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[G.R. No. 124099.

October 30, 1997]

MANUEL G. REYES, MILA G. REYES, DANILO G. REYES, LYN AGAPE, MARITES AGAPE,
ESTABANA GALOLO, and CELSA AGAPE, petitioners, vs.COURT OF APPEALS
AND JULIO VIVARES, respondents.

DECISION
TORRES, JR., J.:

Unless legally flawed, a testators intention in his last will and testament is its life and soul
which deserves reverential observance.
The controversy before us deals with such a case.
Petitioners Manuel G. Reyes, Mila G. Reyes, Danilo G. Reyes, Lyn Agape, Marites Agape,
Estebana Galolo and Celsa Agape, the oppositors in Special Proceedings No. 112 for the
probate of the will of Torcuato J. Reyes, assail in this petition for review the decision of the
Court of Appeals dated November 29, 1995, the dispositive portion of which reads:
[1]

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the judgment appealed from allowing or admitting the will of
Torcuato J. Reyes to probate and directing the issuance of Letter Testamentary in favor of petitioner Julio
A. Vivares as executor without bond is AFFIRMED but modified in that the declaration that paragraph II
of the Torcuato Reyes' last will and testament, including subparagraphs (a) and (b) are null and void for
being contrary to law is hereby SET ASIDE, said paragraphs (a) and (b) are declared VALID. Except as
above modified, the judgment appealed from is AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED." [2]

The antecedent facts:


On January 3, 1992, Torcuato J. Reyes executed his last will and testament declaring
therein in part, to wit:

xxx

II. I give and bequeath to my wife Asuncion Oning R. Reyes the following properties to wit:

a. All my shares of our personal properties consisting among others of jewelries, coins, antiques,
statues, tablewares, furnitures, fixtures and the building;

b. All my shares consisting of one half (1/2) or 50% of all the real estates I own in common with
my brother Jose, situated in Municipalities of Mambajao, Mahinog, Guinsiliban, Sagay all in
Camiguin; real estates in Lunao, Ginoong, Caamulan, Sugbongcogon, Boloc-Boloc,
Kinoguinatan, Balingoan, Sta. Ines, Caesta, Talisayan, all in the province of Misamis Oriental. [3]

1
The will consisted of two pages and was signed by Torcuato Reyes in the presence of three
witnesses: Antonio Veloso, Gloria Borromeo, and Soledad Gaputan. Private respondent Julio A.
Vivares was designated the executor and in his default or incapacity, his son Roch Alan S.
Vivares.
Reyes died on May 12, 1992 and on May 21, 1992, private respondent filed a petition for
probate of the will before the Regional Trial Court of Mambajao, Camiguin. The petitioner was
set for hearing and the order was published in the Mindanao Daily Post, a newspaper of general
circulation, once a week for three consecutive weeks. Notices were likewise sent to all the
persons named in the petition.
On July 21, 1992, the recognized natural children of Torcuato Reyes with Estebana Galolo,
namely Manuel, Mila, and Danilo all surnamed Reyes, and the deceaseds natural children with
Celsa Agape, namely Lyn and Marites Agape, filed an opposition with the following allegations:
a) that the last will and testament of Reyes was not executed and attested in accordance with
the formalities of law; and b) that Asuncion Reyes Ebarle exerted undue and improper influence
upon the testator at the time of the execution of the will. The opposition further averred that
Reyes was never married to and could never marry Asuncion Reyes, the woman he claimed to
be his wife in the will, because the latter was already married to Lupo Ebarle who was still then
alive and their marriage was never annulled. Thus Asuncion can not be a compulsory heir for
her open cohabitation with Reyes was violative of public morals.
On July 22, 1992, the trial court issued an ordering declaring that it had acquired jurisdiction
over the petition and, therefore, allowed the presentation of evidence. After the presentation of
evidence and submission of the respective memoranda, the trial court issued its decision on
April 23, 1993.
The trial court declared that the will was executed in accordance with the formalities
prescribed by law. It, however, ruled that Asuncion Reyes, based on the testimonies of the
witnesses, was never married to the deceased Reyes, and, therefore, their relationship was an
adulterous one. Thus:

The admission in the will by the testator to the illicit relationship between him and ASUNCION
REYES EBARLE who is somebody elses, wife, is further bolstered, strengthened, and confirmed
by the direct testimonies of the petitioner himself and his two attesting witnesses during the trial.

In both cases, the common denominator is the immoral meretrecious, adulterous and adulterous
and illicit relationship existing between the testator and the devisee prior to the death of the
testator, which constituted the sole and primary consideration for the devise or legacy, thus
making the will intrinsically invalid.
[4]

The will of Reyes was admitted to probate except for paragraph II (a) and (b) of the will
which was declared null and void for being contrary to law and morals. Hence, Julio Vivares
filed an appeal before the Court of Appeals with the allegation that the oppositors failed to
present any competent evidence that Asuncion Reyes was legally married to another person
during the period of her cohabitation with Torcuato Reyes.
On November 29, 1995, the Court of Appeals promulgated the assailed decision which
affirmed the trial courts decision admitting the will for probate but the modification that
paragraph II including subparagraphs (a) and (b) were declared valid. The appellee court stated:

2
Considering that the oppositors never showed any competent, documentary or otherwise during
the trial to show that Asuncion Oning Reyes marriage to the testator was inexistent or void, either
because of a pre-existing marriage or adulterous relationship, the trial court gravely erred in
striking down paragraph II (a) and (b) of the subject Last Will and Testament, as void for being
contrary to law and morals. Said declarations are not sufficient to destroy the presumption of
marriage. Nor is it enough to overcome the very declaration of the testator that Asuncion Reyes is
his wife.[5]

Dissatisfied with the decision of the Court of Appeals, the oppositors filed this petition for
review.
Petitioners contend that the findings and conclusion of the Court of Appeals was contrary to
law, public policy and evidence on record. Torcuato Reyes and Asuncion Oning Reyes were
collateral relatives up to the fourth civil degree. Witness Gloria Borromeo testified that Oning
Reyes was her cousin as her mother and the latters father were sister and brother. They were
also nieces of the late Torcuato Reyes. Thus, the purported marriage of the deceased Reyes
and Oning Reyes was void ab initio as it was against public policy pursuant to Article 38 (1) of
the Family Code. Petitioners further alleged that Oning Reyes was already married to Lupo
Ebarle at the time she was cohabiting with the testator hence, she could never contact any valid
marriage with the latter. Petitioners argued that the testimonies of the witnesses as well as the
personal declaration of the testator, himself, were sufficient to destroy the presumption of
marriage. To further support their contention, petitioners attached a copy of the marriage
certificate of Asuncion Reyes and Lupo Ebarle. [6]

The petition is devoid of merit.


As a general rule, courts in probate proceedings are limited to pass only upon the extrinsic
validity of the will sought to be probated. Thus, the court merely inquires on its due execution,
[7]

whether or not it complies with the formalities prescribed by law, and the testamentary capacity
of the testator. It does not determine nor even by implication prejudge the validity or efficacy of
the wills provisions. The intrinsic validity is not considered since the consideration thereof
[8]

usually comes only after the will has been proved and allowed. There are, however, notable
circumstances wherein the intrinsic validity was first determined as when the defect of the will is
apparent on its face and the probate of the will may become a useless ceremony if it is
intrinsically invalid. The intrinsic validity of a will may be passed upon because practical
[9]

considerations demanded it as when there is preterition of heirs or the testamentary provisions


are doubtful legality. Where the parties agree that the intrinsic validity be first determined, the
[10]

probate court may also do so. Parenthetically, the rule on probate is not inflexible and
[11]

absolute. Under exceptional circumstances, the probate court is not powerless to do what the
situation constrains it to do and pass upon certain provisions of the will. [12]

The case at bar arose from the institution of the petition for the probate of the will of the late
Torcuato Reyes. Perforce, the only issues to be settled in the said proceeding were: (1) whether
or not the testator had animus testandi; (2) whether or not vices of consent attended the
execution of the will; and (3) whether or not the formalities of the will had been complied
with. Thus, the lower court was not asked to rule upon the intrinsic validity or efficacy of the
provisions of the will. As a result, the declaration of the testator that Asuncion Oning Reyes was
his wife did not have to be scrutinized during the probate proceedings. The propriety of the
institution of Oning Reyes as one of the devisees/legatees already involved inquiry on the wills
intrinsic validity and which need not be inquired upon by the probate court.

3
The lower court erroneously invoked the ruling in Nepomuceno vs. Court of Appeals (139
SCRA 206) in the instant case. In the case aforesaid, the testator himself, acknowledged his
illicit relationship with the devisee, to wit:

Art. IV. That since 1952, I have been living, as man and wife, with one Sofia J. Nepomuceno,
whom I declare and avow to be entitled to my love an [sic] affection, for all the things which she
has done for me, now and in the past; that while Sofia J. Nepomuceno has with my full
knowledge and consent, did comfort and represent myself as her own husband, in truth and in
fact, as well as in the eyes of the law, I could not bind her to me in the holy bonds of matrimony
because of my aforementioned previous marriage.

Thus, the very tenor of the will invalidates the legacy because the testator admitted he was
disposing of the properties to a person with whom he had been living in concubinage. To [13]

remand the case would only be a waste of time and money since the illegality or defect was
already patent. This case is different from the Nepomuceno case. Testator Torcuato Reyes
merely stated in his will that he was bequeathing some of his personal and real properties to his
wife, Asuncion Oning Reyes. There was never an open admission of any illicit relationship.In the
case of Nepomuceno, the testator admitted that he was already previously married and that he
had an adulterous relationship with the devisee.
We agree with the Court of Appeals that the trial court relied on uncorroborated testimonial
evidence that Asuncion Reyes was still married to another during the time she cohabited with
the testator. The testimonies of the witnesses were merely hearsay and even uncertain as to the
whereabouts or existence of Lupo Ebarle, the supposed husband of Asuncion. Thus:

The foregoing testimony cannot go against the declaration of the testator that Asuncion Oning
Reyes is his wife. In Alvarado v. City Government of Tacloban (supra) the Supreme Court stated
that the declaration of the husband is competent evidence to show the fact of marriage.

Considering that the oppositors never showed any competent evidence, documentary or otherwise
during the trial to show that Asuncion Oning Reyes marriage to the testator was inexistent or
void, either because of a pre-existing marriage or adulterous relationship, the trial court gravely
erred in striking down paragraph II (a) and (b) of the subject Last Will and Testament, as void for
being contrary to law and morals. Said declarations are not sufficient to destroy the presumption
of marriage. Nor is it enough to overcome the very declaration of the testator that Asuncion
Reyes is his wife.
[14]

In the elegant language of Justice Moreland written decades ago, he said-

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. xxx All
doubts must be resolved in favor of the testators having meant just what he said. (Santos vs.
Manarang, 27 Phil. 209).

Petitioners tried to refute this conclusion of the Court of Appeals by presenting belatedly a
copy of the marriage certificate of Asuncion Reyes and Lupo Ebarle. Their failure to present the
said certificate before the probate court to support their position that Asuncion Reyes had an

4
existing marriage with Ebarle constituted a waiver and the same evidence can no longer be
entertained on appeal, much less in this petition for review. This Court would no try the case a
new or settle factual issues since its jurisdiction is confined to resolving questions of law which
have been passed upon by the lower courts. The settled rule is that the factual findings of the
appellate court will not be disturbed unless shown to be contrary to the evidence on the record,
which petitioners have not shown in this case. [15]

Considering the foregoing premises, we sustain the findings of the appellate court it
appearing that it did not commit a reversible error in issuing the challenged decision.
ACCORDINGLY, decision appealed from dated November 29, 1995, is hereby AFFIRMED
and the instant petition for review is DENIED for lack of merit.
SO ORDERED.

5
G.R. No. L-13386 October 27, 1920

SEGUNDA MARIA NIEVA with her husband ANGEL ALCALA, plaintiffs-appellants,


vs.
MANUELA ALCALA and JOSE DEOCAMPO, defendants-appellees.

Eduardo Gutierrez Repide for appellants.


Felipe Agoncillo for appellees.

JOHNSON, J.:

This is an appeal from a judgment of the Court of First Instance of the Province of Tayabas,
absolving the defendants from all liability under the plaintiff's complaint, without any finding as to
costs.

Juliana Nieva, the alleged natural mother of the plaintiff Segunda Maria Nieva, married Francisco
Deocampo. Of said marriage Alfeo Deocampo was born.

Julian Nieva died intestate on April 19, 1889, and her said son, Alfeo Deocampo, inherited from her,
ab intestate, the parcels of land described in Paragraphs V and X of the complaint.

Alfeo Deocampo died intestate and without issue on July 7, 1890. Thereupon the two parcels of land
above-mentioned passed to his father, Francisco Deocampo, by intestate succession. Thereafter
Francisco Deocampo married the herein defendant Manuela Alcala, of which marriage was born
Jose Deocampo, the other defendant herein.

Francisco Deocampo died on August 15, 1914, whereupon his widow and son, the defendants
herein, took possession of the parcels of land in question, under the claim that the said son, the
defendant Jose Deocampoo (a minor) had inherited the same, ab intestate, from his deceased
father.

On September 30, 1915, the plaintiff herein, claiming to be an acknowledged natural daughter of the
said Juliana Nieva, instituted the present action for the purposes of recovering from the defendants
the parcels of land in question, particularly described in Paragraphs V and X of the complaint,
invoking the provisions of article 811 of the Civil Code.

The lower court held that, even granting, without deciding, that the plaintiff was an acknowledged
natural daughter of Juliana Nieva, she was not entitled to the property here in question because, in
its opinion, an illegitimate relative has no right to the reserva troncal under the provisions of article
811 of the Civil Code.

The first question presented by this appeal is, whether or not the plaintiff is an acknowledged natural
daughter of the deceased Juliana Nieva. It appears from the record that the said Juliana Nieva, while
unmarried, gave birth to the plaintiff on March 29, 1882, and that the plaintiff was duly baptized as
her natural daughter, of unknown father (Exhibit C, baptismal certificate); that the said Juliana Nieva
nourished and reared her said child, the plaintiff herein; that the plaintiff lived with her said mother
until the latter was married to Francisco Deocampo; that the said mother treated the plaintiff, and

6
exhibited her publicly, as a legitimate daughter. (See testimony of Antero Gala, pp. 5-6; Prudencio
de la Cuesta, pp. 16-17; and Mamerto Palabrica, pp. 26-27, sten. notes.)

The foregoing facts, which are not controverted, are analogous to the facts in the case of Llorente
vs. Rodriguez (3 Phil., 697, 699). Under the decision of this court in that case we are of the opinion
and so decide, without rediscussing here the law and legal principles involved, that the plaintiff
Segunda Maria Nieva is an acknowledged natural daughter of Juliana Nieva. (See also In re estate
of Enriquez and Reyes, 29 Phil., 167.)

The other and more important question presented by this appeal is, whether or not
an illegitimate relative within the third degree is entitled to the reserva troncal provided for by article
811 of the Civil Code. That article reads as follows:

Any ascendant who inherits from his descendant any property acquired by the latter
gratuitously from some other ascendant, or from a brother or sister, is obliged to reserve
such of the property as he may have acquired by operation of law for the benefit of relatives
within the third degree belonging to the line from which such property came.

The property here in question was inherited, by operation by law, by Francisco Deocampo from his
son Alfeo Deocampo, who, in turn, had inherited it, in the same manner, from his mother Juliana
Nieva, the natural mother of the plaintiff. The plaintiff is the natural sister of Alfeo Deocampo, and
she belongs to the same line from which the property in question came. Was Francisco Deocampo
obliged by law to reserve said property for the benefit of the plaintiff, an illegitimate relative within the
third degree of Alfeo Deocampo? If he was, then, upon his death, the plaintiff, and not his son the
defendant Jose Deocampo, was entitled to the said property; if he was not, the plaintiff's action must
fail.
1awph!l.net

There can be no question whatever but that, under said article 811 of the Civil Code, the plaintiff
would be entitled to the property in question if she were a legitimate daughter of Julian Nieva.
(Edroso vs. Sablan, 25 Phil., 295.) But in said article 811 the legislator uses the generic terms
"ascendant," "descendant," and "relatives," without specifying whether or not they have to be
legitimate. Does the legislator, then, refer to legitimate as well as to illegitimate relatives? Counsel
for the appellant, in a lengthy and carefully prepared brief, attempts to maintain the affirmative.

This question, so far as our investigation shows, has not been decided before by any court or
tribunal. However, eminent commentators on the Spanish Civil Code, who have devoted their lives
to the study and solution of the intricate and difficult problems that may arise under the provisions of
that Code, have dealt with the very question now before us, and are unanimous in the opinion that
the provision of article 811 of the Civil Code apply only to legitimate relative. One of such
commentators, undoubtedly the best known of them all, is Manresa. We believe we can do no better
than to adopt his reasons and conclusions, in deciding the question before us. In determining the
persons who are obliged to reserve under article 811, he says:

Is every ascendant, whether legitimate or not, obliged to reserve? Should the natural father
or grandfather reserve the properties proceeding from the mother or other natural
ascendant? Article 811 does not distinguish; it speaks of the ascendant, without attaching
the qualification of legitimate, and, on the other hand, the same reason that exists for
applying the provision to the natural family exists for applying it to the legitimate family.
Nevertheless, the article in referring to the ascendant in an indeterminate manner shows that
it imposes the obligation to reserve only upon the legitimate ascendant.

7
Let us overlook for the moment the question whether the Code recognizes or does not
recognize the existence of the natural family, or whether it admits only the bond established
by acknowledgement between the father or mother who acknowledges and the
acknowledged children. However it may be, it may be stated as an indisputable truth, that in
said Code, the legitimate relationship forms the general rule and the natural relationship the
exception; which is the reason why, as may be easily seen, the law in many articles speaks
only of children or parents, of ascendants or descendants, and in them reference is of course
made of those who are legitimate; and when it desires to make a provision applicable only to
natural relationship, it does not say father or mother, but natural father or natural mother; it
does not say child, but natural child; it does not speak of ascendants, brothers or parents in
the abstract, but of natural ascendants, natural brothers or natural parents. (See, for
example, articles 294, 302, 809, 810, 846, 935, to 938, 944 and 945 and 946 to 955.)

Articles 809 and 810 themselves speak only of ascendants. Can it in any way be maintained
that they refer to legitimate as well as to natural ascendants? They evidently establish the
legitime of the legitimate ascendants included as forced heirs in number 2 of article 807. And
article 811, — and as we will see also article 812, — continues to treat of this same legitime.
The right of the natural parents and children in the testamentary succession in wholly
included in the eighth section and is limited to the parents, other ascendants of such class
being excluded in articles 807, No. 3, and 846. Therefore, the place which article 811
occupies in the Code of proof that it refers only to legitimate ascendants. And if there were
any doubt, it disappears upon considering the text of article 938, which states that the
provisions of article 811 applies to intestate succession, which is just established in favor of
the legitimate direct ascending line, the text of articles 939 to 945, which treat of intestate
succession of natural parents, as well as that of articles 840 to 847, treating of their
testamentary succession, which do not allude directly or indirectly to that provision.

Lastly, the principle which underlies the exception which article 811 creates in the right to
succeed neither admits of any other interpretation. Whether the provision is due to the desire
that the properties should not pass, by reason of new marriage, out of the family to which
they belonged, or is directly derived from the system of the so-called "reserva troncal," and
whether the idea of reservation or that of lineal rights (troncalidad) predominate the
patrimony which is intended to be preserved is that of the legitimate family. Only to legitimate
ascendants and descendants do article 968 et seq. of the Code refer, arising as they do from
the danger of second or subsequent marriage; only to legitimate parents do the special laws
of Navarra, Aragon, Vizcaya and Cataluña concede the right to succeed with respect to lineal
properties (bienes troncales); only to the legitimate ascendants does article 811 impose the
duty to reserve.

The convenience of amplifying the precept to natural parents and ascendants may be raised
just as the question whether it would be preferable to suppress it altogether may be raised;
but in the realm of the statute law there is no remedy but to admit that article 811, the
interpretation of which should on the other hand be strict was drafted by the legislator with
respect only to legitimate ascendants. (Manresa, Codigo Civil, vol. 6, 3d ed., pp. 249-250.)

The same jurist, in determining the persons in whose favor the reservation is established, says:

Persons in whose favor the reservation is established. — This is one of the most delicate
points in the interpretation of article 811. According to this article, the reservation is
established in favor of the parents who are within the third degree and belong to the line from
which the properties came.

8
It treats of blood, relationship, which is applicable to questions on succession, according to
articles 915 to 920. It could not be otherwise, because relationship by affinity is established
between each spouse and the family of the other, by marriage, and to admit it, would be to
favor the transmission of the properties of the family of one spouse to that of the other, which
is just what this article intends to prevent.

It also treats of legitimate relationship. The person obliged to reserve it a legitimate


ascendant who inherits from a descendant property which proceeds from the same
legitimate family, and this being true, there can be no question, because the line from which
the properties proceed must be the line of that family and only in favor of that line is the
reservation established. Furthermore, we have already said, the object is to protect the
patrimony of the legitimate family, following the precedents of the foral law. And it could not
be otherwise. Article 943 denies to legitimate parents the right to succeed the natural child
and viceversa, from which it must be deduced that natural parents neither have the right to
inhering from legitimate ones; the law in the article cited established a barrier between the
two families; properties of the legitimate family shall never pass by operation of law to the
natural family. (Ibid. pp. 251-252.)

Scævola, after a very extended discussion of this same subject, arrives at the same
conclusion as Manresa. "La reserva del articulo 811 es privilegio de la familia legitima. (The
reservation in article 811 is a privilege of the legitimate family.)" (See Scævola, Codigo Civil,
Vol. 14, pp. 211-224, 3401-305.)

Article 943, above referred to by Manresa, provides as follows:

A natural or legitimated child has no right to succeed ab intestate the legitimate children and
relatives of the father or mother who has acknowledged it; nor shall such children or relatives
so inherit from the natural or legitimated child.

To hold that the appellant is entitled to the property left by her natural brother, Alfeo Deocampo, by
operation of law, would be a fragrant violate of the express provision of the foregoing article (943).

For all of the foregoing reasons, the judgment of the lower court is hereby affirmed, without any
finding as to costs. So ordered.