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G.R. No.

176150 June 25, 2008 Meanwhile, by letter of July 17, 2000, the SSS Legal Department
denied a reconsideration of the denial of his claim,13 prompting
IBARRA P. ORTEGA, petitioner, petitioner to submit a letter-opposition of August 15, 2000.14
vs.
SOCIAL SECURITY COMMISSION, and SOCIAL SECURITY Upon referral of the SSC, the SSS Medical Program Department,
SYSTEM, respondents. through Dr. Carlota A. Cruz-Tutaan and Dr. Jesus S. Tan,
confirmed that, upon examination of petitioner, there was no
DECISION progression of his illness,15 prompting petitioner to submit a
letter-opposition of November 11, 2000 charging the SSS
CARPIO MORALES, J.: medical officers of issuing fraudulent medical
findings.16 Unperturbed, the SSS Medical Program Department
stood its ground and denied with finality petitioner’s claim, by
Petitioner Ibarra P. Ortega assails the Court of Appeals’ August
letter of November 22, 2000.17
7, 2006 Decision1 dismissing his petition for review and
upholding the denial by respondent Social Security Commission
(SSC) of his application for total permanent disability benefits, On January 29, 2001, SSC finally docketed petitioner’s June 19,
and the Resolution2 of January 16, 2007 denying his motions for 2000 petition as SSC Case No. 1-15115-2001,18after petitioner
reconsideration and inhibition. complied with SSC’s directives19 to verify the petition and
submit certain document-annexes. SSS then filed its Answer of
May 31, 2001,20 to which petitioner submitted a Reply of June
Petitioner, a member of respondent Social Security System
25, 2001.21 After the August 10, 2001 pre-hearing
(SSS), filed claims for partial permanent disability benefits on
conference,22 the SSS filed its Position Paper of September 7,
account of his condition of Generalized Arthritis and Partial
2001 while petitioner submitted his Reply of October 19, 2001.
Ankylosis,3 which claims the SSS granted for a total monthly
pension of 23 months.4
By Resolution of April 3, 2002,23 the SSC denied petitioner’s
claim for entitlement to total permanent disability for lack of
After the expiration of his disability pension, petitioner filed
merit. And it opined that, considering that he had reached the
with the SSS Malabon Branch Office on April 26, 2000 a claim
retirement age of 60, on March 19, 1998, with 41 contributions
for total permanent disability benefits.5 His application,
to his name, petitioner may opt:
docketed as BO-0000-1755, was denied, however, on the
ground that he was already granted disability benefits for the
same illness and physical examination showed no progression (a) [t]o continue paying to the SSS monthly
of illness.6 Dr. Juanillo Descalzo III, SSS Malabon Branch senior contributions (including employer’s share) on his own
physician, observed that petitioner merely had a "slight to complete the required 120 monthly contributions
limitation of grasping movement for both hands." 7 in order to avail of the retirement pension benefit;

Aggrieved, petitioner filed before the SSC an unverified Petition (b) [to] leave his monthly contributions with the SSS
of June 19, 2000,8 alleging that the SSS denied his application for his and his family’s future benefits; or
despite the fact that his attending physician, Dr. Rafael Recto,
Jr., diagnosed him to be suffering from Trigger finger 4th (L) and (c) [to a]vail of the lump sum retirement benefit.24
thumb (L)9 while another private medical practitioner, Dr. Flo
dela Cruz, diagnosed him to be also suffering from Bronchial Petitioner moved for reconsideration of the Resolution. The
Asthma, Hypertension and Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease.10 SSC thus directed the SSS to file its comment25 and, by a
subsequent order, to conduct a domiciliary visit and physical
Further claiming to be afflicted with rheumatoid arthritis of examination on petitioner to ascertain whether he could
both hands affecting all fingers and both palms,11petitioner already qualify for such benefit.26 In compliance therewith, Dr.
contended that the medical opinion of the SSS physician who Rebecca Sison, SSS senior physician, examined petitioner on
interviewed him for less than three minutes cannot prevail over August 29, 2002 and found no sufficient basis to warrant the
the findings of his physicians who have been treating him over granting of total permanent disability benefits to him.27
a long period of time.
Petitioner’s motion for reconsideration having been denied by
Before taking cognizance of his appeal, the SSC directed the Order28 of January 29, 2003, petitioner appealed via Rule 43 to
exhaustion of administrative remedies, by letter of June 30, the Court of Appeals29 which promulgated in CA-G.R. SP No.
2000. The matter was thus referred to the SSS Office of the 75653 the assailed issuances affirming in toto the SSC
Medical Program Director for review of petitioner’s disability Resolution and Order.
claim.12
There is at the outset a need to thresh out procedural issues
attending the petition drafted by petitioner himself, apparently
without the aid of counsel. While the petition was admittedly
filed as a petition for certiorari under Rule 65, it contains a rider function is to resolve factual matters.41 It is not for the Court to
averring that it was filed also as a petition for review on weigh evidence all over again.42Moreover, findings of fact of
certiorari under Rule 45.30 administrative agencies and quasi-judicial bodies, which have
acquired expertise because their jurisdiction is confined to
In not granting imprimatur to this type of unorthodox strategy, specific matters, are generally accorded not only respect but
the Court ruled, in a similar case,31 that a party should not join finality when affirmed by the Court of Appeals.43
both petitions in one pleading. A petition cannot be subsumed
simultaneously under Rule 45 and Rule 65 of the Rules of Court, The requisite quantum of proof in cases filed before
nor may it delegate upon the court the task of determining administrative or quasi-judicial bodies is neither proof beyond
under which rule the petition should fall.32 It is a firm judicial reasonable doubt nor preponderance of evidence. In this type
policy that the remedies of appeal and certiorari are mutually of cases, a fact may be deemed established if it is supported by
exclusive and not alternative or successive.33 substantial evidence, or that amount of relevant evidence
which a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to justify a
Palpably, petitioner crafted this unconventional two-headed conclusion.44 In this case, substantial evidence abounds.
petition under no other pretext but to second-guess at the
appropriate remedy. His apparent bewilderment led him to The conclusion that petitioner is not entitled to total
later rectify a supposed typographical error in the caption such permanent disability benefits under the Social Security Law was
that instead of "petition for review," the title be read as a reached after petitioner was examined not just by one but four
"petition for certiorari."34 The subsequent filing of the SSS physicians, namely, Dr. Juanillo Descalzo III, Dr. Carlota A.
Correction of Clerical Errors served no redeeming purpose as it Cruz-Tutaan, Dr. Jesus S. Tan and Dr. Rebecca Sison.
only evinced petitioner’s decision to consider the petition as a
special civil action for certiorari, which is an improper remedy. The initial physical examination and interview revealed that
petitioner had slight limitation of grasping movement for both
It bears stressing that Rule 45 and Rule 65 pertain to different hands. According to Dr. Descalzo, this finding was not enough
remedies and have distinct applications.35 It is axiomatic that to grant an extension of benefit since petitioner had already
the remedy of certiorari is not available where the petitioner received benefits equivalent to 30% of the body. Responding to
has the remedy of appeal or some other plain, speedy and the allegation that the April 2000 physical examination was
adequate remedy in the course of law.36 The petition for review performed in a short period of time, the doctor credibly
under Rule 45 covers the mode of appeal from a judgment, final explained that petitioner’s movements were already being
order, resolution or one which completely disposes of the case, monitored and evaluated from a distance as part of the
like the herein assailed Decision and Resolution of the appellate examination of his extremities in order to minimize malingering
court. There being already a final judgment at the time of the and overacting.45
filing of the petition, a petition for review under Rule 45 is the
appropriate remedy. Meanwhile, the medical findings of Dr. Carlota A. Cruz-Tutaan
and Dr. Jesus S. Tan in August and September 2000 were
Petitioner failed to carve out an exception to this rule, as he did summarized as follows:
not– and could not– illustrate the inadequacy of an appeal as a
remedy that could promptly relieve him from the injurious Heart:
effects of the assailed judgment.37 In fact, by seeking the same
kind of reliefs via two remedies rolled into one pleading, he - manifest regular rhythm
implicitly admits that an appeal suffices. Moreover, the
probability of divergent rulings, a scenario transpiring in G & S
- no murmurs
Transport Corp. v. CA,38 is far from obtaining in this case since
the assailed issuances emanated from only one court and
Lungs:
cannot be elevated separately in different fora.

- on ausculation showed no evidence of


While the Court may dismiss a petition outright for being an
wheezing
improper remedy,39 it may, in certain instances where a
petition was filed on time both under Rules 45 and 65 and in
the interest of justice, proceed to review the substance of the - breath sounds are normal and;
petition and treat it as having been filed under Rule 45.40 Either
way, however, the present petition just the same merits - he is not in a state of respiratory distress
dismissal since it puts to issue questions of fact rather than
questions of law which are appropriate for review under a Rule Hypertension:
45 petition.
- Blood Pressure is 140/80, hence, under
It is settled that the Court is not a trier of facts and accords great control
weight to the factual findings of lower courts or agencies whose
Extremities: (Hands) The member was requested to submit recent ECG, x-
rays and other laboratory work-up results but he could
- No deformities noted except for the right not locate them during visit and would still look for the
small finger, the distal interphalangeal joint is said medical documents and mail them to SSS.
bent at about 30°. No abnormal limitation of
movement noted on all the fingers, grasping He was then advised to come to SSS, Diliman Branch
has improved.46 for ECG and x-ray, however he refused.

Contrary to petitioner’s asseverations, the SSC did not ignore He also refused to affix his signature on the medical
the certifications of petitioner’s attending physicians as, in fact, field service form to confirm the visit of our Medical
it ordered the SSS in June 2001 to conduct an investigation as Officer.
to the medical findings and final diagnosis by his attending
physicians.47 It was surfaced that petitioner’s medical records Based on these recent physical examination findings
in the custody of Dr. Flo dela Cruz could not be found as they and functional assessment and the medical certificate
were allegedly destroyed by inundation.48 And it was found that (Form MMD 102) with final diagnosis of Trigger
the July 10, 2001 letter-certification by Dr. Rafael Recto, Jr. only Finger, there is no sufficient basis that warrants the
narrated the recurring condition of petitioner’s trigger finger, granting of Total Permanent
the administration to him of local steroid injections, and the disability.50 (Underscoring supplied)
performance of surgical release on his left 4th trigger finger on
June 16, 1998; and that he was diagnosed on August 28, 2000 Dr. Sison subsequently noted that petitioner’s
with mallet finger (R, 5th), for which he was advised to undergo Electrocardiograph, Chest X-ray, Kidney and Urinary Bladder
reconstructive surgery.49 Ultrasound indicated his condition as normal,51 which
conclusion was arrived at by going through the same medical
Adopting a liberal attitude and exercising sound discretion, the documents presented by petitioner following a series of tests
SSC even directed the conduct of another physical examination conducted on him by hospitals of his choice.
on petitioner to judiciously resolve his motion for
reconsideration. Pursuant thereto, Dr. Sison physically From the foregoing recital of petitioner’s medical history, the
examined petitioner in August 2002, the results of which were SSC concluded that petitioner is not entitled to total permanent
reflected in a medical report, viz: disability benefits under the Social Security Law, the pertinent
provisions of which read:
Physical Examination:
xxxx
General Survey: well nourished, well
developed, conscious, coherent but talks (d) The following disabilities shall be deemed
with sarcasm and arrogance. permanent total:

EENT: normocephalic, pinkish conjunctiva, anicteric 1. Complete loss of sight of both eyes;
sclerae; negative tonsillo-pharyngeal congestion
2. Loss of two limbs at or above the ankle or
C/L: clear breath sounds, no wheezes; (-) dyspnea wrists;

Heart: normal rate, regular rhythm. 3. Permanent complete paralysis of two


limbs;
Abdomen: negative tenderness
4. Brain injury resulting to incurable
Extremeties: no neurological and sensory deficit imbecility or insanity; and
no gross deformity, (+) scar, 4th finger (L)
no loss of grasping power for large and small 5. Such cases as determined and approved by
objects the SSS.
no loss of opposition between thumb and
forefingers
xxxx
can bend fully to reach toes
can bend both knees fully without pain or
(f) If the disability is permanent partial and such
difficulty
disability occurs after thirty-six (36) monthly
can raise both arms above shoulder level
contributions have been paid prior to the semester of
without pain and difficulty
disability, the benefit shall be the monthly pension for
can bend both elbows without limitation
permanent total disability payable not longer than the disabilities or when there is loss of income due to work-
period designated in the following schedule: connected or work-aggravated injury or illness.55 On the other
hand, the benefits under the Social Security Law are intended
COMPLETE AND NUMBER OF to provide insurance or protection against the hazards or risks
PERMANENT LOSS OF USE MONTHS of disability, sickness, old age or death, inter alia, irrespective
OF of whether they arose from or in the course of the
employment.56 And unlike under the Social Security Law, a
One thumb 10 disability is total and permanent under the Labor Code if as a
One index finger 8 result of the injury or sickness the employee is unable to
perform any gainful occupation for a continuous period
One middle finger 6
exceeding 120 days regardless of whether he loses the use of
One ring finger 5 any of his body parts.57
One little finger 3
One big toe 6 The Court notes that the main issue petitioner proffers is
whether he is entitled to total permanent disability benefits
One hand 39 from the SSS given his "angioplasty operation of the heart,
One arm 50 coronary artery disease, ischemic heart disease, severe
hypertension and a host of other serious illnesses filed with the
One foot 31
SSS[.]"58
One leg 46
One ear 10 A perusal of the records shows that when the case was already
submitted for decision before the appellate court, petitioner
Both ears 20
manifested that he suffered a heart attack on February 25,
Hearing of one ear 10 2004,59 for which he claimed to have undergone a coronary
Hearing of both ears 50 angiogram on March 9, 2005 and a coronary angioplasty on
September 27, 2005 at the Philippine Heart Center.60
Sight of one eye 25
Unfortunate as these events were, the appellate court correctly
(g) The percentage degree of disability which is ruled that it could not consider such allegation of subsequent
equivalent to the ratio that the designated number of events since "a factual question may not be raised for the first
months of compensability bears to seventy-five (75), time on appeal[,] and documents forming no part of the proofs
rounded to the next higher integer, shall not be before the appellate court will not be considered in disposing
additive for distinct, separate and unrelated of the issues of an action."61
permanent partial disabilities, but shall be additive for
deteriorating and related permanent partial The issues in every case are limited to those presented in the
disabilities to a maximum of one hundred percent pleadings. The object of the pleadings is to draw the lines of
(100%), in which case, the member shall be deemed battle between the litigants and to indicate fairly the nature of
as permanently totally disabled.52 the claims or defenses of

Indeed, the evidence indicates that petitioner’s condition at the both parties.62 A change of theory on appeal is not allowed.63 In
time material to the case does not fall under the enumeration this case, the matter of petitioner’s serious heart condition was
in the above-quoted provisions of the Social Security Law. not raised in his application before the SSS or in his June 19,
Moreover, as correctly held by the appellate court, the proviso 2000 petition before the SSC.
of such provisions on the percentage degree of disability
applies when there is a related deterioration of the illness
Fair play dictates that the SSS be afforded the opportunity to
previously considered as partial permanent disability. In this
properly meet the issue64 with respect to the new ailments
case, there is dearth of evidence on the proposition that
besetting petitioner, in line with the actual practice that only
petitioner’s array of illnesses is related to Generalized Arthritis
qualified government physicians, by virtue of their oath as civil
and Partial Ankylosis of the specific body parts.
service officials, are competent to examine persons and issue
medical certificates which will be used by the government for a
Petitioner’s reliance on jurisprudence53 on work-connected specific official purpose.65 This holds greater significance where
disability claims insofar as it relates to a demonstration of there exist differences or doubts as to the medical condition of
disability to perform his trade and profession54 is misplaced. the person.

Claims under the Labor Code for compensation and under the In this case, the SSS medical examiners are tasked by law to
Social Security Law for benefits are not the same as to their analyze the extent of personal incapacity resulting from disease
nature and purpose. On the one hand, the pertinent provisions or injury. Oftentimes, a physician who is adequately versed in
of the Labor Code govern compensability of work-related
the knowledge of anatomy and physiology will find himself Davac, and the second, with Candelaria Davac on January 18,
deficient when called upon to express an opinion on the 1949, with whom he had a minor daughter Elizabeth Davac.
permanent changes resulting from a disability. Unlike the Due to their conflicting claims, the processing thereof was held
general practitioner who merely concerns himself with the in abeyance, whereupon the SSS filed this petition praying that
examination of his patient for purposes of diagnosis and respondents be required to interpose and litigate between
treatment, the medical examiner has to consider varied factors themselves their conflicting claims over the death benefits in
and ascertain the claimant’s related history and subjective question.1äwphï1.ñët
complaints.66 The members of this Court cannot strip their
judicial robe and don the physician’s gown, so to speak, in a On February 25, 1963, the Social Security Commission issued
pretense to correlate variances in medical findings. the resolution referred to above, Not satisfied with the said
resolution, respondent Lourdes Tuplano brought to us the
Finding no cogent reason to discuss the ancillary issues, the present appeal.
Court dismisses the petition, without prejudice to the filing of a
new application by petitioner who is not left without any The only question to be determined herein is whether or not
recourse in his legal bout respecting his supervening claims the Social Security Commission acted correctly in declaring
anchored mainly on Coronary Artery Disease 1VD and Diabetes respondent Candelaria Davac as the person entitled to receive
Mellitus Type 2, these illnesses having been found to be the death benefits in question.
dissimilar from the subject matter of the present action.67
Section 13, Republic Act No. 1161, as amended by Republic Act
WHEREFORE, the petition is, in light of the foregoing No. 1792, in force at the time Petronilo Davac's death on April
disquisitions, DENIED. 5, 1959, provides:

SO ORDERED. 1. SEC. 13. Upon the covered employee's death or


total and permanent disability under such conditions
G.R. No. L-21642 July 30, 1966 as the Commission may define, before becoming
eligible for retirement and if either such death or
SOCIAL SECURITY SYSTEM, petitioner-appellee, disability is not compensable under the Workmen's
vs. Compensation Act, he or, in case of his death, his
CANDELARIA D. DAVAC, ET AL., respondents; beneficiaries, as recorded by his employer shall be
LOURDES Tuplano, respondent-appellant. entitled to the following benefit: ... . (emphasis
supplied.)
J. Ma. Francisco and N. G. Bravo for respondent-appellant.
Office of the Solicitor General Arturo A. Alafriz, Solicitor Camilo Under this provision, the beneficiary "as recorded" by the
D. Quiason and E. T. Duran for petitioner-appellee. employee's employer is the one entitled to the death benefits.
In the case of Tecson vs. Social Security System, (L-15798,
BARRERA, J.: December 28, 1961), this Court, construing said Section 13,
said:
This is an appeal from the resolution of the Social Security
Commission declaring respondent Candelaria Davac as the It may be true that the purpose of the coverage under
person entitled to receive the death benefits payable for the the Social Security System is protection of the
death of Petronilo Davac. employee as well as of his family, but this purpose or
intention of the law cannot be enforced to the extent
of contradicting the very provisions of said law as
The facts of the case as found by the Social Security
contained in Section 13, thereof, ... . When the
Commission, briefly are: The late Petronilo Davac, a former
provision of a law are clear and explicit, the courts can
employee of Lianga Bay Logging Co., Inc. became a member of
do nothing but apply its clear and explicit provisions
the Social Security System (SSS for short) on September 1, 1957.
(Velasco vs. Lopez, 1 Phil, 270; Caminetti vs. U.S., 242
As such member, he was assigned SS I.D. No. 08-007137. In SSS
U.S. 470, 61 L. ed. 442).
form E-1 (Member's Record) which he accomplished and filed
with the SSS on November 21, 1957, he designated respondent
Candelaria Davac as his beneficiary and indicated his But appellant contends that the designation herein made in the
relationship to her as that of "wife". He died on April 5, 1959 person of the second and, therefore, bigamous wife is null and
and, thereupon, each of the respondents (Candelaria Davac void, because (1) it contravenes the provisions of the Civil Code,
and Lourdes Tuplano) filed their claims for death benefit with and (2) it deprives the lawful wife of her share in the conjugal
the SSS. It appears from their respective claims and the property as well as of her own and her child's legitime in the
documents submitted in support thereof, that the deceased inheritance.
contracted two marriages, the first, with claimant Lourdes
Tuplano on August 29, 1946, who bore him a child, Romeo
As to the first point, appellant argues that a beneficiary under From the foregoing provisions, it appears that the benefit
the Social Security System partakes of the nature of a receivable under the Act is in the nature of a special privilege or
beneficiary in life insurance policy and, therefore, the same an arrangement secured by the law, pursuant to the policy of
qualifications and disqualifications should be applied. the State to provide social security to the workingmen. The
amounts that may thus be received cannot be considered as
Article 2012 of the New Civil Code provides: property earned by the member during his lifetime. His
contribution to the fund, it may be noted, constitutes only an
ART. 2012. Any person who is forbidden from insignificant portion thereof. Then, the benefits are specifically
receiving any donation under Article 739 cannot be declared not transferable,6 and exempted from tax legal
named beneficiary of a life insurance policy by the processes, and lien.7Furthermore, in the settlement of claims
person who cannot make any donation to him thereunder the procedure to be observed is governed not by
according to said article. the general provisions of law, but by rules and regulations
promulgated by the Commission. Thus, if the money is payable
to the estate of a deceased member, it is the Commission, not
And Article 739 of the same Code prescribes:
the probate or regular court that determines the person or
persons to whom it is payable.8 that the benefits under the
ART. 739. The following donations shall be void:
Social Security Act are not intended by the lawmaking body to
form part of the estate of the covered members may be
(1) Those made between persons who were guilty of gathered from the subsequent amendment made to Section 15
adultery or concubinage at the time of the donation; thereof, as follows:

xxx xxx xxx SEC. 15. Non-transferability of benefit. — The system


shall pay the benefits provided for in this Act to such
Without deciding whether the naming of a beneficiary of the persons as may be entitled thereto in accordance with
benefits accruing from membership in the Social Security the provisions of this Act. Such benefits are not
System is a donation, or that it creates a situation analogous to transferable, and no power of attorney or other
the relation of an insured and the beneficiary under a life document executed by those entitled thereto in favor
insurance policy, it is enough, for the purpose of the instant of any agent, attorney, or any other individual for the
case, to state that the disqualification mentioned in Article 739 collection thereof in their behalf shall be recognized
is not applicable to herein appellee Candelaria Davac because except when they are physically and legally unable to
she was not guilty of concubinage, there being no proof that collect personally such benefits: Provided, however,
she had knowledge of the previous marriage of her husband That in the case of death benefits, if no beneficiary has
Petronilo.1 been designated or the designation there of is void,
said benefits shall be paid to the legal heirs in
Regarding the second point raised by appellant, the benefits accordance with the laws of succession. (Rep. Act
accruing from membership in the Social Security System do not 2658, amending Rep. Act 1161.)
form part of the properties of the conjugal partnership of the
covered member. They are disbursed from a public special fund In short, if there is a named beneficiary and the designation is
created by Congress in pursuance to the declared policy of the not invalid (as it is not so in this case), it is not the heirs of the
Republic "to develop, establish gradually and perfect a social employee who are entitled to receive the benefits (unless they
security system which ... shall provide protection against the are the designated beneficiaries themselves). It is only when
hazards of disability, sickness, old age and death."2 there is no designated beneficiaries or when the designation is
void, that the laws of succession are applicable. And we have
The sources of this special fund are the covered employee's already held that the Social Security Act is not a law of
contribution (equal to 2-½ per cent of the employee's monthly succession.9
compensation);3 the employer's contribution (equivalent to 3-
½ per cent of the monthly compensation of the covered Wherefore, in view of the foregoing considerations, the
employee);4 and the Government contribution which consists resolution of the Social Security Commission appealed from is
in yearly appropriation of public funds to assure the hereby affirmed, with costs against the appellant.
maintenance of an adequate working balance of the funds of
the System.5 Additionally, Section 21 of the Social Security Act, So ordered.
as amended by Republic Act 1792, provides:
G.R. No. 165546 February 27, 2006
SEC. 21. Government Guarantee. — The benefits
prescribed in this Act shall not be diminished and to
SOCIAL SECURITY SYSTEM, Petitioner,
guarantee said benefits the Government of the
vs.
Republic of the Philippines accepts general
ROSANNA H. AGUAS, JANET H. AGUAS, and minor JEYLNN H.
responsibility for the solvency of the System.
AGUAS, represented by her Legal Guardian, ROSANNA H. benefits released to her and Jenelyn from December 1996 to
AGUAS, Respondents. August 1997 at ₱1,150.00 per month.8

DECISION Rosanna and Jeylnn, through counsel, requested for a


reconsideration of the said decision.9 However, in its Letter
CALLEJO, SR., J.: dated February 6, 1998, the SSS denied the claim.10

Before us is a petition for review on certiorari of the This prompted Rosanna and Jeylnn to file a claim/petition for
Decision1 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. SP No. 66531 the Restoration/Payment of Pensions with the Social Security
and its Resolution denying the motion for reconsideration Commission (SSC) on February 20, 1998.11 Janet H. Aguas, who
thereof. also claimed to be the child of the deceased and Rosanna, now
joined them as claimant. The case was docketed as SSC Case
The antecedents are as follows: No. 3-14769-98.

Pablo Aguas, a member of the Social Security System (SSS) and The claimants appended to their petition, among others,
a pensioner, died on December 8, 1996. Pablo’s surviving photocopies of the following: (1) Pablo and Rosanna’s marriage
spouse, Rosanna H. Aguas, filed a claim with the SSS for death certificate; (2) Janet’s certificate of live birth; (3) Jeylnn’s
benefits on December 13, 1996. Rosanna indicated in her claim certificate of live birth; and (4) Pablo’s certificate of death.
that Pablo was likewise survived by his minor child, Jeylnn, who
was born on October 29, 1991.2 Her claim for monthly pension In its Answer, the SSS averred that, based on the sworn
was settled on February 13, 1997.3 testimonies and documentary evidence showing the
disqualification of the petitioners as primary beneficiaries, the
Sometime in April 1997, the SSS received a sworn letter4 dated claims were barren of factual and legal basis; as such, it was
April 2, 1997 from Leticia Aguas-Macapinlac, Pablo’s sister, justified in denying their claims.12
contesting Rosanna’s claim for death benefits. She alleged that
Rosanna abandoned the family abode approximately more In their Position Paper, the claimants averred that Jeylnn was a
than six years before, and lived with another man on whom she legitimate child of Pablo as evidenced by her birth certificate
has been dependent for support. She further averred that bearing Pablo’s signature as Jeylnn’s father. They asserted that
Pablo had no legal children with Rosanna, but that the latter Rosanna never left Pablo and that they lived together as
had several children with a certain Romeo dela Peña. In support husband and wife under one roof. In support thereof, they
of her allegation, Leticia enclosed a notarized copy of the attached a Joint Affidavit13 executed by their neighbors,
original birth certificate5 of one Jefren H. dela Peña, showing Vivencia Turla and Carmelita Yangu, where they declared that
that the latter was born on November 15, 1996 to Rosanna Y. Rosanna and Pablo lived together as husband and wife until the
Hernandez and Romeo C. dela Peña, and that the two were latter’s death. In Janet’s birth certificate, which was registered
married on November 1, 1990. in the Civil Registry of San Fernando, it appears that her father
was Pablo and her mother was Rosanna. As to the alleged
As a result, the SSS suspended the payment of Rosanna and infertility of Pablo, the claimants averred that Dr. Macapinlac
Jeylnn’s monthly pension in September 1997. It also conducted denied giving the opinion precisely because he was not an
an investigation to verify Leticia’s allegations. In a expert on such matters, and that he treated the deceased only
Memorandum6 dated November 18, 1997, the Social Security for tuberculosis. The claimant likewise claimed that the
Officer who conducted the investigation reported that, based information the SSS gathered from the doctor was privileged
on an interview with Mariquita D. Dizon, Pablo’s first cousin and communication.14
neighbor, and Jessie Gonzales (also a neighbor). She learned
that the deceased had no legal children with Rosanna; In compliance with the SSC’s order, the SSS secured
Jenelyn7 and Jefren were Rosanna’s children with one Romeo Confirmation Reports15 signed by clerks from the
C. dela Peña; and Rosanna left the deceased six years before his corresponding civil registers confirming (1) the fact of marriage
death and lived with Romeo while she was still pregnant with between Pablo and Rosanna on December 4, 1977; (2) the fact
Jenelyn, who was born on October 29, 1991. Mariquita also of Jefren dela Peña’s birth on November 15, 1996; (3) the fact
confirmed that Pablo was not capable of having a child as he of Jeylnn’s birth on October 29, 1991; and (4) the fact of Pablo’s
was under treatment. death on December 8, 1996.

On the basis of the report and an alleged confirmation by a The SSC decided to set the case for hearing. It also directed the
certain Dr. Manuel Macapinlac that Pablo was infertile, the SSS SSS to verify the authenticity of Pablo’s signature as appearing
denied Rosanna’s request to resume the payment of their on Jeylnn’s birth certificate from his claim records, particularly
pensions. She was advised to refund to the SSS within 30 days his SSS Form E-1 and retirement benefit application.16 The SSS
the amount of ₱10,350.00 representing the total death complied with said directive and manifested to the SSC that,
based on the laboratory analysis conducted, Pablo’s signature
in the birth certificate was made by the same person who The SSC ruled that Rosanna was no longer qualified as primary
signed the member’s record and other similar documents beneficiary, it appearing that she had contracted marriage with
submitted by Pablo.17 Romeo dela Peña during the subsistence of her marriage to
Pablo. The SSC based its conclusion on the birth certificate of
The SSC then summoned Vivencia Turla, Carmelita Yangu and Jefren dela Peña stating that his mother, Rosanna, and father,
Leticia Aguas-Macapinlac for clarificatory questions with regard Romeo dela Peña, were married on November 1, 1990. The SSC
to their respective sworn affidavits.18 Vivencia testified that she declared that Rosanna had a child with Romeo dela Peña while
had known Pablo and Rosanna for more than 30 years already; she was still married to Pablo (as evidenced by the baptismal
the couple were married and lived in Macabacle, Dolores, San certificate of Jenelyn H. dela Peña showing that she was the
Fernando, Pampanga; she was a former neighbor of the child of Rosanna Hernandez and Romeo dela Peña and that she
spouses, but four years after their marriage, she (Vivencia) and was born on January 29, 1992). The SSC concluded that
her family moved to Sto. Niño Triangulo, San Fernando, Rosanna was no longer entitled to support from Pablo prior to
Pampanga; she would often visit the two, especially during his death because of her act of adultery. As for Jeylnn, the SSC
Christmas or fiestas; the spouses’ real child was Jeylnn; Janet ruled that, even if her birth certificate was signed by Pablo as
was only an adopted child; the spouse later transferred her father, there was more compelling evidence that Jeylnn was
residence, not far from their old house, and Janet, together not his legitimate child. The SSC deduced from the records that
with her husband and son, remained in the old house.19 Jeylnn and Jenelyn was one and the same person and
concluded, based on the latter’s baptismal certificate, that she
On the other hand, Carmelita testified that she had been a was the daughter of Rosanna and Romeo dela Peña. It also gave
neighbor of Pablo and Rosanna for 15 years and that, up to the credence to the testimonies of Leticia and Mariquita that Jeylnn
present, Rosanna and her children, Janet, Jeylnn and Jefren, was the child of Rosanna and Romeo dela Peña. As for Janet,
were still her neighbors; Janet and Jeylnn were the children of the SSC relied on Leticia’s declaration that she was only
Pablo and Rosanna but she did not know whose child Jefren is.20 adopted by Pablo and Rosanna.29

According to Leticia, Janet was not the real child of Pablo and The claimants filed a motion for reconsideration of the said
Rosanna; she was just taken in by the spouses because for a decision but their motion was denied by the SSC for lack of
long time they could not have children;21 however, there were merit and for having been filed out of time.30 The claimants
no legal papers on Janet’s adoption.22Later on, Rosanna got then elevated the case to the CA via a petition for review under
pregnant with Jeylnn; after the latter’s baptism, there was a Rule 43 of the Rules of Court.
commotion at the house because Romeo dela Peña was
claiming that he was the father of the child and he got mad On September 9, 2003, the CA rendered a decision in favor of
because the child was named after Pablo; the latter also got petitioners. The fallo of the decision reads:
mad and even attempted to shoot Rosanna; he drove them
away from the house; since then, Pablo and Rosanna WHEREFORE, the resolution and order appealed from are
separated;23 she knew about this because at that time their hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE, and a new one is entered
mother was sick, and she would often visit her at their ancestral DECLARING petitioners as ENTITLED to the SSS benefits
home, where Pablo and Rosanna were also staying; Rosanna accruing from the death of Pablo Aguas. The case is hereby
was no longer living in their ancestral home but Janet resided REMANDED to public respondent for purposes of computing
therein; she did not know where Rosanna was staying now but the benefits that may have accrued in favor of petitioners after
she knew that the latter and Romeo dela Peña were still living the same was cut and suspended in September 1997.
together.24
SO ORDERED.31
Subsequently, Mariquita Dizon and Jessie Gonzales were also
summoned for clarificatory questions.25 During the hearing, In so ruling, the CA relied on the birth certificates of Janet and
Mariquita brought with her photocopies of two baptismal Jeylnn showing that they were the children of the deceased.
certificates: that of Jeylnn Aguas,26 child of Pablo Aguas and According to the appellate court, for judicial purposes, these
Rosanna Hernandez born on October 29, 1991, and that of records were binding upon the parties, including the SSS. These
Jenelyn H. dela Peña,27 child of Romeo dela Peña and Rosanna entries made in public documents may only be challenged
Hernandez, born on January 29, 1992. through adversarial proceedings in courts of law, and may not
be altered by mere testimonies of witnesses to the contrary. As
On March 14, 2001, the SSC rendered a decision denying the for Rosanna, the CA found no evidence to show that she ceased
claims for lack of merit and ordering Rosanna to immediately to receive support from Pablo before he died. Rosanna’s
refund to the SSS the amount of ₱10,350.00 erroneously paid alleged affair with Romeo dela Peña was not properly proven.
to her and Jeylnn as primary beneficiaries of the deceased. The In any case, even if Rosanna married Romeo dela Peña during
SSC likewise directed the SSS to pay the death benefit to her marriage to Pablo, the same would have been a void
qualified secondary beneficiaries of the deceased, and in their marriage; it would not have ipso facto made her not dependent
absence, to his legal heirs.28 for support upon Pablo and negate the presumption that, as
the surviving spouse, she is entitled to support from her The issue to be resolved in this case is whether Rosanna, Jeylnn
husband.32 and Janet are entitled to the SSS death benefits accruing from
the death of Pablo.
The SSS filed a motion for reconsideration of the decision,
which the CA denied for lack of merit.33 Hence, this petition. The petition is partly meritorious.

Petitioner seeks a reversal of the decision of the appellate The general rule is that only questions of law may be raised by
court, contending that it the parties and passed upon by the Court in petitions for review
under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court.38 In an appeal via certiorari,
I the Court may not review the factual findings of the CA. 39 It is
not the Court’s function under Rule 45 to review, examine, and
GRAVELY ERRED IN HOLDING THAT ROSANNA AGUAS evaluate or weigh the probative value of the evidence
IS ACTUALLY DEPENDENT FOR SUPPORT UPON THE presented.40 However, the Court may review findings of facts in
MEMBER DURING HIS LIFETIME TO QUALIFY AS some instances, such as, when the judgment is based on a
PRIMARY BENEFICIARY WITHIN THE INTENDMENT OF misapprehension of facts, when the findings of the CA are
SECTION 8(e), IN RELATION TO SECTION (k) OF THE SSS contrary to those of the trial court or quasi-judicial agency, or
LAW, AS AMENDED. when the findings of facts of the CA are premised on the
absence of evidence and are contradicted by the evidence on
record.41 The Court finds these instances present in this case.
II

At the time of Pablo’s death, the prevailing law was Republic


ERRED IN HOLDING THAT JANET AGUAS AND JEYLNN
Act No. 1161, as amended by Presidential Decree No. 735.
AGUAS ARE ENTITLED TO THE PENSION BENEFIT
Section 13 of the law enumerates those who are entitled to
ACCRUING FROM THE DEATH OF PABLO AGUAS.34
death benefits:
Petitioner invokes Section 8 of Republic Act No. 1161, as
Sec.13. Death benefits. – Effective July 1, 1975, upon the
amended by Presidential Decree No. 735, which defines a
covered employee’s death, (a) his primary beneficiaries shall be
dependent spouse as "the legitimate spouse dependent for
entitled to the basic monthly pension, and his dependents to
support upon the employee." According to petitioner, Rosanna
the dependent’s pension: Provided, That he has paid at least
forfeited her right to be supported by Pablo when she engaged
thirty-six monthly contributions prior to the semester of death:
in an intimate and illicit relationship with Romeo dela Peña and
Provided, further, That if the foregoing condition is not
married the latter during her marriage to Pablo. Such act
satisfied, or if he has no primary beneficiaries, his secondary
constitutes abandonment, which divested her of the right to
beneficiaries shall be entitled to a lump sum benefit equivalent
receive support from her husband. It asserts that her act of
to thirty times the basic monthly pension: Provided, however,
adultery is evident from the birth certificate of Jefren H. dela
That the death benefit shall not be less than the total
Peña showing that he was born on November 15, 1996 to
contributions paid by him and his employer on his behalf nor
Rosanna and Romeo dela Peña. Petitioner submits that
less than five hundred pesos: Provided, finally, That the covered
Rosanna cannot be considered as a dependent spouse of Pablo;
employee who dies in the month of coverage shall be entitled
consequently, she is not a primary beneficiary.35
to the minimum benefit.
As for Janet and Jeylnn, petitioner maintains that they are not
Section 8(k) and (e), in turn, defines dependents and primary
entitled to the pension because, based on the evidence on
beneficiaries of an SSS member as follows:
record, particularly the testimonies of the witnesses, they are
not the legitimate children of Pablo. It argues that, in the
exercise of its quasi-judicial authority under Section 5(a) of the SECTION 8. Terms defined. – For the purposes of this Act the
Social Security Act, the SSC can pass upon the legitimacy of following terms shall, unless the context indicates otherwise,
respondents’ relationship with the member to determine have the following meanings:
whether they are entitled to the benefits, even without
correcting their birth certificates.36 xxxx

Respondents, for their part, assert that petitioner failed to (e) Dependent. – The legitimate, legitimated, or legally adopted
prove that Rosanna committed acts of adultery or that she child who is unmarried, not gainfully employed, and not over
married another man after the death of her husband. They twenty-one years of age provided that he is congenitally
contend that Janet and Jeylnn’s legitimacy may be impugned incapacitated and incapable of self-support physically or
only on the grounds stated in Article 166 of the Family Code, mentally; the legitimate spouse dependent for support upon
none of which were proven in this case.37 the employee; and the legitimate parents wholly dependent
upon the covered employee for regular support.
xxxx case, there is no showing that Pablo challenged the legitimacy
of Jeylnn during his lifetime. Hence, Jeylnn’s status as a
(k) Beneficiaries. – The dependent spouse until he remarries legitimate child of Pablo can no longer be contested.
and dependent children, who shall be the primary beneficiaries.
In their absence, the dependent parents and, subject to the The presumption that Jeylnn is a legitimate child is buttressed
restrictions imposed on dependent children, the legitimate by her birth certificate bearing Pablo’s signature, which was
descendants and illegitimate children who shall be the verified from his specimen signature on file with petitioner. A
secondary beneficiaries. In the absence of any of the foregoing, birth certificate signed by the father is a competent evidence of
any other person designated by the covered employee as paternity.48
secondary beneficiary.
The presumption of legitimacy under Article 164, however, can
Whoever claims entitlement to such benefits should establish not extend to Janet because her date of birth was not
his or her right thereto by substantial evidence. Substantial substantially proven. Such presumption may be availed only
evidence, the quantum of evidence required to establish a fact upon convincing proof of the factual basis therefor, i.e., that the
in cases before administrative or quasi-judicial bodies, is that child’s parents were legally married and that his/her
level of relevant evidence which a reasonable mind might conception or birth occurred during the subsistence of that
accept as adequate to justify a conclusion.42 marriage.49 It should be noted that respondents likewise
submitted a photocopy of Janet’s alleged birth certificate.
The Court has reviewed the records of the case and finds that However, the Court cannot give said birth certificate the same
only Jeylnn has sufficiently established her right to a monthly probative weight as Jeylnn’s because it was not verified in any
pension. way by the civil register. It stands as a mere photocopy, without
probative weight. Unlike Jeylnn, there was no confirmation by
Jeylnn’s claim is justified by the photocopy of her birth the civil register of the fact of Janet’s birth on the date stated
certificate which bears the signature of Pablo. Petitioner was in the certificate.
able to authenticate the certification from the Civil Registry
showing that she was born on October 29, 1991. The records In any case, a record of birth is merely prima facie evidence of
also show that Rosanna and Pablo were married on December the facts contained therein.50 Here, the witnesses were
4, 1977 and the marriage subsisted until the latter’s death on unanimous in saying that Janet was not the real child but
December 8, 1996. It is therefore evident that Jeylnn was born merely adopted by Rosanna and Pablo. Leticia also testified that
during Rosanna and Pablo’s marriage. Janet’s adoption did not undergo any legal proceedings; hence,
there were no papers to prove it. Under Section 8(e) of Republic
It bears stressing that under Article 164 of the Family Code, Act No. 1161, as amended, only "legally adopted" children are
children conceived or born during the marriage of the parents considered dependent children. Absent any proof that the
are legitimate. This Court, in De Jesus v. Estate of Decedent family has legally adopted Janet, the Court cannot consider her
Juan Gamboa Dizon,43 extensively discussed this presumption – a dependent child of Pablo, hence, not a primary beneficiary.

There is perhaps no presumption of the law more firmly On the claims of Rosanna, it bears stressing that for her to
established and founded on sounder morality and more qualify as a primary beneficiary, she must prove that she was
convincing reason than the presumption that children born in "the legitimate spouse dependent for support from the
wedlock are legitimate. This presumption indeed becomes employee." The claimant-spouse must therefore establish two
conclusive in the absence of proof that there is physical qualifying factors: (1) that she is the legitimate spouse, and (2)
impossibility of access between the spouses during the first 120 that she is dependent upon the member for support. In this
days of the 300 days which immediately precedes the birth of case, Rosanna presented proof to show that she is the
the child due to (a) the physical incapacity of the husband to legitimate spouse of Pablo, that is, a copy of their marriage
have sexual intercourse with his wife; (b) the fact that the certificate which was verified with the civil register by
husband and wife are living separately in such way that sexual petitioner. But whether or not Rosanna has sufficiently
intercourse is not possible; or (c) serious illness of the husband, established that she was still dependent on Pablo at the time of
which absolutely prevents sexual intercourse. Quite his death remains to be resolved. Indeed, a husband and wife
remarkably, upon the expiration of the periods set forth in are obliged to support each other,51 but whether one is actually
Article 170,44 and in proper cases Article 171,45 of the Family dependent for support upon the other is something that has to
Code (which took effect on 03 August 1988), the action to be shown; it cannot be presumed from the fact of marriage
impugn the legitimacy of the child would no longer be legally alone.
feasible and the status conferred by the presumption becomes
fixed and unassailable.46 In a parallel case52 involving a claim for benefits under the GSIS
law, the Court defined a dependent as "one who derives his or
Indeed, impugning the legitimacy of a child is a strictly personal her main support from another. Meaning, relying on, or subject
right of the husband or, in exceptional cases, his heirs.47 In this to, someone else for support; not able to exist or sustain
oneself, or to perform anything without the will, power, or aid
of someone else." It should be noted that the GSIS law likewise successively to two children in so short a time. x x x The
defines a dependent spouse as "the legitimate spouse testimony of Leticia Aguas-Macapinlac that Rosanna was driven
dependent for away by Pablo after the baptism of Jeylnn because of the
commotion that was created by Romeo dela Peña who wanted
support upon the member or pensioner." In that case, the Jeylnn to be baptized using his name explains why Jeylnn was
Court found it obvious that a wife who abandoned the family again baptized in the Parish of Sto. Niño in San Fernando using
for more than 17 years until her husband died, and lived with the name Jenelyn dela Peña. They changed her date of birth
other men, was not dependent on her husband for support, also to make it appear in the record of the parish that she is
financial or otherwise, during that entire period. Hence, the another child of Rosanna.53
Court denied her claim for death benefits.
On the other hand, Mariquita categorically affirmed that
The obvious conclusion then is that a wife who is already Rosanna was no longer living at Pablo’s house even before he
separated de facto from her husband cannot be said to be died, and that she is still living with Romeo dela Peña up to the
"dependent for support" upon the husband, absent any present. Mariquita testified as follows:
showing to the contrary. Conversely, if it is proved that the
husband and wife were still living together at the time of his Hearing Officer:
death, it would be safe to presume that she was dependent on Nagsama ba si Rosanna at Romeo?
the husband for support, unless it is shown that she is capable Mrs. Dizon:
of providing for herself. Ngayon at kahit na noon.
Hearing Officer:
Rosanna had the burden to prove that all the statutory Kailan namatay si Pablo?
requirements have been complied with, particularly her Mrs. Dizon:
dependency on her husband for support at the time of his 1996.
death. Aside from her own testimony, the only evidence Hearing Officer:
adduced by Rosanna to prove that she and Pablo lived together Noong bago mamatay si Pablo?
as husband and wife until his death were the affidavits of Mrs. Dizon:
Vivencia Turla and Carmelita Yangu where they made such Nagsasama na sila Romeo at Rosanna noon.
declaration. Hearing Officer:
So, buhay pa si Pablo ……
Still, the affidavits of Vivencia and Carmelita and their Mrs. Dizon:
testimonies before the SSC will not prevail over the categorical …. nagsasama na sila ni Romeo.
and straightforward testimonies of the other witnesses who Hearing Officer:
testified that Rosanna and Pablo had already separated for Kailan nagkahiwalay si Romeo at Rosanna?
almost six years before the latter died. Except for the bare Mrs. Dizon:
assertion of Carmelita that the couple never separated, there Hindi na sila nagkahiwalay.
was no further statement regarding the witnesses’ assertion in Hearing Officer:
their affidavits that the couple lived together until Pablo’s Hindi, ibig ko sabihin si Pablo at Rosana?
death. On the contrary, Leticia narrated that the two separated Mrs. Dizon:
after Jeylnn’s baptism as a result of an argument regarding Hindi ko alam kasi hindi ako madalas pumunta sa kanila eh,
Romeo dela Peña. According to Leticia, there was a commotion dahil namatay na yung nanay ni Kuya Pabling, yung tiyahin ko,
at their ancestral house because Romeo dela Peña was kapatid ng nanay ko. Noon madalas ako noong buhay pa yung
grumbling why Jeylnn was named after Pablo when he was the nanay ni Kuya Pabling dahil kami ang nag aalaga sa kanya.
father, and as a result, Pablo drove them away. The SSC’s Hearing Officer:
observation and conclusion on the two baptismal certificates of Bago namatay si Pablo, nagsasama ba sina Romeo at Rosanna?
Jeylnn and Jenelyn convinces this Court to further believe Mrs. Dizon:
Leticia’s testimony on why Pablo and Rosanna separated. As Oo.
noted by the SSC: Hearing Officer:
Sa ngayon, may alam ka pa ba kung nagsasama pa sila Romeo
at Rosanna?
It appears from the records that Jeylnn Aguas and Jenelyn H.
Mrs. Dizon:
dela Peña are one and the same person. Jeylnn Aguas, born on
Oo, nagsasama sila, may bahay sila.
October 29, 1991 was baptized at the Metropolitan Cathedral
Hearing Officer:
of San Fernando, Pampanga, on November 24, 1991 as the child
Saan naman?
of Pablo Aguas and Rosanna Hernandez. Jenelyn H dela Peña,
Mrs. Dizon:
on the other hand, was born on January 29, 1992 to spouses
Doon sa malapit sa amin sa may riles ng tren.54
Rosanna Hernandez and Romeo dela Peña and baptized on
February 9, 1992. It will be noted that Jenelyn dela Peña was
born approximately three months after the birth of Jeylnn In conclusion, the Court finds that, among respondents, only
Aguas. It is physically impossible for Rosanna to have given birth Jeylnn is entitled to the SSS death benefits accruing from the
death of Pablo, as it was established that she is his legitimate payment to them of said benefits, amounting to P3,388.34. This
child. On the other hand, the records show that Janet was prompted the petitioners to file with the Commission their present
merely "adopted" by the spouses, but there are no legal papers petition, which, after appropriate proceedings, was, by resolution
dated July 20, 1962, dismissed. The Commission, likewise, affirmed the
to prove it; hence, she cannot qualify as a primary beneficiary.
action taken by the Administrator and ordered that the corresponding
Finally, while Rosanna was the legitimate wife of Pablo, she is
death benefits be paid to Colombina and Junior. Hence, this appeal by
likewise not qualified as a primary beneficiary since she failed petitioners herein.
to present any proof to show that at the time of his death, she
was still dependent on him for support even if they were They maintain that the designation made in their favor, as
already living separately. beneficiaries of Briccio remained valid and effective, despite his
subsequent marriage and the birth of Junior, in view of his (Briccio's)
IN LIGHT OF ALL THE FOREGOING, the petition is PARTIALLY failure to change said designation, and that the choice of beneficiaries
GRANTED. The Decision and Resolution of the Court of Appeals expressly made by Briccio should be respected.
are AFFIRMED WITH MODIFICATION. Only Jeylnn H. Aguas is
declared entitled to the SSS death benefits accruing from the The validity and force of the last part of petitioners' theory is, however,
death of Pablo Aguas. impaired by the fact that said choice had been made when Briccio was
still single, and that, accordingly, his failure to change the designation
of his beneficiaries may have been, and was probably, due to an
SO ORDERED oversight on his part, especially considering that he died less than a
year after his wedding.
G.R. No. L-20445 February 25, 1967
At any rate, the benefits accruing under Republic Act No. 1161 could
ANICIA V. MERCED, CANDELARIO V. MERCED, CONCEPCION V. not have vested until the death of the decedent, on February 22, 1961,
MERCED, not only because, prior thereto, the rights of the designated
ATILANO V. MERCED, JR., and JOSEFINA V. MERCED, petitioners, beneficiaries were purely inchoate, but, also, because Section 30 of
vs. said Act — which became Section 31 thereof, as amended by Republic
COLOMBINA VDA. DE MERCED, BRICCIO MERCED, JR., and the SOCIAL Act No. 1792, which was in force when Briccio became a member of
SECURITY SYSTEM, respondents. the System — expressly reserved to Congress the right to amend, alter
or repeal any provision thereof, and explicitly declares that "no person
J. S. Ancheta, Jr. for petitioners. shall be or shall be deemed to be vested with any property or other
Office of the Solicitor General for respondents. right by virtue of the enactment or operation of this Act."

CONCEPCION, C.J.: In pursuance of said reserved power, Congress enacted Republic Act
No. 2658 (approved on June 18, 1960), which was in force at the time
of Briccio's death, amending Section 8 of Republic Act No. 1161 (as
EN BANC
amended by Republic Act No. 1792) pursuant to subdivision (k) of
which the beneficiaries shall be "those designated as such by the
Appeal from a resolution of the Social Security Commission — covered employee from among the following:
hereinafter referred to as the Commission — dismissing the petition
of Anicia Candelario, Concepcion, Atlanto and Josefina, all surnamed,
(1) The legitimate spouse, the legitimate, legitimated,
Merced, to be declared the beneficiaries of their deceased brother
acknowledged natural children and natural children by legal
Briccio V. Merced — hereinafter referred to as Briccio — and, as such,
fiction and the legitimate descendants; .
entitled to the corresponding death benefits under Republic Act No.
5181, as amended, otherwise known as the Social Security Act of 1954.
(2) In default of such spouse and children, the legitimate
parents of the covered employee;
As an employee of the Community Export and Import Corporation, in
Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental Briccio became, sometime in 1957, a
member of the Social Security System — hereinafter referred to as the (3) In the absence of any. of the foregoing, any other person
System. As such, he had designated as his beneficiaries his designated by him.1äwphï1.ñët
aforementioned brothers and sisters, the petitioners herein.
Subsequently, or on May 29, 1960, Briccio contracted marriage with In other words, the right of choice of the insured is subject to the
Columbina Merced, who bore him a child, Briccio Jr., hereinafter foregoing limitations, pursuant to which brothers and sisters may not
referred to as Columbia and Junior, respectively, Briccio died on be designated as beneficiaries except in default, not only of surviving
February 22, 1961. spouse and children, but, also, of "legitimate parents of the covered
employee."
Soon later, or on April 5, 1961, petitioners filed with the Commission
their claim for the benefits accruing under Briccio's social security It is, accordingly, clear that the Commission was fully justified in
insurance. However, on April 27, 1961, petitioners were advised by the holding that the designation in favor of the brothers and sisters of the
System that their designation as beneficiaries of Briccio was null and decedent as his beneficiaries was null and void and that Colombina and
void, pursuant to Resolution No. 1620, series of 1960, of the Junior are, under the law, the persons entitled to the corresponding
Commission, and that a claim for the aforementioned benefits had benefits.
been filed by Colombina. Still later, or in September, 1961, petitioners
were informed that the Administrator of the System had declared
Colombina and Junior as the legal heirs of Briccio and approved
Wherefore, the resolution appealed from is hereby affirmed, with
costs against herein petitioners-appellants. It is so ordered.

Reyes, J.B.L., Dizon, Regala, Makalintal, Bengzon, J.P., Zaldivar,


Sanchez and Castro, JJ., concur.