeding No. 51396 intended to settle the estate of the same decedent in accordance with his
alleged will, and that consequently, the first court erred in dismissing Special Proceeding No. 6344,
while the second court similarly erred in not dismissing Special Proceeding No. 51396.

It can not be denied that a special proceeding intended to effect the distribution of the estate of a
deceased person, whether in accordance with the law on intestate succession or in accordance with
his will, is a "probate matter" or a proceeding for the settlement of his estate. It is equally true,
however, that in accordance with settled jurisprudence in this jurisdiction, testate proceedings, for
the settlement of the estate of a deceased person take precedence over intestate proceedings for
the same purpose. Thus it has been held repeatedly that, if in the course of intestate proceedings
pending before a court of first instance it is found it hat the decedent had left a last will, proceedings
for the probate of the latter should replace the intestate proceedings even if at that stage an
administrator had already been appointed, the latter being required to render final account and turn
over the estate in his possession to the executor subsequently appointed. This, however, is
understood to be without prejudice that should the alleged last will be rejected or is disapproved, the
proceeding shall continue as an intestacy. As already adverted to, this is a clear indication that
proceedings for the probate of a will enjoy priority over intestate proceedings.

Upon the facts before Us the question arises as to whether Juan Uriarte Zamacona should have filed
the petition for the probate of the last will of Juan Uriarte y Goite with the Negros Court —
particularly in Special Proceeding No. 6344 — or was entitled to commence the corresponding
separate proceedings, as he did, in the Manila Court.
The following considerations and the facts of record would seem to support the view that he should
have submitted said will for probate to the Negros Court, either in a separate special proceeding or
in an appropriate motion for said purpose filed in the already pending Special Proceeding No. 6344.
In the first place, it is not in accord with public policy and the orderly and inexpensive administration
of justice to unnecessarily multiply litigation, especially if several courts would be involved. This, in
effect, was the result of the submission of the will aforesaid to the Manila Court. In the second place,
when respondent Higinio Uriarte filed an opposition to Vicente Uriarte's petition for the issuance of
letters of administration, he had already informed the Negros Court that the deceased Juan Uriarte y
Goite had left a will in Spain, of which a copy had been requested for submission to said court; and
when the other respondent, Juan Uriarte Zamacona, filed his motion to dismiss Special Proceeding
No. 6344, he had submitted to the Negros Court a copy of the alleged will of the decedent, from
which fact it may be inferred that, like Higinio Uriarte, he knew before filing the petition for probate
with the Manila Court that there was already a special proceeding pending in the Negros Court for
the settlement of the estate of the same deceased person. As far as Higinio Uriarte is concerned, it
seems quite clear that in his opposition to petitioner's petition in Special Proceeding No. 6344, he
had expressly promised to submit said will for probate to the Negros Court.

But the fact is that instead of the aforesaid will being presented for probate to the Negros Court,
Juan Uriarte Zamacona filed the petition for the purpose with the Manila Court. We can not accept
petitioner's contention in this regard that the latter court had no jurisdiction to consider said petition,
albeit we say that it was not the proper venue therefor.

It is well settled in this jurisdiction that wrong venue is merely a waiveable procedural defect, and, in
the light of the circumstances obtaining in the instant case, we are of the opinion, and so hold, that
petitioner has waived the right to raise such objection or is precluded from doing so by laches. It is
enough to consider in this connection that petitioner knew of the existence of a will executed by Juan
Uriarte y Goite since December 19, 1961 when Higinio Uriarte filed his opposition to the initial
petition filed in Special Proceeding No. 6344; that petitioner likewise was served with notice of the
existence (presence) of the alleged last will in the Philippines and of the filing of the petition for its
probate with the Manila Court since August 28, 1962 when Juan Uriarte Zamacona filed a motion for
the dismissal of Special Proceeding No. 6344. All these notwithstanding, it was only on April 15,
1963 that he filed with the Manila Court in Special Proceeding No. 51396 an Omnibus motion asking
for leave to intervene and for the dismissal and annulment of all the proceedings had therein up to
that date; thus enabling the Manila Court not only to appoint an administrator with the will annexed
but also to admit said will to probate more than five months earlier, or more specifically, on October
31, 1962. To allow him now to assail the exercise of jurisdiction over the probate of the will by the
Manila Court and the validity of all the proceedings had in Special Proceeding No. 51396 would put
a premium on his negligence. Moreover, it must be remembered that this Court is not inclined to
annul proceedings regularly had in a lower court even if the latter was not the proper venue therefor,
if the net result would be to have the same proceedings repeated in some other court of similar
jurisdiction; more so in a case like the present where the objection against said proceedings is raised
too late.

In his order of April 19, 1963 dismissing Special Proceeding No. 6344, Judge Fernandez of the
Negros Court said that he was "not inclined to sustain the contention of the petitioner that inasmuch
as the herein petitioner has instituted Civil Case No. 6142 for compulsory acknowledgment by the
decedent such action justifies the institution by him of this proceedings. If the petitioner is to be
consistent with the authorities cited by him in support of his contention, the proper thing for him to do
would be to intervene in the testate estate proceedings entitled Special Proceedings No. 51396 in
the Court of First Instance of Manila instead of maintaining an independent action, for indeed his
supposed interest in the estate of the decedent is of his doubtful character pending the final decision
of the action for compulsory acknowledgment."
We believe in connection with the above matter that petitioner is entitled to prosecute Civil Case No.
6142 until it is finally determined, or intervene in Special Proceeding No. 51396 of the Manila Court,
if it is still open, or to ask for its reopening if it has already been closed, so as to be able to submit for
determination the question of his acknowledgment as natural child of the deceased testator, said
court having, in its capacity as a probate court, jurisdiction to declare who are the heirs of the
deceased testator and whether or not a particular party is or should be declared his acknowledged
natural child (II Moran on Rules of Court, 1957 Ed., p. 476; Conde vs. Abaya, 13 Phil. 249; Severino
vs. Severino, 44 Phil. 343; Lopez vs. Lopez, 68 Phil. 227, and Jimoga-on vs. Belmonte, 47 O. G.
1119).

Coming now to the supplemental petition for mandamus (G.R. No. L-21939), We are of the opinion,
and so hold, that in view of the conclusions heretofore stated, the same has become moot and
academic. If the said supplemental petition is successful, it will only result in compelling the Negros
Court to give due course to the appeal that petitioner was taking from the orders of said court dated
December 7, 1963 and February 26, 1964, the first being the order of said court dismissing Special
Proceeding No. 6344, and the second being an order denying petitioner's motion for the
reconsideration of said order of dismissal. Said orders being, as a result of what has been said
heretofore beyond petitioner's power to contest, the conclusion can not be other than that the
intended appeal would serve no useful purpose, or, worse still, would enable petitioner to circumvent
our ruling that he can no longer question the validity of said orders.

IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING CONSIDERATIONS, judgment is hereby rendered denying the writs
prayed for and, as a result, the petition for certiorari filed in G.R. No. L-21938, as well as the
supplemental petition for mandamus docketed as G.R. No. L-21939, are hereby dismissed. The writ
of preliminary injunction heretofore issued is set aside. With costs against petitioner.

G.R. No. L-55509 April 27, 1984

ETHEL GRIMM ROBERTS, petitioner,


vs.
JUDGE TOMAS R. LEONIDAS, Branch 38, Court of First Instance of Manila; MAXINE TATE-
GRIMM, EDWARD MILLER GRIMM II and LINDA GRIMM, respondents.

N. J. Quisumbing and Associates for petitioners.

Angara, Abello, Concepcion, Regala and Cruz for respondents.

AQUINO, J.: ñé+ .£ª wph!1

The question in this case is whether a petition for allowance of wills and to annul a partition,
approved in an intestateproceeding by Branch 20 of the Manila Court of First Instance, can be
entertained by its Branch 38 (after a probate in the Utah district court).

Antecedents. — Edward M. Grimm an American resident of Manila, died at 78 in the Makati Medical
Center on November 27, 1977. He was survived by his second wife, Maxine Tate Grimm and their
two children, named Edward Miller Grimm II (Pete) and Linda Grimm and by Juanita Grimm Morris
and Ethel Grimm Roberts (McFadden), his two children by a first marriage which ended in divorce
(Sub-Annexes A and B. pp. 36-47, Rollo).

He executed on January 23, 1959 two wills in San Francisco, California. One will disposed of his
Philippine estate which he described as conjugal property of himself and his second wife. The
second win disposed of his estate outside the Philippines.

In both wills, the second wife and two children were favored. The two children of the first
marriage were given their legitimes in the will disposing of the estate situated in this country. In the
will dealing with his property outside this country, the testator said:
têñ.£îhqwâ£

I purposely have made no provision in this will for my daughter, Juanita Grimm
Morris, or my daughter, Elsa Grimm McFadden (Ethel Grimm Roberts), because I
have provided for each of them in a separate will disposing of my Philippine property.
(First clause, pp. 43-47, Rollo).

The two wills and a codicil were presented for probate by Maxine Tate Grimm and E. LaVar Tate on
March 7, 1978 in Probate No. 3720 of the Third Judicial District Court of Tooele County, Utah.
Juanita Grimm Morris of Cupertino, California and Mrs. Roberts of 15 C. Benitez Street, Horseshoe
Village, Quezon City were notified of the probate proceeding (Sub-Annex C, pp. 48-55, Rollo).

Maxine admitted that she received notice of the intestate petition filed in Manila by Ethel in January,
1978 (p. 53, Rollo). In its order dated April 10, 1978, the Third Judicial District Court admitted to
probate the two wills and the codicil It was issued upon consideration of the stipulation dated April 4,
1978 "by and between the attorneys for Maxine Tate Grimm, Linda Grimm, Edward Miller Grimm II,
E. LaVar Tate, Juanita Kegley Grimm (first wife), Juanita Grimm Morris and Ethel Grimm Roberts"
(Annex C, pp. 48-51, Rollo).

Two weeks later, or on April 25, 1978, Maxine and her two children Linda and Pete, as the first
parties, and Ethel, Juanita Grimm Morris and their mother Juanita Kegley Grimm as the second
parties, with knowledge of the intestate proceeding in Manila, entered into a compromise
agreement in Utah regarding the estate. It was signed by David E. Salisbury and Donald B.
Holbrook, as lawyers of the parties, by Pete and Linda and the attorney-in-fact of Maxine and by the
attorney-in-fact of Ethel, Juanita Grimm Morris and Juanita Kegley Grimm.

In that agreement, it was stipulated that Maxine, Pete and Ethel would be designated as personal
representatives (administrators) of Grimm's Philippine estate (par. 2). It was also stipulated that
Maxine's one-half conjugal share in the estate should be reserved for her and that would not be less
than $1,500,000 plus the homes in Utah and Santa Mesa, Manila (par. 4). The agreement indicated
the computation of the "net distributable estate". It recognized that the estate was liable to pay the
fees of the Angara law firm (par. 5).

It was stipulated in paragraph 6 that the decedent's four children "shall share equally in the Net
Distributable Estate" and that Ethel and Juanita Morris should each receive at least 12-1/2% of the
total of the net distributable estate and marital share. A supplemental memorandum also dated April
25, 1978 was executed by the parties (Sub-Annex F, pp. 49-61, Annex, F-1, pp. 75-76, Testate
case).

Intestate proceeding No. 113024.-At this juncture, it should be stated that forty- three days after
Grimm's death, or January 9, 1978, his daughter of the first marriage, Ethel, 49, through lawyers
Deogracias T. Reyes and. Gerardo B. Macaraeg, filed with Branch 20 of the Manila Court of First
Instance intestate proceeding No. 113024 for the settlement of his estate. She was named special
administratrix.

On March 11, the second wife, Maxine, through the Angara law office, filed an opposition and motion
to dismiss the intestate proceeding on the ground of the pendency of Utah of a proceeding for the
probate of Grimm's will. She also moved that she be appointed special administratrix, She submitted
to the court a copy of Grimm's will disposing of his Philippine estate. It is found in pages 58 to 64 of
the record.

The intestate court in its orders of May 23 and June 2 noted that Maxine, through a new lawyer,
William C. Limqueco (partner of Gerardo B. Macaraeg, p. 78, testate case withdrew that opposition
and motion to dismiss and, at the behest of Maxine, Ethel and Pete, appointed them joint
administrators. Apparently, this was done pursuant to the aforementioned Utah compromise
agreement. The court ignored the will already found in the record.

The three administrators submitted an inventory. With the authority and approval of the court, they
sold for P75,000 on March 21, 1979 the so-called Palawan Pearl Project, a business owned by the
deceased. Linda and Juanita allegedly conformed with the sale (pp. 120-129, Record). It turned out
that the buyer, Makiling Management Co., Inc., was incorporated by Ethel and her husband, Rex
Roberts, and by lawyer Limqueco (Annex L, p. 90, testate case).

Also with the court's approval and the consent of Linda and Juanita, they sold for P1,546,136 to
Joseph Server and others 193,267 shares of RFM Corporation (p. 135, Record).

Acting on the declaration of heirs and project of partition signed and filed by lawyers Limqueco and
Macaraeg (not signed by Maxine and her two children), Judge Conrado M. Molina in his order of July
27, 1979 adjudicated to Maxine onehalf (4/8) of the decedent's Philippine estate and one-eighth (1/8)
each to his four children or 12-1/2% (pp. 140-142, Record). No mention at all was made of the will in
that order.

Six days later, or on August 2, Maxine and her two children replaced Limqueco with Octavio del
Callar as their lawyer who on August 9, moved to defer approval of the project of partition. The court
considered the motion moot considering that it had already approved the declaration of heirs and
project of partition (p. 149, Record).

Lawyer Limqueco in a letter to Maxine dated August 2, 1979 alleged that he was no longer
connected with Makiling Management Co., Inc. when the Palawan Pearl Project was sold: that it was
Maxine's son Pete who negotiated the sale with Rex Roberts and that he (Limqueco) was going to
sue Maxine for the lies she imputed to him (Annex H, p. 78, testate case).

Ethel submitted to the court a certification of the Assistant Commissioner of Internal Revenue dated
October 2, 1979. It was stated therein that Maxine paid P1,992,233.69 as estate tax and penalties
and that he interposed no objection to the transfer of the estate to Grimm's heirs (p. 153, Record).
The court noted the certification as in conformity with its order of July 27, 1979.

After November, 1979 or for a period of more than five months, there was no movement or activity in
the intestate case. On April 18, 1980 Juanita Grimm Morris, through Ethel's lawyers, filed a motion
for accounting "so that the Estate properties can be partitioned among the heirs and the present
intestate estate be closed." Del Callar, Maxine's lawyer was notified of that motion.

Before that motion could be heard, or on June 10, 1980, the Angara law firm filed again its
appearance in collaboration with Del Callar as counsel for Maxine and her two children, Linda and
Pete. It should be recalled that the firm had previously appeared in the case as Maxine's counsel on
March 11, 1978, when it filed a motion to dismiss the intestate proceeding and furnished the court
with a copy of Grimm's will. As already noted, the firm was then superseded by lawyer Limqueco.

Petition to annul partition and testate proceeding No. 134559. — On September 8, 1980, Rogelio A.
Vinluan of the Angara law firm in behalf of Maxine, Pete and Linda, filed in Branch 38 of the lower
court a petition praying for the probate of Grimm's two wills (already probated in Utah), that the 1979
partition approved by the intestate court be set aside and the letters of administration revoked, that
Maxine be appointed executrix and that Ethel and Juanita Morris be ordered to account for the
properties received by them and to return the same to Maxine (pp. 25-35, Rollo).

Grimm's second wife and two children alleged that they were defraud due to the machinations of the
Roberts spouses, that the 1978 Utah compromise agreement was illegal, that the intestate
proceeding is void because Grimm died testate and that the partition was contrary to the decedent's
wills.

Ethel filed a motion to dismiss the petition. Judge Leonidas denied it for lack of merit in his order of
October 27, 1980. Ethel then filed a petition for certiorari and prohibition in this Court, praying that
the testate proceeding be dismissed, or. alternatively that the two proceedings be consolidated and
heard in Branch 20 and that the matter of the annulment of the Utah compromise agreement be
heard prior to the petition for probate (pp. 22-23, Rollo).

Ruling. — We hold that respondent judge did not commit any grave abuse of discretion, amounting
to lack of jurisdiction, in denying Ethel's motion to dismiss.

A testate proceeding is proper in this case because Grimm died with two wills and "no will shall pass
either real or personal property unless it is proved and allowed" (Art. 838, Civil Code; sec. 1, Rule
75, Rules of Court).

The probate of the will is mandatory (Guevara vs. Guevara, 74 Phil. 479 and 98 Phil. 249; Baluyot
vs. Panio, L-42088, May 7, 1976, 71 SCRA 86). It is anomalous that the estate of a person who
died testate should be settled in an intestate proceeding. Therefore, the intestate case should be
consolidated with the testate proceeding and the judge assigned to the testate proceeding should
continue hearing the two cases.

Ethel may file within twenty days from notice of the finality of this judgment an opposition and answer
to the petition unless she considers her motion to dismiss and other pleadings sufficient for the
purpose. Juanita G. Morris, who appeared in the intestate case, should be served with copies of
orders, notices and other papers in the testate case.

WHEREFORE the petition is dismissed. The temporary restraining order is dissolved. No costs.

SO ORDERED. 1äw phï1.ñët

G.R. No. L-39532 July 20, 1979

Testate Estate of Jose M. Valero, FLORA VALERO VDA. DE RODRIGUEZ and ROSIE VALERO
DE GUTIERREZ, petitioners-appellants,
vs.
COURT OF APPEALS and CARMEN VALERO-RUSTIA, respondents-appellees.
Amboriso Padilla Law Office and Iglesia & Associates for appellants.

Angel P. Purisima for appellees.

AQUINO, J.: 1äwphï1.ñ ët

This is supposedly a case about collation. As factual background, it should be stated that the
spouses, Beatriz Bautista and Jose M. Valero, did not beget any child during their marriage In 1951
Beatriz adopted Carmen (Carmencita) Bautista. Jose wanted also to adopt her but because, by his
first marriage, he had two children named Flora Valero Vda. de Rodriguez and Rosie Valero
Gutierrez. he was disqualified to adopt Carmen. Jose manifested in the adoption proceeding that he
consented to the use by Carmen of his surname Valero. (See Civil Case No. 12475, Manila CFI; Art.
338[1], Civil Code and art. 28, Child and Youth Welfare Code.)

On September 18, 1964, Jose M. Valero donated to Carmen B. Valero (who was already married to
Doctor Sergio Rustia) his one-half proindiviso share (apparently his inchoate share) in two conjugal
lots, with the improvements thereon, located at San Lorenzo Village, Makati, Rizal, with an area of
1,500 square meters. His wife, Beatriz, consented to the donation. However, the deed of donation
was not registered.

On January 13, 1966, Jose M. Valero, who was then seventy-three years old, executed his last will
and testament wherein he enumerated the conjugal properties of himself and his wife, including the
two San Lorenzo Village lots. In that will, he did not mention the donation. He devised to his wife
properties sufficient to constitute her legitime and bequeathed the remainder to his two children, Mrs.
Rodriguez and Mrs. Gutierrez.

About a month later, or on February 15, 1966, the Valero spouses, by means of a deed of absolute
sale, conveyed the San Lorenzo Village lots and the improvements thereon to Carmen B. Valero-
Rustia for the sum of one hundred twenty thousand pesos. The sale was registered on the following
day. Transfer Certificates of Title Nos. 163270 and 163271 were issued to the vendee, Mrs. Rustia.

On December 4, 1967 she mortgaged the two lots to the Quezon City Development Bank as security
for a loan of fifty thousand pesos (page 204, Rollo).

Beatriz B. Valero died intestate on September 12, 1972, survived by her husband and her adopted
child. Her estate is pending settlement in Special Proceeding No. 88896 of the Court of First
Instance of Manila. Mrs. Rustia was named administratrix of her adopted mother's estate.

More than a month later, or on October 18, 1972, Jose M. Valero died testate, survived by his two
children, Mrs. Rodriguez and Mrs. Gutierrez. His will was duly probated in Special Proceeding No.
88677, also of the Court of First Instance of Manila. Lawyer Celso F. Unson, the executor, submitted
an inventory wherein, following the list of conjugal assets in the testator's will, the two San Lorenzo
Village lots were included as part of the testate estate.

That inclusion provoked Mrs. Rustia, the adopted child of Mrs. Valero, and Mrs. Rodriguez and Mrs.
Gutierrez, the legitimate children of the testator, Jose M. Valero, to file (through Mrs. Rustia's lawyer)
in the testate proceeding a motion for the exclusion of the two San Lorenzo Village lots from the
testator's inventoried estate.
Adduced as reason for the exclusion is the fact that since February 16, 1966 Mrs. Rustia has been
the registered owner of the lots as shown by two Torrens titles, copies of which were attached to the
motion.

The executor opposed the motion on the ground that the two lots were donated to Mrs. Rustia and
the donation would allegedly involve collation and the donee's title to the lots. The executor revealed
that he was informed by Mrs. Gutierrez and Mrs. Rodriguez (supposed movants) that the two lots
should be included in the inventory. Thus, the issue of collation was prematurely raised.

The probate court in its order of August 9, 1973 excluded the two lots from the inventory of the
testator's estate but with the understanding "that the same are subject to collation".

On December 4, 1973 or one hundred twelve days after Mrs. Rustia was served with a copy of that
order, she filed a motion for its reconsideration. She insisted that she is the owner of the two San
Lorenzo Village lots as indicated in the Torrens titles. No one opposed that motion. At the hearing of
that motion, Mrs. Rustia's lawyer apprised the court that the executor informed him over the phone
that he was not opposing the motion.

The probate court in its order of December 14, 1973 ruled that the two lots were unconditionally
excluded from the inventory of Jose M. Valero's estate, meaning "that they are not subject to
collation". That order is the bone of contention in this case.

Mrs. Rodriguez (without being joined by her sister, Mrs. Gutierrez) filed a motion for the
reconsideration of the order of December 14, 1973. She alleged that the two San Lorenzo Village
lots were really conveyed to Mrs. Rustia by way of donation because the consideration for the sale
was allegedly only one-fifth of the true value of the lots. Mrs. Rodriguez further contended that the
order of August 9, 1973 was final in character.

In reply, Mrs. Rustia countered that the prior order was interlocutory and that in 1966 the true value
of the two lots was around P120,000 and that their value increased considerably in 1973 or 1974.
Moreover, the relatively low price of the sale could be attributed to the fact that Mrs. Rustia and her
husband lived with the Valeros and were taking care of them.

The probate court denied the motion for reconsideration. Mrs. Rodriguez and Mrs. Gutierrez, in their
petition for certiorari in the Court of Appeals, assailed the probate court's order declaring that the two
lots were not subject to collation.

The Court of Appeals held that the order of exclusion dated August 9, 1973 was interlocutory and
that it could be changed or Modified at anytime during the course of the administration proceedings.

It further held that it was immaterial whether the two lots were donated or sold to Mrs. Rustia as "a
mere subterfuge to avoid payment of the donor's and donee's taxes". According to the Appellate
Court, it was immaterial because under article 1061 of the Civil Code, only compulsory heirs are
required to make collation for the determination of their legitimes and, under section 2, Rule 90 of
the Rules of Court, only heirs are involved in questions as to advancement and Mrs. Rustia is not an
heir of the testator, Jose M. Valero (Vda. de Rodriguez vs. Valero Rustia, CA-G. R. No. SP- 02944,
August 28, 1974, per G. S. Santos, Gaviola, Jr. and De Castro, JJ.).

From that decision, an appeal was made to this Court. The appeal was not given due course.
However, upon motion for reconsideration and over Mrs. Rustia's opposition, the appeal was later
allowed.
The appellants' only assignment of error is that the Court of Appeals should have held that the
probate court's order of exclusion dated August 9, 1973 was not interlocutory but was a final and
appealable order valid that the order of December 14, 1973 modifying the order of August 3 is void.

We hold that the order of exclusion dated August 9, 1973 was not a final order. It was interlocutory in
the sense that it did not settle once and for all the title to the San Lorenzo Village lots. The probate
court in the exclusion incident could not determine the question of title.

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 (3 Moran's Comments on the Rules of Court, 1970
Edition, pages 448-9 and 473; Lachenal vs. Salas, L-42257, June 14, 1976, 71 SCRA 262, 266).

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 testator's
estate. The issue of collation was not yet justifiable 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. Rustia's 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 (Pages 223 and 235-6, Rollo).

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. Rustia's 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.
Rustia's 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.

WHEREFORE, we affirm the decision of the Court of Appeals and the orders of the, lower court
dated August 9 and December 14, 1973, excluding from the inventory of Jose M. Valeros estate the
two San Lorenzo Village lots now registered in the name of Carmen B. Valero-Rustia, but we delete
from that decision and the two orders any ruling regarding collation which is a matter that may be
passed upon by the probate court at the time when it is seasonably raised by the interested parties,
if it is ever raised at all. No costs.

SO ORDERED.

Fernando, C.J., Makasiar, Antonio, Concepcion, Jr., Fernandez, Guerrero, Abad Santos and
Melencio-Herrera, JJ., concur. 1äwphï1.ñët
Santos and De Castro, JJ., took no part.

Separate Opinions

BARREDO, J., concurring:

For even assuming that the order of exclusion had become final insofar as the inventory is
concerned, said order could not have any final binding effect on the issue of collation.

TEEHANKEE, J., dissenting:

I vote for the unqualified affirmance of respondent appellate court's decision sustaining the exclusion
from the inventory of Jose M. Valeros estate of the two San Lorenzo Village lots registered in the
name of respondent Carmen B. Valero-Rustia by virtue of the deed of absolute sale thereof
executed by him in his lifetime on February 15, 1966 in her favor.

The question of collation of said lots is immaterial insofar as respondent and the deceased Jose M.
Valeros estate and petitioners are concerned, since respondent is not even an heir of his estate
(which he had willed to his two legitimate children, herein petitioners, his second wife Beatriz
Bautista having predeceased him in September, 1972). Under Article 1061 of the Civil Code, only a
compulsory heir succeeding with other compulsory heirs is required to collate whatever property
he/she may have received from the decedent during the decedent's lifetime by way of donation or
any other gratuitous title in order that it may be computed in the determination of the legitime of each
heir, and in the account of the partition." There can therefore be no collation here because from the
documents of record, respondent Carmen B. Valero-Rustia is not a compulsory heir who received
property by donation or gratuitous title from the deceased that would be subject to collation.

The properties in question had been transferred by deed of absolute sale to said respondent-vendee
more than six years before the vendor Jose M. Valero died in, October, 1972. The deceased having
long divested himself of title to the said properties, they were properly excluded from the inventory of
his estate.

The real question between petitioners (Children of the deceased vendor) and respondent-vendee (a
stranger to the deceased's estate) is not collation, but a question of title and ownership of the
properties. The probate court has no jurisdiction over this question and petitioners must bring a
separate action if they wish to question respondent's title and ownership. Even granting their claim
that the deed of sale should be considered a donation or gratuitous transfer, (because of the
allegedly excessively low price), their only recourse would be not collation, but a separate action for
reduction of the donation to the extent that they may show it to be inofficious (exceeding that which
the deceased may give by will) under the provisions of Articles 750 and 752 of the Civil Code.

G.R. No. 156407, January 15, 2014


THELMA M. ARANAS, Petitioner, v. TERESITA V. MERCADO, FELIMON V. MERCADO, CARMENCITA M.
SUTHERLAND, RICHARD V. MERCADO, MA. TERESITA M. ANDERSON, AND FRANKLIN L.
MERCADO, Respondents.

DECISION

BERSAMIN, J.:

The probate court is authorized to determine the issue of ownership of properties for purposes of their
inclusion or exclusion from the inventory to be submitted by the administrator, but its determination shall
only be provisional unless the interested parties are all heirs of the decedent, 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. 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
property included in the inventory is the conjugal or exclusive property of the deceased spouse.

Antecedents

Emigdio S. Mercado (Emigdio) died intestate on January 12, 1991, survived by his second wife, Teresita V.
Mercado (Teresita), and their five children, namely: Allan V. Mercado, Felimon V. Mercado, Carmencita M.
Sutherland, Richard V. Mercado, and Maria Teresita M. Anderson; and his two children by his first marriage,
namely: respondent Franklin L. Mercado and petitioner Thelma M. Aranas (Thelma).

Emigdio inherited and acquired real properties during his lifetime. He owned corporate shares in Mervir
Realty Corporation (Mervir Realty) and Cebu Emerson Transportation Corporation (Cebu Emerson). He
assigned his real properties in exchange for corporate stocks of Mervir Realty, and sold his real property in
Badian, Cebu (Lot 3353 covered by Transfer Certificate of Title No. 3252) to Mervir Realty.

On June 3, 1991, Thelma filed in the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Cebu City a petition for the appointment
of Teresita as the administrator of Emigdio’s estate (Special Proceedings No. 3094–CEB).1 The RTC granted
the petition considering that there was no opposition. The letters of administration in favor of Teresita were
issued on September 7, 1992.

As the administrator, Teresita submitted an inventory of the estate of Emigdio on December 14, 1992 for
the consideration and approval by the RTC. She indicated in the inventory that at the time of his death,
Emigdio had “left no real properties but only personal properties” worth P6,675,435.25 in all, consisting of
cash of P32,141.20; furniture and fixtures worth P20,000.00; pieces of jewelry valued at P15,000.00;
44,806 shares of stock of Mervir Realty worth P6,585,585.80; and 30 shares of stock of Cebu Emerson
worth P22,708.25.2

Claiming that Emigdio had owned other properties that were excluded from the inventory, Thelma moved
that the RTC direct Teresita to amend the inventory, and to be examined regarding it. The RTC granted
Thelma’s motion through the order of January 8, 1993.

On January 21, 1993, Teresita filed a compliance with the order of January 8, 1993,3 supporting her
inventory with copies of three certificates of stocks covering the 44,806 Mervir Realty shares of stock;4the
deed of assignment executed by Emigdio on January 10, 1991 involving real properties with the market
value of P4,440,651.10 in exchange for 44,407 Mervir Realty shares of stock with total par value of
P4,440,700.00;5 and the certificate of stock issued on January 30, 1979 for 300 shares of stock of Cebu
Emerson worth P30,000.00.6

On January 26, 1993, Thelma again moved to require Teresita to be examined under oath on the inventory,
and that she (Thelma) be allowed 30 days within which to file a formal opposition to or comment on the
inventory and the supporting documents Teresita had submitted.

On February 4, 1993, the RTC issued an order expressing the need for the parties to present evidence and
for Teresita to be examined to enable the court to resolve the motion for approval of the inventory.7 cralaw red

On April 19, 1993, Thelma opposed the approval of the inventory, and asked leave of court to examine
Teresita on the inventory.

With the parties agreeing to submit themselves to the jurisdiction of the court on the issue of what
properties should be included in or excluded from the inventory, the RTC set dates for the hearing on that
issue.8
cralawlaw lib rary

Ruling of the RTC

After a series of hearings that ran for almost eight years, the RTC issued on March 14, 2001 an order finding
and holding that the inventory submitted by Teresita had excluded properties that should be included, and
accordingly ruled:

WHEREFORE, in view of all the foregoing premises and considerations, the Court hereby denies the
administratrix’s motion for approval of inventory. The Court hereby orders the said administratrix to re–do
the inventory of properties which are supposed to constitute as the estate of the late Emigdio S. Mercado by
including therein the properties mentioned in the last five immediately preceding paragraphs hereof and
then submit the revised inventory within sixty (60) days from notice of this order.

The Court also directs the said administratrix to render an account of her administration of the estate of the
late Emigdio S. Mercado which had come to her possession. She must render such accounting within sixty
(60) days from notice hereof.

SO ORDERED.9 ChanRoblesVi rtualaw lib rary

On March 29, 2001, Teresita, joined by other heirs of Emigdio, timely sought the reconsideration of the
order of March 14, 2001 on the ground that one of the real properties affected, Lot No. 3353 located in
Badian, Cebu, had already been sold to Mervir Realty, and that the parcels of land covered by the deed of
assignment had already come into the possession of and registered in the name of Mervir Realty.10Thelma
opposed the motion.

On May 18, 2001, the RTC denied the motion for reconsideration,11 stating that there was no cogent reason
for the reconsideration, and that the movants’ agreement as heirs to submit to the RTC the issue of what
properties should be included or excluded from the inventory already estopped them from questioning its
jurisdiction to pass upon the issue.

Decision of the CA

Alleging that the RTC thereby acted with grave abuse of discretion in refusing to approve the inventory, and
in ordering her as administrator to include real properties that had been transferred to Mervir Realty,
Teresita, joined by her four children and her stepson Franklin, assailed the adverse orders of the RTC
promulgated on March 14, 2001 and May 18, 2001 by petition for certiorari, stating:

THE HONORABLE RESPONDENT JUDGE HAS COMMITTED GRAVE ABUSE OF JURISDICTION (sic)
AMOUNTING TO LACK OR EXCESS OF JURISDICTION IN HOLDING THAT THE REAL PROPERTY WHICH WAS
SOLD BY THE LATE EMIGDIO S. MERCADO DURING HIS LIFETIME TO A PRIVATE CORPORATION (MERVIR
REALTY CORPORATION) BE INCLUDED IN THE INVENTORY OF THE ESTATE OF THE LATE EMIGDIO S.
MERCADO.

II

THE HONORABLE RESPONDENT JUDGE HAS COMMITTED GRAVE ABUSE OF JURISDICTION (sic)
AMOUNTING TO LACK OR EXCESS OF JURISDICTION IN HOLDING THAT REAL PROPERTIES WHICH ARE IN
THE POSSESSION OF AND ALREADY REGISTERED IN THE NAME (OF) PRIVATE CORPORATION (MERVIR
REALTY CORPORATION) BE INCLUDED IN THE INVENTORY OF THE ESTATE OF THE LATE EMIGDIO S.
MERCADO.

III

THE HONORABLE RESPONDENT JUDGE HAS COMMITTED GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION AMOUNTING TO
LACK OR EXCESS OF JURISDICTION IN HOLDING THAT PETITIONERS ARE NOW ESTOPPED FROM
QUESTIONING ITS JURISDICTION IN PASSING UPON THE ISSUE OF WHAT PROPERTIES SHOULD BE
INCLUDED IN THE INVENTORY OF THE ESTATE OF THE LATE EMIGDIO MERCADO.12

On May 15, 2002, the CA partly granted the petition for certiorari, disposing as follows:13

WHEREFORE, FOREGOING PREMISES CONSIDERED, this petition is GRANTED partially. The assailed
Orders dated March 14, 2001 and May 18, 2001 are hereby reversed and set aside insofar as the inclusion
of parcels of land known as Lot No. 3353 located at Badian, Cebu with an area of 53,301 square meters
subject matter of the Deed of Absolute Sale dated November 9, 1989 and the various parcels of land subject
matter of the Deeds of Assignment dated February 17, 1989 and January 10, 1991 in the revised inventory
to be submitted by the administratrix is concerned and affirmed in all other respects.

SO ORDERED.

The CA opined that Teresita, et al. had properly filed the petition for certiorari because the order of the RTC
directing a new inventory of properties was interlocutory; that pursuant to Article 1477 of the Civil Code, to
the effect that the ownership of the thing sold “shall be transferred to the vendee” upon its “actual and
constructive delivery,” and to Article 1498 of the Civil Code, to the effect that the sale made through a
public instrument was equivalent to the delivery of the object of the sale, the sale by Emigdio and Teresita
had transferred the ownership of Lot No. 3353 to Mervir Realty because the deed of absolute sale executed
on November 9, 1989 had been notarized; that Emigdio had thereby ceased to have any more interest in Lot
3353; that Emigdio had assigned the parcels of land to Mervir Realty as early as February 17, 1989 “for the
purpose of saving, as in avoiding taxes with the difference that in the Deed of Assignment dated January 10,
1991, additional seven (7) parcels of land were included”; that as to the January 10, 1991 deed of
assignment, Mervir Realty had been “even at the losing end considering that such parcels of land, subject
matter(s) of the Deed of Assignment dated February 12, 1989, were again given monetary consideration
through shares of stock”; that even if the assignment had been based on the deed of assignment dated
January 10, 1991, the parcels of land could not be included in the inventory “considering that there is
nothing wrong or objectionable about the estate planning scheme”; that the RTC, as an intestate court, also
had no power to take cognizance of and determine the issue of title to property registered in the name of
third persons or corporation; that a property covered by the Torrens system should be afforded the
presumptive conclusiveness of title; that the RTC, by disregarding the presumption, had transgressed the
clear provisions of law and infringed settled jurisprudence on the matter; and that the RTC also gravely
abused its discretion in holding that Teresita, et al. were estopped from questioning its jurisdiction because
of their agreement to submit to the RTC the issue of which properties should be included in the inventory.

The CA further opined as follows:


In the instant case, public respondent court erred when it ruled that petitioners are estopped from
questioning its jurisdiction considering that they have already agreed to submit themselves to its jurisdiction
of determining what properties are to be included in or excluded from the inventory to be submitted by the
administratrix, because actually, a reading of petitioners’ Motion for Reconsideration dated March 26, 2001
filed before public respondent court clearly shows that petitioners are not questioning its jurisdiction but the
manner in which it was exercised for which they are not estopped, since that is their right, considering that
there is grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or in excess of limited jurisdiction when it issued the
assailed Order dated March 14, 2001 denying the administratrix’s motion for approval of the inventory of
properties which were already titled and in possession of a third person that is, Mervir Realty Corporation, a
private corporation, which under the law possessed a personality distinct and separate from its stockholders,
and in the absence of any cogency to shred the veil of corporate fiction, the presumption of conclusiveness
of said titles in favor of Mervir Realty Corporation should stand undisturbed.

Besides, public respondent court acting as a probate court had no authority to determine the applicability of
the doctrine of piercing the veil of corporate fiction and even if public respondent court was not merely
acting in a limited capacity as a probate court, private respondent nonetheless failed to adjudge competent
evidence that would have justified the court to impale the veil of corporate fiction because to disregard the
separate jurisdictional personality of a corporation, the wrongdoing must be clearly and convincingly
established since it cannot be presumed.14

On November 15, 2002, the CA denied the motion for reconsideration of Teresita, et al.15

Issue

Did the CA properly determine that the RTC committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or
excess of jurisdiction in directing the inclusion of certain properties in the inventory notwithstanding that
such properties had been either transferred by sale or exchanged for corporate shares in Mervir Realty by
the decedent during his lifetime?

Ruling of the Court

The appeal is meritorious.

Was certiorari the proper recourse


to assail the questioned orders of the RTC?

The first issue to be resolved is procedural. Thelma contends that the resort to the special civil action
for certiorari to assail the orders of the RTC by Teresita and her co–respondents was not proper.

Thelma’s contention cannot be sustained.

The propriety of the special civil action for certiorari as a remedy depended on whether the assailed orders
of the RTC were final or interlocutory in nature. In Pahila–Garrido v. Tortogo,16 the Court distinguished
between final and interlocutory orders as follows:

The distinction between a final order and an interlocutory order is well known. The first disposes of the
subject matter in its entirety or terminates a particular proceeding or action, leaving nothing more to be
done except to enforce by execution what the court has determined, but the latter does not completely
dispose of the case but leaves something else to be decided upon. An interlocutory order deals with
preliminary matters and the trial on the merits is yet to be held and the judgment rendered. The test to
ascertain whether or not an order or a judgment is interlocutory or final is: does the order or judgment
leave something to be done in the trial court with respect to the merits of the case? If it does, the order or
judgment is interlocutory; otherwise, it is final.

The order dated November 12, 2002, which granted the application for the writ of preliminary injunction,
was an interlocutory, not a final, order, and should not be the subject of an appeal. The reason for
disallowing an appeal from an interlocutory order is to avoid multiplicity of appeals in a single action, which
necessarily suspends the hearing and decision on the merits of the action during the pendency of the
appeals. Permitting multiple appeals will necessarily delay the trial on the merits of the case for a
considerable length of time, and will compel the adverse party to incur unnecessary expenses, for one of the
parties may interpose as many appeals as there are incidental questions raised by him and as there are
interlocutory orders rendered or issued by the lower court. An interlocutory order may be the subject of an
appeal, but only after a judgment has been rendered, with the ground for appealing the order being included
in the appeal of the judgment itself.

The remedy against an interlocutory order not subject of an appeal is an appropriate special civil action
under Rule 65, provided that the interlocutory order is rendered without or in excess of jurisdiction or with
grave abuse of discretion. Then is certiorari under Rule 65 allowed to be resorted to.

The assailed order of March 14, 2001 denying Teresita’s motion for the approval of the inventory and the
order dated May 18, 2001 denying her motion for reconsideration were interlocutory. This is because the
inclusion of the properties in the inventory was not yet a final determination of their ownership. Hence, the
approval of the inventory and the concomitant determination of the ownership as basis for inclusion or
exclusion from the inventory were provisional and subject to revision at anytime during the course of the
administration proceedings.

In Valero Vda. De Rodriguez v. Court of Appeals,17 the Court, in affirming the decision of the CA to the effect
that the order of the intestate court excluding certain real properties from the inventory was interlocutory
and could be changed or modified at anytime during the course of the administration proceedings, held that
the order of exclusion was not a final but an interlocutory order “in the sense that it did not settle once and
for all the title to the San Lorenzo Village lots.” The Court observed there 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 (3 Moran’s Comments on the Rules of Court, 1970 Edition, pages
448–9 and 473; Lachenal vs. Salas, L–42257, June 14, 1976, 71 SCRA 262, 266).18 (Bold emphasis
supplied)

To the same effect was De Leon v. Court of Appeals,19 where the Court declared that a “probate court,
whether in a testate or intestate proceeding, can only pass upon questions of title provisionally,” and
reminded, citing Jimenez v. Court of Appeals, that the “patent reason is the probate court’s 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.” Indeed, in the cited case of Jimenez
v. Court of Appeals,20 the Court pointed out:

All that the said court could do as regards the 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. (Bold emphasis supplied)

On the other hand, an appeal would not be the correct recourse for Teresita, et al. to take against the
assailed orders. The final judgment rule embodied in the first paragraph of Section 1, Rule 41, Rules of
Court,21 which also governs appeals in special proceedings, stipulates that only the judgments, final orders
(and resolutions) of a court of law “that completely disposes of the case, or of a particular matter therein
when declared by these Rules to be appealable” may be the subject of an appeal in due course. The same
rule states that an interlocutory order or resolution (interlocutory because it deals with preliminary matters,
or that the trial on the merits is yet to be held and the judgment rendered) is expressly made non–
appealable.

Multiple appeals are permitted in special proceedings as a practical recognition of the possibility that
material issues may be finally determined at various stages of the special proceedings. Section 1, Rule 109
of the Rules of Court enumerates the specific instances in which multiple appeals may be resorted to in
special proceedings, viz:

Section 1. Orders or judgments from which appeals may be taken. – An interested person may appeal in
special proceedings from an order or judgment rendered by a Court of First Instance or a Juvenile and
Domestic Relations Court, where such order or judgment:

(a) Allows or disallows a will;

(b) Determines who are the lawful heirs of a deceased person, or the distributive share of the estate to
which such person is entitled;

(c) Allows or disallows, in whole or in part, any claim against the estate of a deceased person, or any claim
presented on behalf of the estate in offset to a claim against it;

(d) Settles the account of an executor, administrator, trustee or guardian;

(e) Constitutes, in proceedings relating to the settlement of the estate of a deceased person, or the
administration of a trustee or guardian, a final determination in the lower court of the rights of the party
appealing, except that no appeal shall be allowed from the appointment of a special administrator; and

(f) Is the final order or judgment rendered in the case, and affects the substantial rights of the person
appealing, unless it be an order granting or denying a motion for a new trial or for reconsideration.

Clearly, the assailed orders of the RTC, being interlocutory, did not come under any of the instances in
which multiple appeals are permitted.

II
Did the RTC commit grave abuse of discretion
in directing the inclusion of the properties
in the estate of the decedent?

In its assailed decision, the CA concluded that the RTC committed grave abuse of discretion for including
properties in the inventory notwithstanding their having been transferred to Mervir Realty by Emigdio during
his lifetime, and for disregarding the registration of the properties in the name of Mervir Realty, a third
party, by applying the doctrine of piercing the veil of corporate fiction.

Was the CA correct in its conclusion?

The answer is in the negative. It is unavoidable to find that the CA, in reaching its conclusion, ignored the
law and the facts that had fully warranted the assailed orders of the RTC.

Under Section 6(a), Rule 78 of the Rules of Court, the letters of administration may be granted at the
discretion of the court to the surviving spouse, who is competent and willing to serve when the person dies
intestate. Upon issuing the letters of administration to the surviving spouse, the RTC becomes duty–bound
to direct the preparation and submission of the inventory of the properties of the estate, and the surviving
spouse, as the administrator, has the duty and responsibility to submit the inventory within three months
from the issuance of letters of administration pursuant to Rule 83 of the Rules of Court, viz:

Section 1. Inventory and appraisal to be returned within three months. – Within three (3) months after his
appointment every executor or administrator shall return to the court a true inventory and appraisal of
all the real and personal estate of the deceased which has come into his possession or
knowledge. In the appraisement of such estate, the court may order one or more of the inheritance tax
appraisers to give his or their assistance.

The usage of the word all in Section 1, supra, demands the inclusion of all the real and personal properties
of the decedent in the inventory.22 However, the word all is qualified by the phrase which has come into
his possession or knowledge, which signifies that the properties must be known to the administrator to
belong to the decedent or are in her possession as the administrator. Section 1 allows no exception, for the
phrase true inventory implies that no properties appearing to belong to the decedent can be excluded from
the inventory, regardless of their being in the possession of another person or entity.

The objective of the Rules of Court in requiring the inventory and appraisal of the estate of the decedent is
“to aid the court in revising the accounts and determining the liabilities of the executor or the administrator,
and in making a final and equitable distribution (partition) of the estate and otherwise to facilitate the
administration of the estate.”23 Hence, the RTC that presides over the administration of an estate is vested
with wide discretion on the question of what properties should be included in the inventory. According
to Peralta v. Peralta,24 the CA cannot impose its judgment in order to supplant that of the RTC on the issue
of which properties are to be included or excluded from the inventory in the absence of “positive abuse of
discretion,” for in the administration of the estates of deceased persons, “the judges enjoy ample
discretionary powers and the appellate courts should not interfere with or attempt to replace the action
taken by them, unless it be shown that there has been a positive abuse of discretion.”25As long as the RTC
commits no patently grave abuse of discretion, its orders must be respected as part of the regular
performance of its judicial duty.

There is no dispute that the jurisdiction of the trial court as an intestate court is special and limited. The trial
court cannot adjudicate title to properties claimed to be a part of the estate but are claimed to belong to
third parties by title adverse to that of the decedent and the estate, not by virtue of any right of inheritance
from the decedent. All that the trial court can do regarding said properties is to determine whether or not
they should be included in the inventory of properties to be administered by the administrator. Such
determination is provisional and may be still revised. As the Court said in Agtarap v. Agtarap:26

The general rule is that the jurisdiction of the trial court, either as a probate court 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. The patent rationale for this rule is that such court merely exercises special and limited
jurisdiction. As held in several cases, 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.

However, this general rule is subject to exceptions as justified by expediency and convenience.

First, the probate court may provisionally pass upon 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 final determination of ownership in a separate action. 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. 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 property in the inventory is conjugal or exclusive property
of the deceased spouse.27 (Italics in the original; bold emphasis supplied)

It is clear to us that the RTC took pains to explain the factual bases for its directive for the inclusion of the
properties in question in its assailed order of March 14, 2001, viz:

In the first place, the administratrix of the estate admitted that Emigdio Mercado was one of the heirs of
Severina Mercado who, upon her death, left several properties as listed in the inventory of properties
submitted in Court in Special Proceedings No. 306–R which are supposed to be divided among her heirs. The
administratrix admitted, while being examined in Court by the counsel for the petitioner, that she did not
include in the inventory submitted by her in this case the shares of Emigdio Mercado in the said estate of
Severina Mercado. Certainly, said properties constituting Emigdio Mercado’s share in the estate of Severina
Mercado should be included in the inventory of properties required to be submitted to the Court in this
particular case.

In the second place, the administratrix of the estate of Emigdio Mercado also admitted in Court that she did
not include in the inventory shares of stock of Mervir Realty Corporation which are in her name and which
were paid by her from money derived from the taxicab business which she and her husband had since 1955
as a conjugal undertaking. As these shares of stock partake of being conjugal in character, one–half thereof
or of the value thereof should be included in the inventory of the estate of her husband.

In the third place, the administratrix of the estate of Emigdio Mercado admitted, too, in Court that she had a
bank account in her name at Union Bank which she opened when her husband was still alive. Again, the
money in said bank account partakes of being conjugal in character, and so, one–half thereof should be
included in the inventory of the properties constituting as estate of her husband.

In the fourth place, it has been established during the hearing in this case that Lot No. 3353 of Pls–657–D
located in Badian, Cebu containing an area of 53,301 square meters as described in and covered by Transfer
Certificate of Title No. 3252 of the Registry of Deeds for the Province of Cebu is still registered in the name
of Emigdio S. Mercado until now. When it was the subject of Civil Case No. CEB–12690 which was decided
on October 19, 1995, it was the estate of the late Emigdio Mercado which claimed to be the owner thereof.
Mervir Realty Corporation never intervened in the said case in order to be the owner thereof. This fact was
admitted by Richard Mercado himself when he testified in Court. x x x So the said property located in
Badian, Cebu should be included in the inventory in this case.

Fifthly and lastly, it appears that the assignment of several parcels of land by the late Emigdio S. Mercado to
Mervir Realty Corporation on January 10, 1991 by virtue of the Deed of Assignment signed by him on the
said day (Exhibit N for the petitioner and Exhibit 5 for the administratrix) was a transfer in contemplation of
death. It was made two days before he died on January 12, 1991. A transfer made in contemplation of
death is one prompted by the thought that the transferor has not long to live and made in place of a
testamentary disposition (1959 Prentice Hall, p. 3909). Section 78 of the National Internal Revenue Code of
1977 provides that the gross estate of the decedent shall be determined by including the value at the time
of his death of all property to the extent of any interest therein of which the decedent has at any time made
a transfer in contemplation of death. So, the inventory to be approved in this case should still include the
said properties of Emigdio Mercado which were transferred by him in contemplation of death. Besides, the
said properties actually appeared to be still registered in the name of Emigdio S. Mercado at least ten (10)
months after his death, as shown by the certification issued by the Cebu City Assessor’s Office on October
31, 1991 (Exhibit O).28
Thereby, the RTC strictly followed the directives of the Rules of Court and the jurisprudence relevant to the
procedure for preparing the inventory by the administrator. The aforequoted explanations indicated that the
directive to include the properties in question in the inventory rested on good and valid reasons, and thus
was far from whimsical, or arbitrary, or capricious.

Firstly, the shares in the properties inherited by Emigdio from Severina Mercado should be included in the
inventory because Teresita, et al. did not dispute the fact about the shares being inherited by Emigdio.

Secondly, with Emigdio and Teresita having been married prior to the effectivity of the Family Code in
August 3, 1988, their property regime was the conjugal partnership of gains.29 For purposes of the
settlement of Emigdio’s estate, it was unavoidable for Teresita to include his shares in the conjugal
partnership of gains. The party asserting that specific property acquired during that property regime did not
pertain to the conjugal partnership of gains carried the burden of proof, and that party must prove the
exclusive ownership by one of them by clear, categorical, and convincing evidence.30 In the absence of or
pending the presentation of such proof, the conjugal partnership of Emigdio and Teresita must be
provisionally liquidated to establish who the real owners of the affected properties were,31 and which of the
properties should form part of the estate of Emigdio. The portions that pertained to the estate of Emigdio
must be included in the inventory.

Moreover, although the title over Lot 3353 was already registered in the name of Mervir Realty, the RTC
made findings that put that title in dispute. Civil Case No. CEB–12692, a dispute that had involved the
ownership of Lot 3353, was resolved in favor of the estate of Emigdio, and Transfer Certificate of Title No.
3252 covering Lot 3353 was still in Emigdio’s name. Indeed, the RTC noted in the order of March 14, 2001,
or ten years after his death, that Lot 3353 had remained registered in the name of Emigdio.

Interestingly, Mervir Realty did not intervene at all in Civil Case No. CEB–12692.Such lack of interest in Civil
Case No. CEB–12692 was susceptible of various interpretations, including one to the effect that the heirs of
Emigdio could have already threshed out their differences with the assistance of the trial court. This
interpretation was probable considering that Mervir Realty, whose business was managed by respondent
Richard, was headed by Teresita herself as its President. In other words, Mervir Realty appeared to be a
family corporation.

Also, the fact that the deed of absolute sale executed by Emigdio in favor of Mervir Realty was a notarized
instrument did not sufficiently justify the exclusion from the inventory of the properties involved. A notarized
deed of sale only enjoyed the presumption of regularity in favor of its execution, but its notarization did
not per se guarantee the legal efficacy of the transaction under the deed, and what the contents purported
to be. The presumption of regularity could be rebutted by clear and convincing evidence to the
contrary.32 As the Court has observed in Suntay v. Court of Appeals:33

x x x. Though the notarization of the deed of sale in question vests in its favor the presumption of regularity,
it is not the intention nor the function of the notary public to validate and make binding an instrument
never, in the first place, intended to have any binding legal effect upon the parties thereto. The intention
of the parties still and always is the primary consideration in determining the true nature of a
contract.(Bold emphasis supplied)

It should likewise be pointed out that the exchange of shares of stock of Mervir Realty with the real
properties owned by Emigdio would still have to be inquired into. That Emigdio executed the deed of
assignment two days prior to his death was a circumstance that should put any interested party on his
guard regarding the exchange, considering that there was a finding about Emigdio having been sick of
cancer of the pancreas at the time.34 In this regard, whether the CA correctly characterized the exchange as
a form of an estate planning scheme remained to be validated by the facts to be established in court.

The fact that the properties were already covered by Torrens titles in the name of Mervir Realty could not be
a valid basis for immediately excluding them from the inventory in view of the circumstances admittedly
surrounding the execution of the deed of assignment. This is because:

The Torrens system is not a mode of acquiring titles to lands; it is merely a system of registration of titles to
lands. However, justice and equity demand that the titleholder should not be made to bear the unfavorable
effect of the mistake or negligence of the State’s agents, in the absence of proof of his complicity in a fraud
or of manifest damage to third persons. The real purpose of the Torrens system is to quiet title to land and
put a stop forever to any question as to the legality of the title, except claims that were noted in the
certificate at the time of registration or that may arise subsequent thereto. Otherwise, the integrity of the
Torrens system shall forever be sullied by the ineptitude and inefficiency of land registration officials, who
are ordinarily presumed to have regularly performed their duties.35

Assuming that only seven titled lots were the subject of the deed of assignment of January 10, 1991, such
lots should still be included in the inventory to enable the parties, by themselves, and with the assistance of
the RTC itself, to test and resolve the issue on the validity of the assignment. The limited jurisdiction of the
RTC as an intestate court might have constricted the determination of the rights to the properties arising
from that deed,36 but it does not prevent the RTC as intestate court from ordering the inclusion in the
inventory of the properties subject of that deed. This is because the RTC as intestate court, albeit vested
only with special and limited jurisdiction, was still “deemed to have all the necessary powers to exercise
such jurisdiction to make it effective.”37

Lastly, the inventory of the estate of Emigdio must be prepared and submitted for the important purpose of
resolving the difficult issues of collation and advancement to the heirs. Article 1061 of the Civil Coderequired
every compulsory heir and the surviving spouse, herein Teresita herself, to “bring into the mass of the
estate any property or right which he (or she) may have received from the decedent, during the lifetime of
the latter, by way of donation, or any other gratuitous title, in order that it may be computed in the
determination of the legitime of each heir, and in the account of the partition.” Section 2, Rule 90 of
the Rules of Court also provided that any advancement by the decedent on the legitime of an 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 questions and on the heir.” Rule 90 thereby
expanded the special and limited jurisdiction of the RTC as an intestate court about the matters relating to
the inventory of the estate of the decedent by authorizing it to direct the inclusion of properties donated or
bestowed by gratuitous title to any compulsory heir by the decedent.38

The determination of which properties should be excluded from or included in the inventory of estate
properties was well within the authority and discretion of the RTC as an intestate court. In making its
determination, the RTC acted with circumspection, and proceeded under the guiding policy that it was best
to include all properties in the possession of the administrator or were known to the administrator to belong
to Emigdio rather than to exclude properties that could turn out in the end to be actually part of the estate.
As long as the RTC commits no patent grave abuse of discretion, its orders must be respected as part of the
regular performance of its judicial duty. Grave abuse of discretion means either that the judicial or quasi–
judicial power was exercised in an arbitrary or despotic manner by reason of passion or personal hostility, or
that the respondent judge, tribunal or board evaded a positive duty, or virtually refused to perform the duty
enjoined or to act in contemplation of law, such as when such judge, tribunal or board exercising judicial or
quasi–judicial powers acted in a capricious or whimsical manner as to be equivalent to lack of jurisdiction.39

In light of the foregoing, the CA’s conclusion of grave abuse of discretion on the part of the RTC was
unwarranted and erroneous.

WHEREFORE, the Court GRANTS the petition for review on certiorari; REVERSES and SETS ASIDE the
decision promulgated on May 15, 2002; REINSTATES the orders issued on March 14, 2001 and May 18,
2001 by the Regional Trial Court in Cebu; DIRECTS the Regional Trial Court in Cebu to proceed with
dispatch in Special Proceedings No. 3094–CEB entitled Intestate Estate of the late Emigdio Mercado, Thelma
Aranas, petitioner, and to resolve the case; and ORDERS the respondents to pay the costs of suit. ChanRoblesVi rtua lawlib rary
SO ORDERED.

Sereno, C.J., Leonardo–De Castro, Villarama, Jr., and Reyes, JJ. concur.

G.R. No. 146006 February 23, 2004

JOSE C. LEE AND ALMA AGGABAO, in their capacities as President and Corporate
Secretary, respectively, of Philippines 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.

DECISION

CORONA, J.:

This is a petition for review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court seeking to reverse and set aside the
decision1 of the Court of Appeals, First Division, dated July 26, 2000, in CA G.R. 59736, which
dismissed the petition for certiorari filed by petitioners Jose C. Lee and Alma Aggabao (in their
capacities as president and secretary, respectively, of Philippine International Life Insurance
Company) and Filipino Loan Assistance Group.

The antecedent facts follow.

Dr. Juvencio P. Ortañez incorporated the Philippine International Life Insurance Company, Inc. on
July 6, 1956. At the time of the company’s incorporation, Dr. Ortañez owned ninety percent (90%) of
the subscribed capital stock.

On July 21, 1980, Dr. Ortañez died. He left behind a wife (Juliana Salgado Ortañez), three legitimate
children (Rafael, Jose and Antonio Ortañez) and five illegitimate children by Ligaya Novicio (herein
private respondent Ma. Divina Ortañez-Enderes and her siblings Jose, Romeo, Enrico Manuel and
Cesar, all surnamed Ortañez).2

On September 24, 1980, Rafael Ortañez filed before the Court of First Instance of Rizal, Quezon
City Branch (now Regional Trial Court of Quezon City) a petition for letters of administration of the
intestate estate of Dr. Ortañez, docketed as SP Proc. Q-30884 (which petition to date remains
pending at Branch 85 thereof).

Private respondent Ma. Divina Ortañez-Enderes and her siblings filed an opposition to the petition
for letters of administration and, in a subsequent urgent motion, prayed that the intestate court
appoint a special administrator.

On March 10, 1982, Judge Ernani Cruz Paño, then presiding judge of Branch 85, appointed Rafael
and Jose Ortañez joint special administrators of their father’s estate. Hearings continued for the
appointment of a regular administrator (up to now no regular administrator has been appointed).
As ordered by the intestate court, special administrators Rafael and Jose Ortañez submitted an
inventory of the estate of their father which included, among other properties, 2,0293 shares of stock
in Philippine International Life Insurance Company (hereafter Philinterlife), representing 50.725% of
the company’s outstanding capital stock.

On April 15, 1989, the decedent’s wife, Juliana S. Ortañez, claiming that she owned
1,0144 Philinterlife shares of stock as her conjugal share in the estate, sold said shares with right to
repurchase in favor of herein petitioner Filipino Loan Assistance Group (FLAG), represented by its
president, herein petitioner Jose C. Lee. Juliana Ortañez failed to repurchase the shares of stock
within the stipulated period, thus ownership thereof was consolidated by petitioner FLAG in its name.

On October 30, 1991, Special Administrator Jose Ortañez, acting in his personal capacity and
claiming that he owned the remaining 1,0115 Philinterlife shares of stocks as his inheritance share in
the estate, sold said shares with right to repurchase also in favor of herein petitioner FLAG,
represented by its president, herein petitioner Jose C. Lee. After one year, petitioner FLAG
consolidated in its name the ownership of the Philinterlife shares of stock when Jose Ortañez failed
to repurchase the same.

It appears that several years before (but already during the pendency of the intestate proceedings at
the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 85), Juliana Ortañez and her two children, Special
Administrators Rafael and Jose Ortañez, entered into a memorandum of agreement dated March 4,
1982 for the extrajudicial settlement of the estate of Dr. Juvencio Ortañez, partitioning the estate
(including the Philinterlife shares of stock) among themselves. This was the basis of the number of
shares separately sold by Juliana Ortañez on April 15, 1989 (1,014 shares) and by Jose Ortañez on
October 30, 1991 (1,011 shares) in favor of herein petitioner FLAG.

On July 12, 1995, herein private respondent Ma. Divina Ortañez–Enderes and her siblings (hereafter
referred to as private respondents Enderes et al.) filed a motion for appointment of special
administrator of Philinterlife shares of stock. This move was opposed by Special Administrator Jose
Ortañez.

On November 8, 1995, the intestate court granted the motion of private respondents Enderes et
al. and appointed private respondent Enderes special administratrix of the Philinterlife shares of
stock.

On December 20, 1995, Special Administratrix Enderes filed an urgent motion to declare void ab
initio the memorandum of agreement dated March 4, 1982. On January 9, 1996, she filed a motion
to declare the partial nullity of the extrajudicial settlement of the decedent’s estate. These motions
were opposed by Special Administrator Jose Ortañez.

On March 22, 1996, Special Administratrix Enderes filed an urgent motion to declare void ab
initio the deeds of sale of Philinterlife shares of stock, which move was again opposed by Special
Administrator Jose Ortañez.

On February 4, 1997, Jose Ortañez filed an omnibus motion for (1) the approval of the deeds of sale
of the Philinterlife shares of stock and (2) the release of Ma. Divina Ortañez-Enderes as special
administratrix of the Philinterlife shares of stock on the ground that there were no longer any shares
of stock for her to administer.

On August 11, 1997, the intestate court denied the omnibus motion of Special Administrator Jose
Ortañez for the approval of the deeds of sale for the reason that:
Under the Godoy case, supra, it was held in substance that a sale of a property of the estate without
an Order of the probate court is void and passes no title to the purchaser. Since the sales in
question were entered into by Juliana S. Ortañez and Jose S. Ortañez in their personal capacity
without prior approval of the Court, the same is not binding upon the Estate.

WHEREFORE, the OMNIBUS MOTION for the approval of the sale of Philinterlife shares of stock
and release of Ma. Divina Ortañez-Enderes as Special Administratrix is hereby denied.6

On August 29, 1997, the intestate court issued another order granting the motion of Special
Administratrix Enderes for the annulment of the March 4, 1982 memorandum of agreement or
extrajudicial partition of estate. The court reasoned that:

In consonance with the Order of this Court dated August 11, 1997 DENYING the approval of the
sale of Philinterlife shares of stocks and release of Ma. Divina Ortañez-Enderes as Special
Administratrix, the "Urgent Motion to Declare Void Ab Initio Memorandum of Agreement" dated
December 19, 1995. . . is hereby impliedly partially resolved insofar as the
transfer/waiver/renunciation of the Philinterlife shares of stock are concerned, in particular, No. 5,
9(c), 10(b) and 11(d)(ii) of the Memorandum of Agreement.

WHEREFORE, this Court hereby declares the Memorandum of Agreement dated March 4, 1982
executed by Juliana S. Ortañez, Rafael S. Ortañez and Jose S. Ortañez as partially void ab
initio insofar as the transfer/waiver/renunciation of the Philinterlife shares of stocks are concerned.7

Aggrieved by the above-stated orders of the intestate court, Jose Ortañez filed, on December 22,
1997, a petition for certiorari in the Court of Appeals. The appellate court denied his petition,
however, ruling that there was no legal justification whatsoever for the extrajudicial partition of the
estate by Jose Ortañez, his brother Rafael Ortañez and mother Juliana Ortañez during the pendency
of the settlement of the estate of Dr. Ortañez, without the requisite approval of the intestate court,
when it was clear that there were other heirs to the estate who stood to be prejudiced thereby.
Consequently, the sale made by Jose Ortañez and his mother Juliana Ortañez to FLAG of the
shares of stock they invalidly appropriated for themselves, without approval of the intestate court,
was void.8

Special Administrator Jose Ortañez filed a motion for reconsideration of the Court of Appeals
decision but it was denied. He elevated the case to the Supreme Court via petition for review under
Rule 45 which the Supreme Court dismissed on October 5, 1998, on a technicality. His motion for
reconsideration was denied with finality on January 13, 1999. On February 23, 1999, the resolution
of the Supreme Court dismissing the petition of Special Administrator Jose Ortañez became final
and was subsequently recorded in the book of entries of judgments.

Meanwhile, herein petitioners Jose Lee and Alma Aggabao, with the rest of the FLAG-controlled
board of directors, increased the authorized capital stock of Philinterlife, diluting in the process the
50.725% controlling interest of the decedent, Dr. Juvencio Ortañez, in the insurance company.9 This
became the subject of a separate action at the Securities and Exchange Commission filed by private
respondent-Special Administratrix Enderes against petitioner Jose Lee and other members of the
FLAG-controlled board of Philinterlife on November 7, 1994. Thereafter, various cases were filed by
Jose Lee as president of Philinterlife and Juliana Ortañez and her sons against private respondent-
Special Administratrix Enderes in the SEC and civil courts.10 Somehow, all these cases were
connected to the core dispute on the legality of the sale of decedent Dr. Ortañez’s Philinterlife
shares of stock to petitioner FLAG, represented by its president, herein petitioner Jose Lee who later
became the president of Philinterlife after the controversial sale.
On May 2, 2000, private respondent-Special Administratrix Enderes and her siblings filed a motion
for execution of the Orders of the intestate court dated August 11 and August 29, 1997 because the
orders of the intestate court nullifying the sale (upheld by the Court of Appeals and the Supreme
Court) had long became final. Respondent-Special Administratrix Enderes served a copy of the
motion to petitioners Jose Lee and Alma Aggabao as president and secretary, respectively, of
Philinterlife,11 but petitioners ignored the same.

On July 6, 2000, the intestate court granted the motion for execution, the dispositive portion of which
read:

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 Ortañez 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. Ortañez 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.
Ortañez as the owner thereof without prejudice to other claims for violations of pre-emptive
rights pertaining to the said 2,029 Philinterlife shares and,

4. Confirming that only the Special Administratrix, Ma. Divina Ortañez-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
directly or indirectly to 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 and/or further damage to the Estate.

SO ORDERED.12

In the several occasions that the sheriff went to the office of petitioners to execute the writ of
execution, he was barred by the security guard upon petitioners’ instructions. Thus, private
respondent-Special Administratrix Enderes filed a motion to cite herein petitioners Jose Lee and
Alma Aggabao (president and secretary, respectively, of Philinterlife) in contempt.13

Petitioners Lee and Aggabao subsequently filed before the Court of Appeals a petition for certiorari,
docketed as CA G.R. SP No. 59736. Petitioners alleged that the intestate court gravely abused its
discretion in (1) declaring that the ownership of FLAG over the Philinterlife shares of stock was null
and void; (2) ordering the execution of its order declaring such nullity and (3) depriving the
petitioners of their right to due process.

On July 26, 2000, the Court of Appeals dismissed the petition outright:

We are constrained to DISMISS OUTRIGHT the present petition for certiorari and prohibition with
prayer for a temporary restraining order and/or writ of preliminary injunction in the light of the
following considerations:

1. The assailed Order dated August 11, 1997 of the respondent judge had long become final
and executory;

2. The certification on non-forum shopping is signed by only one (1) of the three (3)
petitioners in violation of the Rules; and

3. Except for the assailed orders and writ of execution, deed of sale with right to repurchase,
deed of sale of shares of stocks and omnibus motion, the petition is not accompanied by
such pleadings, documents and other material portions of the record as would support the
allegations therein in violation of the second paragraph, Rule 65 of the 1997 Rules of Civil
Procedure, as amended.

Petition is DISMISSED.

SO ORDERED.14

The motion for reconsideration filed by petitioners Lee and Aggabao of the above decision was
denied by the Court of Appeals on October 30, 2000:

This resolves the "urgent motion for reconsideration" filed by the petitioners of our resolution of July
26, 2000 dismissing outrightly the above-entitled petition for the reason, among others, that the
assailed Order dated August 11, 1997 of the respondent Judge had long become final and
executory.

Dura lex, sed lex.

WHEREFORE, the urgent motion for reconsideration is hereby DENIED, for lack of merit.

SO ORDERED.15

On December 4, 2000, petitioners elevated the case to the Supreme Court through a petition for
review under Rule 45 but on December 13, 2000, we denied the petition because there was no
showing that the Court of Appeals in CA G.R. SP No. 59736 committed any reversible error to
warrant the exercise by the Supreme Court of its discretionary appellate jurisdiction.16

However, upon motion for reconsideration filed by petitioners Lee and Aggabao, the Supreme Court
granted the motion and reinstated their petition on September 5, 2001. The parties were then
required to submit their respective memoranda.

Meanwhile, private respondent-Special Administratrix Enderes, on July 19, 2000, filed a motion to
direct the branch clerk of court in lieu of herein petitioners Lee and Aggabao to reinstate the name of
Dr. Ortañez in the stock and transfer book of Philinterlife and issue the corresponding stock
certificate pursuant to Section 10, Rule 39 of the Rules of Court which provides that "the court may
direct the act to be done at the cost of the disobedient party by some other person appointed by the
court and the act when so done shall have the effect as if done by the party." Petitioners Lee and
Aggabao opposed the motion on the ground that the intestate court should refrain from acting on the
motion because the issues raised therein were directly related to the issues raised by them in their
petition for certiorari at the Court of Appeals docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 59736. On October 30,
2000, the intestate court granted the motion, ruling that there was no prohibition for the intestate
court to execute its orders inasmuch as the appellate court did not issue any TRO or writ of
preliminary injunction.

On December 3, 2000, petitioners Lee and Aggabao filed a petition for certiorari in the Court of
Appeals, docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 62461, questioning this time the October 30, 2000 order of
the intestate court directing the branch clerk of court to issue the stock certificates. They also
questioned in the Court of Appeals the order of the intestate court nullifying the sale made in their
favor by Juliana Ortañez and Jose Ortañez. On November 20, 2002, the Court of Appeals denied
their petition and upheld the power of the intestate court to execute its order. Petitioners Lee and
Aggabao then filed motion for reconsideration which at present is still pending resolution by the
Court of Appeals.

Petitioners Jose Lee and Alma Aggabao (president and secretary, respectively, of Philinterlife) and
FLAG now raise the following errors for our consideration:

The Court of Appeals committed grave reversible ERROR:

A. In failing to reconsider its previous resolution denying the petition despite the fact that the
appellate court’s mistake in apprehending the facts had become patent and evident from the
motion for reconsideration and the comment of respondent Enderes which had admitted the
factual allegations of petitioners in the petition as well as in the motion for reconsideration.
Moreover, the resolution of the appellate court denying the motion for reconsideration was
contained in only one page without even touching on the substantive merits of the exhaustive
discussion of facts and supporting law in the motion for reconsideration in violation of the
Rule on administrative due process;

B. in failing to set aside the void orders of the intestate court on the erroneous ground that
the orders were final and executory with regard to petitioners even as the latter were never
notified of the proceedings or order canceling its ownership;

C. in not finding that the intestate court committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to
excess of jurisdiction (1) when it issued the Omnibus Order nullifying the ownership of
petitioner FLAG over shares of stock which were alleged to be part of the estate and (2)
when it issued a void writ of execution against petitioner FLAG as present owner to
implement merely provisional orders, thereby violating FLAG’s constitutional right against
deprivation of property without due process;

D. In failing to declare null and void the orders of the intestate court which nullified the sale of
shares of stock between the legitimate heir Jose S. Ortañez and petitioner FLAG because of
settled law and jurisprudence, i.e., that an heir has the right to dispose of the decedent’s
property even if the same is under administration pursuant to Civil Code provision that
possession of hereditary property is transmitted to the heir the moment of death of the
decedent (Acedebo vs. Abesamis, 217 SCRA 194);
E. In disregarding the final decision of the Supreme Court in G.R. No. 128525 dated
December 17, 1999 involving substantially the same parties, to wit, petitioners Jose C. Lee
and Alma Aggabao were respondents in that case while respondent Ma. Divina Enderes was
the petitioner therein. That decision, which can be considered law of the case, ruled that
petitioners cannot be enjoined by respondent Enderes from exercising their power as
directors and officers of Philinterlife and that the intestate court in charge of the intestate
proceedings cannot adjudicate title to properties claimed to be part of the estate and which
are equally CLAIMED BY petitioner FLAG.17

The petition has no merit.

Petitioners Jose Lee and Alma Aggabao, representing Philinterlife and FLAG, assail before us not
only the validity of the writ of execution issued by the intestate court dated July 7, 2000 but also the
validity of the August 11, 1997 order of the intestate court nullifying the sale of the 2,029 Philinterlife
shares of stock made by Juliana Ortañez and Jose Ortañez, in their personal capacities and without
court approval, in favor of petitioner FLAG.

We cannot allow petitioners to reopen the issue of nullity of the sale of the Philinterlife shares of
stock in their favor because this was already settled a long time ago by the Court of Appeals in its
decision dated June 23, 1998 in CA-G.R. SP No. 46342. This decision was effectively upheld by us
in our resolution dated October 9, 1998 in G.R. No. 135177 dismissing the petition for review on a
technicality and thereafter denying the motion for reconsideration on January 13, 1999 on the
ground that there was no compelling reason to reconsider said denial.18 Our decision became final
on February 23, 1999 and was accordingly entered in the book of entry of judgments. For all intents
and purposes therefore, the nullity of the sale of the Philinterlife shares of stock made by Juliana
Ortañez and Jose Ortañez in favor of petitioner FLAG is already a closed case. To reopen said issue
would set a bad precedent, opening the door wide open for dissatisfied parties to relitigate
unfavorable decisions no end. This is completely inimical to the orderly and efficient administration of
justice.

The said decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 46342 affirming the nullity of the sale
made by Jose Ortañez and his mother Juliana Ortañez of the Philinterlife shares of stock read:

Petitioner’s asseverations relative to said [memorandum] agreement were scuttled during the
hearing before this Court thus:

JUSTICE AQUINO:

Counsel for petitioner, when the Memorandum of Agreement was executed, did the children
of Juliana Salgado know already that there was a claim for share in the inheritance of the
children of Novicio?

ATTY. CALIMAG:

Your Honor please, at that time, Your Honor, it is already known to them.

JUSTICE AQUINO:

What can be your legal justification for extrajudicial settlement of a property subject of
intestate proceedings when there is an adverse claim of another set of heirs, alleged heirs?
What would be the legal justification for extra-judicially settling a property under
administration without the approval of the intestate court?

ATTY. CALIMAG:

Well, Your Honor please, in that extra-judicial settlement there is an approval of the
honorable court as to the property’s partition x x x. There were as mentioned by the
respondents’ counsel, Your Honor.

ATTY. BUYCO:

No…

JUSTICE AQUINO:

The point is, there can be no adjudication of a property under intestate proceedings without
the approval of the court. That is basic unless you can present justification on that. In fact,
there are two steps: first, you ask leave and then execute the document and then ask for
approval of the document executed. Now, is there any legal justification to exclude this
particular transaction from those steps?

ATTY. CALIMAG:

None, Your Honor.

ATTY. BUYCO:

With that admission that there is no legal justification, Your Honor, we rest the case for the
private respondent. How can the lower court be accused of abusing its discretion? (pages
33-35, TSN of January 29, 1998).

Thus, We find merit in the following postulation by private respondent:

What we have here is a situation where some of the heirs of the decedent without securing court
approval have appropriated as their own personal property the properties of [the] Estate, to the
exclusion and the extreme prejudice of the other claimant/heirs. In other words, these heirs, without
court approval, have distributed the asset of the estate among themselves and proceeded to dispose
the same to third parties even in the absence of an order of distribution by the Estate Court. As
admitted by petitioner’s counsel, there was absolutely no legal justification for this action by the
heirs. There being no legal justification, petitioner has no basis for demanding that public respondent
[the intestate court] approve the sale of the Philinterlife shares of the Estate by Juliana and Jose
Ortañez in favor of the Filipino Loan Assistance Group.

It is an undisputed fact that the parties to the Memorandum of Agreement dated March 4, 1982 (see
Annex 7 of the Comment). . . are not the only heirs claiming an interest in the estate left by Dr.
Juvencio P. Ortañez. The records of this case. . . clearly show that as early as March 3, 1981 an
Opposition to the Application for Issuance of Letters of Administration was filed by the acknowledged
natural children of Dr. Juvencio P. Ortañez with Ligaya Novicio. . . This claim by the acknowledged
natural children of Dr. Juvencio P. Ortañez is admittedly known to the parties to the Memorandum of
Agreement before they executed the same. This much was admitted by petitioner’s counsel during
the oral argument. xxx
Given the foregoing facts, and the applicable jurisprudence, public respondent can never be faulted
for not approving. . . the subsequent sale by the petitioner [Jose Ortañez] and his mother [Juliana
Ortañez] of the Philinterlife shares belonging to the Estate of Dr. Juvencio P. Ortañez." (pages 3-4 of
Private Respondent’s Memorandum; pages 243-244 of the Rollo)

Amidst the foregoing, We found no grave abuse of discretion amounting to excess or want of
jurisdiction committed by respondent judge.19

From the above decision, it is clear that Juliana Ortañez, and her three sons, Jose, Rafael and
Antonio, all surnamed Ortañez, invalidly entered into a memorandum of agreement extrajudicially
partitioning the intestate estate among themselves, despite their knowledge that there were other
heirs or claimants to the estate and before final settlement of the estate by the intestate court. Since
the appropriation of the estate properties by Juliana Ortañez and her children (Jose, Rafael and
Antonio Ortañez) was invalid, the subsequent sale thereof by Juliana and Jose to a third party
(FLAG), without court approval, was likewise void.

An heir can sell his right, interest, or participation in the property under administration under Art. 533
of the Civil Code which provides that possession of hereditary property is deemed transmitted to the
heir without interruption from the moment of death of the decedent.20 However, an heir can only
alienate such portion of the estate that may be allotted to him in the division of the estate by the
probate or intestate court after final adjudication, that is, after all debtors shall have been paid or the
devisees or legatees shall have been given their shares.21 This means that an heir may only sell
his ideal or undivided share in the estate, not any specific property therein. In the present case,
Juliana Ortañez and Jose Ortañez sold specific properties of the estate (1,014 and 1,011 shares of
stock in Philinterlife) in favor of petitioner FLAG. This they could not lawfully do pending the final
adjudication of the estate by the intestate court because of the undue prejudice it would cause the
other claimants to the estate, as what happened in the present case.

Juliana Ortañez and Jose Ortañez sold specific properties of the estate, without court approval. It is
well-settled that court approval is necessary for the validity of any disposition of the decedent’s
estate. In the early case of Godoy vs. Orellano,22 we laid down the rule that the sale of the property
of the estate by an administrator without the order of the probate court is void and passes no title to
the purchaser. And in the case of Dillena vs. Court of Appeals,23 we ruled that:

[I]t must be emphasized that the questioned properties (fishpond) were included in the inventory of
properties of the estate submitted by then Administratrix Fausta Carreon Herrera on November 14,
1974. Private respondent was appointed as administratrix of the estate on March 3, 1976 in lieu of
Fausta Carreon Herrera. On November 1, 1978, the questioned deed of sale of the fishponds was
executed between petitioner and private respondent without notice and approval of the probate
court. Even after the sale, administratrix Aurora Carreon still included the three fishponds as among
the real properties of the estate in her inventory submitted on August 13, 1981. In fact, as stated by
the Court of Appeals, petitioner, at the time of the sale of the fishponds in question, knew that the
same were part of the estate under administration.

xxx xxx xxx

The subject properties therefore are under the jurisdiction of the probate court which according to
our settled jurisprudence has the authority to approve any disposition regarding properties under
administration. . . More emphatic is the declaration We made in Estate of Olave vs. Reyes (123
SCRA 767) where We stated that when the estate of the deceased person is already the subject of a
testate or intestate proceeding, the administrator cannot enter into any transaction involving it
without prior approval of the probate court.
Only recently, in Manotok Realty, Inc. vs. Court of Appeals (149 SCRA 174), We held that the sale of
an immovable property belonging to the estate of a decedent, in a special proceedings, needs court
approval. . . This pronouncement finds support in the previous case of Dolores Vda. De Gil vs.
Agustin Cancio (14 SCRA 797) wherein We emphasized that it is within the jurisdiction of a probate
court to approve the sale of properties of a deceased person by his prospective heirs before final
adjudication. x x x

It being settled that property under administration needs the approval of the probate court before it
can be disposed of, any unauthorized disposition does not bind the estate and is null and void. As
early as 1921 in the case of Godoy vs. Orellano (42 Phil 347), We laid down the rule that a sale by
an administrator of property of the deceased, which is not authorized by the probate court is null and
void and title does not pass to the purchaser.

There is hardly any doubt that the probate court can declare null and void the disposition of the
property under administration, made by private respondent, the same having been effected without
authority from said court. It is the probate court that has the power to authorize and/or approve the
sale (Section 4 and 7, Rule 89), hence, a fortiori, it is said court that can declare it null and void for
as long as the proceedings had not been closed or terminated. To uphold petitioner’s contention that
the probate court cannot annul the unauthorized sale, would render meaningless the power
pertaining to the said court. (Bonga vs. Soler, 2 SCRA 755). (emphasis ours)

Our jurisprudence is therefore clear that (1) any disposition of estate property by an administrator or
prospective heir pending final adjudication requires court approval and (2) any unauthorized
disposition of estate property can be annulled by the probate court, there being no need for a
separate action to annul the unauthorized disposition.

The question now is: can the intestate or probate court execute its order nullifying the invalid sale?

We see no reason why it cannot. The intestate court has the power to execute its order with regard
to the nullity of an unauthorized sale of estate property, otherwise its power to annul the
unauthorized or fraudulent disposition of estate property would be meaningless. In other words,
enforcement is a necessary adjunct of the intestate or probate court’s power to annul unauthorized
or fraudulent transactions to prevent the dissipation of estate property before final adjudication.

Moreover, in this case, the order of the intestate court nullifying the sale was affirmed by the
appellate courts (the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 46342 dated June 23, 1998 and
subsequently by the Supreme Court in G.R. No. 135177 dated October 9, 1998). The finality of the
decision of the Supreme Court was entered in the book of entry of judgments on February 23, 1999.
Considering the finality of the order of the intestate court nullifying the sale, as affirmed by the
appellate courts, it was correct for private respondent-Special Administratrix Enderes to thereafter
move for a writ of execution and for the intestate court to grant it.

Petitioners Jose Lee, Alma Aggabao and FLAG, however, contend that the probate court could not
issue a writ of execution with regard to its order nullifying the sale because said order was merely
provisional:

The only authority given by law is for respondent judge to determine provisionally whether said
shares are included or excluded in the inventory… In ordering the execution of the orders,
respondent judge acted in excess of his jurisdiction and grossly violated settled law and
jurisprudence, i.e., that the determination by a probate or intestate court of whether a property is
included or excluded in the inventory of the estate being provisional in nature, cannot be the subject
of execution.24 (emphasis ours)
Petitioners’ argument is misplaced. There is no question, based on the facts of this case, that the
Philinterlife shares of stock were part of the estate of Dr. Juvencio Ortañez from the very start as in
fact these shares were included in the inventory of the properties of the estate submitted by Rafael
Ortañez after he and his brother, Jose Ortañez, were appointed special administrators by the
intestate court.25

The controversy here actually started when, during the pendency of the settlement of the estate of
Dr. Ortañez, his wife Juliana Ortañez sold the 1,014 Philinterlife shares of stock in favor petitioner
FLAG without the approval of the intestate court. Her son Jose Ortañez later sold the remaining
1,011 Philinterlife shares also in favor of FLAG without the approval of the intestate court.

We are not dealing here with the issue of inclusion or exclusion of properties in the inventory of the
estate because there is no question that, from the very start, the Philinterlife shares of stock were
owned by the decedent, Dr. Juvencio Ortañez. Rather, we are concerned here with the effect of
the sale made by the decedent’s heirs, Juliana Ortañez and Jose Ortañez, without the
required approval of the intestate court. This being so, the contention of petitioners that the
determination of the intestate court was merely provisional and should have been threshed out in a
separate proceeding is incorrect.

The petitioners Jose Lee and Alma Aggabao next contend that the writ of execution should not be
executed against them because they were not notified, nor they were aware, of the proceedings
nullifying the sale of the shares of stock.

We are not persuaded. The title of the purchaser like herein petitioner FLAG can be struck down by
the intestate court after a clear showing of the nullity of the alienation. This is the logical
consequence of our ruling in Godoy andin several subsequent cases.26 The sale of any property of
the estate by an administrator or prospective heir without order of the probate or intestate
court is void and passes no title to the purchaser. Thus, in Juan Lao et al. vs. Hon. Melencio
Geneto, G.R. No. 56451, June 19, 1985, we ordered the probate court to cancel the transfer
certificate of title issued to the vendees at the instance of the administrator after finding that the sale
of real property under probate proceedings was made without the prior approval of the court. The
dispositive portion of our decision read:

IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING CONSIDERATIONS, the assailed Order dated February 18, 1981 of
the respondent Judge approving the questioned Amicable Settlement is declared NULL and VOID
and hereby SET ASIDE. Consequently, the sale in favor of Sotero Dioniosio III and by the latter to
William Go is likewise declared NULL and VOID. The Transfer Certificate of Title issued to the latter
is hereby ordered cancelled.

It goes without saying that the increase in Philinterlife’s authorized capital stock, approved on the
vote of petitioners’ non-existent shareholdings and obviously calculated to make it difficult for Dr.
Ortañez’s estate to reassume its controlling interest in Philinterlife, was likewise void ab initio.

Petitioners next argue that they were denied due process.

We do not think so.

The facts show that petitioners, for reasons known only to them, did not appeal the decision of the
intestate court nullifying the sale of shares of stock in their favor. Only the vendor, Jose Ortañez,
appealed the case. A careful review of the records shows that petitioners had actual knowledge of
the estate settlement proceedings and that they knew private respondent Enderes was questioning
therein the sale to them of the Philinterlife shares of stock.
It must be noted that private respondent-Special Administratrix Enderes filed before the intestate
court (RTC of Quezon City, Branch 85) a "Motion to Declare Void Ab Initio Deeds of Sale of
Philinterlife Shares of Stock" on March 22, 1996. But as early as 1994, petitioners already knew of
the pending settlement proceedings and that the shares they bought were under the administration
by the intestate court because private respondent Ma. Divina Ortañez-Enderes and her mother
Ligaya Novicio had filed a case against them at the Securities and Exchange Commission on
November 7, 1994, docketed as SEC No. 11-94-4909, for annulment of transfer of shares of stock,
annulment of sale of corporate properties, annulment of subscriptions on increased capital stocks,
accounting, inspection of corporate books and records and damages with prayer for a writ of
preliminary injunction and/or temporary restraining order.27 In said case, Enderes and her mother
questioned the sale of the aforesaid shares of stock to petitioners. The SEC hearing officer in fact, in
his resolution dated March 24, 1995, deferred to the jurisdiction of the intestate court to rule on the
validity of the sale of shares of stock sold to petitioners by Jose Ortañez and Juliana Ortañez:

Petitioners also averred that. . . the Philinterlife shares of Dr. Juvencio Ortañez who died, in 1980,
are part of his estate which is presently the subject matter of an intestate proceeding of the RTC of
Quezon City, Branch 85. Although, private respondents [Jose Lee et al.] presented the documents of
partition whereby the foregoing share of stocks were allegedly partitioned and conveyed to Jose S.
Ortañez who allegedly assigned the same to the other private respondents, approval of the Court
was not presented. Thus, the assignments to the private respondents [Jose Lee et al.] of the subject
shares of stocks are void.

xxx xxx xxx

With respect to the alleged extrajudicial partition of the shares of stock owned by the late Dr.
Juvencio Ortañez, we rule that the matter properly belongs to the jurisdiction of the regular court
where the intestate proceedings are currently pending.28

With this resolution of the SEC hearing officer dated as early as March 24, 1995 recognizing the
jurisdiction of the intestate court to determine the validity of the extrajudicial partition of the estate of
Dr. Ortañez and the subsequent sale by the heirs of the decedent of the Philinterlife shares of stock
to petitioners, how can petitioners claim that they were not aware of the intestate proceedings?

Furthermore, when the resolution of the SEC hearing officer reached the Supreme Court in 1996
(docketed as G.R. 128525), herein petitioners who were respondents therein filed their answer
which contained statements showing that they knew of the pending intestate proceedings:

[T]he subject matter of the complaint is not within the jurisdiction of the SEC but with the Regional
Trial Court; Ligaya Novicio and children represented themselves to be the common law wife and
illegitimate children of the late Ortañez; that on March 4, 1982, the surviving spouse Juliana Ortañez,
on her behalf and for her minor son Antonio, executed a Memorandum of Agreement with her other
sons Rafael and Jose, both surnamed Ortañez, dividing the estate of the deceased composed of his
one-half (1/2) share in the conjugal properties; that in the said Memorandum of Agreement, Jose S.
Ortañez acquired as his share of the estate the 1,329 shares of stock in Philinterlife; that on March
4, 1982, Juliana and Rafael assigned their respective shares of stock in Philinterlife to Jose; that
contrary to the contentions of petitioners, private respondents Jose Lee, Carlos Lee, Benjamin Lee
and Alma Aggabao became stockholders of Philinterlife on March 23, 1983 when Jose S. Ortañez,
the principal stockholder at that time, executed a deed of sale of his shares of stock to private
respondents; and that the right of petitioners to question the Memorandum of Agreement and the
acquisition of shares of stock of private respondent is barred by prescription.29
Also, private respondent-Special Administratrix Enderes offered additional proof of actual knowledge
of the settlement proceedings by petitioners which petitioners never denied: (1) that petitioners were
represented by Atty. Ricardo Calimag previously hired by the mother of private respondent Enderes
to initiate cases against petitioners Jose Lee and Alma Aggabao for the nullification of the sale of the
shares of stock but said counsel made a conflicting turn-around and appeared instead as counsel of
petitioners, and (2) that the deeds of sale executed between petitioners and the heirs of the
decedent (vendors Juliana Ortañez and Jose Ortañez) were acknowledged before Atty. Ramon
Carpio who, during the pendency of the settlement proceedings, filed a motion for the approval of
the sale of Philinterlife shares of stock to the Knights of Columbus Fraternal Association, Inc. (which
motion was, however, later abandoned).30 All this sufficiently proves that petitioners, through their
counsels, knew of the pending settlement proceedings.

Finally, petitioners filed several criminal cases such as libel (Criminal Case No. 97-7179-81), grave
coercion (Criminal Case No. 84624) and robbery (Criminal Case No. Q-96-67919) against private
respondent’s mother Ligaya Novicio who was a director of Philinterlife,31 all of which criminal cases
were related to the questionable sale to petitioners of the Philinterlife shares of stock.

Considering these circumstances, we cannot accept petitioners’ claim of denial of due process. The
essence of due process is the reasonable opportunity to be heard. Where the opportunity to be
heard has been accorded, there is no denial of due process.32 In this case, petitioners knew of the
pending instestate proceedings for the settlement of Dr. Juvencio Ortañez’s estate but for reasons
they alone knew, they never intervened. When the court declared the nullity of the sale, they did not
bother to appeal. And when they were notified of the motion for execution of the Orders of the
intestate court, they ignored the same. Clearly, petitioners alone should bear the blame.

Petitioners next contend that we are bound by our ruling in G.R. No. 128525 entitled Ma. Divina
Ortañez-Enderes vs. Court of Appeals, dated December 17, 1999, where we allegedly ruled that the
intestate court "may not pass upon the title to a certain property for the purpose of determining
whether the same should or should not be included in the inventory but such determination is not
conclusive and is subject to final decision in a separate action regarding ownership which may be
constituted by the parties."

We are not unaware of our decision in G.R. No. 128525. The issue therein was whether the Court of
Appeals erred in affirming the resolution of the SEC that Enderes et al. were not entitled to the
issuance of the writ of preliminary injunction. We ruled that the Court of Appeals was correct in
affirming the resolution of the SEC denying the issuance of the writ of preliminary injunction because
injunction is not designed to protect contingent rights. Said case did not rule on the issue of the
validity of the sale of shares of stock belonging to the decedent’s estate without court approval nor of
the validity of the writ of execution issued by the intestate court. G.R. No. 128525 clearly involved a
different issue and it does not therefore apply to the present case.

Petitioners 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.

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 court’s) August 11 and 29, 1997
orders, is hereby AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.
Vitug, (Chairman), and Carpio-Morales, JJ., concur.
Sandoval-Gutierrez, J., no part.

G.R. No. 155733 January 27, 2006

IN THE MATTER OF THE INTESTATE ESTATES OF THE DECEASED JOSEFA DELGADO AND
GUILLERMO RUSTIA CARLOTA DELGADO VDA. DE DE LA ROSA and other HEIRS OF LUIS
DELGADO, namely, HEIRS OF CONCHA VDA. DE AREVALO, HEIRS OF LUISA DELGADO
VDA. DE DANAO, ANGELA DELGADO ARESPACOCHAGA, TERESA DELGADO PERLAS,
CAROLINA DELGADO-ARESPACOCHAGA, RODOLFO DELGADO, BENJAMIN DELGADO,
GLICERIA DELGADO and CLEOFAS DELGADO; and HEIRS OF GORGONIO DELGADO,
namely, RAMON DELGADO CAMPO, CARLOS DELGADO CAMPO, CLARITA DELGADO
CAMPO-REIZA, YOLANDA DELGADO ENCINAS, FELISA DELGADO CAMPO-ENCINAS and
MELINDA DELGADO CAMPO-MADARANG, Petitioners,
vs.
HEIRS OF MARCIANA RUSTIA VDA. DE DAMIAN, namely, GUILLERMO R. DAMIAN and JOSE
R. DAMIAN; HEIRS OF HORTENCIA RUSTIA CRUZ, namely, TERESITA CRUZ-SISON,
HORACIO R. CRUZ, JOSEFINA CRUZ-RODIL, AMELIA CRUZ-ENRIQUEZ and FIDEL R. CRUZ,
JR.; HEIRS OF ROMAN RUSTIA, SR., namely, JOSEFINA RUSTIA ALBANO, VIRGINIA RUSTIA
PARAISO, ROMAN RUSTIA, JR., SERGIO RUSTIA, FRANCISCO RUSTIA, LETICIA RUSTIA-
MIRANDA; and GUILLERMINA RUSTIA, as Oppositors;1 and GUILLERMA RUSTIA, as
Intervenor,2 Respondents.3

DECISION

CORONA, J.:

In this petition for review on certiorari, petitioners seek to reinstate the May 11, 1990 decision of the
Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Manila, Branch 55,4 in SP Case No. 97668, which was reversed and
set aside by the Court of Appeals in its decision5 dated October 24, 2002.

FACTS OF THE CASE

This case concerns the settlement of the intestate estates of Guillermo Rustia and Josefa
Delgado.6 The main issue in this case is relatively simple: who, between petitioners and
respondents, are the lawful heirs of the decedents. However, it is attended by several collateral
issues that complicate its resolution.

The claimants to the estates of Guillermo Rustia and Josefa Delgado may be divided into two
groups: (1) the alleged heirs of Josefa Delgado, consisting of her half- and full-blood siblings,
nephews and nieces, and grandnephews and grandnieces, and (2) the alleged heirs of Guillermo
Rustia, particularly, his sisters,7 his nephews and nieces,8 his illegitimate child,9 and the de
facto adopted child10 (ampun-ampunan) of the decedents.

The alleged heirs of Josefa Delgado

The deceased Josefa Delgado was the daughter of Felisa11 Delgado by one Lucio Campo. Aside
from Josefa, five other children were born to the couple, namely, Nazario, Edilberta, Jose, Jacoba,
and Gorgonio, all surnamed Delgado. Felisa Delgado was never married to Lucio Campo, hence,
Josefa and her full-blood siblings were all natural children of Felisa Delgado.
However, Lucio Campo was not the first and only man in Felisa Delgado’s life. Before him was
Ramon Osorio12 with whom Felisa had a son, Luis Delgado. But, unlike her relationship with Lucio
Campo which was admittedly one without the benefit of marriage, the legal status of Ramon Osorio’s
and Felisa Delgado’s union is in dispute.

The question of whether Felisa Delgado and Ramon Osorio ever got married is crucial to the
claimants because the answer will determine whether their successional rights fall within the ambit of
the rule against reciprocal intestate succession between legitimate and illegitimate relatives.13 If
Ramon Osorio and Felisa Delgado had been validly married, then their only child Luis Delgado was
a legitimate half-blood brother of Josefa Delgado and therefore excluded from the latter’s intestate
estate. He and his heirs would be barred by the principle of absolute separation between the
legitimate and illegitimate families. Conversely, if the couple were never married, Luis Delgado and
his heirs would be entitled to inherit from Josefa Delgado’s intestate estate, as they would all be
within the illegitimate line.

Petitioners allege that Ramon Osorio and Felisa Delgado were never married. In support thereof,
they assert that no evidence was ever presented to establish it, not even so much as an allegation of
the date or place of the alleged marriage. What is clear, however, is that Felisa retained the surname
Delgado. So did Luis, her son with Ramon Osorio. Later on, when Luis got married, his Partida de
Casamiento14 stated that he was "hijo natural de Felisa Delgado" (the natural child of Felisa
Delgado),15 significantly omitting any mention of the name and other circumstances of his
father.16 Nevertheless, oppositors (now respondents) insist that the absence of a record of the
alleged marriage did not necessarily mean that no marriage ever took place.

Josefa Delgado died on September 8, 1972 without a will. She was survived by Guillermo Rustia
and some collateral relatives, the petitioners herein. Several months later, on June 15, 1973,
Guillermo Rustia executed an affidavit of self-

adjudication of the remaining properties comprising her estate.

The marriage of Guillermo Rustia and Josefa Delgado

Sometime in 1917, Guillermo Rustia proposed marriage to Josefa Delgado17 but whether a marriage
in fact took place is disputed. According to petitioners, the two eventually lived together as husband
and wife but were never married. To prove their assertion, petitioners point out that no record of the
contested marriage existed in the civil registry. Moreover, a baptismal certificate naming Josefa
Delgado as one of the sponsors referred to her as "Señorita" or unmarried woman.

The oppositors (respondents here), on the other hand, insist that the absence of a marriage
certificate did not of necessity mean that no marriage transpired. They maintain that Guillermo
Rustia and Josefa Delgado were married on June 3, 1919 and from then on lived together as
husband and wife until the death of Josefa on September 8, 1972. During this period spanning more
than half a century, they were known among their relatives and friends to have in fact been married.
To support their proposition, oppositors presented the following pieces of evidence:

1. Certificate of Identity No. 9592 dated [December 1, 1944] issued to Mrs. Guillermo J.
Rustia by Carlos P. Romulo, then Resident Commissioner to the United States of the
Commonwealth of the Philippines;

2. Philippine Passport No. 4767 issued to Josefa D. Rustia on June 25, 1947;
3. Veterans Application for Pension or Compensation for Disability Resulting from Service in
the Active Military or Naval Forces of the United States- Claim No. C-4, 004, 503 (VA Form
526) filed with the Veterans Administration of the United States of America by Dr. Guillermo
J. Rustia wherein Dr. Guillermo J. Rustia himself [swore] to his marriage to Josefa Delgado
in Manila on 3 June 1919;18

4. Titles to real properties in the name of Guillermo Rustia indicated that he was married to
Josefa Delgado.

The alleged heirs of Guillermo Rustia

Guillermo Rustia and Josefa Delgado never had any children. With no children of their own, they
took into their home the youngsters Guillermina Rustia Rustia and Nanie Rustia. These children,
never legally adopted by the couple, were what was known in the local dialect as ampun-ampunan.

During his life with Josefa, however, Guillermo Rustia did manage to father an illegitimate child,19 the
intervenor-respondent Guillerma Rustia, with one Amparo Sagarbarria. According to Guillerma,
Guillermo Rustia treated her as his daughter, his own flesh and blood, and she enjoyed open and
continuous possession of that status from her birth in 1920 until her father’s demise. In fact, Josefa
Delgado’s obituary which was prepared by Guillermo Rustia, named the intervenor-respondent as
one of their children. Also, her report card from the University of Santo Tomas identified Guillermo
Rustia as her parent/guardian.20

Oppositors (respondents here) nonetheless posit that Guillerma Rustia has no interest in the
intestate estate of Guillermo Rustia as she was never duly acknowledged as an illegitimate child.
They contend that her right to compulsory acknowledgement prescribed when Guillermo died in
1974 and that she cannot claim voluntary acknowledgement since the documents she presented
were not the authentic writings prescribed by the new Civil Code.21

On January 7, 1974, more than a year after the death of Josefa Delgado, Guillermo Rustia filed a
petition for the adoption22 of their ampun-ampunan Guillermina Rustia. He stated under oath "[t]hat
he ha[d] no legitimate, legitimated, acknowledged natural children or natural children by legal
fiction."23 The petition was overtaken by his death on February 28, 1974.

Like Josefa Delgado, Guillermo Rustia died without a will. He was survived by his sisters Marciana
Rustia vda. deDamian and Hortencia Rustia-Cruz, and by the children of his predeceased brother
Roman Rustia Sr., namely, Josefina Rustia Albano, Virginia Rustia Paraiso, Roman Rustia, Jr.,
Sergio Rustia, Francisco Rustia and Leticia Rustia Miranda.24

ANTECEDENT PROCEEDINGS

On May 8, 1975, Luisa Delgado vda.de Danao, the daughter of Luis Delgado, filed the original
petition for letters of administration of the intestate estates of the "spouses Josefa Delgado and
Guillermo Rustia" with the RTC of Manila, Branch 55.25 This petition was opposed by the following:
(1) the sisters of Guillermo Rustia, namely, Marciana Rustia vda. de Damian and Hortencia Rustia-
Cruz;26 (2) the heirs of Guillermo Rustia’s late brother, Roman Rustia, Sr., and (3) the ampun-
ampunan Guillermina Rustia Rustia. The opposition was grounded on the theory that Luisa
Delgado vda. de Danao and the other claimants were barred under the law from inheriting from their
illegitimate half-blood relative Josefa Delgado.
In November of 1975, Guillerma Rustia filed a motion to intervene in the proceedings, claiming she
was the only surviving descendant in the direct line of Guillermo Rustia. Despite the objections of the
oppositors (respondents herein), the motion was granted.

On April 3, 1978, the original petition for letters of administration was amended to state that Josefa
Delgado and Guillermo Rustia were never married but had merely lived together as husband and
wife.

On January 24, 1980, oppositors (respondents herein) filed a motion to dismiss the petition in the
RTC insofar as the estate of Guillermo Rustia was concerned. The motion was denied on the ground
that the interests of the petitioners and the other claimants remained in issue and should be properly
threshed out upon submission of evidence.

On March 14, 1988, Carlota Delgado vda.de de la Rosa substituted for her sister, Luisa
Delgado vda. de Danao, who had died on May 18, 1987.

On May 11, 1990, the RTC appointed Carlota Delgado vda. de de la Rosa as administratrix of both
estates.27 The dispositive portion of the decision read:

WHEREFORE, in view of all the foregoing, petitioner and her co-claimants to the estate of the late
Josefa Delgado listed in the Petitions, and enumerated elsewhere in this Decision, are hereby
declared as the only legal heirs of the said Josefa Delgado who died intestate in the City of Manila
on September 8, 1972, and entitled to partition the same among themselves in accordance with the
proportions referred to in this Decision.

Similarly, the intervenor Guillerma S. Rustia is hereby declared as the sole and only surviving heir of
the late Dr. Guillermo Rustia, and thus, entitled to the entire estate of the said decedent, to the
exclusion of the oppositors and the other parties hereto.

The Affidavit of Self-Adjudication of the estate of Josefa Delgado executed by the late Guillermo J.
Rustia on June 15, 1973 is hereby SET ASIDE and declared of no force and effect.

As the estates of both dece[d]ents have not as yet been settled, and their settlement [is] considered
consolidated in this proceeding in accordance with law, a single administrator therefor is both proper
and necessary, and, as the petitioner Carlota Delgado Vda. de dela Rosa has established her right
to the appointment as administratrix of the estates, the Court hereby APPOINTS her as the
ADMINISTRATRIX of the intestate estate of the decedent JOSEFA DELGADO in relation to the
estate of DR. GUILLERMO J. RUSTIA.

Accordingly, let the corresponding LETTERS OF ADMINISTRATION issue to the petitioner


CARLOTA DELGADO VDA. DE DE LA ROSA upon her filing of the requisite bond in the sum of
FIVE HUNDRED THOUSAND PESOS (P500,000.00).

Finally, oppositor GUILLERMINA RUSTIA RUSTIA is hereby ordered to cease and desist from her
acts of administration of the subject estates, and is likewise ordered to turn over to the appointed
administratix all her collections of the rentals and income due on the assets of the estates in
question, including all documents, papers, records and titles pertaining to such estates to the
petitioner and appointed administratix CARLOTA DELGADO VDA. DE DE LA ROSA, immediately
upon receipt of this Decision. The same oppositor is hereby required to render an accounting of her
actual administration of the estates in controversy within a period of sixty (60) days from receipt
hereof.
SO ORDERED.28

On May 20, 1990, oppositors filed an appeal which was denied on the ground that the record on
appeal was not filed on time.29 They then filed a petition for certiorari and mandamus30 which was
dismissed by the Court of Appeals.31 However, on motion for reconsideration and after hearing the
parties’ oral arguments, the Court of Appeals reversed itself and gave due course to oppositors’
appeal in the interest of substantial justice.32

In a petition for review to this Court, petitioners assailed the resolution of the Court of Appeals, on
the ground that oppositors’ failure to file the record on appeal within the reglementary period was a
jurisdictional defect which nullified the appeal. On October 10, 1997, this Court allowed the
continuance of the appeal. The pertinent portion of our decision33 read:

As a rule, periods prescribed to do certain acts must be followed. However, under exceptional
circumstances, a delay in the filing of an appeal may be excused on grounds of substantial justice.

xxx xxx xxx

The respondent court likewise pointed out the trial court’s pronouncements as to certain matters of
substance, relating to the determination of the heirs of the decedents and the party entitled to the
administration of their estate, which were to be raised in the appeal, but were barred absolutely by
the denial of the record on appeal upon too technical ground of late filing.

xxx xxx xxx

In this instance, private respondents’ intention to raise valid issues in the appeal is apparent and
should not have been construed as an attempt to delay or prolong the administration proceedings.

xxx xxx xxx

A review of the trial court’s decision is needed.

xxx xxx xxx

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing considerations, the Court hereby AFFIRMS the Resolution
dated November 27, 1991 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 23415, for the APPROVAL of
the private respondents’ Record on Appeal and the CONTINUANCE of the appeal from the Manila,
Branch LV Regional Trial Court’s May 11, 1990 decision.

SO ORDERED.

Acting on the appeal, the Court of Appeals34 partially set aside the trial court’s decision. Upon motion
for reconsideration,35 the Court of Appeals amended its earlier decision.36 The dispositive portion of
the amended decision read:

With the further modification, our assailed decision is RECONSIDERED and VACATED.
Consequently, the decision of the trial court is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. A new one is
hereby RENDERED declaring: 1.) Dr. Guillermo Rustia and Josefa Delgado Rustia to have been
legally married; 2.) the intestate estate of Dr. Guillermo Rustia, Jacoba Delgado-Encinas and the
children of Gorgonio Delgado (Campo) entitled to partition among themselves the intestate estate of
Josefa D. Rustia in accordance with the proportion referred to in this decision; 3.) the oppositors-
appellants as the legal heirs of the late Dr. Guillermo Rustia and thereby entitled to partition his
estate in accordance with the proportion referred to herein; and 4.) the intervenor-appellee Guillerma
S. Rustia as ineligible to inherit from the late Dr. Guillermo Rustia; thus revoking her appointment as
administratrix of his estate.

The letters of administration of the intestate estate of Dr. Guillermo Rustia in relation to the intestate
estate of Josefa Delgado shall issue to the nominee of the oppositors-appellants upon his or her
qualification and filing of the requisite bond in the sum of FIVE HUNDRED THOUSAND PESOS
(P500,000.00).

Oppositor-appellant Guillermina Rustia Rustia is hereby ordered to cease and desist from her acts of
administration of the subject estates and to turn over to the appointed administrator all her
collections of the rentals and incomes due on the assets of the estates in question, including all
documents, papers, records and titles pertaining to such estates to the appointed administrator,
immediately upon notice of his qualification and posting of the requisite bond, and to render an
accounting of her (Guillermina Rustia Rustia) actual administration of the estates in controversy
within a period of sixty (60) days from notice of the administrator’s qualification and posting of the
bond.

The issue of the validity of the affidavit of self-adjudication executed by Dr. Guillermo Rustia on June
15, 1973 is REMANDED to the trial court for further proceedings to determine the extent of the
shares of Jacoba Delgado-Encinas and the children of Gorgonio Delgado (Campo) affected by the
said adjudication.

Hence, this recourse.

The issues for our resolution are:

1. whether there was a valid marriage between Guillermo Rustia and Josefa Delgado;

2. who the legal heirs of the decedents Guillermo Rustia and Josefa Delgado are;

3. who should be issued letters of administration.

The marriage of Guillermo Rustia and Josefa Delgado

A presumption is an inference of the existence or non-existence of a fact which courts are permitted
to draw from proof of other facts. Presumptions are classified into presumptions of law and
presumptions of fact. Presumptions of law are, in turn, either conclusive or disputable.37

Rule 131, Section 3 of the Rules of Court provides:

Sec. 3. Disputable presumptions. — The following presumptions are satisfactory if uncontradicted,


but may be contradicted and overcome by other evidence:

xxx xxx xxx

(aa) That a man and a woman deporting themselves as husband and wife have entered into a lawful
contract of marriage;

xxx xxx xxx


In this case, several circumstances give rise to the presumption that a valid marriage existed
between Guillermo Rustia and Josefa Delgado. Their cohabitation of more than 50 years cannot be
doubted. Their family and friends knew them to be married. Their reputed status as husband and
wife was such that even the original petition for letters of administration filed by Luisa Delgado vda.
de Danao in 1975 referred to them as "spouses."

Yet, petitioners maintain that Josefa Delgado and Guillermo Rustia had simply lived together as
husband and wife without the benefit of marriage. They make much of the absence of a record of the
contested marriage, the testimony of a witness38 attesting that they were not married, and a
baptismal certificate which referred to Josefa Delgado as "Señorita" or unmarried woman.39

We are not persuaded.

First, although a marriage contract is considered a primary evidence of marriage, its absence is not
always proof that no marriage in fact took place.40 Once the presumption of marriage arises, other
evidence may be presented in support thereof. The evidence need not necessarily or directly
establish the marriage but must at least be enough to strengthen the presumption of marriage. Here,
the certificate of identity issued to Josefa Delgado as Mrs. Guillermo Rustia,41 the passport issued to
her as Josefa D. Rustia,42 the declaration under oath of no less than Guillermo Rustia that he was
married to Josefa Delgado43 and the titles to the properties in the name of "Guillermo Rustia married
to Josefa Delgado," more than adequately support the presumption of marriage. These are public
documents which are prima facie evidence of the facts stated therein.44 No clear and convincing
evidence sufficient to overcome the presumption of the truth of the recitals therein was presented by
petitioners.

Second, Elisa vda.de Anson, petitioners’ own witness whose testimony they primarily relied upon to
support their position, confirmed that Guillermo Rustia had proposed marriage to Josefa Delgado
and that eventually, the two had "lived together as husband and wife." This again could not but
strengthen the presumption of marriage.

Third, the baptismal certificate45 was conclusive proof only of the baptism administered by the priest
who baptized the child. It was no proof of the veracity of the declarations and statements contained
therein,46 such as the alleged single or unmarried ("Señorita") civil status of Josefa Delgado who had
no hand in its preparation.

Petitioners failed to rebut the presumption of marriage of Guillermo Rustia and Josefa Delgado. In
this jurisdiction, every intendment of the law leans toward legitimizing matrimony. Persons dwelling
together apparently in marriage are presumed to be in fact married. This is the usual order of things
in society and, if the parties are not what they hold themselves out to be, they would be living in
constant violation of the common rules of law and propriety. Semper praesumitur pro matrimonio.
Always presume marriage.47

The Lawful Heirs Of Josefa Delgado

To determine who the lawful heirs of Josefa Delgado are, the questioned status of the cohabitation
of her mother Felisa Delgado with Ramon Osorio must first be addressed.

As mentioned earlier, presumptions of law are either conclusive or disputable. Conclusive


presumptions are inferences which the law makes so peremptory that no contrary proof, no matter
how strong, may overturn them.48On the other hand, disputable presumptions, one of which is the
presumption of marriage, can be relied on only in the absence of sufficient evidence to the contrary.
Little was said of the cohabitation or alleged marriage of Felisa Delgado and Ramon Osorio. The
oppositors (now respondents) chose merely to rely on the disputable presumption of marriage even
in the face of such countervailing evidence as (1) the continued use by Felisa and Luis (her son with
Ramon Osorio) of the surname Delgado and (2) Luis Delgado’s and Caridad Concepcion’s Partida
de Casamiento49 identifying Luis as "hijo natural de Felisa Delgado" (the natural child of Felisa
Delgado).50

All things considered, we rule that these factors sufficiently overcame the rebuttable presumption of
marriage. Felisa Delgado and Ramon Osorio were never married. Hence, all the children born to
Felisa Delgado out of her relations with Ramon Osorio and Lucio Campo, namely, Luis and his half-
blood siblings Nazario, Edilberta, Jose, Jacoba, Gorgonio and the decedent Josefa, all surnamed
Delgado,51 were her natural children.52

Pertinent to this matter is the following observation:

Suppose, however, that A begets X with B, and Y with another woman, C; then X and Y would be
natural brothers and sisters, but of half-blood relationship. Can they succeed each other
reciprocally?

The law prohibits reciprocal succession between illegitimate children and legitimate children of the
same parent, even though there is unquestionably a tie of blood between them. It seems that to
allow an illegitimate child to succeed ab intestato (from) another illegitimate child begotten with a
parent different from that of the former, would be allowing the illegitimate child greater rights than a
legitimate child. Notwithstanding this, however, we submit that

succession should be allowed, even when the illegitimate brothers and sisters are only of the half-
blood. The reason impelling the prohibition on reciprocal successions between legitimate and
illegitimate families does not apply to the case under consideration. That prohibition has for its basis
the difference in category between illegitimate and legitimate relatives. There is no such difference
when all the children are illegitimate children of the same parent, even if begotten with different
persons. They all stand on the same footing before the law, just like legitimate children of half-blood
relation. We submit, therefore, that the rules regarding succession of legitimate brothers and sisters
should be applicable to them. Full blood illegitimate brothers and sisters should receive double the
portion of half-blood brothers and sisters; and if all are either of the full blood or of the half-blood,
they shall share equally.53

Here, the above-named siblings of Josefa Delgado were related to her by full-blood, except Luis
Delgado, her half-brother. Nonetheless, since they were all illegitimate, they may inherit from each
other. Accordingly, all of them are entitled to inherit from Josefa Delgado.

We note, however, that the petitioners before us are already the nephews, nieces, grandnephews
and grandnieces of Josefa Delgado. Under Article 972 of the new Civil Code, the right of
representation in the collateral line takes place only in favor of the children of brothers and sisters
(nephews and nieces). Consequently, it cannot be exercised by grandnephews and
grandnieces.54 Therefore, the only collateral relatives of Josefa Delgado who are entitled to partake
of her intestate estate are her brothers and sisters, or their children who were still alive at the time of
her death on September 8, 1972. They have a vested right to participate in the inheritance.55 The
records not being clear on this matter, it is now for the trial court to determine who were the surviving
brothers and sisters (or their children) of Josefa Delgado at the time of her death. Together with
Guillermo Rustia,56 they are entitled to inherit from Josefa Delgado in accordance with Article 1001 of
the new Civil Code:57
Art. 1001. Should brothers and sisters or their children survive with the widow or widower, the latter
shall be entitled to one-half of the inheritance and the brothers and sisters or their children to the
other one-half.

Since Josefa Delgado had heirs other than Guillermo Rustia, Guillermo could not have validly
adjudicated Josefa’s estate all to himself. Rule 74, Section 1 of the Rules of Court is clear.
Adjudication by an heir of the decedent’s entire estate to himself by means of an affidavit is allowed
only if he is the sole heir to the estate:

SECTION 1. Extrajudicial settlement by agreement between heirs. – If the decedent left no will and
no debts and the heirs are all of age, or the minors are represented by their judicial or legal
representatives duly authorized for the purpose, the parties may, without securing letters of
administration, divide the estate among themselves as they see fit by means of a public instrument
filed in the office of the register of deeds, and should they disagree, they may do so in an ordinary
action of partition. If there is only one heir, he may adjudicate to himself the estate by means of
an affidavit filed in the office of the register of deeds. x x x (emphasis supplied)

The Lawful Heirs Of Guillermo Rustia

Intervenor (now co-respondent) Guillerma Rustia is an illegitimate child58 of Guillermo Rustia. As


such, she may be entitled to successional rights only upon proof of an admission or recognition of
paternity.59 She, however, claimed the status of an acknowledged illegitimate child of Guillermo
Rustia only after the death of the latter on February 28, 1974 at which time it was already the new
Civil Code that was in effect.

Under the old Civil Code (which was in force till August 29, 1950), illegitimate children absolutely had
no hereditary rights. This draconian edict was, however, later relaxed in the new Civil Code which
granted certain successional rights to illegitimate children but only on condition that they were first
recognized or acknowledged by the parent.

Under the new law, recognition may be compulsory or voluntary.60 Recognition is compulsory in any
of the following cases:

(1) in cases of rape, abduction or seduction, when the period of the offense coincides more
or less with that of the conception;

(2) when the child is in continuous possession of status of a child of the alleged father (or
mother)61 by the direct acts of the latter or of his family;

(3) when the child was conceived during the time when the mother cohabited with the
supposed father;

(4) when the child has in his favor any evidence or proof that the defendant is his father. 62

On the other hand, voluntary recognition may be made in the record of birth, a will, a statement
before a court of record or in any authentic writing.63

Intervenor Guillerma sought recognition on two grounds: first, compulsory recognition through the
open and continuous possession of the status of an illegitimate child and second, voluntary
recognition through authentic writing.
There was apparently no doubt that she possessed the status of an illegitimate child from her birth
until the death of her putative father Guillermo Rustia. However, this did not constitute
acknowledgment but a mere ground by which she could have compelled acknowledgment through
the courts.64 Furthermore, any (judicial) action for compulsory acknowledgment has a dual limitation:
the lifetime of the child and the lifetime of the putative parent.65 On the death of either, the action for
compulsory recognition can no longer be filed.66 In this case, intervenor Guillerma’s right to claim
compulsory acknowledgment prescribed upon the death of Guillermo Rustia on February 28, 1974.

The claim of voluntary recognition (Guillerma’s second ground) must likewise fail. An authentic
writing, for purposes of voluntary recognition, is understood as a genuine or indubitable writing of the
parent (in this case, Guillermo Rustia). This includes a public instrument or a private writing admitted
by the father to be his.67 Did intervenor’s report card from the University of Santo Tomas and Josefa
Delgado’s obituary prepared by Guillermo Rustia qualify as authentic writings under the new Civil
Code? Unfortunately not. The report card of intervenor Guillerma did not bear the signature of
Guillermo Rustia. The fact that his name appears there as intervenor’s parent/guardian holds no
weight since he had no participation in its preparation. Similarly, while witnesses testified that it was
Guillermo Rustia himself who drafted the notice of death of Josefa Delgado which was published in
the Sunday Times on September 10, 1972, that published obituary was not the authentic writing
contemplated by the law. What could have been admitted as an authentic writing was the original
manuscript of the notice, in the handwriting of Guillermo Rustia himself and signed by him, not the
newspaper clipping of the obituary. The failure to present the original signed manuscript was fatal to
intervenor’s claim.

The same misfortune befalls the ampun-ampunan, Guillermina Rustia Rustia, who was never
adopted in accordance with law. Although a petition for her adoption was filed by Guillermo Rustia, it
never came to fruition and was dismissed upon the latter’s death. We affirm the ruling of both the
trial court and the Court of Appeals holding her a legal stranger to the deceased spouses and
therefore not entitled to inherit from them ab intestato. We quote:

Adoption is a juridical act, a proceeding in rem, which [created] between two persons a relationship
similar to that which results from legitimate paternity and filiation. Only an adoption made through the
court, or in pursuance with the procedure laid down under Rule 99 of the Rules of Court is valid in
this jurisdiction. It is not of natural law at all, but is wholly and entirely artificial. To establish the
relation, the statutory requirements must be strictly carried out, otherwise, the adoption is an
absolute nullity. The fact of adoption is never presumed, but must be affirmatively [proven] by the
person claiming its existence.68

Premises considered, we rule that two of the claimants to the estate of Guillermo Rustia, namely,
intervenor Guillerma Rustia and the ampun-ampunan Guillermina Rustia Rustia, are not lawful heirs
of the decedent. Under Article 1002 of the new Civil Code, if there are no descendants, ascendants,
illegitimate children, or surviving spouse, the collateral relatives shall succeed to the entire estate of
the deceased. Therefore, the lawful heirs of Guillermo Rustia are the remaining claimants, consisting
of his sisters,69 nieces and nephews.70

Entitlement To Letters Of Administration

An administrator is a person appointed by the court to administer the intestate estate of the
decedent. Rule 78, Section 6 of the Rules of Court prescribes an order of preference in the
appointment of an administrator:
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 a bond, or a person dies
intestate, administration shall be granted:

(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 the 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 no such creditor competent and willing to serve, it may be granted to such other
person as the court may select.

In the appointment of an administrator, the principal consideration is the interest in the estate of the
one to be appointed.71 The order of preference does not rule out the appointment of co-
administrators, specially in cases where

justice and equity demand that opposing parties or factions be represented in the management of
the estates,72 a situation which obtains here.

It is in this light that we see fit to appoint joint administrators, in the persons of Carlota Delgado vda.
de de la Rosa and a nominee of the nephews and nieces of Guillermo Rustia. They are the next of
kin of the deceased spouses Josefa Delgado and Guillermo Rustia, respectively.

WHEREFORE, the petition (which seeks to reinstate the May 11, 1990 decision of the RTC Manila,
Branch 55) is hereby DENIED. The assailed October 24, 2002 decision of the Court of Appeals
is AFFIRMED with the following modifications:

1. Guillermo Rustia’s June 15, 1973 affidavit of self-adjudication is hereby ANNULLED.

2. the intestate estate of Guillermo Rustia shall inherit half of the intestate estate of Josefa
Delgado. The remaining half shall pertain to (a) the full and half-siblings of Josefa Delgado
who survived her and (b) the children of any of Josefa Delgado’s full- or half-siblings who
may have predeceased her, also surviving at the time of her death. Josefa Delgado’s
grandnephews and grandnieces are excluded from her estate. In this connection, the trial
court is hereby ordered to determine the identities of the relatives of Josefa Delgado who are
entitled to share in her estate.

3. Guillermo Rustia’s estate (including its one-half share of Josefa Delgado’s estate) shall be
inherited by Marciana Rustia vda. de Damian and Hortencia Rustia Cruz (whose respective
shares shall be per capita) and the children of the late Roman Rustia, Sr. (who survived
Guillermo Rustia and whose respective shares shall be per stirpes). Considering that
Marciana Rustia vda.de Damian and Hortencia Rustia Cruz are now deceased, their
respective shares shall pertain to their estates.

4. Letters of administration over the still unsettled intestate estates of Guillermo Rustia and
Josefa Delgado shall issue to Carlota Delgado vda. de de la Rosa and to a nominee from
among the heirs of Guillermo Rustia, as joint administrators, upon their qualification and filing
of the requisite bond in such amount as may be determined by the trial court.

No pronouncement as to costs.

SECOND DIVISION

TEOFILO BAUTISTA, G.R. No. 160556


represented by FRANCISCO
MUOZ, Attorney-in-Fact, Present:
Petitioner,
QUISUMBING, J., Chairperson,
- versus - CARPIO,
CARPIO MORALES,
ALEGRIA BAUTISTA, TINGA, and
ANGELICA BAUTISTA, VELASCO, JR., JJ.
PRISCILLA BAUTISTA,
GILBERT BAUTISTA, JIM
BAUTISTA, GLENDA
BAUTISTA, GUEN Promulgated:
BAUTISTA, GELACIO August 3, 2007
BAUTISTA, GRACIA
BAUTISTA, PEDRO S.
TANDOC and CESAR
TAMONDONG,
Respondents.

x - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -x
DECISION
CARPIO MORALES, J.:
During her lifetime, Teodora Rosario was the owner of a 211.80-square
meter parcel of land (the property) in Poblacion, San Carlos City, Pangasinan,
covered by Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. 12951. She died intestate
on January 19, 1970, leaving behind her spouse Isidro Bautista (Isidro) and five
children, namely: Teofilo Bautista (Teofilo), Alegria Bautista (Alegria), Angelica
Bautista (Angelica), Pacita Bautista (Pacita) and Gil Bautista (Gil).
On April 21, 1981, Isidro and four of his five children Pacita, Gil, Alegria,
and Angelica executed a Deed of Extra-Judicial Partition[1] of the property in
which Isidro waived his share in favor of his said four children. Teofilo was
excluded from the partition.

Alegria and Angelica, who, under the Deed of Extra-Judicial Partition,


acquired of the property, sold the same, by Deed of Absolute Sale dated May 14,
1981, to their sibling Pacita and her common-law husband
[2]
Pedro Tandoc (Pedro).

Pacita and Pedro soon obtained tax declarations[3] and TCT No. 18777[4] in
their names over 209.85 square meters of the property including the shares they
purchased from Angelica and Alegria.

Pacita, with Pedros conformity, later conveyed via Deed of Absolute


[5]
Sale dated April 13, 1993 of the property in favor of Cesar Tamondong, Pedros
nephew.

On January 24, 1994, herein petitioner Teofilo, represented by his attorney-


in-fact Francisco Muoz, filed a Complaint[6] against his siblings Alegria and
Angelica, along with Pedro (the common-law husband of his already deceased
sister Pacita), Priscilla Bautista (wife of his already deceased brother Gil), Pricillas
children Gilbert, Jim, Glenda, Guen, and Gelacio and Cesar Tamondong before the
Regional Trial Court (RTC) of San Carlos City, for annulment of documents,
partition, recovery of ownership, possession and damages.

In his complaint, petitioner claimed that his co-heirs defrauded him of his
rightful share of the property and that the deed of sale executed by Pacita in favor
of Cesar Tamondong was fictitious as it was impossible for her to have executed
the same in Manila, she being already seriously ill at the time.[7]

In their Answer,[8] the defendants-herein respondents sisters Alegria and


Angelica, who were joined therein by their co-defendants-respondents Priscilla,
Gilbert, Jim, Glenda, Guen, Gelacio, and Gracia, claimed that it was Pacita who
caused the execution of the Deed of Extra-Judicial Partition and because they
trusted Pacita, they signed the document without scrutinizing it; and that they
learned about the contents of the partition only upon Teofilos filing of the
Complaint.

By way of cross-claim[9] against Pedro and Cesar Tamondong, the answering


defendants-respondents claimed that a few weeks after the partition, Pacita
approached Angelica and Alegria to borrow their share in the property on her
representation that it would be used as security for a business loan; and that
agreeing to accommodate Pacita, Angelica and Alegria signed a document
which Pacita prepared which turned out to be the deed of absolute sale
in Pacitas favor.

In their Answer with Counterclaim,[10] Pedro and Cesar Tamondong claimed


that they were buyers in good faith.[11] In any event, they contended that
prescription had set in, and that the complaint was a mere rehash of a previous
complaint for falsification of public document which had been dismissed by the
prosecutors office.[12]

By Decision[13] of June 24, 1999, Branch 57 of the RTC of San Carlos City
rendered judgment in favor of Teofilo, disposing as follows:

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, judgment is hereby


rendered:

1) Declaring as null and void and of no force and effect the


following documents:

a) Deed of Extra-Judicial Partition dated April 21, 1981;


b) Deed of Absolute Sale [d]ated May 14, 1981;
c) Transfer Certificate of Title No. 18777;
d) Tax Declaration Nos. 59941, 45999, and 46006;
e) Deed of Absolute Sale dated April 13, 1993;
2) Ordering the partition of the land in question among the
compulsory heirs of the late Spouses Isidro Bautista and
Teodora Rosario

3) Ordering defendants Cesar Tamondong and Pedro Tandoc to


vacate the premises.

No pronouncement[s] as to cost.[14] (Underscoring supplied)

On appeal by Pedro and Cesar Tamondong, the Court of Appeals, by


Decision[15] of February 21, 2003, reversed and set aside the trial courts decision
and dismissed Teofilos complaint on the ground of prescription.[16] His Motion for
Reconsideration[17] having been denied,[18] Teofilo filed the present Petition for
Review on Certiorari.[19]

The petition is impressed with merit.

The Court of Appeals, in holding that prescription had set in, reasoned:

Unquestionably, the Deed of Extra-judicial Partition is invalid


insofar as it affects the legitimate share pertaining to the defendant-
appellee in the property in question. There can be no question that the
Deed of Extra-judicial Partition was fraudulently obtained. Hence, an
action to set it aside on the ground of fraud could be
instituted. Such action for the annulment of the said partition, however,
must be brought within four years from the discovery of the
fraud. Significantly, it cannot be denied, either, that by its registration in
the manner provided by law, a transaction may be known actually or
constructively.

In the present case, defendant-appellee is deemed to have been


constructively notified of the extra-judicial settlement by reason of its
registration and annotation in the certificate of title over the subject lot
on December 21, 1981. From the time of its registration, defendant-
appellee had four (4) years or until 21 December 1985, within which to
file his objections or to demand the appropriate settlement of the
estate.Unfortunately, defendant-appellee failed to institute the present
civil action within said period, having filed the same only on 17 January
1994 or more than twelve (12) years from the registration of the deed of
extra-judicial partition. Hence, defendant-appellees right to question the
deed of extra-judicial partition has prescribed.

Even on the extreme assumption that defendant-appellees


complaint in Civil Case No. SC-1797 is an action for reconveyance of a
portion of the property which rightfully belongs to him based upon an
implied trust resulting from fraud, said remedy is already barred by
prescription. An action of reconveyance of land based upon an implied
or constructive trust prescribes after ten years from the registration of the
deed or from the issuance of the title.

xxxx

The complaint of defendant-appellee was filed only on 17 January


1994, while the deed of extra-judicial partition was registered and
inscribed on Transfer Certificate of Title 12951, on 21 December
1981. Clearly, the complaint was filed twelve (12) years and twenty-
seven (27) days after the inscription of the deed of extra-judicial
partition on TCT 12951. Hence, even if We consider defendant-
appellees complaint as an action for reconveyance against plaintiff-
appellants on the basis of implied trust, we find and so hold that his
remedy for reconveyance has also prescribed.[20] (Underscoring supplied)

As gathered from the above-quoted portion of its decision, the Court of


Appeals applied the prescriptive periods for annulment on the ground of fraud and
for reconveyance of property under a constructive trust.

The extra-judicial partition executed by Teofilos co-heirs was invalid,


however. So Segura v. Segura[21] instructs:

x x x 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 extra-judicial 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
[22]
years x x x (Underscoring supplied)
The deed of extra-judicial partition in the case at bar being invalid, the
action to have it annulled does not prescribe.[23]

Since the deed of extra-judicial partition is invalid, it transmitted no rights to


Teofilos co-heirs.[24] Consequently, the subsequent transfer by Angelica
and Alegria of of the property to Pacita and her husband Pedro, as well as the
transfer of of the property to Cesar Tamondong is invalid, hence, conferring no
rights upon the transferees under the principle of nemo dat quod non habet.[25]

WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The decision of the court a


quo is SET ASIDE and the Decision of the Regional TrialCourt of San
Carlos City, Pangasinan, Branch 57 is REINSTATED.

G.R. No. L-23638 October 12, 1967

DIONISIO FERNANDEZ, EUSEBIO REYES and LUISA REYES, petitioners,


vs.
ISMAELA DIMAGIBA, respondent.

----------------------------------------

G.R. No. L-23662 October 12, 1967

MARIANO REYES, CESAR REYES, LEONOR REYES and PACIENCIA REYES, petitioners,
vs.
ISMAELA DIMAGIBA, respondent.

Jose D. Villena for petitioners.


Antonio Barredo and Exequiel M. Zaballero for respondent.

REYES, J.B.L., Actg. C.J.:

The heirs intestate of the late Benedicta de los Reyes have petitioned for a review of the decision of
the Court of Appeals (in CA-G. R. No. 31221-R) affirming that of the Court of First Instance of
Bulacan, in Special Proceeding No. 831 of said Court, admitting to probate the alleged last will and
testament of the deceased, and overruling the opposition to the probate.
It appears from the record that on January 19, 1955, Ismaela Dimagiba, now respondent, submitted
to the Court of First Instance a petition for the probate of the purported will of the late Benedicta de
los Reyes, executed on October 22, 1930, and annexed to the petition. The will instituted the
petitioner as the sole heir of the estate of the deceased. The petition was set for hearing, and in due
time, Dionisio Fernandez, Eusebio Reyes and Luisa Reyes and one month later, Mariano, Cesar,
Leonor and Paciencia, all surnamed Reyes, all claiming to be heirs intestate of the decedent, filed
oppositions to the probate asked. Grounds advanced for the opposition were forgery, vices of
consent of the testatrix, estoppel by laches of the proponent and revocation of the will by two deeds
of conveyance of the major portion of the estate made by the testatrix in favor of the proponent in
1943 and 1944, but which conveyances were finally set aside by this Supreme Court in a decision
promulgated on August 3, 1954, in cases G.R. Nos. L-5618 and L-5620 (unpublished).

After trial on the formulated issues, the Court of First Instance, by decision of June 20, 1958, found
that the will was genuine and properly executed; but deferred resolution on the questions of estoppel
and revocation "until such time when we shall pass upon the intrinsic validity of the provisions of the
will or when the question of adjudication of the properties is opportunely presented."

Oppositors Fernandez and Reyes petitioned for reconsideration, and/or new trial, insisting that the
issues of estoppel and revocation be considered and resolved; whereupon, on July 27, 1959, the
Court overruled the claim that proponent was in estoppel to ask for the probate of the will, but
"reserving unto the parties the right to raise the issue of implied revocation at the opportune time."

On January 11, 1960, the Court of First Instance appointed Ricardo Cruz as administrator for the
sole purpose of submitting an inventory of the estate, and this was done on February 9, 1960.

On February 27, 1962, after receiving further evidence on the issue whether the execution by the
testatrix of deeds of sale of the larger portion of her estate in favor of the testamentary heir, made in
1943 and 1944, subsequent to the execution of her 1930 testament, had revoked the latter under
Article 957(2) of the 1950 Civil Code (Art. 869 of the Civil Code of 1889), the trial Court resolved
against the oppositors and held the will of the late Benedicta de los Reyes "unaffected and
unrevoked by the deeds of sale."Whereupon, the oppositors elevated the case to the Court of
Appeals.

The appellate Court held that the decree of June 20, 1958, admitting the will to probate, had become
final for lack of opportune appeal; that the same was appealable independently of the issue of
implied revocation; that contrary to the claim of oppositors-appellants, there had been no legal
revocation by the execution of the 1943 and 1944 deeds of sale, because the latter had been made
in favor of the legatee herself, and affirmed the decision of the Court of First Instance.

Oppositors then appealed to this Court.

In this instance, both sets of oppositors-appellants pose three main issues: (a) whether or not the
decree of the Court of First Instance allowing the will to probate had become final for lack of appeal;
(b) whether or not the order of the Court of origin dated July 27, 1959, overruling the estoppel
invoked by oppositors-appellants had likewise become final; and (c) whether or not the 1930 will of
Benedicta de los Reyes had been impliedly revoked by her execution of deeds of conveyance in
favor of the proponent on March 26, 1943 and April 3, 1944.

As to the first point, oppositors-appellants contend that the order allowing the will to probate should
be considered interlocutory, because it fails to resolve the issues of estoppel and revocation
propounded in their opposition. We agree with the Court of Appeals that the appellant's stand is
untenable. It is elementary that a probate decree finally and definitively settles all questions
concerning capacity of the testator and the proper execution and witnessing of his last will and
testament, irrespective of whether its provisions are valid and enforceable or otherwise. (Montañano
vs. Suesa, 14 Phil. 676; Mercado vs. Santos, 66 Phil. 215; Trillana vs. Crisostomo, 89 Phil. 710). As
such, the probate order is final and appealable; and it is so recognized by express provisions of
Section 1 of Rule 109, that specifically prescribes that "any interested person may appeal in special
proceedings from an order or judgment . . . where such order or judgment: (a) allows or disallows a
will."

Appellants argue that they were entitled to await the trial Court's resolution on the other grounds of
their opposition before taking an appeal, as otherwise there would be a multiplicity of recourses to
the higher Courts. This contention is without weight, since Rule 109, section 1, expressly
enumerates six different instances when appeal may be taken in special proceedings.

There being no controversy that the probate decree of the Court below was not appealed on time,
the same had become final and conclusive. Hence, the appellate courts may no longer revoke said
decree nor review the evidence upon which it is made to rest. Thus, the appeal belatedly lodged
against the decree was correctly dismissed.

The alleged revocation implied from the execution of the deeds of conveyance in favor of the
testamentary heir is plainly irrelevant to and separate from the question of whether the testament
was duly executed. For one, if the will is not entitled to probate, or its probate is denied, all questions
of revocation become superfluous in law, there is no such will and hence there would be nothing to
revoke. Then, again, the revocation invoked by the oppositors-appellants is not an express one, but
merely implied from subsequent acts of the testatrix allegedly evidencing an abandonment of the
original intention to bequeath or devise the properties concerned. As such, the revocation would not
affect the will itself, but merely the particular devise or legacy. Only the total and absolute revocation
can preclude probate of the revoked testament (Trillana vs. Crisostomo, supra.).

As to the issue of estoppel, we have already ruled in Guevara vs. Guevara, 98 Phil. 249, that the
presentation and probate of a will are requirements of public policy, being primarily designed to
protect the testator's, expressed wishes, which are entitled to respect as a consequence of the
decedent's ownership and right of disposition within legal limits. Evidence of it is the duty imposed on
a custodian of a will to deliver the same to the Court, and the fine and imprisonment prescribed for
its violation (Revised Rule 75). It would be a non sequitur to allow public policy to be evaded on the
pretext of estoppel. Whether or not the order overruling the allegation of estoppel is still appealable
or not, the defense is patently unmeritorious and the Court of Appeals correctly so ruled.

The last issue, that of revocation, is predicated on paragraph 2 of Article 957 of the Civil Code of
1950 (Art. 869 of the Code of 1889), which recites:

Art. 957. The legacy or devise shall be without effect:

(1) . . . .

(2) If the testator by any title or for any cause alienates the thing bequeathed or any part
thereof, it being understood that in the latter case the legacy or devise shall be without effect
only with respect to the part thus alienated. If after the alienation the thing should again
belong to the testator, even if it be by reason of nullity of the contract, the legacy or devise
shall not thereafter be valid, unless the reacquisition shall have been effected by virtue of the
exercise of the right of repurchase;

xxx xxx xxx


It is well to note that, unlike in the French and Italian Codes, the basis of the quoted provision is a
presumed change of intention on the part of the testator. As pointed out by Manresa in his
Commentaries on Article 869 of the Civil Code (Vol. 6, 7th Ed., p. 743) —

Este caso se funda en la presunta voluntad del testador. Si este, despues de legar, se
desprende de la cosa por titulo lucrativo u oneroso, hace desaparecer su derecho sobra ella,
dando lugar a la presuncion de que ha cambiado de voluntad, y no quiere que el legado se
cumpla. Mas para que pueda presumirse esa voluntad, es necesario que medien actos del
testador que la indiquen. Si la perdida del derecho sobre la cosa ha sido independiente de la
voluntad del testador, el legado podraquedar sin efecto, mas no en virtud del numero 2 del
articulo 869, que exige siempre actos voluntarios de enajenacion por parte del mismo
testador.

As observed by the Court of Appeals, the existence of any such change or departure from the
original intent of the testatrix, expressed in her 1930 testament, is rendered doubtful by the
circumstance that the subsequent alienations in 1943 and 1944 were executed in favor of the
legatee herself, appellee Dimagiba. In fact, as found by the Court of Appeals in its decision annulling
these conveyances (affirmed in that point by this Supreme Court in Reyes vs. Court of Appeals and
Dimagiba, L-5618 and L-5620, promulgated on July 31, 1954), "no consideration whatever was paid
by respondent Dimagiba" on account of the transfers, thereby rendering it even more doubtful
whether in conveying the property to her legatee, the testatrix merely intended to comply in advance
with what she had ordained in her testament, rather than an alteration or departure
therefrom.1 Revocation being an exception, we believe, with the Courts below, that in the
circumstances of the particular case, Article 957 of the Civil Code of the Philippines, does not apply
to the case at bar.

Not only that, but even if it were applicable, the annulment of the conveyances would not necessarily
result in the revocation of the legacies, if we bear in mind that the findings made in the decision
decreeing the annulment of the subsequent 1943 and 1944 deeds of sale were also that

it was the moral influence, originating from their confidential relationship, which was the only
cause for the execution of Exhs. A and B (the 1943 and 1944 conveyances).(Decision, L-
5618 and L-5620).

If the annulment was due to undue influence, as the quoted passage implies, then the transferor was
not expressing her own free will and intent in making the conveyances. Hence, it can not be
concluded, either, that such conveyances established a decision on her part to abandon the original
legacy.

True it is that the legal provision quoted prescribes that the recovery of the alienated property "even
if it be by reason of the nullity of the contract" does not revive the legacy; but as pointed out by
Scaevola (Codigo Civil, Vol. XV, 4th Ed., pp. 324-325) the "nullity of the contract" can not be taken in
an absolute sense.2 Certainly, it could not be maintained, for example, that if a testator's subsequent
alienation were avoided because the testator was mentally deranged at the time, the revocatory
effect ordained by the article should still ensue. And the same thing could be said if the alienation
(posterior to the will) were avoided on account of physical or mental duress. Yet, an alienation
through undue influence in no way differs from one made through violence or intimidation. In either
case, the transferor is not expressing his real intent,3 and it can not be held that there was in fact an
alienation that could produce a revocation of the anterior bequest.

In view of the foregoing considerations, the appealed decision of the Court of Appeals is hereby
affirmed. Costs against appellants Reyes and Fernandez.So ordered.
Dizon, Makalintal, Zaldivar, Sanchez, Castro, Angeles and Fernando, JJ., concur.
Concepcion, C.J. and Bengzon, J.P., J., are on leave, took no part.

G.R. No. 160530 November 20, 2007

CYNTHIA V. NITTSCHER, petitioner,


vs.
DR. WERNER KARL JOHANN NITTSCHER (Deceased), ATTY. ROGELIO P. NOGALES and
THE REGIONAL TRIAL COURT OF MAKATI (Branch 59), respondents.

DECISION

QUISUMBING, J.:

For review on certiorari are the Decision1 dated July 31, 2003 and Resolution2 dated October 21,
2003 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 55330, which affirmed the Order3 dated September
29, 1995 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 59, Makati City, in SP Proc. No. M-2330 for the
probate of a will.

The facts are as follows.

On January 31, 1990, Dr. Werner Karl Johann Nittscher filed with the RTC of Makati City a petition
for the probate of his holographic will and for the issuance of letters testamentary to herein
respondent Atty. Rogelio P. Nogales.

On September 19, 1991, after hearing and with due notice to the compulsory heirs, the probate court
issued an order allowing the said holographic will, thus:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Holographic Will of the petitioner-testator Dr.


Werner J. Nittscher executed pursuant to the provision of the second paragraph of Article
838 of the Civil Code of the Philippines on January 25, 1990 in Manila, Philippines, and
proved in accordance with the provision of Rule 76 of the Revised Rules of Court is hereby
allowed.

SO ORDERED.4

On September 26, 1994, Dr. Nittscher died. Hence, Atty. Nogales filed a petition for letters
testamentary for the administration of the estate of the deceased. Dr. Nittscher’s surviving spouse,
herein petitioner Cynthia V. Nittscher, moved for the dismissal of the said petition. However, the
court in its September 29, 1995 Order denied petitioner’s motion to dismiss, and granted
respondent’s petition for the issuance of letters testamentary, to wit:

In view of all the foregoing, the motion to dismiss is DENIED. The petition for the issuance of
Letters Testamentary, being in order, is GRANTED.

Section 4, Rule 78 of the Revised Rules of Court, provides "when a will has been proved and
allowed, the court shall issue letters testamentary thereon to the person named as executor
therein, if he is competent, accepts the trust and gives a bond as required by these rules." In
the case at bar, petitioner Atty. Rogelio P. Nogales of the R.P. Nogales Law Offices has
been named executor under the Holographic Will of Dr. Werner J. Nittscher. As prayed for,
let Letters Testamentary be issued to Atty. Rogelio P. Nogales, the executor named in the
Will, without a bond.

SO ORDERED.5

Petitioner moved for reconsideration, but her motion was denied for lack of merit. On May 9, 1996,
Atty. Nogales was issued letters testamentary and was sworn in as executor.

Petitioner appealed to the Court of Appeals alleging that respondent’s petition for the issuance of
letters testamentary should have been dismissed outright as the RTC had no jurisdiction over the
subject matter and that she was denied due process.

The appellate court dismissed the appeal, thus:

WHEREFORE, the foregoing considered, the appeal is hereby DISMISSED and the assailed
Order is AFFIRMED in toto. The court a quo is ordered to proceed with dispatch in the
proceedings below.

SO ORDERED.6

Petitioner’s motion for reconsideration of the aforequoted decision was denied for lack of merit.
Hence, the present petition anchored on the following grounds:

I.

BOTH THE CA AND THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN NOT DISMISSING OUTRIGHT THE
PETITION FOR LETTERS … TESTAMENTARY FILED BY ATTY. NOGALES WHEN,
OBVIOUSLY, IT WAS FILED IN VIOLATION OF REVISED CIRCULAR NO. 28-91 AND
ADMINISTRATIVE CIRCULAR NO.04-94 OF THIS HONORABLE COURT.

II.

THE CA ERRED IN NOT DECLARING THAT THE LOWER COURT [HAS] NO


JURISDICTION OVER THE SUBJECT MATTER OF THE PRESENT SUIT.

III.

THE CA ERRED IN CONCLUDING THAT SUMMONS WERE PROPERLY ISSUED TO THE


PARTIES AND ALL PERSONS INTERESTED IN THE PROBATE OF THE HOLOGRAPHIC
WILL OF DR. NITTSCHER.

IV.

THE CA ERRED IN CONCLUDING THAT THE PETITIONER WAS NOT DEPRIVED OF


DUE PROCESS OF LAW BY THE LOWER COURT.7

Petitioner contends that respondent’s petition for the issuance of letters testamentary lacked a
certification against forum-shopping. She adds that the RTC has no jurisdiction over the subject
matter of this case because Dr. Nittscher was allegedly not a resident of the Philippines; neither did
he leave real properties in the country. Petitioner claims that the properties listed for disposition in
her husband’s will actually belong to her. She insists she was denied due process of law because
she did not receive by personal service the notices of the proceedings.

Respondent Atty. Nogales, however, counters that Dr. Nittscher did reside and own real properties in
Las Piñas, Metro Manila. He stresses that petitioner was duly notified of the probate proceedings.
Respondent points out that petitioner even appeared in court to oppose the petition for the issuance
of letters testamentary and that she also filed a motion to dismiss the said petition. Respondent
maintains that the petition for the issuance of letters testamentary need not contain a certification
against forum-shopping as it is merely a continuation of the original proceeding for the probate of the
will.

We resolve to deny the petition.

As to the first issue, Revised Circular No. 28-918 and Administrative Circular No. 04-949 of the Court
require a certification against forum-shopping for all initiatory pleadings filed in court. However, in
this case, the petition for the issuance of letters testamentary is not an initiatory pleading, but a mere
continuation of the original petition for the probate of Dr. Nittscher’s will. Hence, respondent’s failure
to include a certification against forum-shopping in his petition for the issuance of letters
testamentary is not a ground for outright dismissal of the said petition.

Anent the second issue, Section 1, Rule 73 of the Rules of Court provides:

SECTION 1. Where estate of deceased persons settled. – If the decedent is an inhabitant


of the Philippines at the time of his death, whether a citizen or an alien, his will shall be
proved, or letters of administration granted, and his estate settled, in the Court of First
Instance (now Regional Trial Court) in the province in which he resides at the time of
his death, and if he is an inhabitant of a foreign country, the Court of First Instance (now
Regional Trial Court) of any province in which he had estate. … (Emphasis supplied.)

In this case, the RTC and the Court of Appeals are one in their finding that Dr. Nittscher was a
resident of Las Piñas, Metro Manila at the time of his death. Such factual finding, which we find
supported by evidence on record, should no longer be disturbed. Time and again we have said that
reviews on certiorari are limited to errors of law. Unless there is a showing that the findings of the
lower court are totally devoid of support or are glaringly erroneous, this Court will not analyze or
weigh evidence all over again.10

Hence, applying the aforequoted rule, Dr. Nittscher correctly filed in the RTC of Makati City, which
then covered Las Piñas, Metro Manila, the petition for the probate of his will and for the issuance of
letters testamentary to respondent.

Regarding the third and fourth issues, we note that Dr. Nittscher asked for the allowance of his own
will. In this connection, Section 4, Rule 76 of the Rules of Court states:

SEC. 4. Heirs, devisees, legatees, and executors to be notified by mail or personally. – …

If the testator asks for the allowance of his own will, notice shall be sent only to his
compulsory heirs.

In this case, records show that petitioner, with whom Dr. Nittscher had no child, and Dr. Nittscher’s
children from his previous marriage were all duly notified, by registered mail, of the probate
proceedings. Petitioner even appeared in court to oppose respondent’s petition for the issuance of
letters testamentary and she also filed a motion to dismiss the said petition. She likewise filed a
motion for reconsideration of the issuance of the letters testamentary and of the denial of her motion
to dismiss. We are convinced petitioner was accorded every opportunity to defend her cause.
Therefore, petitioner’s allegation that she was denied due process in the probate proceedings is
without basis.

As a final word, petitioner should realize that the allowance of her husband’s will is conclusive only
as to its due execution.11 The authority of the probate court is limited to ascertaining whether the
testator, being of sound mind, freely executed the will in accordance with the formalities prescribed
by law.12 Thus, petitioner’s claim of title to the properties forming part of her husband’s estate should
be settled in an ordinary action before the regular courts.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED for lack of merit. The assailed Decision dated July 31, 2003
and Resolution dated October 21, 2003 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 55330, which
affirmed the Order dated September 29, 1995 of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 59, Makati City, in
SP Proc. No. M-2330 are AFFIRMED.

No pronouncement as to costs.

SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. L-58509 December 7, 1982

IN THE MATTER OF THE PETITION TO APPROVE THE WILL OF RICARDO B. BONILLA


deceased, MARCELA RODELAS, petitioner-appellant,
vs.
AMPARO ARANZA, ET AL., oppositors-appellees, ATTY. LORENZO SUMULONG, intervenor.

Luciano A. Joson for petitioner-appellant.

Cesar Paralejo for oppositor-appellee.

RELOVA, J.:

This case was certified to this Tribunal by the Court of Appeals for final determination pursuant to
Section 3, Rule 50 of the Rules of Court.

As found by the Court of Appeals:

... On January 11, 1977, appellant filed a petition with the Court of First Instance of
Rizal for the probate of the holographic will of Ricardo B. Bonilla and the issuance of
letters testamentary in her favor. The petition, docketed as Sp. Proc. No. 8432, was
opposed by the appellees Amparo Aranza Bonilla, Wilferine Bonilla Treyes Expedita
Bonilla Frias and Ephraim Bonilla on the following grounds:
(1) Appellant was estopped from claiming that the deceased left a will by failing to
produce the will within twenty days of the death of the testator as required by Rule
75, section 2 of the Rules of Court;

(2) The alleged copy of the alleged holographic will did not contain a disposition of
property after death and was not intended to take effect after death, and therefore it
was not a will

(3) The alleged hollographic will itself,and not an alleged copy thereof, must be
produced, otherwise it would produce no effect, as held in Gam v. Yap, 104 Phil.
509; and

(4 ) The deceased did not leave any will, holographic or otherwise, executed and
attested as required by law.

The appellees likewise moved for the consolidation of the case with another case Sp.
Proc. No, 8275). Their motion was granted by the court in an order dated April 4,
1977.

On November 13, 1978, following the consolidation of the cases, the appellees
moved again to dismiss the petition for the probate of the will. They argued that:

(1) The alleged holographic was not a last will but merely an instruction as to the
management and improvement of the schools and colleges founded by decedent
Ricardo B. Bonilla; and

(2) Lost or destroyed holographic wills cannot be proved by secondary evidence


unlike ordinary wills.

Upon opposition of the appellant, the motion to dismiss was denied by the court in its
order of February 23, 1979.

The appellees then filed a motion for reconsideration on the ground that the order
was contrary to law and settled pronouncements and rulings of the Supreme Court,
to which the appellant in turn filed an opposition. On July 23, 1979, the court set
aside its order of February 23, 1979 and dismissed the petition for the probate of the
will of Ricardo B. Bonilla. The court said:

... It is our considered opinion that once the original copy of the holographic will is
lost, a copy thereof cannot stand in lieu of the original.

In the case of Gam vs. Yap, 104 Phil. 509, 522, the Supreme Court held that 'in the
matter of holographic wills the law, it is reasonable to suppose, regards the
document itself as the material proof of authenticity of said wills.

MOREOVER, this Court notes that the alleged holographic will was executed on
January 25, 1962 while Ricardo B. Bonilla died on May 13, 1976. In view of the lapse
of more than 14 years from the time of the execution of the will to the death of the
decedent, the fact that the original of the will could not be located shows to our mind
that the decedent had discarded before his death his allegedly missing Holographic
Will.
Appellant's motion for reconsideration was denied. Hence, an appeal to the Court of Appeals in
which it is contended that the dismissal of appellant's petition is contrary to law and well-settled
jurisprudence.

On July 7, 1980, appellees moved to forward the case to this Court on the ground that the appeal
does not involve question of fact and alleged that the trial court committed the following assigned
errors:

I. THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN HOLDING THAT A LOST HOLOGRAPHIC WILL


MAY NOT BE PROVED BY A COPY THEREOF;

II. THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN HOLDING THAT THE DECEDENT HAS
DISCARDED BEFORE HIS DEATH THE MISSING HOLOGRAPHIC WILL;

III. THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN DISMISSING APPELLANT'S WILL.

The only question here is whether a holographic will which was lost or cannot be found can be
proved by means of a photostatic copy. Pursuant to Article 811 of the Civil Code, probate of
holographic wills is the allowance of the will by the court after its due execution has been proved.
The probate may be uncontested or not. If uncontested, at least one Identifying witness is required
and, if no witness is available, experts may be resorted to. If contested, at least three Identifying
witnesses are required. However, if the holographic will has been lost or destroyed and no other
copy is available, the will can not be probated because the best and only evidence is the handwriting
of the testator in said will. It is necessary that there be a comparison between sample handwritten
statements of the testator and the handwritten will. But, a photostatic copy or xerox copy of the
holographic will may be allowed because comparison can be made with the standard writings of the
testator. In the case of Gam vs. Yap, 104 PHIL. 509, the Court ruled that "the execution and the
contents of a lost or destroyed holographic will may not be proved by the bare testimony of
witnesses who have seen and/or read such will. The will itself must be presented; otherwise, it shall
produce no effect. The law regards the document itself as material proof of authenticity." But, in
Footnote 8 of said decision, it says that "Perhaps it may be proved by a photographic or photostatic
copy. Even a mimeographed or carbon copy; or by other similar means, if any, whereby the
authenticity of the handwriting of the deceased may be exhibited and tested before the probate
court," Evidently, the photostatic or xerox copy of the lost or destroyed holographic will may be
admitted because then the authenticity of the handwriting of the deceased can be determined by the
probate court.

WHEREFORE, the order of the lower court dated October 3, 1979, denying appellant's motion for
reconsideration dated August 9, 1979, of the Order dated July 23, 1979, dismissing her petition to
approve the will of the late Ricardo B. Bonilla, is hereby SET ASIDE.

SO ORDERED.

SECOND DIVISION

IN RE: IN THE MATTER OF THE G.R. No. 169144


PETITION TO APPROVE THE WILL
OF RUPERTA PALAGANAS WITH
PRAYER FOR THE APPOINTMENT
OF SPECIAL ADMINISTRATOR,

MANUEL MIGUEL PALAGANAS and


BENJAMIN GREGORIO PALAGANAS,
Petitioners, Present:
CARPIO, J., Chairperson,
- versus - NACHURA,
ABAD,
MENDOZA, and
SERENO,* JJ.
ERNESTO PALAGANAS,
Respondent. Promulgated:

January 26, 2011


x --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- x

DECISION
ABAD, J.:

This case is about the probate before Philippine court of a will executed abroad by
a foreigner although it has not been probated in its place of execution.

The Facts and the Case


On November 8, 2001 Ruperta C. Palaganas (Ruperta), a Filipino who became a
naturalized United States (U.S.) citizen, died single and childless. In the last will
and testament she executed in California, she designated her brother, Sergio C.
Palaganas (Sergio), as the executor of her will for she had left properties in
the Philippines and in the U.S.
On May 19, 2003 respondent Ernesto C. Palaganas (Ernesto), another brother of
Ruperta, filed with the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Malolos, Bulacan, a petition
for the probate of Rupertas will and for his appointment as special administrator of
her estate.[1] On October 15, 2003, however, petitioners Manuel Miguel Palaganas
(Manuel) and Benjamin Gregorio Palaganas (Benjamin), nephews of Ruperta,
opposed the petition on the ground that Rupertas will should not be probated in
the Philippines but in the U.S. where she executed it. Manuel and Benjamin added
that, assuming Rupertas will could be probated in the Philippines, it is invalid
nonetheless for having been executed under duress and without the testators full
understanding of the consequences of such act. Ernesto, they claimed, is also not
qualified to act as administrator of the estate.

Meantime, since Rupertas foreign-based siblings, Gloria Villaluz and Sergio, were
on separate occasions in the Philippines for a short visit, respondent Ernesto filed a
motion with the RTC for leave to take their deposition, which it granted. On April,
13, 2004 the RTC directed the parties to submit their memorandum on the issue of
whether or not Rupertas U.S. will may be probated in and allowed by a court in
the Philippines.

On June 17, 2004 the RTC issued an order:[2] (a) admitting to probate Rupertas last
will; (b) appointing respondent Ernesto as special administrator at the request of
Sergio, the U.S.-based executor designated in the will; and (c) issuing the Letters
of Special Administration to Ernesto.

Aggrieved by the RTCs order, petitioner nephews Manuel and Benjamin appealed
to the Court of Appeals (CA),[3] arguing that an unprobated will executed by an
American citizen in the U.S. cannot be probated for the first time in
the Philippines.
On July 29, 2005 the CA rendered a decision,[4] affirming the assailed order of the
RTC,[5] holding that the RTC properly allowed the probate of the will, subject to
respondent Ernestos submission of the authenticated copies of the documents
specified in the order and his posting of required bond. The CA pointed out that
Section 2, Rule 76 of the Rules of Court does not require prior probate and
allowance of the will in the country of its execution, before it can be probated in
the Philippines. The present case, said the CA, is different from reprobate, which
refers to a will already probated and allowed abroad. Reprobate is governed by
different rules or procedures. Unsatisfied with the decision, Manuel and Benjamin
came to this Court.

The Issue Presented


The key issue presented in this case is whether or not a will executed by a
foreigner abroad may be probated in the Philippines although it has not been
previously probated and allowed in the country where it was executed.

The Courts Ruling

Petitioners Manuel and Benjamin maintain that wills executed by foreigners


abroad must first be probated and allowed in the country of its execution before it
can be probated here. This, they claim, ensures prior compliance with the legal
formalities of the country of its execution.They insist that local courts can only
allow probate of such wills if the proponent proves that: (a) the testator has been
admitted for probate in such foreign country, (b) the will has been admitted to
probate there under its laws, (c) the probate court has jurisdiction over the
proceedings, (d) the law on probate procedure in that foreign country and proof of
compliance with the same, and (e) the legal requirements for the valid execution of
a will.
But our laws do not prohibit the probate of wills executed by foreigners abroad
although the same have not as yet been probated and allowed in the countries of
their execution. A foreign will can be given legal effects in our jurisdiction. Article
816 of the Civil Code states that the will of an alien who is abroad produces effect
in the Philippines if made in accordance with the formalities prescribed by the law
of the place where he resides, or according to the formalities observed in his
country.[6]

In this connection, Section 1, Rule 73 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure


provides that if the decedent is an inhabitant of a foreign country, the RTC of the
province where he has an estate may take cognizance of the settlement of such
estate. Sections 1 and 2 of Rule 76 further state that the executor, devisee, or
legatee named in the will, or any other person interested in the estate, may, at any
time after the death of the testator, petition the court having jurisdiction to have the
will allowed, whether the same be in his possession or not, or is lost or destroyed.

Our rules require merely that the petition for the allowance of a will must show, so
far as known to the petitioner: (a) the jurisdictional facts; (b) the names, ages, and
residences of the heirs, legatees, and devisees of the testator or decedent; (c) the
probable value and character of the property of the estate; (d) the name of the
person for whom letters are prayed; and (e) if the will has not been delivered to the
court, the name of the person having custody of it. Jurisdictional facts refer to the
fact of death of the decedent, his residence at the time of his death in the province
where the probate court is sitting, or if he is an inhabitant of a foreign country, the
estate he left in such province.[7] The rules do not require proof that the foreign will
has already been allowed and probated in the country of its execution.

In insisting that Rupertas will should have been first probated and allowed by the
court of California, petitioners Manuel and Benjamin obviously have in mind the
procedure for the reprobate of will before admitting it here. But, reprobate or re-
authentication of a will already probated and allowed in a foreign country is
different from that probate where the will is presented for the first time before a
competent court. Reprobate is specifically governed by Rule 77 of the Rules of
Court. Contrary to petitioners stance, since this latter rule applies only to reprobate
of a will, it cannot be made to apply to the present case. In reprobate, the local
court acknowledges as binding the findings of the foreign probate court provided
its jurisdiction over the matter can be established.

Besides, petitioners stand is fraught with impractically. If the instituted heirs do not
have the means to go abroad for the probate of the will, it is as good as depriving
them outright of their inheritance, since our law requires that no will shall pass
either real or personal property unless the will has been proved and allowed by the
proper court.[8]

Notably, the assailed RTC order of June 17, 2004 is nothing more than an initial
ruling that the court can take cognizance of the petition for probate of Rupertas
will and that, in the meantime, it was designating Ernesto as special administrator
of the estate. The parties have yet to present evidence of the due execution of the
will, i.e. the testators state of mind at the time of the execution and compliance
with the formalities required of wills by the laws of California. This explains the
trial courts directive for Ernesto to submit the duly authenticated copy of Rupertas
will and the certified copies of the Laws of Succession and Probate of Will of
California.

WHEREFORE, the Court DENIES the petition and AFFIRMS the Court of
Appeals decision in CA-G.R. CV 83564 dated July 29, 2005.

SO ORDERED.
G.R. No. 139868 June 8, 2006

ALONZO Q. ANCHETA, Petitioner,


vs.
CANDELARIA GUERSEY-DALAYGON, Respondent.

DECISION

AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ, J.:

Spouses Audrey O’Neill (Audrey) and W. Richard Guersey (Richard) were American citizens who
have resided in the Philippines for 30 years. They have an adopted daughter, Kyle Guersey Hill
(Kyle). On July 29, 1979, Audrey died, leaving a will. In it, she bequeathed her entire estate to
Richard, who was also designated as executor.1 The will was admitted to probate before the
Orphan’s Court of Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.A, which named James N. Phillips as executor due to
Richard’s renunciation of his appointment.2 The court also named Atty. Alonzo Q. Ancheta
(petitioner) of the Quasha Asperilla Ancheta Pena & Nolasco Law Offices as ancillary administrator.3

In 1981, Richard married Candelaria Guersey-Dalaygon (respondent) with whom he has two
children, namely, Kimberly and Kevin.

On October 12, 1982, Audrey’s will was also admitted to probate by the then Court of First Instance
of Rizal, Branch 25, Seventh Judicial District, Pasig, in Special Proceeding No. 9625.4 As
administrator of Audrey’s estate in the Philippines, petitioner filed an inventory and appraisal of the
following properties: (1) Audrey’s conjugal share in real estate with improvements located at 28 Pili
Avenue, Forbes Park, Makati, Metro Manila, valued at P764,865.00 (Makati property); (2) a current
account in Audrey’s name with a cash balance of P12,417.97; and (3) 64,444 shares of stock in A/G
Interiors, Inc. worth P64,444.00.5

On July 20, 1984, Richard died, leaving a will, wherein he bequeathed his entire estate to
respondent, save for his rights and interests over the A/G Interiors, Inc. shares, which he left to
Kyle.6 The will was also admitted to probate by the Orphan’s Court of Ann Arundel, Maryland, U.S.A,
and James N. Phillips was likewise appointed as executor, who in turn, designated Atty. William
Quasha or any member of the Quasha Asperilla Ancheta Pena & Nolasco Law Offices, as ancillary
administrator.

Richard’s will was then submitted for probate before the Regional Trial Court of Makati, Branch 138,
docketed as Special Proceeding No. M-888.7 Atty. Quasha was appointed as ancillary administrator
on July 24, 1986.8

On October 19, 1987, petitioner filed in Special Proceeding No. 9625, a motion to declare Richard
and Kyle as heirs of Audrey.9 Petitioner also filed on October 23, 1987, a project of partition of
Audrey’s estate, with Richard being apportioned the ¾ undivided interest in the Makati property,
48.333 shares in A/G Interiors, Inc., and P9,313.48 from the Citibank current account; and Kyle, the
¼ undivided interest in the Makati property, 16,111 shares in A/G Interiors, Inc., and P3,104.49 in
cash.10

The motion and project of partition was granted and approved by the trial court in its Order dated
February 12, 1988.11 The trial court also issued an Order on April 7, 1988, directing the Register of
Deeds of Makati to cancel TCT No. 69792 in the name of Richard and to issue a new title in the joint
names of the Estate of W. Richard Guersey (¾ undivided interest) and Kyle (¼ undivided interest);
directing the Secretary of A/G Interiors, Inc. to transfer 48.333 shares to the Estate of W. Richard
Guersey and 16.111 shares to Kyle; and directing the Citibank to release the amount of P12,417.97
to the ancillary administrator for distribution to the heirs.12

Consequently, the Register of Deeds of Makati issued on June 23, 1988, TCT No. 155823 in the
names of the Estate of W. Richard Guersey and Kyle.13

Meanwhile, the ancillary administrator in Special Proceeding No. M-888 also filed a project of
partition wherein 2/5 of Richard’s ¾ undivided interest in the Makati property was allocated to
respondent, while 3/5 thereof were allocated to Richard’s three children. This was opposed by
respondent on the ground that under the law of the State of Maryland, "a legacy passes to the
legatee the entire interest of the testator in the property subject of the legacy."14 Since Richard
left his entire estate to respondent, except for his rights and interests over the A/G Interiors, Inc,
shares, then his entire ¾ undivided interest in the Makati property should be given to respondent.

The trial court found merit in respondent’s opposition, and in its Order dated December 6, 1991,
disapproved the project of partition insofar as it affects the Makati property. The trial court also
adjudicated Richard’s entire ¾ undivided interest in the Makati property to respondent.15

On October 20, 1993, respondent filed with the Court of Appeals (CA) an amended complaint for the
annulment of the trial court’s Orders dated February 12, 1988 and April 7, 1988, issued in Special
Proceeding No. 9625.16Respondent contended that petitioner willfully breached his fiduciary duty
when he disregarded the laws of the State of Maryland on the distribution of Audrey’s estate in
accordance with her will. Respondent argued that since Audrey devised her entire estate to Richard,
then the Makati property should be wholly adjudicated to him, and not merely ¾ thereof, and since
Richard left his entire estate, except for his rights and interests over the A/G Interiors, Inc., to
respondent, then the entire Makati property should now pertain to respondent.

Petitioner filed his Answer denying respondent’s allegations. Petitioner contended that he acted in
good faith in submitting the project of partition before the trial court in Special Proceeding No. 9625,
as he had no knowledge of the State of Maryland’s laws on testate and intestate succession.
Petitioner alleged that he believed that it is to the "best interests of the surviving children that
Philippine law be applied as they would receive their just shares." Petitioner also alleged that the
orders sought to be annulled are already final and executory, and cannot be set aside.

On March 18, 1999, the CA rendered the assailed Decision annulling the trial court’s Orders dated
February 12, 1988 and April 7, 1988, in Special Proceeding No. 9625.17 The dispositive portion of the
assailed Decision provides:

WHEREFORE, the assailed Orders of February 12, 1998 and April 7, 1988 are hereby ANNULLED
and, in lieu thereof, a new one is entered ordering:

(a) The adjudication of the entire estate of Audrey O’Neill Guersey in favor of the estate of
W. Richard Guersey; and

(b) The cancellation of Transfer Certificate of Title No. 15583 of the Makati City Registry and
the issuance of a new title in the name of the estate of W. Richard Guersey.

SO ORDERED.18

Petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration, but this was denied by the CA per Resolution dated
August 27, 1999.19
Hence, the herein petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court alleging that
the CA gravely erred in not holding that:

A) THE ORDERS OF 12 FEBRUARY 1988 AND 07 APRIL 1988 IN SPECIAL


PROCEEDINGS NO. 9625 "IN THE MATTER OF THE PETITION FOR PROBATE OF THE
WILL OF THE DECEASED AUDREY GUERSEY, ALONZO Q. ANCHETA, ANCILLARY
ADMINISTRATOR", ARE VALID AND BINDING AND HAVE LONG BECOME FINAL AND
HAVE BEEN FULLY IMPLEMENTED AND EXECUTED AND CAN NO LONGER BE
ANNULLED.

B) THE ANCILLARY ADMINISTRATOR HAVING ACTED IN GOOD FAITH, DID NOT


COMMIT FRAUD, EITHER EXTRINSIC OR INTRINSIC, IN THE PERFORMANCE OF HIS
DUTIES AS ANCILLARY ADMINISTRATOR OF AUDREY O’NEIL GUERSEY’S ESTATE IN
THE PHILIPPINES, AND THAT NO FRAUD, EITHER EXTRINSIC OR INTRINSIC, WAS
EMPLOYED BY [HIM] IN PROCURING SAID ORDERS.20

Petitioner reiterates his arguments before the CA that the Orders dated February 12, 1988 and April
7, 1988 can no longer be annulled because it is a final judgment, which is "conclusive upon the
administration as to all matters involved in such judgment or order, and will determine for all time
and in all courts, as far as the parties to the proceedings are concerned, all matters therein
determined," and the same has already been executed.21

Petitioner also contends that that he acted in good faith in performing his duties as an ancillary
administrator. He maintains that at the time of the filing of the project of partition, he was not aware
of the relevant laws of the State of Maryland, such that the partition was made in accordance with
Philippine laws. Petitioner also imputes knowledge on the part of respondent with regard to the
terms of Aubrey’s will, stating that as early as 1984, he already apprised respondent of the contents
of the will and how the estate will be divided.22

Respondent argues that petitioner’s breach of his fiduciary duty as ancillary administrator of
Aubrey’s estate amounted to extrinsic fraud. According to respondent, petitioner was duty-bound to
follow the express terms of Aubrey’s will, and his denial of knowledge of the laws of Maryland cannot
stand because petitioner is a senior partner in a prestigious law firm and it was his duty to know the
relevant laws.

Respondent also states that she was not able to file any opposition to the project of partition
because she was not a party thereto and she learned of the provision of Aubrey’s will bequeathing
entirely her estate to Richard only after Atty. Ancheta filed a project of partition in Special Proceeding
No. M-888 for the settlement of Richard’s estate.

A decree of distribution of the estate of a deceased person vests the title to the land of the estate in
the distributees, which, if erroneous may be corrected by a timely appeal. Once it becomes final, its
binding effect is like any other judgment in rem.23 However, in exceptional cases, a final decree of
distribution of the estate may be set aside for lack of jurisdiction or fraud.24 Further, in Ramon v.
Ortuzar,25 the Court ruled that a party interested in a probate proceeding may have a final liquidation
set aside when he is left out by reason of circumstances beyond his control or through mistake or
inadvertence not imputable to negligence.26

The petition for annulment was filed before the CA on October 20, 1993, before the issuance of the
1997 Rules of Civil Procedure; hence, the applicable law is Batas Pambansa Blg. 129 (B.P. 129) or
the Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980. An annulment of judgment filed under B.P. 129 may be
based on the ground that a judgment is void for want of jurisdiction or that the judgment was
obtained by extrinsic fraud.27 For fraud to become a basis for annulment of judgment, it has to be
extrinsic or actual,28 and must be brought within four years from the discovery of the fraud.29

In the present case, respondent alleged extrinsic fraud as basis for the annulment of the RTC Orders
dated February 12, 1988 and April 7, 1988. The CA found merit in respondent’s cause and found
that petitioner’s failure to follow the terms of Audrey’s will, despite the latter’s declaration of good
faith, amounted to extrinsic fraud. The CA ruled that under Article 16 of the Civil Code, it is the
national law of the decedent that is applicable, hence, petitioner should have distributed Aubrey’s
estate in accordance with the terms of her will. The CA also found that petitioner was prompted to
distribute Audrey’s estate in accordance with Philippine laws in order to equally benefit Audrey and
Richard Guersey’s adopted daughter, Kyle Guersey Hill.

Petitioner contends that respondent’s cause of action had already prescribed because as early as
1984, respondent was already well aware of the terms of Audrey’s will,30 and the complaint was filed
only in 1993. Respondent, on the other hand, justified her lack of immediate action by saying that
she had no opportunity to question petitioner’s acts since she was not a party to Special Proceeding
No. 9625, and it was only after Atty. Ancheta filed the project of partition in Special Proceeding No.
M-888, reducing her inheritance in the estate of Richard that she was prompted to seek another
counsel to protect her interest.31

It should be pointed out that the prescriptive period for annulment of judgment based on extrinsic
fraud commences to run from the discovery of the fraud or fraudulent act/s. Respondent’s
knowledge of the terms of Audrey’s will is immaterial in this case since it is not the fraud complained
of. Rather, it is petitioner’s failure to introduce in evidence the pertinent law of the State of Maryland
that is the fraudulent act, or in this case, omission, alleged to have been committed against
respondent, and therefore, the four-year period should be counted from the time of respondent’s
discovery thereof.

Records bear the fact that the filing of the project of partition of Richard’s estate, the opposition
thereto, and the order of the trial court disallowing the project of partition in Special Proceeding No.
M-888 were all done in 1991.32Respondent cannot be faulted for letting the assailed orders to lapse
into finality since it was only through Special Proceeding No. M-888 that she came to comprehend
the ramifications of petitioner’s acts. Obviously, respondent had no other recourse under the
circumstances but to file the annulment case. Since the action for annulment was filed in 1993,
clearly, the same has not yet prescribed.

Fraud takes on different shapes and faces. In Cosmic Lumber Corporation v. Court of Appeals,33 the
Court stated that "man in his ingenuity and fertile imagination will always contrive new schemes to
fool the unwary."

There is extrinsic fraud within the meaning of Sec. 9 par. (2), of B.P. Blg. 129, where it is one the
effect of which prevents a party from hearing a trial, or real contest, or from presenting all of his case
to the court, or where it operates upon matters, not pertaining to the judgment itself, but to the
manner in which it was procured so that there is not a fair submission of the controversy. In other
words, extrinsic fraud refers to any fraudulent act of the prevailing party in the litigation which is
committed outside of the trial of the case, whereby the defeated party has been prevented from
exhibiting fully his side of the case by fraud or deception practiced on him by his opponent. Fraud is
extrinsic where the unsuccessful party has been prevented from exhibiting fully his case, by fraud or
deception practiced on him by his opponent, as by keeping him away from court, a false promise of
a compromise; or where the defendant never had any knowledge of the suit, being kept in ignorance
by the acts of the plaintiff; or where an attorney fraudulently or without authority connives at his
defeat; these and similar cases which show that there has never been a real contest in the trial or
hearing of the case are reasons for which a new suit may be sustained to set aside and annul the
former judgment and open the case for a new and fair hearing.34

The overriding consideration when extrinsic fraud is alleged is that the fraudulent scheme of the
prevailing litigant prevented a party from having his day in court.35

Petitioner is the ancillary administrator of Audrey’s estate. As such, he occupies a position of the
highest trust and confidence, and he is required to exercise reasonable diligence and act in entire
good faith in the performance of that trust. Although he is not a guarantor or insurer of the safety of
the estate nor is he expected to be infallible, yet the same degree of prudence, care and judgment
which a person of a fair average capacity and ability exercises in similar transactions of his own,
serves as the standard by which his conduct is to be judged.36

Petitioner’s failure to proficiently manage the distribution of Audrey’s estate according to the terms of
her will and as dictated by the applicable law amounted to extrinsic fraud. Hence the CA Decision
annulling the RTC Orders dated February 12, 1988 and April 7, 1988, must be upheld.

It is undisputed that Audrey Guersey was an American citizen domiciled in Maryland, U.S.A. During
the reprobate of her will in Special Proceeding No. 9625, it was shown, among others, that at the
time of Audrey’s death, she was residing in the Philippines but is domiciled in Maryland, U.S.A.; her
Last Will and Testament dated August 18, 1972 was executed and probated before the Orphan’s
Court in Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.A., which was duly authenticated and certified by the Register of
Wills of Baltimore City and attested by the Chief Judge of said court; the will was admitted by the
Orphan’s Court of Baltimore City on September 7, 1979; and the will was authenticated by the
Secretary of State of Maryland and the Vice Consul of the Philippine Embassy.

Being a foreign national, the intrinsic validity of Audrey’s will, especially with regard as to who are
her heirs, is governed by her national law, i.e., the law of the State of Maryland, as provided in
Article 16 of the Civil Code, to wit:

Art. 16. Real property as well as personal property is subject to the law of the country where it is
situated.

However, intestate and testamentary succession, both with respect to the order of succession and
to the amount of successional rights and to the intrinsic validity of testamentary provisions,
shall be regulated by the national law of the person whose succession is under
consideration, whatever may be the nature of the property and regardless of the country
wherein said property may be found. (Emphasis supplied)

Article 1039 of the Civil Code further provides that "capacity to succeed is governed by the law of the
nation of the decedent."

As a corollary rule, Section 4, Rule 77 of the Rules of Court on Allowance of Will Proved Outside the
Philippines and Administration of Estate Thereunder, states:

SEC. 4. Estate, how administered.—When a will is thus allowed, the court shall grant letters
testamentary, or letters of administration with the will annexed, and such letters testamentary or of
administration, shall extend to all the estate of the testator in the Philippines. Such estate, after the
payment of just debts and expenses of administration, shall be disposed of according to
such will, so far as such will may operate upon it; and the residue, if any, shall be disposed of as
is provided by law in cases of estates in the Philippines belonging to persons who are inhabitants of
another state or country. (Emphasis supplied)
While foreign laws do not prove themselves in our jurisdiction and our courts are not authorized to
take judicial notice of them;37 however, petitioner, as ancillary administrator of Audrey’s estate, was
duty-bound to introduce in evidence the pertinent law of the State of Maryland.38

Petitioner admitted that he failed to introduce in evidence the law of the State of Maryland on Estates
and Trusts, and merely relied on the presumption that such law is the same as the Philippine law on
wills and succession. Thus, the trial court peremptorily applied Philippine laws and totally
disregarded the terms of Audrey’s will. The obvious result was that there was no fair submission of
the case before the trial court or a judicious appreciation of the evidence presented.

Petitioner insists that his application of Philippine laws was made in good faith. The Court cannot
accept petitioner’s protestation. How can petitioner honestly presume that Philippine laws apply
when as early as the reprobate of Audrey’s will before the trial court in 1982, it was already brought
to fore that Audrey was a U.S. citizen, domiciled in the State of Maryland. As asserted by
respondent, petitioner is a senior partner in a prestigious law firm, with a "big legal staff and a large
library."39 He had all the legal resources to determine the applicable law. It was incumbent upon him
to exercise his functions as ancillary administrator with reasonable diligence, and to discharge the
trust reposed on him faithfully. Unfortunately, petitioner failed to perform his fiduciary duties.

Moreover, whether his omission was intentional or not, the fact remains that the trial court failed to
consider said law when it issued the assailed RTC Orders dated February 12, 1988 and April 7,
1988, declaring Richard and Kyle as Audrey’s heirs, and distributing Audrey’s estate according to
the project of partition submitted by petitioner. This eventually prejudiced respondent and deprived
her of her full successional right to the Makati property.

In GSIS v. Bengson Commercial Bldgs., Inc.,40 the Court held that when the rule that the negligence
or mistake of counsel binds the client deserts its proper office as an aid to justice and becomes a
great hindrance and chief enemy, its rigors must be relaxed to admit exceptions thereto and to
prevent a miscarriage of justice, and the court has the power to except a particular case from the
operation of the rule whenever the purposes of justice require it.

The CA aptly noted that petitioner was remiss in his responsibilities as ancillary administrator of
Audrey’s estate. The CA likewise observed that the distribution made by petitioner was prompted by
his concern over Kyle, whom petitioner believed should equally benefit from the Makati property. The
CA correctly stated, which the Court adopts, thus:

In claiming good faith in the performance of his duties and responsibilities, defendant Alonzo H.
Ancheta invokes the principle which presumes the law of the forum to be the same as the foreign
law (Beam vs. Yatco, 82 Phil. 30, 38) in the absence of evidence adduced to prove the latter law
(Slade Perkins vs. Perkins, 57 Phil. 205, 210). In defending his actions in the light of the foregoing
principle, however, it appears that the defendant lost sight of the fact that his primary responsibility
as ancillary administrator was to distribute the subject estate in accordance with the will of Audrey
O’Neill Guersey. Considering the principle established under Article 16 of the Civil Code of the
Philippines, as well as the citizenship and the avowed domicile of the decedent, it goes without
saying that the defendant was also duty-bound to prove the pertinent laws of Maryland on the
matter.

The record reveals, however, that no clear effort was made to prove the national law of Audrey
O’Neill Guersey during the proceedings before the court a quo. While there is claim of good faith in
distributing the subject estate in accordance with the Philippine laws, the defendant appears to put
his actuations in a different light as indicated in a portion of his direct examination, to wit:
xxx

It would seem, therefore, that the eventual distribution of the estate of Audrey O’Neill Guersey was
prompted by defendant Alonzo H. Ancheta’s concern that the subject realty equally benefit the
plaintiff’s adopted daughter Kyle Guersey.

Well-intentioned though it may be, defendant Alonzo H. Ancheta’s action appears to have breached
his duties and responsibilities as ancillary administrator of the subject estate. While such breach of
duty admittedly cannot be considered extrinsic fraud under ordinary circumstances, the
fiduciary nature of the said defendant’s position, as well as the resultant frustration of the
decedent’s last will, combine to create a circumstance that is tantamount to extrinsic fraud.
Defendant Alonzo H. Ancheta’s omission to prove the national laws of the decedent and to follow the
latter’s last will, in sum, resulted in the procurement of the subject orders without a fair submission of
the real issues involved in the case.41 (Emphasis supplied)

This is not a simple case of error of judgment or grave abuse of discretion, but a total disregard of
the law as a result of petitioner’s abject failure to discharge his fiduciary duties. It does not rest upon
petitioner’s pleasure as to which law should be made applicable under the circumstances. His onus
is clear. Respondent was thus excluded from enjoying full rights to the Makati property through no
fault or negligence of her own, as petitioner’s omission was beyond her control. She was in no
position to analyze the legal implications of petitioner’s omission and it was belatedly that she
realized the adverse consequence of the same. The end result was a miscarriage of justice. In cases
like this, the courts have the legal and moral duty to provide judicial aid to parties who are deprived
of their rights.42

The trial court in its Order dated December 6, 1991 in Special Proceeding No. M-888 noted the law
of the State of Maryland on Estates and Trusts, as follows:

Under Section 1-301, Title 3, Sub-Title 3 of the Annotated Code of the Public General Laws of
Maryland on Estates and Trusts, "all property of a decedent shall be subject to the estate of
decedents law, and upon his death shall pass directly to the personal representative, who shall hold
the legal title for administration and distribution," while Section 4-408 expressly provides that "unless
a contrary intent is expressly indicated in the will, a legacy passes to the legatee the entire interest of
the testator in the property which is the subject of the legacy". Section 7-101, Title 7, Sub-Title 1, on
the other hand, declares that "a personal representative is a fiduciary" and as such he is "under the
general duty to settle and distribute the estate of the decedent in accordance with the terms of the
will and the estate of decedents law as expeditiously and with as little sacrifice of value as is
reasonable under the circumstances".43

In her will, Audrey devised to Richard her entire estate, consisting of the following: (1) Audrey’s
conjugal share in the Makati property; (2) the cash amount of P12,417.97; and (3) 64,444 shares of
stock in A/G Interiors, Inc. worth P64,444.00. All these properties passed on to Richard upon
Audrey’s death. Meanwhile, Richard, in his will, bequeathed his entire estate to respondent, except
for his rights and interests over the A/G Interiors, Inc. shares, which he left to Kyle. When Richard
subsequently died, the entire Makati property should have then passed on to respondent. This, of
course, assumes the proposition that the law of the State of Maryland which allows "a legacy to pass
to the legatee the entire estate of the testator in the property which is the subject of the legacy," was
sufficiently proven in Special Proceeding No. 9625. Nevertheless, the Court may take judicial notice
thereof in view of the ruling in Bohanan v. Bohanan.44 Therein, the Court took judicial notice of the
law of Nevada despite failure to prove the same. The Court held, viz.:
We have, however, consulted the records of the case in the court below and we have found that
during the hearing on October 4, 1954 of the motion of Magdalena C. Bohanan for withdrawal of
P20,000 as her share, the foreign law, especially Section 9905, Compiled Nevada Laws, was
introduced in evidence by appellants' (herein) counsel as Exhibit "2" (See pp. 77-79, Vol. II, and
t.s.n. pp. 24-44, Records, Court of First Instance). Again said law was presented by the counsel for
the executor and admitted by the Court as Exhibit "B" during the hearing of the case on January 23,
1950 before Judge Rafael Amparo (see Records, Court of First Instance, Vol. 1).

In addition, the other appellants, children of the testator, do not dispute the above-quoted provision
of the laws of the State of Nevada. Under all the above circumstances, we are constrained to hold
that the pertinent law of Nevada, especially Section 9905 of the Compiled Nevada Laws of 1925,
can be taken judicial notice of by us, without proof of such law having been offered at the hearing of
the project of partition.

In this case, given that the pertinent law of the State of Maryland has been brought to record before
the CA, and the trial court in Special Proceeding No. M-888 appropriately took note of the same in
disapproving the proposed project of partition of Richard’s estate, not to mention that petitioner or
any other interested person for that matter, does not dispute the existence or validity of said law,
then Audrey’s and Richard’s estate should be distributed according to their respective wills, and not
according to the project of partition submitted by petitioner. Consequently, the entire Makati property
belongs to respondent.

Decades ago, Justice Moreland, in his dissenting opinion in Santos v. Manarang,45 wrote:

A will is the testator speaking after death. Its provisions have substantially the same force and effect
in the probate court as if the testator stood before the court in full life making the declarations by
word of mouth as they appear in the will. That was the special purpose of the law in the creation of
the instrument known as the last will and testament. Men wished to speak after they were dead and
the law, by the creation of that instrument, permitted them to do so x x x All doubts must be resolved
in favor of the testator's having meant just what he said.

Honorable as it seems, petitioner’s motive in equitably distributing Audrey’s estate cannot prevail
over Audrey’s and Richard’s wishes. As stated in Bellis v. Bellis:46

x x x whatever public policy or good customs may be involved in our system of legitimes, Congress
has not intended to extend the same to the succession of foreign nationals. For it has specifically
chosen to leave, inter alia, the amount of successional rights, to the decedent's national Law.
Specific provisions must prevail over general ones.47

Before concluding, the Court notes the fact that Audrey and Richard Guersey were American
citizens who owned real property in the Philippines, although records do not show when and how the
Guerseys acquired the Makati property.

Under Article XIII, Sections 1 and 4 of the 1935 Constitution, the privilege to acquire and exploit
lands of the public domain, and other natural resources of the Philippines, and to operate public
utilities, were reserved to Filipinos and entities owned or controlled by them. In Republic v.
Quasha,48 the Court clarified that the Parity Rights Amendment of 1946, which re-opened to
American citizens and business enterprises the right in the acquisition of lands of the public domain,
the disposition, exploitation, development and utilization of natural resources of the Philippines, does
not include the acquisition or exploitation of private agricultural lands. The prohibition against
acquisition of private lands by aliens was carried on to the 1973 Constitution under Article XIV,
Section 14, with the exception of private lands acquired by hereditary succession and when the
transfer was made to a former natural-born citizen, as provided in Section 15, Article XIV. As it now
stands, Article XII, Sections 7 and 8 of the 1986 Constitution explicitly prohibits non-Filipinos from
acquiring or holding title to private lands or to lands of the public domain, except only by way of legal
succession or if the acquisition was made by a former natural-born citizen.

In any case, the Court has also ruled that if land is invalidly transferred to an alien who subsequently
becomes a citizen or transfers it to a citizen, the flaw in the original transaction is considered cured
and the title of the transferee is rendered valid.49 In this case, since the Makati property had already
passed on to respondent who is a Filipino, then whatever flaw, if any, that attended the acquisition
by the Guerseys of the Makati property is now inconsequential, as the objective of the constitutional
provision to keep our lands in Filipino hands has been achieved.

WHEREFORE, the petition is denied. The Decision dated March 18, 1999 and the Resolution dated
August 27, 1999 of the Court of Appeals are AFFIRMED.

Petitioner is ADMONISHED to be more circumspect in the performance of his duties as an official of


the court.

No pronouncement as to costs.

SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 178551 October 11, 2010

ATCI OVERSEAS CORPORATION, AMALIA G. IKDAL and MINISTRY OF PUBLIC HEALTH-


KUWAITPetitioners,
vs.
MA. JOSEFA ECHIN, Respondent.

DECISION

CARPIO MORALES, J.:

Josefina Echin (respondent) was hired by petitioner ATCI Overseas Corporation in behalf of its
principal-co-petitioner, the Ministry of Public Health of Kuwait (the Ministry), for the position of
medical technologist under a two-year contract, denominated as a Memorandum of Agreement
(MOA), with a monthly salary of US$1,200.00.

Under the MOA,1 all newly-hired employees undergo a probationary period of one (1) year and are
covered by Kuwait’s Civil Service Board Employment Contract No. 2.

Respondent was deployed on February 17, 2000 but was terminated from employment on February
11, 2001, she not having allegedly passed the probationary period.

As the Ministry denied respondent’s request for reconsideration, she returned to the Philippines on
March 17, 2001, shouldering her own air fare.
On July 27, 2001, respondent filed with the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) a
complaint2 for illegal dismissal against petitioner ATCI as the local recruitment agency, represented
by petitioner, Amalia Ikdal (Ikdal), and the Ministry, as the foreign principal.

By Decision3 of November 29, 2002, the Labor Arbiter, finding that petitioners neither showed that
there was just cause to warrant respondent’s dismissal nor that she failed to qualify as a regular
employee, held that respondent was illegally dismissed and accordingly ordered petitioners to pay
her US$3,600.00, representing her salary for the three months unexpired portion of her contract.

On appeal of petitioners ATCI and Ikdal, the NLRC affirmed the Labor Arbiter’s decision by
Resolution4 of January 26, 2004. Petitioners’ motion for reconsideration having been denied by
Resolution5 of April 22, 2004, they appealed to the Court of Appeals, contending that their principal,
the Ministry, being a foreign government agency, is immune from suit and, as such, the immunity
extended to them; and that respondent was validly dismissed for her failure to meet the performance
rating within the one-year period as required under Kuwait’s Civil Service Laws. Petitioners further
contended that Ikdal should not be liable as an officer of petitioner ATCI.

By Decision6 of March 30, 2007, the appellate court affirmed the NLRC Resolution.

In brushing aside petitioners’ contention that they only acted as agent of the Ministry and that they
cannot be held jointly and solidarily liable with it, the appellate court noted that under the law, a
private employment agency shall assume all responsibilities for the implementation of the contract of
employment of an overseas worker, hence, it can be sued jointly and severally with the foreign
principal for any violation of the recruitment agreement or contract of employment.

As to Ikdal’s liability, the appellate court held that under Sec. 10 of Republic Act No. 8042, the
"Migrant and Overseas Filipinos’ Act of 1995," corporate officers, directors and partners of a
recruitment agency may themselves be jointly and solidarily liable with the recruitment agency for
money claims and damages awarded to overseas workers.

Petitioners’ motion for reconsideration having been denied by the appellate court by Resolution7 of
June 27, 2007, the present petition for review on certiorari was filed.

Petitioners maintain that they should not be held liable because respondent’s employment contract
specifically stipulates that her employment shall be governed by the Civil Service Law and
Regulations of Kuwait. They thus conclude that it was patent error for the labor tribunals and the
appellate court to apply the Labor Code provisions governing probationary employment in deciding
the present case.

Further, petitioners argue that even the Philippine Overseas Employment Act (POEA) Rules relative
to master employment contracts (Part III, Sec. 2 of the POEA Rules and Regulations) accord respect
to the "customs, practices, company policies and labor laws and legislation of the host country."

Finally, petitioners posit that assuming arguendo that Philippine labor laws are applicable, given that
the foreign principal is a government agency which is immune from suit, as in fact it did not sign any
document agreeing to be held jointly and solidarily liable, petitioner ATCI cannot likewise be held
liable, more so since the Ministry’s liability had not been judicially determined as jurisdiction was not
acquired over it.

The petition fails.


Petitioner ATCI, as a private recruitment agency, cannot evade responsibility for the money claims of
Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) which it deploys abroad by the mere expediency of claiming that
its foreign principal is a government agency clothed with immunity from suit, or that such foreign
principal’s liability must first be established before it, as agent, can be held jointly and solidarily
liable.

In providing for the joint and solidary liability of private recruitment agencies with their foreign
principals, Republic Act No. 8042 precisely affords the OFWs with a recourse and assures them of
immediate and sufficient payment of what is due them. Skippers United Pacific v. Maguad8 explains:

. . . [T]he obligations covenanted in the recruitment agreement entered into by and between
the local agent and its foreign principal are not coterminous with the term of such
agreement so that if either or both of the parties decide to end the agreement, the responsibilities of
such parties towards the contracted employees under the agreement do not at all end, but the same
extends up to and until the expiration of the employment contracts of the employees recruited and
employed pursuant to the said recruitment agreement. Otherwise, this will render nugatory the
very purpose for which the law governing the employment of workers for foreign jobs abroad
was enacted. (emphasis supplied)

The imposition of joint and solidary liability is in line with the policy of the state to protect and
alleviate the plight of the working class.9 Verily, to allow petitioners to simply invoke the immunity
from suit of its foreign principal or to wait for the judicial determination of the foreign principal’s
liability before petitioner can be held liable renders the law on joint and solidary liability inutile.

As to petitioners’ contentions that Philippine labor laws on probationary employment are not
applicable since it was expressly provided in respondent’s employment contract, which she
voluntarily entered into, that the terms of her engagement shall be governed by prevailing Kuwaiti
Civil Service Laws and Regulations as in fact POEA Rules accord respect to such rules, customs
and practices of the host country, the same was not substantiated.

Indeed, a contract freely entered into is considered the law between the parties who can establish
stipulations, clauses, terms and conditions as they may deem convenient, including the laws which
they wish to govern their respective obligations, as long as they are not contrary to law, morals, good
customs, public order or public policy.

It is hornbook principle, however, that the party invoking the application of a foreign law has the
burden of proving the law, under the doctrine of processual presumption which, in this case,
petitioners failed to discharge. The Court’s ruling in EDI-Staffbuilders Int’l., v. NLRC10 illuminates:

In the present case, the employment contract signed by Gran specifically states that Saudi Labor
Laws will govern matters not provided for in the contract (e.g. specific causes for termination,
termination procedures, etc.). Being the law intended by the parties (lex loci intentiones) to apply to
the contract, Saudi Labor Laws should govern all matters relating to the termination of the
employment of Gran.

In international law, the party who wants to have a foreign law applied to a dispute or case has the
burden of proving the foreign law. The foreign law is treated as a question of fact to be properly
pleaded and proved as the judge or labor arbiter cannot take judicial notice of a foreign law. He is
presumed to know only domestic or forum law.

Unfortunately for petitioner, it did not prove the pertinent Saudi laws on the matter; thus, the
International Law doctrine of presumed-identity approach or processual presumption comes into
play. Where a foreign law is not pleaded or, even if pleaded, is not proved, the presumption is that
foreign law is the same as ours. Thus, we apply Philippine labor laws in determining the issues
presented before us. (emphasis and underscoring supplied)

The Philippines does not take judicial notice of foreign laws, hence, they must not only be alleged;
they must be proven. To prove a foreign law, the party invoking it must present a copy thereof and
comply with Sections 24 and 25 of Rule 132 of the Revised Rules of Court which reads:

SEC. 24. Proof of official record. — The record of public documents referred to in paragraph (a) of
Section 19, when admissible for any purpose, may be evidenced by an official publication thereof or
by a copy attested by the officer having the legal custody of the record, or by his deputy, and
accompanied, if the record is not kept in the Philippines, with a certificate that such officer has the
custody. If the office in which the record is kept is in a foreign country, the certificate may be made
by a secretary of the embassy or legation, consul general, consul, vice consul, or consular agent or
by any officer in the foreign service of the Philippines stationed in the foreign country in which the
record is kept, and authenticated by the seal of his office. (emphasis supplied)

SEC. 25. What attestation of copy must state. — Whenever a copy of a document or record is
attested for the purpose of the evidence, the attestation must state, in substance, that the copy is a
correct copy of the original, or a specific part thereof, as the case may be. The attestation must be
under the official seal of the attesting officer, if there be any, or if he be the clerk of a court having a
seal, under the seal of such court.

To prove the Kuwaiti law, petitioners submitted the following: MOA between respondent and the
Ministry, as represented by ATCI, which provides that the employee is subject to a probationary
period of one (1) year and that the host country’s Civil Service Laws and Regulations apply; a
translated copy11 (Arabic to English) of the termination letter to respondent stating that she did not
pass the probation terms, without specifying the grounds therefor, and a translated copy of the
certificate of termination,12 both of which documents were certified by Mr. Mustapha Alawi, Head of
the Department of Foreign Affairs-Office of Consular Affairs Inslamic Certification and Translation
Unit; and respondent’s letter13 of reconsideration to the Ministry, wherein she noted that in her first
eight (8) months of employment, she was given a rating of "Excellent" albeit it changed due to
changes in her shift of work schedule.

These documents, whether taken singly or as a whole, do not sufficiently prove that respondent was
validly terminated as a probationary employee under Kuwaiti civil service laws. Instead of
submitting a copy of the pertinent Kuwaiti labor laws duly authenticated and translated by
Embassy officials thereat, as required under the Rules, what petitioners submitted were mere
certifications attesting only to the correctness of the translations of the MOA and the
termination letter which does not prove at all that Kuwaiti civil service laws differ from
Philippine laws and that under such Kuwaiti laws, respondent was validly terminated. Thus
the subject certifications read:

xxxx

This is to certify that the herein attached translation/s from Arabic to English/Tagalog and or vice
versa was/were presented to this Office for review and certification and the same was/were found to
be in order. This Office, however, assumes no responsibility as to the contents of the
document/s.

This certification is being issued upon request of the interested party for whatever legal purpose it
may serve. (emphasis supplied) 1avvphi1
Respecting Ikdal’s joint and solidary liability as a corporate officer, the same is in order too following
the express provision of R.A. 8042 on money claims, viz:

SEC. 10. Money Claims.—Notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary, the Labor Arbiters of
the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) shall have the original and exclusive jurisdiction to
hear and decide, within ninety (90) calendar days after the filing of the complaint, the claims arising
out of an employer-employee relationship or by virtue of any law or contract involving Filipino
workers for overseas deployment including claims for actual moral, exemplary and other forms of
damages.

The liability of the principal/employer and the recruitment/placement agency for any and all claims
under this section shall be joint and several. This provision shall be incorporated in the contract for
overseas employment and shall be a condition precedent for its approval. The performance bond to
be filed by the recruitment/placement agency, as provided by law, shall be answerable for all money
claims or damages that may be awarded to the workers. If the recruitment/placement agency is a
juridical being, the corporate officers and directors and partners as the case may be, shall
themselves be jointly and solidarily liable with the corporation or partnership for the aforesaid claims
and damages. (emphasis and underscoring supplied)

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED.

SO ORDERED.

CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES


Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

[G. R. No. 4898. March 19, 1909.]


SALVADOR GUERRERO, guardian of the minors Maria Manuela and Maria del Carmen Sanchez
Muñoz, Plaintiff-Appellee, vs. LEOPOLDO TERAN, Defendant-Appellant.

DECISION
JOHNSON, J.:
On the 18th day of March, 1908, the Plaintiff commenced an action against the Defendant to recover
the sum of P4,129. 56 and costs. This amount was claimed by the Plaintiff from the Defendant upon the
theory that the Defendant had been the administrator of the estate of Antonio Sanchez Munoz from the
1st day of September, 1901, until the 22d day of October, 1906. The Plaintiff made a part of his
complaint the following items of indebtedness: chanroble s virtualawlibrary

Difference, account of the property “Bonga” P10. 55


Difference, account of the property “Basag” 218. 75
Difference, small accounts “Bonga” and “Basag” 8. 80
Difference, account estate of A. Sanchez 150. 00
Difference, account heirs of J. M. Ceballos 224. 81
Difference, account hemp of “La Trinidad” 82. 87
Difference, account workmen at “La Trinidad” 80. 70
Difference, account lates of Ligao 2. 00
Small accounts of “Bonga” and “Basag” 3,676. 84
Cost of 1 lamp and 1 barometer 33. 50
Workmen at “La Trinidad” 5,709. 90
Excess of salaries paid account general expenses at “La Trinidad” 670. 00
Account of cockpit 34. 15
Account “late Caualog” 220. 10
Account Jesus Teran 235. 92
Account Antonio Moreda 1,029. 83
————
Total 12,388. 72

In answer to the said complaint, the Defendant admitted certain allegations and denied others.
The Defendant admitted that he owed the Plaintiff P188. 39 but claimed that the Plaintiff owed him the
sum of P482. 14, and that the Plaintiff, therefore, still owed to the Defendant the difference between
P188. 39 and P482.14, or the sum of P293. 75, for which latter amount the Defendant prayed for
judgment, with interest and costs against the Plaintiff.
After hearing the evidence adduced during the trial of the cause, the lower court found from the
evidence that the Defendant, as administrator of the estate of Antonio Sanchez Muñoz, or that part of
the said estate belonging to the Plaintiff, owed the Plaintiff the sum of P3,447. 46, with interest at 6 per
cent until the same amount should be fully paid. From this decision of the lower court
the Defendant appealed and made the following assignments of error: chanrobles virtualawlibrary

“1. The court erred in holding that the Defendant, from September 17, 1901, to October 6,
1906, managed and administered the estate of Sanchez Muñoz as a judicial administrator or
executor.
“2. The court erred in holding that the Defendant was responsible to the Plaintiffs for the
loans made to different persons for different accounts, and for credits against the persons
mentioned in the complaint.
“3. The court erred in declaring in the judgment that the difference in the weight of the
scales was illegal.
“4. And the court erred in sentencing the Defendant to pay the costs specified in the
judgment. ”
With reference to the first above assignment of error, from the record to this court the following facts
appear: chanrobles virtualawlibrary

First.That the Defendant Leopoldo Teran was, on the 17th day of September, 1901, appointed as
administrator of said estate. The record also discloses that the Defendant entered into a bond in the
sum of 10,000 dollars, gold, for the faithful performance of his duties as such representative of the
estate of Antonio Sanchez Muñoz.
Second. The record further discloses that upon the 18th day of March, 1902, the Court of First Instance
of the Province of Albay appointed Maria Munoz y Gomez as guardian for the said Maria Manuela and
Maria del Carmen Sanchez Munoz, and that the said Maria Munoz y Gomez gave the required bond for
the faithful performance of her duties as such guardian.
Third. While there are some indications in the record that the Defendant continued to act as the
administrator of said estate after the appointment of the said Maria Munoz y Gomez, up to and
including the 6th day of October, 1906, yet the fact exists and must be accepted as true that the said
Maria Munoz Gomez was the actual representative of the said Maria Manuela and Maria del Carmen
Sanchez Munoz in the administration of their interests in the estate of the said Antonio Sanchez Munoz,
from and after the 18th day of March, 1902, until the 6th day of October, 1906, and therefore the said
Maria Munoz y Gomez, as such guardian and administratrix of the estate of the said minors, must be
held responsible for the property belonging to said minors during the period while she (Maria Munoz y
Gomez) was the actual guardian of said minors.
Fourth. On the 6th day of October, 1906, the Court of First Instance of the Province of Albay, for the
reason that the said Maria Munoz y Gomez was not a resident of the Philippine Islands at the time of her
appointment (the 18th day of March, 1902) removed her as such guardian and appointed as guardian of
said minors Felix Samson, and required from said Samson, as provisional guardian, a bond in the sum of
P2,000. On the 18th day of October, 1906, the said Samson duly executed the bond as required.
From the order of the judge annulling the appointment of the said Maria Munoz y Gomez her lawyers
appealed to the Supreme Court, which appeal was subsequently withdrawn. The order therefore
revoking the appointment of the said Maria Munoz y Gomez became final. The mere fact, however, that
she had been removed as said guardian did not relieve her, nor her bondsmen from liability to the
minors during the time that she was duly acting as said guardian. It must be clear, therefore, that the
said Maria Munoz y Gomez is responsible to said minors for the administration of their interests in the
estate of the said Antonio Sanchez Munoz from the time of her acceptance of said appointment on the
18th day of March, 1902, up to the time of her removal on the 6th day of October, 1906. If during this
time she allowed other persons to handle the property of her wards and if any mismanagement or loss
occurred thereby, the responsibility must fall upon her. Unquestionably, she may have an action against
the persons to whom she entrusted the direct management of said estate for any loss which they may
have negligently and corruptly occasioned her. Therefore, if any loss occurred to the Plaintiff between
the 18th day of March, 1902, and the 6th day of October, 1906, they have a right of action only against
the said Maria Munoz Gomez as their legal guardian and under the law the administratrix of the
property of their estate.
In the claim presented by the Plaintiff against the Defendant no dates are given showing the time of the
particular loss or losses occasioned by the Defendant. As was said above, the Defendant was liable for
losses only during the time that he was acting as the legal representative of the said minors in the
management of their estate, from the 17th day of September, 1901, up to the time that he was
superseded by the aid Maria Munoz y Gomez, on the 18th day of March, 1902. There is no proof
showing that any of the losses constituting the amount which the Plaintiff claims occurred within this
period. However, the Defendant acknowledged that of the amount claimed by the Plaintiff, he owes to
them the sum of P188. 39.
There is no claim of any loss or that the estate has not been properly managed since the appointment of
the said Felix Samson on the 6th day of October, 1906.
From a consideration of all of the evidence brought to this court, we reach the following conclusions: chanrobles virtualawlibrary

First. That the Defendant, Leopoldo Teran, was the duly appointed and recognized representative of the
minors Maria Manuela and Maria del Carmen Sanchez Munoz in the administration of their interests in
the estate of the said Antonio Sanchez Munoz from the 17th day of September, 1901, until the 18th day
of March, 1902.
Second. That the said Doña Munoz y Gomez was the duly appointed representative of the said minors in
the administration of their interests in the estate of the said Antonio Sanchez Munoz from the 18th day
of March, 1902, until the 6th day of October, 1906.
Third. That the said Leopoldo Teran was responsible to the Plaintiff (the said minors) for the fruits and
profits resulting from their interests in the estate of the said Antonio Sanchez Munoz from the said 17th
day of September, 1901, to the 18th day of March, 1902.
Fourth. That the said Doña Maria Munoz y Gomez was responsible to the Plaintiff (the said minors) for
the fruits and profits resulting from the management of the estate of the said Don Antonio Sanchez
Munoz from the 18th day of March, 1902, until the 6th day of October, 1906.
The record not disclosing that any of the amounts claimed by the Plaintiff were due as a result of the
management of the aid estate during the time while the said Defendant was administering their
interests therein, except the sum of P188. 39, admitted to be due by the Defendant, we are of the
opinion, and so hold, that the only amount which the Plaintiff is entitled to recover in this action is the
said amount of P188. 39.
Doña Maria Munoz y Gomez was, as above indicated, removed upon the theory that her appointment
was void because she did not reside in the Philippine Islands. There is nothing in the law which requires
the courts to appoint residents only as administrators or guardians. However, notwithstanding the fact
that there are no statutory requirements upon this question, the courts, charged with the
responsibilities of protecting the estates of deceased persons, wards of the estate, etc., will find much
difficulty in complying with this duty by appointing administrators and guardians who are not personally
subject to their jurisdiction. Notwithstanding that there is no statutory requirement, the courts should
not consent to the appointment of persons as administrators and guardians who are not personally
subject to the jurisdiction of our courts here.
We deem it unnecessary to discuss the other assignments of error for the reason that there is no
evidence in the record indicating any liability on the part of the Defendant other than his admission
above indicated.
For the reasons above stated, the judgment of the lower court is hereby reversed, without any special
finding as to costs.
Arellano, C.J., Torres and Mapa, JJ., concur.

[G.R. No. 132223. June 19, 2001]


BONIFACIA P. VANCIL, petitioner, vs. HELEN G. BELMES, respondent.

DECISION
SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ, J.:

Petition for review on certiorari of the Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No.
45650, In the Matter of Guardianship of Minors Valerie Vancil and Vincent Vancil Bonifacia P.
Vancil, Petitioner-Appellee, vs. Helen G. Belmes, Oppositor-Appellant, promulgated on July 29,
1997, and its Resolution dated December 18, 1997 denying the motion for reconsideration of the
said Decision.
The facts of the case as summarized by the Court of Appeals in its Decision are:

Petitioner, Bonifacia Vancil, is the mother of Reeder C. Vancil, a Navy serviceman of


the United States of America who died in the said country on December 22, 1986.
During his lifetime, Reeder had two (2) children named Valerie and Vincent by his
common-law wife, Helen G. Belmes.

Sometime in May of 1987, Bonifacia Vancil commenced before the Regional Trial
Court of Cebu City a guardianship proceedings over the persons and properties of
minors Valerie and Vincent docketed as Special Proceedings No. 1618-CEB. At the
time, Valerie was only 6 years old while Vincent was a 2-year old child. It is claimed
in the petition that the minors are residents of Cebu City, Philippines and have an
estate consisting of proceeds from their fathers death pension benefits with a probable
value of P100,000.00.

Finding sufficiency in form and in substance, the case was set for hearing after a 3-
consecutive-weekly publications with the Sunstar Daily.

On July 15, 1987, petitioner, Bonifacia Vancil was appointed legal and judicial
guardian over the persons and estate of Valerie Vancil and Vincent Vancil Jr.

On August 13, 1987, the natural mother of the minors, Helen Belmes, submitted an
opposition to the subject guardianship proceedings asseverating that she had already
filed a similar petition for guardianship under Special Proceedings No. 2819 before
the Regional Trial Court of Pagadian City.

Thereafter, on June 27, 1988, Helen Belmes followed her opposition with a motion for
the Removal of Guardian and Appointment of a New One, asserting that she is the
natural mother in actual custody of and exercising parental authority over the subject
minors at Maralag, Dumingag, Zamboanga del Sur where they are permanently
residing; that the petition was filed under an improper venue; and that at the time the
petition was filed Bonifacia Vancil was a resident of 140 Hurliman Court, Canon
City, Colorado, U.S.A. being a naturalized American citizen.

On October 12, 1988, after due proceedings, the trial court rejected and denied
Belmes motion to remove and/or to disqualify Bonifacia as guardian of Valerie and
Vincent Jr. and instead ordered petitioner Bonifacia Vancil to enter the office and
perform her duties as such guardian upon the posting of a bond of P50,000.00. The
subsequent attempt for a reconsideration was likewise dismissed in an Order dated
November 24, 1988.[1]

On appeal, the Court of Appeals rendered its assailed Decision reversing the RTC order of
October 12, 1988 and dismissing Special Proceedings No. 1618-CEB.
The Court of Appeals held:

Stress should likewise be made that our Civil Code considers parents, the father, or in
the absence, the mother, as natural guardian of her minor children. The law on
parental authority under the Civil Code or P.D. 603 and now the New Family Code,
(Article 225 of the Family Code) ascribe to the same legal pronouncements. Section 7
of Rule 93 of the Revised Rules of Court confirms the designation of the parents
as ipso facto guardian of their minor children without need of a court appointment and
only for good reason may another person be named. Ironically, for the petitioner, there
is nothing on record of any reason at all why Helen Belmes, the biological mother,
should be deprived of her legal rights as natural guardian of her minor children. To
give away such privilege from Helen would be an abdication and grave violation of
the very basic fundamental tenets in civil law and the constitution on family
solidarity.[2]

On March 10, 1998, Bonifacia Vancil filed with this Court the present petition, raising the
following legal points:

1. The Court of Appeals gravely erred in ruling that the preferential right of a
parent to be appointed guardian over the persons and estate of the minors is
absolute, contrary to existing jurisprudence.

2. The Court of Appeals gravely erred in ruling that Oppositor Helen G. Belmes,
the biological mother, should be appointed the guardian of the minors despite the
undisputed proof that under her custody, her daughter minor Valerie Vancil was
raped seven times by Oppositors live-in partner.

3. The respondent (sic) Court of Appeals gravely erred when it disqualified


petitioner Bonifacia P. Vancil to be appointed as judicial guardian over the
persons and estate of subject minors despite the fact that she has all the
qualifications and none of the disqualifications as judicial guardian, merely on the
basis of her U.S. citizenship which is clearly not a statutory requirement to
become guardian.

At the outset, let it be stressed that in her Manifestation/Motion, dated September 15, 1998,
respondent Helen Belmes stated that her daughter Valerie turned eighteen on September 2, 1998
as shown by her Birth Certificate.[3] Respondent thus prayed that this case be dismissed with
respect to Valerie, she being no longer a proper subject of guardianship proceedings. The said
Manifestation/Motion was noted by this Court in its Resolution dated November 11, 1998.
Considering that Valerie is already of major age, this petition has become moot with respect
to her. Thus, only the first and third legal points raised by petitioner should be resolved.
The basic issue for our resolution is who between the mother and grandmother of minor
Vincent should be his guardian.
We agree with the ruling of the Court of Appeals that respondent, being the natural mother
of the minor, has the preferential right over that of petitioner to be his guardian. This ruling finds
support in Article 211 of the Family Code which provides:

Art. 211. The father and the mother shall jointly exercise parental authority over the
persons of their common children. In case of disagreement, the fathers decision shall
prevail, unless there is a judicial order to the contrary. xxx.

Indeed, being the natural mother of minor Vincent, respondent has the corresponding natural
and legal right to his custody. In Sagala-Eslao vs. Court of Appeals,[4] this Court held:

Of considerable importance is the rule long accepted by the courts that the right of
parents to the custody of their minor children is one of the natural rights incident to
parenthood, a right supported by law and sound public policy. The right is an inherent
one, which is not created by the state or decisions of the courts, but derives from the
nature of the parental relationship.

Petitioner contends that she is more qualified as guardian of Vincent.


Petitioners claim to be the guardian of said minor can only be realized by way of substitute
parental authority pursuant to Article 214 of the Family Code, thus:

Art. 214. In case of death, absence or unsuitability of the parents, substitute parental
authority shall be exercised by the surviving grandparent. xxx.

In Santos, Sr. vs. Court of Appeals,[5] this Court ruled:

The law vests on the father and mother joint parental authority over the persons of
their common children. In case of absence or death of either parent, the parent present
shall continue exercising parental authority. Only in case of the parents death,
absence or unsuitability may substitute parental authority be exercised by the
surviving grandparent.

Petitioner, as the surviving grandparent, can exercise substitute parental authority only in
case of death, absence or unsuitability of respondent. Considering that respondent is very much
alive and has exercised continuously parental authority over Vincent, petitioner has to prove, in
asserting her right to be the minors guardian, respondents unsuitability. Petitioner, however, has
not proffered convincing evidence showing that respondent is not suited to be the guardian of
Vincent.Petitioner merely insists that respondent is morally unfit as guardian of Valerie
considering that her (respondents) live-in partner raped Valerie several times. But Valerie, being
now of major age, is no longer a subject of this guardianship proceeding.
Even assuming that respondent is unfit as guardian of minor Vincent, still petitioner cannot
qualify as a substitute guardian. It bears stressing that she is an American citizen and a resident
of Colorado. Obviously, she will not be able to perform the responsibilities and obligations
required of a guardian. In fact, in her petition, she admitted the difficulty of discharging the
duties of a guardian by an expatriate, like her. To be sure, she will merely delegate those duties
to someone else who may not also qualify as a guardian.
Moreover, we observe that respondents allegation that petitioner has not set foot in the
Philippines since 1987 has not been controverted by her. Besides, petitioners old age and her
conviction of libel by the Regional Trial Court, Branch 6, Cebu City in Criminal Case No. CBU-
16884[6] filed by one Danilo R. Deen, will give her a second thought of staying here. Indeed, her
coming back to this country just to fulfill the duties of a guardian to Vincent for only two years is
not certain.
Significantly, this Court has held that courts should not appoint persons as guardians who
are not within the jurisdiction of our courts for they will find it difficult to protect the
wards. In Guerrero vs. Teran,[7] this Court held:

Doa Maria Muoz y Gomez was, as above indicated, removed upon the theory that her
appointment was void because she did not reside in the Philippine Islands.There is
nothing in the law which requires the courts to appoint residents only as
administrators or guardians. However, notwithstanding the fact that there are no
statutory requirements upon this question, the courts, charged with the responsibilities
of protecting the estates of deceased persons, wards of the estate, etc., will find much
difficulty in complying with this duty by appointing administrators and guardians who
are not personally subject to their jurisdiction. Notwithstanding that there is no
statutory requirement, the courts should not consent to the appointment of persons as
administrators and guardians who are not personally subject to the jurisdiction of our
courts here.

WHEREFORE, the appealed Decision is hereby AFFIRMED, with modification in the


sense that Valerie, who has attained the age of majority, will no longer be under the guardianship
of respondent Helen Belmes.
Costs against petitioner.
SO ORDERED.
Melo, (Chairman), Panganiban, and Gonzaga-Reyes, JJ., concur.
Vitug, J., see concurring opinion.

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 Resolution 4 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 Felicisimo’s 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. M-3708
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
decedent’s 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 ₱30,304,178.00 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 Felicisimo’s 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 dismissal 10of 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 respondent’s 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 Felicisimo’s 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 Felicisimo’s
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 respondent’s marriage to Felicisimo was void and bigamous because it
was performed during the subsistence of the latter’s 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 one’s 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 deceased’s children to him at his Alabang address, and the deceased’s calling cards 49 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 Felicidad’s 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 Felicidad’s 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 petitioner’s husband entitled to exercise control
over conjugal assets. As he is bound by the Decision of his own country’s 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 marriedto 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. Ibay-Somera 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." 59In 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)

xxxx
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. The Van 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. 1aw phi 1.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 Court’s 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

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 Felicisimo’s 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

With regard to respondent’s 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 in Garcia, however, the Court cannot take judicial notice of foreign laws as they must be
alleged and proved. 73

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.

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 Felicisimo’s 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. 78 In 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 party’s own evidence and not upon the
weakness of the opponent’s defense. x x x 81
In view of the foregoing, we find that respondent’s 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.

[G.R. No. 116835. March 5, 1998]

ANTONIETTA GARCIA VDA.DE CHUA, petitioner, vs. COURT OF


APPEALS, (Special Eight Division), HON. JAPAL M. GUIANI,
RTC, Branch 14, 12th Judicial Region, Cotabato City, and
FLORITA A. VALLEJO, As Administratrix of the Estate of the late
Roberto L. Chua. respondents.

DECISION
KAPUNAN, J.:

Assailed before us in this Appeal by Certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of


Court is the decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-GR Sp. No. 33101, promulgated on
19 April 1994 affirming the decision of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 14, of Cotabato
City in Special Procedure Case No. 331.
As culled from the records the following facts have been preponderantly
established:
During his lifetime, Roberto Lim Chua lived out of wedlock with private respondent
Florita A. Vallejo from 1970 up to 1981. Out of this union the couple begot two
illegitimate children, namely Roberto Rafson Alonzo and Rudyard Pride Alonzo.
On 28 May 1992, Roberto Chua died intestate in Davao City.
On 2 July 1992, private respondent filed with the Regional Trial Court of Cotabato
City a Petition[1] which is reproduced hereunder:
IN RE: PETITION FOR DECLARATION OF HEIRSHIP, GUARDIANSHIP
OVER THE PERSONS AND PROPERTIES OF MINORS ROBERT RAFSON
ALONZO SP. PROC. NO/ 331 and RUDYARD PRIDE ALONZO, all surnamed
CHUA and ISSUANCE OF LETTERS OF ADMINISTRATION. FLORITA
ALONZO VALLEJO, Petitioner.

x--------------------------x

PETITION

COMES NOW the petitioner assisted by counsel and unto this Honorable
Court most respectfully states:

1. That she is of legal age, Filipino, married but separated from her husband
and residing at Quezon Avenue, Cotobato City, Philippines;

2. That sometime from 1970 up to and until late 1981 your petitioner lived with
Roberto Lim Chua as husband and wife and out of said union they begot two
(2) children, namely, Robert Rafson Alonzo Chua who was born in General
Santos City on April 28, 1977 and Rudyard Pride Alonzo Chua who was
born in Davao City on August 30, 1978. A xerox copy of the birth
certificate of each child is hereto attached as annex A and B, respectively.

3. That the aforementioned children who are still minors today are both
staying with herein petitioner at her address at Quezon Avenue, Cotabato
City;

4. That Roberto Lim Chua, father of the above-mentioned minors, died


intestate on May 28, 1992 in Davao City.

5. That the aforementioned deceased left properties both real and


personal worth P5,000,000.00 consisting of the following:

a) Lot in Kakar, Cotabato City covered by TCT No. T-


12835 with an area of 290 sq. m. estimated at .. P50,000.00

b) Lot in Kakar, Cotabato City covered by TCT No. T-12834


with an area of 323 sq.m. .... .. 50,000.00

c) Lot in Davao City covered by TCT No. T-126583 with an area of 303 sq.m.
............50,000.00
d) Lot in Davao City covered by TCT No. T-126584 with an area of 303 sq.m.
...............50,000.00

e) Residential house in Cotabato City valued


at ............................................................300,000.00

f) Residential house in Davao City valued at


............................................................600,000.00

g) Car, Colt Lancer with Motor No. 4G33-3 AF6393


.................................................210,000.00

h) Colt, Galant Super Saloon with Motor No. 4G37-GB0165

..........................................545,000.00

I) Car, Colt Galant with Motor No. 4G52-52D75248


.............................................110,000.00

j) Reo Isuzu Dump Truck with Motor No. DA640-838635

.. ..350,000.00

k) Hino Dump Truck with Motor No. ED100-T47148


..............................................350,000.00

l) Stockholdings in various corporations with par value estimated at


.........................3,335,000.00

T o t a l - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - P5,000,000.00

6. That deceased Roberto Lim Chua died single and without legitimate
descendants or ascendants, hence, the above named minors Robert Rafson
Alonzo Chua and Rudyard Pride Alonzo Chua, his
children with herein petitioner shall succeed to the entire estate of the
deceased. (Article 988 of the Civil Code of the Philippines).

7. That the names, ages and residences of the relatives of said minors are the
following, to wit:

Names Relationship Ages Residences

1. Carlos Chua Uncle 60 Quezon Avenue,


Cotabato City

2. Aida Chua Auntie 55 RosaryHeights,

Cotabato City

3. Romulo Uy Uncle 40 c/o Overseas Fish-

ing Exporation Co.

Inc., Matina,

Davao City

6. That considering the fact that the aforementioned minors by operation of


law are to succeed to the entire estate of Roberto Lim Chua under
theprovisions of Article 988 of the New Civil Code of the Philippines, it is
necessary that for the protection of the rights and interest of Robert Rafson
Alonzo Chua and Rudyard Pride Alonzo Chua, both minors and heirs of
deceased Roberto Lim Chua, a guardian over the persons and properties of
said minors be appointed by this Honorable Court.

7. That herein petitioner being the mother and natural guardian of said
minors is also competent and willing to act as the guardian of minors Robert
Rafson Alonzo Chua and Rudyard Pride Alonzo Chua both staying and living
with her; that petitioner possesses all the qualifications and none of the
disqualifications of a guardian.

WHREFORE, premises considered, it is most respectfully prayed:

1. That, upon proper notice and hearing, an order be issued


declaring minors ROBERTO RAFSON ALONZO CHUA and RUDYARD
PRIDEALONZO CHUA as heirs to the intestate estate of deceased
ROBERTO LIM CHUA;

2. That Letters of Administration be issued to herein petitioner for the


administration of the estate of the deceased ROBERTO LIM CHUA;

3. That the petitioner be also appointed the guardian of the persons and
estate of minors ROBERT RAFSON ALONZO CHUA and RUDYARD PRIDE
ALONZO CHUA;
4. That after all the property of deceased Roberto Lim Chua have been
inventoried and expenses and just debts, have been paid, the intestate estate
of Roberto Lim Chua be distributed to its rightful heirs, the minors in this case,
pursuant to the provisions of Article 988 of the New Civil Codeof the
Philippines.

5. And for such other reliefs and remedies this Honorable Court may consider
fit and proper in the premises.

Cotabato City, Philippines, June 29, 1992.

(Sgd.) FLORITA ALONZO VALLEJO

(Petitioner)

The trial court issued an order setting the hearing of the petition on 14 August 1992
and directed that notice thereof be published in a newspaper of general circulation in
the province of Maguindanao and Cotabato City and or Davao City.
On 21 July 1992, herein petitioner Antoinetta Garcia Vda.de Chua, representing to
be the surviving spouse of Roberto Chua, filed a Motion to Dismiss[2] on the ground of
improper venue. Petitioner alleged that at the time of the decedent's death Davao
City was his residence, hence, the Regional Trial Court of Davao City is the proper
forum.
Private respondent filed an opposition to the Motion to Dismiss[3] dated July 20,
1992 based on the following grounds:

(1) That this petition is for the guardianship of the minor children of the
petitioner who are heirs to the estate of the late Roberto L. Chua and under
Section 1, Rule 92 of the Rules of Court the venue shall be at the place where
the minor resides;

(2) That the above-named minors are residents of Cotabato City:

(3) That the movant in this case has no personality to intervene nor to oppose
in the granting of this petition for the reason that she is a total stranger to the
minors Robert Rafson Alonzo and Rudyard Pride Alonzo, all surnamed Chua.

(4) That deceased Roberto L. Chua died a bachelor. He is the father of the
above-named minors with the petitioner in this case;
(5) That movant/oppositor Antoinetta Chua is not the surviving spouse of the
late Roberto L. Chua but a pretender to the estate of the latter since the
deceased never contracted marriage with any woman until he died.

On 6 August 1992, private respondent Vallejo filed a Motion for Admission of an


Amended Petition[4] "in order that the designation of the case title can properly and
appropriately capture or capsulize in clear terms the material averments in the body
of the pleadings; thus avoiding any confusion or misconception of the nature and
real intent and purpose of this petition". The amended
petition contains identical material allegationsbut differed in its title, thus:
[5]

IN RE: PETITION FOR THE SETTLEMENT OF THE INTESTATE


ESTATE OF ROBERTO CHUA, DECLARATION OF HEIRSHIP,
GUARDIANSHIP OVER THE PERSONS AND PROPERTIES OF MINORS
ROBERT AND RUDYARD, all surnamed CHUA and ISSUANCE OF
LETTERS OF ADMINISTRATION.

FLORITA ALONZO VALLEJO,

Petitioner.

Paragraph 4 of the original petition was also amended to read as follows:


4. That Roberto Lim Chua, father of the abovementioned minors is a resident of
Cotabato City and died intestate on May 28, 1992 at Davao City.
The petition contains exactly the same prayers as those in the original petitions.
Petitioner opposed the motion to amend petition alleging that at the hearing of said
motion on 24 July 1992, private respondents counsel allegedly admitted that the sole
intention of the original petition was to secure guardianship over the persons an
property of the minors. [6]
On 21, August 1992, the trial court issued an order[7] denying the motion to dismiss
for lack of merit. The court ruled that Antoinetta Garcia had no personality to file the
motion to dismiss not having proven her status as wife of the decedent. Further, the
court found that the actual residence of the deceased was Cotabato City, and even
assuming that there was concurrent venue among the Regional Trial Courts where the
decedent had resided, the R.T.C. of Cotabato had already taken cognizance of the
settlement of the decedent's estate to the exclusion of all others. The pertinent portions
of the order read:

At the hearing of the motion to dismiss on August 19, 1992, counsel for
movant Antonietta G. Chua presented 18 Exhibits in support of her allegation
that she was the lawful wife of the decedent and that the latter resides in
Davao City at the time of his death. Exh. 1 was the xerox copy of the alleged
marriage contract between the movant and the petitioner. This cannot be
admitted in evidence on the ground of the timely objection of the counsels for
petitioner that the best evidence is the original copy or
authenticated copy which the movant cannot produce. Further, the counsels
for petitioner in opposition presented the following: a certification from the
Local Civil Registrar concerned that no such marriage contract was ever
registered with them; a letter from Judge Augusto
Banzali, the alleged person to have solemnized the alleged marriage that he has
not solemnized such alleged marriage. Exhibit 2 through 18 consist among others of
Transfer Certificate of Title issued in the name of Roberto L. Chua married to Antonietta
Garcia, and a resident of Davao City; Residence Certificates from 1988 and 1989
issued at Davao City indicating that he was married and was born in Cotabato City;
Income Tax Returns for 1990 and 1991 filed in Davao City where the
status of the decedent was stated as married; passport of the decedent specifying that
he was married and his residence was Davao City. Petitioner through counsels,
objected to the admission inevidence of Exhibits 2 through 18 if the purpose is to
establish the truth of the alleged marriage between the decedent and Antonietta
Garcia. The best evidence they said is the marriage contract. They do not object to the
admission of said exhibit if the purpose is to show that Davao City was the business
residence of the decedent.

Petitioner through counsels, presented Exhibit A through K to support her


allegation that the decedent was a resident of Cotabato City; that he died a
bachelor; that he begot two illegitimate children with the petitioner as
mother. Among these exhibits are Income Tax Returns filed in Cotabato City
from 1968 through 1979 indicating therein that he was single; birth
certificates of the alleged two illegitimate children of the decedent; Resident
Certificates of the decedent issued in Cotabato City; Registration Certificate
of Vehicle of the decedent showing that his residence is Cotabato City.

It is clear from the foregoing that the movant failed to establish the truth of her
allegation that she was the lawful wife of the
decedent. The bestevidence is a valid marriage contract which the movant
failed to produce. Transfer Certificates of
Title, Residence Certificates, passports and othersimilar documents cannot
prove marriage especially so when the petitioner has submitted a certification
from the Local Civil Registrar concerned that the alleged marriage was not
registered and a letter from the judge alleged to have solemnized the
marriage that he has not solemnized said alleged
marriage. Consequently, she has no personality to file the subject motion to
dismiss.
On the issue of the residence of the decedent at the time of his
death, the decedent as a businessman has many business residences from
different parts of the country where he usually stays to supervise and pursue
his business ventures. Davao City is one of them. It cannot be denied that
Cotabato City is his actual residence where his alleged illegitimate children
also reside.

The place of residence of the deceased in settlement of estates, probate of


will, and issuance of letters of administration does not constitute an element of
jurisdiction over the subject matter. It is merely constitutive of venue (Fule vs.
CA, L-40502, November 29, 1976). Even assuming that there is concurrent
venue among the Regional Trial Courts of the places where the decedent has
residences, the Regional Trial Court first taking cognizance of the settlement
of the estate of the decedent, shall exercise jurisdiction to the exclusion of all
other courts (Section 1, Rule 73). It was this Court which first took cognizance
of the case when the petition was filed on July 2, 1992, docketed as Special
Proceeding No. 331 and an order of publication issued by this Court on July
13, 1992.

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the motion to dismiss is hereby


denied for lack of merit.

On 31 August 1992, upon motion of private respondent, the trial court issued an
order appointing Romulo Lim Uy, a first cousin of the deceased, as special administrator
of the decedent's estate.[8]
On the same day, the trial court likewise issued an Order appointing Florita Vallejo
as the guardian over the persons and properties of the two minor children. [9]
Thereafter, petitioner filed a Motion dated 25 October 1993[10] praying that the letters
of administration issued to Vallejo be recalled and that new letters of administration be
issued in her . She, likewise, filed a Motion dated 5 Novembeer 1993 [11] to declare the
proceedings a mistrial. Both motions were denied by the trial court in its Order dated 22
November 1993[12] Petitioners motion for reconsideration of the order was denied by the
trial court in an order dated 13 December 1993[13]
Assailling the last two orders of the trial court, petitioner filed a petition for certiorari
and prohibition (Rule 65) with the respondent Court of Appeals, docketed as CA G.R.
No. Sp. 33101, alleging that the trial court acted with grave abuse of discretion in:

(1) unilaterally and summarily converting, if not treating, the guardianship


proceedings into an intestate proceeding;

(2) summarily hearing the intestate proceedings without


jurisdiction and without any notice to herein petitioner whatsoever; and
(3) issuing the questioned order (sic) on the alleged pretension that herein
petitioner has no personality to intervene in SPL Proc. No. 331 questioning
the highly anomalous orders precipitately issued ex-parte by the public
respondent R.T.C. without notice to the petitioners.

Petitioner in the main argued that private respondent herself admitted in in her
opposition to petitioners motion to dismiss filed in the trial court and in open
court that the original petition she filed is one for guardianship; hence, the trial court
acted beyond its jurisdiction when it issued letters of administration over the estate of
Robert C. Chua, thereby converting the petition into an intestate proceeding, without the
amended petition being published in a newspaper of general circulation as required
by Section 3, Rule 79.
The Court of Appeals in its decision promulgated on 19 April 1994 [14] denied the
petition ratiocinating that the original petition filed was one for guardianship of the
illegitimate children of the deceased as well as for administration of his intestate
estate. While private respondent may have alleged in her opposition to the motion to
dismiss that petition was for guardianship, the fact remains that the very allegations of
the original petition unmistakably show a twin purpose: (1) guardianship; and (2)
issuance of letters of administration. As such, it was unnecessary for her to republish
the notice of hearing through a newspaper of general circulation in the province. The
amended petition was filed for the only reason stated in the motion for leave: so that the
the "case title can properly and appropriately capture or capsulize in clear terms the
material averments in the body of the pleadings; thus avoiding any confusion or
misconception of the nature and real intent and purpose of this
petition", which was for guardianshipover the persons and properties of her minor
children and for the settlement of the intestate estate of the decedent
who was their father. In other words, there being no change
in the material allegations between the original and amended petitions, the publication
of the first in a newspaper of general circulation sufficed for purposes of compliance
with the legal requirements of notice.
Moreover, the appellate court ruled that the petitioner's remedy is appeal from the
orders complained of under Section 1(f), Rule 109 of the Rules of Court, not certiorari
and prohibition.
Not satisfied with the decision of the Court of Appeals, petitioner comes
to this Court contending that the appellate court committed the following errors:
I
THE PUBLIC RESPONDENT COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY AND SERIOUSLY
ERRED IN HOLDING THAT THE ORIGINAL PETITION (Annex F,
Petition) WAS FOR A TWIN PURPOSE, TO WIT: FOR GUARDIANSHIP AND FOR
INTESTATE ESTATE PROCEEDINGS;
II
THE PUBLIC RESPONDENT COURT OF APPEALS SERIOUSLY ERRED IN
HOLDING THAT THERE IS NO NEED TO PUBLISH THE AMENDED PETITION
FOR ADMINISTRATION OF THE INTESTATE ESTATE THEREBY
CONTRAVENING THE RULES OF COURT AND THE RULINGS OF THE
SUPREME COURT
III
THE PUBLIC RESPONDENT COURT OF APPEALS SERIOUSLY ERRED IN NOT
NULLIFYING THE ORDERS (Annex P to T) PRECIPITATELY ISSUED EX-
PARTE BY THE PUBLIC RESPONDENT REGIONAL TRIAL COURT IN
THE INTESTATE PROCEEDINGS WITHOUT PRIOR HEARING OR NOTICE TO
HEREIN PETITIONER THEREBY DEPRIVING THE LATTER (ANTOINETTA
GARCIA VDA. DE CHUA ) OF DUE PROCESS AND OPPORTUNITY TO BE
HEARD.
IV

THE PUBLIC RESPONDENT COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED IN


SWEEPINGLY HOLDING THAT PETITIONER'S REMEDY IS APPEAL.[15]
In support of her first assignment of errors, petitioner submits that the
Court of Appeals conclusion that the original petition was one for guardianship and
administration of the intestate estate is contradicted by the evidence on hand, asserting
that the original petition failed to allege and state the jurisdictional facts required by the
Rules of Court in petitions for administration of a decedent's estate, such as: (a) the last
actual residence of the decedent at the time of his death; (b) names, ages and
residences of the heirs; and (c) the names and residences of the creditors of the
decedent. Petitioner also reiterates her argument regarding private respondents alleged
admission that the original petition was one for guardianship and not for issuance
of letters of administration, pointing to the Opposition to the Motion to Dismiss dated 20
July 1992, where the the private respondent alleged:

1. That this petition is for guardianship of the minor children of the petitioner who are
heirs to the estate of the late Roberto L. Chua and under Section 1, Rule 92 of the
Rules of Court the venue shall be at the place where the minor resides. [16]

As well as to the statements made by counsel for the private respondent during the
24 July 1992 hearing on the motion to dismiss:

ATTY. RENDON:

We filed our opposition to the motion to dismiss the petition because this is a petition for
guardianship of minors, not for intestate proceedings. So this is a case where the
mother wanted to be appointed as guardian because she is also the litigant
here. Because whenever there is an intestate proceedings, she has to represent the
minors, and under the Rules of Court in any guardianship proceedings, the venue is at
the place where the minor is actually residing.[17]

The petition is devoid of merit.


The title alone of the original petition clearly shows that the petition is one which
includes the issuance of letters of administration. The title of said petition reads:

IN RE: PETITION FOR DECLARATION OF HEIRSHIP, GUARDIANSHIP OVER THE


PERSON AND PROPERTIES OF MINORS ROBERTO ALONZO AND RUDYARD
ALONZO, all surnamed CHUA and ISSUANCE OF LETTERS OF ADMINISTRATION.[18]

Likewise, the prayer of the petition states:

2. That Letters of Administration be issued to herein petition for the


administration of the estate of the deceased ROBERTO LIM CHUA.

The original petition also contains the jurisdictional facts required in a petition for the
issuance of letters of administration. Section 2, Rule 79 of the Rules of Court reads:

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, so far
as known to the petitioner:

(a) jurisdictional facts;

(b) The names, ages, and residences of the heirs and the names and
residences of the creditors, of the decedent

(c) The probative value and character of the property of the estate;

(d) The name of the person for whom letters of administration are prayed;

But no defect in the petition shall render void the issuance of letters of
administration. (underscoring ours).

The jurisdictional facts required in a petition for issuance of letters of administration


are: (1) the death of the testator; (2) residence at the time of death in the province
where the probate court is located; and (3) if the decedent was a non-resident, the fact
of being a resident of a foreign country and that the decedent has left an estate in the
province where the court is sitting.[19]
While paragraph 4 of the original petition stating:

(4) That Roberto Lim Chua, father of the above mentioned minors, died
intestate on May 28, 1992 in Davao City.

failed to indicate the residence of the deceased at the time of his death, the
omission was cured by the amended petitions wherein the same paragraph now reads:
(4) That Roberto Lim Chua, father of the abovementioned minors is a resident of
Cotabato City and died intestate on May 28, 1992 at Davao City.[20] (Underscoring in the
original.)

All told the original petition alleged substantially all the facts required to be stated in
the petition for letters of administration. Consequently, there was no need to publish the
amended petition as petitioner would insist in her second assignment of errors.
Be that as it may, petitioner has no legal standing to file the motion to dismiss as
she is not related to the deceased, nor does she have any interest in his estate as
creditor or otherwise. The Rules are explicit on who may do so:

Sec. 4. Opposition to petition for administration - Any interested person, may


by filing a written opposition, contest the petition on .the ground of
incompetency of the person for whom letters of administration are prayed
therein, or on the ground of the contestant's own right
to theadministration, and may pray that letters issue to himself, or to any
competent person or persons named in the opposition.

Only an interested person may oppose the petition for issuance of letters of
administration. An interested person is 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; his
interest is material and direct, and not one that is only indirect or contingent. [21]
Petitioner was not able to prove her status as the surviving wife of the
decedent. The best proof of marriage between man and wife is a marriage contract
which Antoinetta Chua failed to produce. The lower court correctly
disregarded the photostat copy of the marriage certificate which she presented, this
being a violation of the best evidence rule, together with other worthless pieces
of evidence. The trial court correctly ruled in its 21 August 1992 Order that:

xxx Transfer Certificates of Title, Residence Certificates, passports and other similar
documents cannot prove marriage especially so when the petitioner has submitted a
certification from the Local Civil Registrar concerned that the alleged marriage
was not registered and a letter from the judge alleged
to have solemnized the marriage that he has not solemnized said alleged marriage.
xxx[22]

Under her third assignment of error, petitioner claims that the trial court issued its
orders, Annexes P to T without prior hearing or notice to her, thus, depriving her of due
process.
The orders referred to by petitioner are: Order dated 31 August 1992
appointing Romulo Lim Uy, first cousin of the deceased, as special administrator of the
estate; Order dated 31 August 1992 appointing private respondent as guardian over the
person and property of the minors; Order dated 5 August 1993, directing the transfer of
the remains of the deceased from Davao City to Cotabato City; Order dated 6
September 1993 directing petitioner to turn over a Mitsubishi Gallant car owned by the
estate of the deceased to the special administrator; and Order dated 28 September
1993, authorizing the sheriff to break open the deceaseds house for the purpose of
conducting an inventory of the properties found therein, after the sheriff was refused
entry to the house by the driver and maid of petitioner.
Apart from the fact that petitioner was not entitled to notice of the proceedings of the
trial court, not being able to establish proof of her alleged marriage to the
decease, or of her interest in the estate as creditor or otherwise, petitioner categorically
stated in the instant petition that on 25 October 1993 she filed a motion praying for the
recall of the letters of administration issued by the trial court and another motion dated 5
August 1993 praying that the proceedings conducted by the trial court be declared as a
mistrial and the court orders relative thereto be set aside and nullified. Petitioner further
stated that her motions were denied by the trial court in its Order dated 22 November
21, 1993 and that on 30 November 1993 she filed a motion for reconsideration of the
order of denial which in turn was denied by the trial court on 13 December 1993.
Due process was designed to afford opportunity to be heard, not that
an actual hearing should always and indispensably be held.[23] Theessence of due
process is simply an opportunity to be heard. [24] Here, even granting that the petitioner
was not notified of the orders of the trial court marked as Exhibits P to T,
inclusive, nonetheless, she was duly heard in her motions
to recall letters of administration and to declare the proceedings of the court as a
mistrial, which motions were denied in the Order dated 22 November 1933. [25] A motion
for the reconsideration of this order of denial was also duly heard by the trial court but
was denied in its Order of 13 December 1993.[26]
Denial of due process cannot be successfully invoked by a party who has had the
opportunity to be heard on his motion for reconsideration.[27]
As to the last assignment of errors, we agree with the Court of Appeals that the
proper remedy of the petitioner in said court was an ordinary appeal and not a special
civil action for certiorari; which can be availed of if a party has no plain, speedy and
adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law. Except for her bare allegation that an
ordinary appeal would be inadequate, nothing on record would indicate that
extraordinary remedy of certiorari or prohibition is warranted.
Finally, petitioner further argues as supplement to her memorandum
that the ruling of the Court of Appeals treating the Special Proceeding No. 331 as one
for both guardianship and settlement of estate is in contravention of our ruling in Gomez
vs. Imperial,[28] which the petitioner quotes:

The distribution of the residue of the estate of the


deceased is a function pertaining properly not to the guardianship
proceedings, but to another proceeding which the heirs are at liberty to
initiate.
Petitioners reliance on said case is misplaced. In the Gomez case, the action before
the lower court was merely one for guardianship. Therefore said court did not have
the jurisdiction to distribute the estate of the deceased. While in the case at bar, the
petition filed before the court was both for guardianship and settlement of estate.
IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, the petition of petitioner Antoinetta Chua is hereby
denied.
SO ORDERED.
Narvasa, C.J., Romero, and Purisima, JJ., concur.