[G.R. No. L-28032. September 24, 1986]
FRANCISCA TIOCO DE PAPA, MANUEL TIOCO, NICOLAS TIOCO and JANUARIO PAPA, plaintiffs-appellees, vs. DALISAY TONGKO CAMACHO, PRIMO TONGKO and GODOFREDO CAMACHO, defendants-appellants.
D E C I S I O N
This case which involves the application of Article 891 of the Civil Code on reserva troncal, was submitted for judgment in the lower court by all the parties on the following "Stipulation of Facts and Partial Compromise":
"1. They stipulate that the defendant Dalisay D. Tongko-Camacho and the plaintiffs, Francisca Tioco de Papa, Manuel Tioco and Nicolas Tioco, are legitimate relatives, plaintiffs being said defendant's grandaunt and granduncles.
2. They stipulate that plaintiffs and defendant Dalisay D. Tongko-Camacho have as a common ancestor the late Balbino Tioco (who had a sister by the name of Romana Tioco), father of plaintiffs and great grandfather of defendant. The family relationship of the parties is as shown in the chart attached hereto as Annex 'A' and made an integral part of this stipulation.
3. They stipulate that Romana Tioco during her lifetime gratuitously donated four (4) parcels of land to her niece Toribia Tioco (legitimate sister of plaintiffs), which parcels of land are presently covered by Transfer Certificates of Title Nos. A-64165, 64166 and 64167 of the Registry of Deeds of Manila, copies of which are attached to this stipulation as Annexes 'B', 'B-1', and 'B-2'.
4. They stipulate that Toribia Tioco died intestate in 1915, survived by her husband, Eustacio Dizon, and their two legitimate children, Faustino Dizon and Trinidad Dizon (mother of defendant Dalisay D. Tongko-Camacho) and leaving the afore-mentioned four (4) parcels of land as the inheritance of her said two children in equal pro-indiviso shares.
5. They stipulate that in 1928, Balbino Tioco died intestate, survived by his legitimate children by his wife Marciana Felix (among them plaintiffs) and legitimate grandchildren Faustino Dizon and Trinidad Dizon. In the partition of his estate, three (3) parcels of land now covered by Transfer Certificates of Title Nos. 16545 and 16554 of the Registry of Deeds of Manila, copies of which are attached hereto as Annexes 'C' and 'C-1', were adjudicated as the inheritance of the late Toribia Tioco, but as she had predeceased her father, Balbino Tioco, the said three (3) parcels of land devolved upon her two legitimate children Faustino Dizon and Trinidad Dizon in equal pro-indiviso shares.
6. They stipulate that in 1937, Faustino Dizon died intestate, single and without issue, leaving his one-half (1/2) pro-indiviso share in the seven (7) parcels of land above-mentioned to his father, Eustacio Dizon, as his sole intestate heir, who received the said property subject to a reserva troncal which was subsequently annotated on the Transfer Certificates of Title Annexes 'B', 'B-2', 'C' and 'C-1'.
7. They stipulate that in 1939 Trinidad Dizon-Tongko died intestate, and her rights and interests in the parcels of land above-mentioned were inherited by her only legitimate child, defendant Dalisay D. Tongko-Camacho, subject to the usufructuary right of her surviving husband, defendant Primo Tongko.
8. They stipulate that on June 14, 1965, Eustacio Dizon died intestate, survived his only legitimate descendant, defendant Dalisay D. Tongko-Camacho.
9. The parties agree that defendant Dalisay D. Tongko-Camacho now owns one-half (½) of all the seven (7) parcels of land above-mentioned as her inheritance from her mother, Trinidad Dizon-Tongko.
10. Defendant Dalisay D. Tongko-Camacho also claims, upon legal advice, the other half of the said seven (7) parcels of land above-mentioned by virtue of the reserva troncal imposed thereon upon the death of Faustino Dizon and under the laws on intestate succession; but the plaintiffs, also upon legal advice, oppose her said claim because they claim three-fourths (3/4) of the one-half pro-indiviso interest in said parcel of land, which interest was inherited by Eustacio Dizon from Faustino Dizon, or three-eights (3/8) of the said parcels of land, by virtue of their being also third degree relatives of Faustino Dizon.
11. The parties hereby agree to submit for judicial determination in this case the legal issue of whether defendant Dalisay D. Tongko-Camacho is entitled to the whole of the seven (7) parcels of land in question, or whether the plaintiffs, as third degree relatives of Faustino Dizon are reservatarios (together with said defendant) of the one-half pro-indiviso share therein which was inherited by Eustacio Dizon from his son Faustino Dizon, and entitled to three-fourths (3/4) of said one-half pro-indiviso share, or three eights (3/8) of said seven (7) parcels of land, and, therefore, to three-eights (3/8) of the rentals collected and to be collected by defendant Dalisay P. Tongko Camacho from the tenants of said parcels of land, minus the expenses and/or real estate taxes corresponding to plaintiffs' share in the rentals.
12. In view of the fact that the parties are close blood relatives and have acted upon legal advice in pursuing their respective claims, and in order to restore and preserve harmony in their family relations, they hereby waive all their claims against each other for damages (other than legal interest on plaintiffs' share in the rentals which this Honorable Court may deem proper to award), attorney's fees and expenses of litigation which shall be borne by the respective parties."
On the basis thereof, the lower Court declared the plaintiffs Francisco Tioco, Manuel Tioco and Nicolas Tioco, as well as the defendant Dalisay Tongko-Camacho, entitled, as reservatarios, to one-half of the seven parcels of land in dispute, in equal proportions, rendering judgment as follows:
"* * *. Resolving, therefore, the legal question submitted by the parties, the court holds that plaintiffs Francisca Tioco, Manuel Tioco and Nicolas Tioco are entitled to three-fourths (3/4) of one-half (1/2) pro-indiviso shares or three-eights (3/8) of the seven (7) parcels of land involved in this action. Consequently, they are, likewise, entitled to three-eights (3/8) of the rentals collected and to be collected by the defendant Dalisay D. Tioco Camacho from the tenants of the said parcels of land, minus the expenses and/or real estate taxes corresponding to plaintiffs' share in the rentals.
IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, and inasmuch as the parties expressly waived all their claims against each other for damages including attorney's fees and expenses of litigation other than the legal interests on plaintiffs' share in the rentals, the court renders judgment adjudging the plaintiffs entitled to three-eights (3/8) of the seven (7) parcels of land described in Transfer Certificate of Title Nos. T-64165, T-64166, T-64167, T-16546 and T-16554 of the Registry of Deeds of Manila. The defendant Dalisay D. Tioco-Camacho is hereby ordered to make an accounting of all rents received by her on the properties involved in this action for the purpose of determining the legal interests which should be paid to the plaintiffs on their shares in the rentals of the property in question.
Not satisfied, the defendant appealed to this Court.
The issue raised is whether, as contended by the plaintiffs-appellees and ruled by the lower Court, all relatives of the praepositus within the third degree in the appropriate line succeed without distinction to the reservable property upon the death of the reservista, as seems to be implicit in Art. 891 of the Civil Code, which reads:
"Art. 891. The ascendant who inherits from his descendant any property which the latter may have acquired by gratuitous title from another ascendant, or a brother or sister, is obliged to reserve such property as he may have acquired by operation of law for the benefit of relatives who are within the third degree and who belong to the line from which said property came. (811)",
That question has already been answered in Padura vs. Baldovino, where the reservatario was survived by eleven nephews and nieces of the praepositus in the line of origin, four of whole blood and seven of half blood, and the claim was also made that all eleven were entitled to the reversionary property in equal shares. This Court, speaking through Mr. Justice J.B.L. Reyes, declared the principles of intestacy to be controlling, and ruled that the nephews and nieces of whole blood were each entitled to a share double that of each of the nephews and nieces of half blood in accordance with Article 1006 of the Civil Code. Said the Court:
"The issue in this appeal may be formulated as follows: In a case of reserva troncal, where the only reservatarios (reservees) surviving the reservista, and belonging to the line of origin, are nephews of the descendant (prepositus), but some are nephews of the half blood and the others are nephews of the whole blood, should the reserved properties be apportioned among then equally, or should the nephews of the whole blood take a share twice as large as that of the nephews of the half blood?
"* * *.
The case is one of first impression and has divided the Spanish commentators on the subject. After mature reflection, we have concluded that the position of the appellants is correct. The reserva troncal is a special rule designed primarily to assure the return of the reservable property to the third degree relatives belonging to the line from which the property originally came, and avoid its being dissipated into and by the relatives of the inheriting ascendant (reservista).
"* * *.
The stated purpose of the reserva is accomplished once the property has devolved to the specified relatives of the line of origin. But from this time on, there is no further occasion for its application. In the relations between one reservatario and another of the same degree there is no call for applying Art. 891 any longer; wherefore, the respective share of each in the reversionary property should be governed by the ordinary rules of intestate succession. In this spirit the jurisprudence of this Court and that of Spain has resolved that upon the death of the ascendant reservista, the reservable property should pass, not to all the reservatarios as a class but only to those nearest in degree to the descendant (prepositus) excluding those reservatarios of more remote degree (Florentino vs. Florentino, 40 Phil. 489-490; T.S. 8 Nov. 1894; Dir. Gen. de los Registros, Resol. 20 March 1905). And within the third degree of relationship from the descendant (prepositus), the right of representation operates in favor of nephews (Florentino vs. Florentino, supra).
"Following the order prescribed by law in legitimate succession, when there are relatives of the descendant within the third degree, the right of the nearest relative, called reservatario, over the property which the reservista (person holding it subject to reservation) should return to him, excludes that of the one more remote. The right of representation cannot be alleged when the one claiming same as a reservatario of the reservable property is not among the relatives within the third degree belonging to the line from which such property came, inasmuch as the right granted by the Civil Code in Article 811 is in the highest degree personal and for the exclusive benefit of designated persons who are within the third degree of the person from whom the reservable property came. Therefore, relatives of the fourth and the succeeding degrees can never be considered as reservatarios, since the law does not recognize them as such.
"In spite of what has been said relative to the right of representation on the part of one alleging his right as reservatario who is not within the third degree of relationship, nevertheless there is right of representation on the part of reservatarios who are within the third degree mentioned by law, as in the case of nephews of the deceased person from whom the reservable property came. * * *." (Florentino vs. Florentino, 40 Phil. 480, 489-490) (Emphasis supplied) (See also Nieva and Alcala vs. Alcala and de Ocampo, 41 Phil. 915)
Proximity of degree and right of representation are basic principles of ordinary intestate succession; so is the rule that whole blood brothers and nephews are entitled to a share double that of brothers and nephews of half blood. If in determining the rights of the reservatarios inter se, proximity of degree and the right of representation of nephews are made to apply, the rule of double share for immediate collaterals of the whole blood should be likewise operative.
In other words, the reserva troncal merely determines the group of relatives (reservatarios) to whom the property should be returned; but within that group, the individual right to the property should be decided by the applicable rules of ordinary intestate succession, since Art. 891 does not specify otherwise. This conclusion is strengthened by the circumstance that the reserva being an exceptional case, its application should be limited to what is strictly needed to accomplish the purpose of the law. As expressed by Manresa in his Commentaries (Vol. 6, 6th Ed., p. 250):
"* * * creandose un verdadero estado excepcional del derecho, no debe ampliarse, sino mas bien restringirse, el alcance del precepto, manteniendo la excepcion mientras fuere necesaria y estuviese realmente contenida en la disposicion, y aplicando las reglas generales y fundamentales del Codigo en materia de sucesion, en aquellos extremos no resueltos de un modo expreso, y que quedan fuera de la propia esfera de accion de la reserva que se crea."
The restrictive interpretation is the more imperative in view of the new Civil Code's hostility to successional reservas and reversions, as exemplified by the suppression of the reserva viudal and the reversion legal of the Code of 1889 (Art. 812 and 968-980)."
Reversion of the reservable property being governed by the rules on intestate succession, the plaintiffs-appellees must be held without any right thereto because, as aunt and uncles, respectively, of Faustino Dizon (the praepositus), they are excluded from the succession by his niece, the defendant-appellant, although they are related to him within the same degree as the latter. To this effect is Abellana vs. Ferraris where Arts. 1001, 1004, 1005 and 1009 of the Civil Code were cited and applied:
"Nevertheless, the trial court was correct when it held that, in case of intestacy, nephews and nieces of the de cujus exclude all other collaterals (aunts and uncles, first cousins, etc.) from the succession. This is readily apparent from articles 1001, 1004, 1005, and 1009 of the Civil Code of the Philippines, that provide as follows:
"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 half."
"Art. 1004. Should the only survivors be brothers and sisters of the full blood, they shall inherit in equal shares."
"Art. 1005. Should brothers and sisters survive together with nephews and nieces who are the children of the decedent's brothers and sisters of the full blood, the former shall inherit per capita, and the latter per stirpes."
"Art. 1009. Should there be neither brothers nor sisters, nor children of brothers or sisters, the other collateral relatives shall succeed to the estate."
Under the last article (1009), the absence of brothers, sisters, nephews and nieces of the decedent is a precondition to the other collaterals (uncles, cousins, etc.) being called to the succession. This was also and more clearly the case under the Spanish Civil Code of 1889, that immediately preceded the Civil Code now in force (R.A. 386). Thus, Articles 952 and 954 of the Code of 1889 prescribed as follows:
"Art. 952. In the absence of brothers or sisters and of nephews or nieces, children of the former, whether of the whole blood or not, the surviving spouse, if not separated by a final decree of divorce shall succeed to the entire estate of the deceased."
"Art. 954. Should there be neither brothers nor sisters, nor children of brothers or sisters, nor a surviving spouse, the other collateral relatives shall succeed to the estate of deceased.
The latter shall succeed without distinction of lines or preference among than by reason of the whole blood."
It will be seen that under the preceding articles, brothers and sisters and nephews and nieces inherited ab intestato ahead of the surviving spouse, while other collaterals succeeded only after the widower or widow. The present Civil Code of the Philippines merely placed the spouse on a par with the nephews and nieces and brothers and sisters of the deceased, but without altering the preferred position of the latter vis a vis the other collaterals."
"* * *.
We, therefore, hold, and so rule, that under our laws of succession, a decedent's uncles and aunts may not succeed ab intestato so long as nephews and nieces of the decedent survive and are willing and qualified to succeed. * * *"
This conclusion is fortified by the observation, also made in Padura, supra, that as to the reservable property, the reservatarios do not inherit from the reservista, but from the descendant praepositus:
"* * *. It is likewise clear that the reservable property is no part of the estate of the reservista, who may not dispose of it by will, as long as there are reservatarios existing (Arroyo vs. Gerona, 58 Phil. 237). The latter, therefore, do not inherit from the reservista, but from the descendant prepositus, of whom the reservatarios are the heirs mortis causa, subject to the condition that they must survive the reservista. (Sanchez Roman, Vol. VI, Tomo 2, p. 286; Manresa, Commentaries, Vol. 6, 6th Ed., pp. 274, 310) * * *."
To the same effect is Cano vs. Director of Lands, where it was ruled that intestacy proceedings to determine the right of a reservatario are not necessary where the final decree of the land court ordering issuance of title in the name of the reservista over property subject to reserva troncal identifies the reservatario and there are no other claimants to the latter's rights as such:
"The contention that an intestacy proceeding is still necessary rests upon the assumption that the reservatario will succeed in, or inherit, the reservable property from the reservista. This is not true. The reservatario is not the reservista's successor mortis causa nor is the reservable property part of the reservista's estate; the reservatario receives the property as a conditional heir of the descendant (prepositus), said property merely reverting to the line of origin from which it had temporarily and accidentally strayed during the reservista's lifetime. The authorities are all agreed that there being reservatarios that survive the reservista, the matter must be deemed to have enjoyed no more than a life interest in the reservable property.
It is a consequence of these principles that upon the death of the reservista, the reservatario nearest to the prepositus (the appellee in this case) becomes, automatically and by operation of law, the owner of the reservable property. As already stated, that property is no part of the estate of the reservista, and does not even answer for the debts of the latter. * * *."
Had the reversionary property passed directly from the praepositus, there is no doubt that the plaintiffs-appellees would have been excluded by the defendant-appellant under the rules of intestate succession. There is no reason why a different result should obtain simply because "the transmission of the property was delayed by the interregnum of the reserva"; i.e., the property took a "detour" through an ascendant -- thereby giving rise to the reservation -- before its transmission to the reservatario.
Upon the stipulated facts, and by virtue of the rulings already cited, the defendant-appellant Dalisay Tongko-Camacho is entitled to the entirety of the reversionary property to the exclusion of the plaintiffs-appellees.
WHEREFORE, the appealed judgment of the lower Court is reversed and set aside and the complaint is dismissed, with costs against the plaintiffs-appellants.
Melencio-Herrera, Cruz, Paras, and Feliciano, JJ., concur.
Yap, J., (Chairman), no part.
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REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, represented by the DIRECTOR OF LANDS,
- versus -
REGISTER OF DEEDS OF ROXAS CITY, ELIZABETH LEE, and PACITA YU-LEE,
G.R. No. 158230
PUNO, C.J., Chairperson,
LEONARDO-DE CASTRO, JJ.
July 16, 2008
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D E C I S I O N
This is a petition for review of the Decision dated 12 July 2002 and the Resolution dated 9 May 2003 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 53890.
In March 1936, Lee Liong, a Chinese citizen, bought Lot No. 398 from Vicenta Arcenas, Francisco, Carmen Ramon, Mercedes, Concepcion, Mariano, Jose, and Manuel, all surnamed Dinglasan. Lot No. 398, with an area of 1,574 square meters, is located at the corner of Roxas Avenue and Pavia Street in Roxas City. In February 1944, Lee Liong died intestate and was survived by his widow Ang Chia, and his sons Lee Bing Hoo and Lee Bun Ting. On 30 June 1947, the surviving heirs of Lee Liong extrajudicially settled the estate of the deceased and partitioned among themselves Lot No. 398. When Lee Bing Hoo and Lee Bun Ting died, Lot No. 398 was transferred by succession to their respective wives, Elizabeth Lee (Elizabeth) and Pacita Yu-Lee (Pacita).
In the 1956 case of Dinglasan v. Lee Bun Ting, involving Lot No. 398, the Court held that even if the sale of the property was null and void for violating the constitutional prohibition on the sale of land to an alien, still the doctrine of in pari delicto barred the sellers from recovering the title to the property. Eleven years later, in the case of Lee Bun Ting v. Judge Aligaen, the Court ordered the trial court to dismiss the complaint of the Dinglasans for the recovery of Lot No. 398. Applying the doctrine of res judicata, the Court held that the case was a mere relitigation of the same issues previously adjudged with finality in the Dinglasan case, involving the same parties or their privies and concerning the same subject matter.
On 7 September 1993, Elizabeth and Pacita (private respondents) filed a petition for reconstitution of title of Lot No. 398 because the records of the Register of Deeds, Roxas City were burned during the war. On 3 October 2001, the Court held that the trial court’s order of reconstitution was void for lack of factual support because it was based merely on the plan and technical description approved by the Land Registration Authority.
Meanwhile, on 26 January 1995, petitioner Republic of the Philippines (petitioner), through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), filed with the Regional Trial Court of Roxas City a Complaint for Reversion of Title against private respondents and the Register of Deeds of Roxas City, praying that (1) the sale of Lot No. 398 to Lee Liong be set aside for being null and void ab initio; and (2) Lot No. 398 be reverted to the public domain for the State’s disposal in accordance with law.
In their Answer, private respondents invoked as affirmative defenses: (1) prescription; (2) private ownership of Lot No. 398; and (3) Lee Liong’s being a buyer in good faith and for value. Furthermore, private respondents claimed that as Filipino citizens, they are qualified to acquire Lot No. 398 by succession.
The Register of Deeds of Roxas City did not file an answer.
On 7 May 1996, the trial court rendered a decision ordering the reversion of Lot No. 398 to the State.
On appeal, the Court of Appeals rendered its Decision dated 12 July 2002, reversing the trial court’s decision and declaring private respondents as the absolute and lawful owners of Lot No. 398. Petitioner moved for reconsideration, which the Court of Appeals denied in its Resolution dated 9 May 2003.
Hence, this petition for review.
The Ruling of the Trial Court
The trial court ordered the reversion of Lot No. 398 to the State. The trial court held that private respondents could not have acquired a valid title over Lot No. 398 because the sale of the lot to their predecessor-in-interest Lee Liong was null and void. Being an innocent purchaser in good faith and for value did not cure Lee Liong’s disqualification as an alien who is prohibited from acquiring land under the Constitution. The trial court further held that prescription cannot be invoked against the State as regards an action for reversion or reconveyance of land to the State.
The Ruling of the Court of Appeals
The Court of Appeals agreed with the trial court that the State is not barred by prescription. However, the Court of Appeals held that the trial court erred in ordering the reversion of Lot No. 398 to the State. Although the sale of Lot No. 398 to Lee Liong violated the constitutional prohibition on aliens acquiring land, the Court of Appeals noted that Lot No. 398 had already been acquired by private respondents through succession. The transfer of Lot No. 398 to private respondents, who are Filipino citizens qualified to acquire lands, can no longer be impugned on the basis of the invalidity of the initial transfer. The flaw in the original transaction is considered cured and the title of the transferee is deemed valid considering that the objective of the constitutional proscription against alien ownership of lands, that is to keep our lands in Filipino hands, has been achieved.
Petitioner raises the lone issue that:
THE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED WHEN IT REVERSED AND SET ASIDE THE APPEALED DECISION AND DECLARED PRIVATE RESPONDENTS THE ABSOLUTE AND LAWFUL OWNERS AND POSSESSORS OF LOT NO. 398 OF ROXAS CITY CADASTRE CONSIDERING THAT LEE LIONG, WHO IS AN ALIEN, AND THUS, CONSTITUTIONALLY PROHIBITED TO OWN REAL PROPERTY IN THE PHILIPPINES, ACQUIRED NO RIGHT OR TITLE OVER SUBJECT LOT WHICH HE COULD HAVE TRANSMITTED BY SUCCESSION TO PRIVATE RESPONDENTS’ PREDECESSORS-IN-INTEREST.
The Ruling of the Court
The petition is without merit.
Petitioner argues that since the sale of Lot No. 398 to Lee Liong was void, Lot No. 398 never became part of the deceased Lee Liong’s estate. Hence, Lot No. 398 could not be transmitted by succession to Lee Liong’s surviving heirs and eventually to private respondents.
We do not subscribe to petitioner’s position. The circumstances of this case are similar to the case of De Castro v. Teng Queen Tan, wherein a residential lot was sold to a Chinese citizen. Upon the death of the alien vendee, his heirs entered into an extrajudicial settlement of the estate of the deceased and the subject land was transferred to a son who was a naturalized Filipino. Subsequently, the vendor of the lot filed a suit for annulment of sale for alleged violation of the Constitution prohibiting the sale of land to aliens. Independently of the doctrine of in pari delicto, the Court sustained the sale, holding that while the vendee was an alien at the time of the sale, the land has since become the property of a naturalized Filipino citizen who is constitutionally qualified to own land.
Similarly, in this case, upon the death of the original vendee who was a Chinese citizen, his widow and two sons extrajudicially settled his estate, including Lot No. 398. When the two sons died, Lot No. 398 was transferred by succession to their respective spouses, herein private respondents who are Filipino citizens.
We now discuss whether reversion proceedings is still viable considering that Lot No. 398 has already been transfered to Filipino citizens. In the reconstitution case of Lee v. Republic of the Philippines involving Lot No. 398, this Court explained that the OSG may initiate an action for reversion or escheat of lands which were sold to aliens disqualified from acquiring lands under the Constitution. However, in the case of Lot No. 398, the fact that it was already transferred to Filipinos militates against escheat proceedings, thus:
Although ownership of the land cannot revert to the original sellers, because of the doctrine of pari delicto, the Solicitor General may initiate an action for reversion or escheat of the land to the State, subject to other defenses, as hereafter set forth.
In this case, subsequent circumstances militate against escheat proceedings because the land is now in the hands of Filipinos. The original vendee, Lee Liong, has since died and the land has been inherited by his heirs and subsequently their heirs, petitioners herein [Elizabeth Lee and Pacita Yu Lee]. Petitioners are Filipino citizens, a fact the Solicitor General does not dispute.
The constitutional proscription on alien ownership of lands of the public or private domain was intended to protect lands from falling in the hands of non-Filipinos. In this case, however, there would be no more public policy violated since the land is in the hands of Filipinos qualified to acquire and own such land. “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.” Thus, the subsequent transfer of the property to qualified Filipinos may no longer be impugned on the basis of invalidity of the initial transfer. The objective of the constitutional provision to keep our lands in Filipino hands has been achieved. (Emphasis supplied)
In this case, the reversion proceedings was initiated only after almost 40 years from the promulgation of the case of Dinglasan v. Lee Bun Ting, where the Court held that the sale of Lot No. 398 was null and void for violating the constitutional prohibition on the sale of land to an alien. If petitioner had commenced reversion proceedings when Lot No. 398 was still in the hands of the original vendee who was an alien disqualified to hold title thereto, then reversion of the land to the State would undoubtedly be allowed. However, this is not the case here. When petitioner instituted the action for reversion of title in 1995, Lot No. 398 had already been transferred by succession to private respondents who are Filipino citizens.
Thus, the Court has ruled consistently that where a Filipino citizen sells land to an alien who later sells the land to a Filipino, the invalidity of the first transfer is corrected by the subsequent sale to a citizen. Similarly, where the alien who buys the land subsequently acquires Philippine citizenship, the sale was validated since the purpose of the constitutional ban to limit land ownership to Filipinos has been achieved. In short, the law disregards the constitutional disqualification of the buyer to hold land if the land is subsequently transferred to a qualified party, or the buyer himself becomes a qualified party. (Emphasis supplied)
Clearly, since Lot No. 398 has already been transferred to private respondents who are Filipino citizens, the prior invalid sale to Lee Liong can no longer be assailed. Hence, reversion proceedings will no longer prosper since the land is now in the hands of Filipino citizens.
WHEREFORE, we DENY the petition. We AFFIRM the Decision dated 12 July 2002 and the Resolution dated 9 May 2003 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 53890.
BENIGNO MANUEL, LIBERATO MANUEL, LORENZO MANUEL, PLACIDA MANUEL, MADRONA MANUEL, ESPERANZA MANUEL, AGAPITA MANUEL, BASILISA MANUEL, EMILIA MANUEL and NUMERIANA MANUEL, petitioners, vs. HON. NICODEMO T. FERRER, Presiding Judge, Regional Trial Court, Branch 37, Lingayen, Pangasinan, MODESTA BALTAZAR and ESTANISLAOA MANUEL, respondents. THIRD DIVISION[G.R. NO. 117246. August 21, 1995]
D E C I S I O N
The property involved in this petition for review on certiorari is the inheritance left by an illegitimate child who died intestate without any surviving descendant or ascendant.
Petitioners, the legitimate children of spouses Antonio Manuel and Beatriz Guiling, initiated this suit. During his marriage with Beatriz, Antonio had an extra-marital affair with one Ursula Bautista. From this relationship, Juan Manuel was born. Several years passed before Antonio Manuel, his wife Beatriz, and his mistress Ursula finally crossed the bar on, respectively, 06 August 1960, 05 February 1981, and 04 November 1976.
Juan Manuel, the illegitimate son of Antonio, married Esperanza Gamba. In consideration of the marriage, a donation propter nuptias over a parcel of land, with an area of 2,700 square meters, covered by Original Certificate of Title ("OCT") No. P-20594 was executed in favor of Juan Manuel by Laurenciana Manuel. Two other parcels of land, covered by OCT P-19902 and Transfer Certificate of Title ("TCT") No. 41134, were later bought by Juan and registered in his name. The couple were not blessed with a child of their own. Their desire to have one impelled the spouses to take private respondent Modesta Manuel-Baltazar into their fold and so raised her as their own "daughter."
On 03 June 1980, Juan Manuel executed in favor of Estanislaoa Manuel a Deed of Sale Con Pacto de Retro (with a 10-year period of redemption) over a one-half (1/2) portion of his land covered by TCT No. 41134. Juan Manuel died intestate on 21 February 1990. Two years later, or on 04 February 1992, Esperanza Gamba also passed away.
On 05 March 1992, a month after the death of Esperanza, Modesta executed an Affidavit of Self-Adjudication claiming for herself the three parcels of land covered by OCT P-20594, OCT P-19902 and TCT No. 41134 (all still in the name of Juan Manuel). Following the registration of the document of adjudication with the Office of the Register of Deeds, the three titles (OCT P-20594, OCT P-19902 and TCT No. 41134) in the name of Juan Manuel were canceled and new titles, TCT No. 184223, TCT No. 184224 and TCT No. 184225, were issued in the name of Modesta Manuel-Baltazar. On 19 October 1992, Modesta executed in favor of her co-respondent Estanislaoa Manuel a Deed of Renunciation and Quitclaim over the unredeemed one-half (1/2) portion of the land (now covered by TCT No. 184225) that was sold to the latter by Juan Manuel under the 1980 Deed of Sale Con Pacto de Retro. These acts of Modesta apparently did not sit well with petitioners. In a complaint filed before the Regional Trial Court of Lingayen, Pangasinan, the petitioners sought the declaration of nullity of the aforesaid instruments.
The case, there being no material dispute on the facts, was submitted to the court a quo for summary judgment.
The trial court, in its now assailed 15th August 1994 decision, dismissed the complaint holding that petitioners, not being heirs ab intestato of their illegitimate brother Juan Manuel, were not the real parties-in-interest to institute the suit. Petitioners were also ordered to jointly and severally (solidarily) pay (a) respondent Modesta Manuel-Baltazar the sum of P5,000.00 for moral damages, P5,000.00 for exemplary damages, P5,000.00 for attorney's fees and P500.00 for litigation expenses and (b) Estanislaoa Manuel the sum of P5,000.00 for moral damages, P5,000.00 for exemplary damages and P500.00 for attorney's fees.
Petitioners' motion for reconsideration was denied by the trial court.
The petition before us raises the following contentions: That -
"1. THE LOWER COURT (HAS) FAILED TO CONSIDER THE LAST PARAGRAPH OF ARTICLE 994 OF THE NEW CIVIL CODE, AS THE CONTROLLING LAW APPLICABLE BY VIRTUE OF THE ADMITTED FACTS, AND NOT ARTICLE 992 OF THE SAME CODE.
“2 THE LOWER COURT, IN NOT ANNULLING ALL THE ACTS OF, AND VOIDING ALL DOCUMENTS EXECUTED BY, RESPONDENT MODESTA BALTAZAR, WHO ARROGATED UNTO HERSELF THE RIGHTS OF AN HEIR TO THE ESTATE OF DECEDENT JUAN MANUEL, (HAS) VIRTUALLY GRANTED SAID RESPONDENT THE STATUS OF AN HEIR MANIFESTLY CONTRARY TO LAW, MORALS AND PUBLIC POLICY.
“3. TO ENFORCE ONE'S RIGHT WHEN THEY ARE VIOLATED IS NEVER A LEGAL WRONG."
Petitioners argue that they are the legal heirs over one-half of Juan's intestate estate (while the other half would pertain to Juan's surviving spouse) under the provision of the last paragraph of Article 994 of the Civil Code, providing thusly:
"Art. 994. In default of the father or mother, an illegitimate child shall be succeeded by his or her surviving spouse, who shall be entitled to the entire estate.
"If the widow or widower should survive with brothers and sisters, nephews and nieces, she or he shall inherit one-half of the estate, and the latter the other half." (Underscoring supplied.)
Respondents, in turn, submit that Article 994 should be read in conjunction with Article 992 of the Civil Code, which reads:
"Art. 992. An illegitimate child has no right to inherit ab intestato from the legitimate children and relatives of his father or mother; nor shall such children or relative inherit in the same manner from the illegitimate child." (Underscoring supplied.)
Article 992, a basic postulate, enunciates what is so commonly referred to in the rules on succession as the "principle of absolute separation between the legitimate family and the illegitimate family." The doctrine rejects succession ab intestato in the collateral line between legitimate relatives, on the one hand, and illegitimate relatives, on other hand, although it does not totally disavow such succession in the direct line. Since the rule is predicated on the presumed will of the decedent, it has no application, however, on testamentary dispositions.
This "barrier" between the members of the legitimate and illegitimate family in intestacy is explained by a noted civilist. His thesis:
"What is meant by the law when it speaks of brothers and sisters, nephews and nieces, as legal or intestate heirs of an illegitimate child? It must be noted that under Art. 992 of the Code, there is a barrier dividing members of the illegitimate family from members of the legitimate family. It is clear that by virtue of this barrier, the legitimate brothers and sisters as well as the children, whether legitimate or illegitimate, of such brothers and sisters, cannot inherit from the illegitimate child. Consequently, when the law speaks of 'brothers and sisters, nephews and nieces' as legal heirs of an illegitimate child, it refers to illegitimate brothers and sisters as well as to the children, whether legitimate or illegitimate, of such brothers and sisters." (Emphasis supplied)
The Court, too, has had occasions to explain this "iron curtain," firstly, in the early case of Grey v. Fabie and, then, in the relatively recent cases of Diaz v. Intermediate Appellate Court and De la Puerta v. Court of Appeals. In Diaz, we have said:
"Article 992 of the New Civil Code x x x prohibits absolutely a succession ab intestato between the illegitimate child and the legitimate children and relatives of the father or mother of said legitimate child. They may have a natural tie of blood, but this is not recognized by law for the purposes of Article 992. Between the legitimate family and the illegitimate family there is presumed to be an intervening antagonism and incompatibility. The illegitimate child is disgracefully looked down upon by the legitimate family; the legitimate family is, in turn, hated by the illegitimate child; the latter considers the privileged condition of the former, and the resources of which it is thereby deprived; the former, in turn, sees in the illegitimate child nothing but the product of sin, palpable evidence of a blemish broken in life; the law does no more than recognize this truth, by avoiding further grounds of resentment."
The rule in Article 992 has consistently been applied by the Court in several other cases. Thus, it has ruled that where the illegitimate child had half-brothers who were legitimate, the latter had no right to the former's inheritance; that the legitimate collateral relatives of the mother cannot succeed from her illegitimate child; that a natural child cannot represent his natural father in the succession to the estate of the legitimate grandparent; that the natural daughter cannot succeed to the estate of her deceased uncle who is a legitimate brother of her natural father; and that an illegitimate child has no right to inherit ab intestato from the legitimate children and relatives of his father. Indeed, the law on succession is animated by a uniform general intent, and thus no part should be rendered inoperative by, but must always be construed in relation to, any other part as to produce a harmonious whole.
In passing, we might, in easy graphic presentation, collate the order of preference and concurrence in intestacy expressed in Article 978 through Article 1014, inclusive, of the Civil Code; viz:
Order of Preference
Order of Concurrence
Legitimate Children and Descendants
Legitimate Children and Descendants, Illegitimate Children and Descendants, and Surviving Spouse
Legitimate Parents and Ascendants
Legitimate Parents and Ascendants, Illegitimate Children and Descendants, and Surviving Spouse
Illegitimate Children and Descendants (in the absence of ICDs and LPAs, the Illegitimate Parents)
Illegitimate Children and Descendants and Surviving Spouse
Surviving Spouse and Illegitimate Parents
Brothers and Sisters/Nephews and Nieces
Brothers and Sisters/Nephews and Nieces and Surviving Spouse
Other Collateral Relatives (within the fifth civil degree)
In her answer to the complaint, Modesta candidly admitted that she herself is not an intestate heir of Juan Manuel. She is right. A ward (ampon), without the benefit of formal (judicial) adoption, is neither a compulsory nor a legal heir.
We must hold, nevertheless, that the complaint of petitioners seeking the nullity of the Affidavit of Self-Adjudication executed by Modesta, the three (3) TCT's issued to her favor, as well as the Deed of Renunciation and Quitclaim in favor of Estanislaoa Manuel, was properly dismissed by the trial court. Petitioners, not being the real "parties-in-interest” in the case, had neither the standing nor the cause of action to initiate the complaint.
The Court, however, sees no sufficient reason to sustain the award of amounts for moral and exemplary damages, attorney's fees and litigation expenses. An adverse result of a suit in law does not mean that its advocacy is necessarily so wrongful as to justify an assessment of damages against the actor.
WHEREFORE, the appealed decision of the Regional Trial Court of Pangasinan (Branch 37) is AFFIRMED, except insofar as it has awarded moral and exemplary damages, as well as attorney's fees and litigation expenses, in favor of private respondents, which portion is hereby DELETED. No special pronouncement on costs.
Feliciano, Acting Chief Justice, (Chairman), Romero, and Melo, JJ., concur.
Rollo, pp. 7-8.
Desiderio Jurado, Comments and Jurisprudence on Succession, 8th ed., 1991, pp. 423-424.
40 O.G. (First S) No. 3, p. 196 citing 7 Manresa 110.
150 SCRA 645.
181 SCRA 861.
Corpus v. Corpus, 85 SCRA 567.
Cacho v. Udan, 13 SCRA 693.
Llorente v. Rodriguez, 10 Phil. 585; Allarde v. Abaya, 57 Phil. 909.
Anuran v. Aquino and Ortiz, 38 Phil. 29.
Leonardo v. Court of Appeals, 120 SCRA 890.
Javellana v. Tayo, 6 SCRA 1042.
Sotto v. Sotto, 43 Phil. 688; Araneta v. Concepcion, 99 Phil. 709.
Lim vs. Intermediate Appellate Court, G.R. No. 69679, 18 October 1988.
A real-party-in-interest plaintiff is one who has a legal right while a real-party-in-interest defendant is one who has a correlative obligations whose acts or omission violates the legal right of the former (Gan Hock v. Court of Appeals, 197 SCRA 223 ). Necessarily, a party in interest in a civil case is the party who stands to be benefited or injured by the judgment of the suit or the party entitled to avail of the suit. (Salonga v. Warner, Barnes & Co., Ltd., 88 Phil 125; Lanzar v. Guerrero, 29 SCRA 107).
Rubio v. Court of Appeals, 141 SCRA 488; Tiu v. Court of Appeals, 228 SCRA 51.
Supreme Court E-Library SearchSECOND DIVISION
[G.R. No. 66574. June 17, 1987]
ANSELMA DIAZ, guardian of VICTOR, RODRIGO, ANSELMINA and MIGUEL, all surnamed SANTERO, petitioners, and FELIXBERTA PACURSA, guardian of FEDERICO SANTERO, et al., vs. INTERMEDIATE APPELLATE COURT and FELISA PAMUTI JARDIN, respondents.
D E C I S I O N
Private respondent filed a Petition dated January 23, 1976 with the Court of First Instance of Cavite in Sp. Proc. Case No. B-21, "In The Matter of the Intestate Estate of the late Simona Pamuti Vda. de Santero", praying among other things, that the corresponding letters of Administration be issued in her favor and that she be appointed as special administratrix of the properties of the deceased Simona Pamuti Vda. de Santero.
It is undisputed: 1) that Felisa Pamuti Jardin is a niece of Simona Pamuti Vda. de Santero who together with Felisa's mother Juliana were the only legitimate children of the spouses Felipe Pamuti and Petronila Asuncion; 2) that Juliana married Simon Jardin and out of their union were born Felisa Pamuti and another child who died during infancy; 3) that Simona Pamuti Vda. de Santero is the widow of Pascual Santero and the mother of Pablo Santero; 4) that Pablo Santero was the only legitimate son of his parents Pascual Santero and Simona Pamuti Vda. de Santero; 5) that Pascual Santero died in 1970; Pablo Santero in 1973 and Simona Santero in 1976' 6) that Pablo Santero, at the time of his death was survived by his mother Simona Santero and his six minor natural children to wit: four minor children with Anselma Diaz and two minor children with Felixberta Pacursa.
Judge Jose Raval in his Orders dated December 1, 1976 and December 9, 1976 declared Felisa Pamuti Jardin as the sole legitimate heir of Simona Pamuti Vda. de Santero.
Before the trial court, there were 4 interrelated cases filed to wit:
"a) Sp. Proc. No. B-4 - is the Petition for for the Letters of Administration of the Intestate Estate of Pablo Santero;
"b) Sp. Proc. No. B-5 - is the Petition for the Letters of Administration of the Intestate Estate of Pascual Santero;
"c) Sp. Proc. No. B-7 - is the Petition for Guardianship over the properties of an Incompetent Person, Simona Pamuti Vda. de Santero;
"e) Sp. Proc. No. B-21 - is the Petition for Settlement of the Intestate Estate of Simona Pamuti Vda. de Santero."
Felisa Jardin upon her Motion to Intervene in Sp. Proceedings Nos. B-4 and B-5, was allowed to intervene in the intestate estates of Pablo Santero and Pascual Santero by Order of the Court dated August 24, 1977.
Petitioner Anselma Diaz, as guardian of her minor children, filed her "Opposition and Motion to Exclude Felisa Pamuti-Jardin dated March 13, 1980, from further taking part or intervening in the settlement of the intestate estate of Simona Pamuti Vda. de Santero, as well as in the intestate estates of Pascual Santero and Pablo Santero.
Felixberta Pacursa guardian for her minor children, filed thru counsel, her Manifestation of March 14, 1980 adopting the Opposition and Motion to Exclude Felisa Pamuti, filed by Anselma Diaz.
On May 20, 1980, Judge Ildefonso M. Bleza issued an order excluding Felisa Jardin "from further taking part or intervening in the settlement of the intestate estate of Simona Pamuti Vda. de Santero, as well as in the intestate estates of Pascual Santero and Pablo Santero and declared her to be, not an heir of the deceased Simona Pamuti Vda. de Santero."
After her Motion for Reconsideration was denied by the trial court in its order dated November 1, 1980, Felisa P. Jardin filed her appeal to the Intermediate Appellate Court in CA-G.R. No. 69814-R. A decision was rendered by the Intermediate Appellate Court on December 14, 1983 (reversing the decision of the trial court) the dispositive portion of which reads -
"WHEREFORE, finding the Order appealed from not consistent with the facts and law applicable, the same is hereby set aside and another one entered sustaining the Orders of December 1 and 9, 1976 declaring the petitioner as the sole heir of Simona Pamuti Vda. de Santero and ordering oppositors-appellees not to interfere in the proceeding for the declaration of heirship in the estate of Simona Pamuti Vda. de Santero."
"Costs against the oppositors-appellees."
The Motion for Reconsideration filed by oppositors-appellees (petitioners herein) was denied by the same respondent court in its order dated February 17, 1984 hence, the present petition for Review with the following:
ASSIGNMENT OF ERRORS
I. The Decision erred in ignoring the right to intestate succession of petitioners grandchildren Santero as direct descending line (Art. 978) and/or natural/"illegitimate children" (Art. 988) and prefering a niece, who is a collateral relative (Art. 1003);
II. The Decision erred in denying the right of representation of the natural grandchildren Santero to represent their father Pablo Santero in the succession to the intestate estate of their grandmother Simona Pamuti Vda. de Santero (Art. 982);
III. The Decision erred in mistaking the intestate estate of the grandmother Simona Pamuti Vda. de Santero as the estate of "legitimate child or relative" of Pablo Santero, her son and father of the petitioners grandchildren Santero;
IV. The Decision erred in ruling that petitioner-appellant Felisa P. Jardin who is a niece and therefore a collateral relative of Simona Pamuti Vda. de Santero excludes the natural children of her son Pablo Santero, who are her direct descendants and/or grand children;
V. The Decision erred in applying Art. 992, when Arts. 988, 989 and 990 are the applicable provisions of law on intestate succession; and
VI. The Decision erred in considering the orders of December 1 and December 9, 1976 which are provisional and interlocutory as final and executory.
The real issue in this case may be briefly stated as follows- who are the legal heirs of Simona Pamuti Vda. de Santero- her niece Felisa Pamuti Jardin or her grandchildren (the natural children of Pablo Santero)?
The dispute at bar refers only to the intestate estate of Simona Pamuti Vda. de Santero and the issue here is whether oppositors-appellees (petitioners herein) as illegitimate children of Pablo Santero could inherit from Simona Pamuti Vda. de Santero, by right of representation of their father Pablo Santero who is a legitimate child of Simona Pamuti Vda. de Santero.
Now then what is the appropriate law on the matter? Petitioners contend in their pleadings that Art. 990 of the New Civil Code is the applicable law on the case. They contend that said provision of the New Civil Code modifies the rule in Article 941 (Old Civil Code) and recognizes the right of representation (Art. 970) to descendants, whether legitimate or illegitimate and that Art. 941, Spanish Civil Code denied illegitimate children the right to represent their deceased parents and inherit from their deceased grandparents, but that Rule was expressly changed and/or amended by Art. 990 New Civil Code which expressly grants the illegitimate children the right to represent their deceased father (Pablo Santero) in the estate of their grandmother, (Simona Pamuti)"
Petitioners' contention holds no water. Since the hereditary conflict refers solely to the intestate estate of Simona Pamuti Vda. de Santero, who is the legitimate mother of Pablo Santero, the applicable law is the provision of Art. 992 of the Civil Code which reads as follows:
ART. 992. An illegitimate child has no right to inherit ab intestato from the legitimate children and relatives of his father or mother; nor shall such children or relatives inherit in the same manner from the illegitimate child. (943a)
Pablo Santero is a legitimate child, he is not an illegitimate child. On the other hand, the oppositors (petitioners herein) are the illegitimate children of Pablo Santero.
Article 992 of the New Civil Code provides a barrier or iron curtain in that it prohibits absolutely a succession ab intestato between the illegitimate child and the legitimate children and relatives of the father or mother of said legitimate child. They may have a natural tie of blood, but this is not recognized by law for the purposes of Art. 992. Between the legitimate family and the illegitimate family there is presumed to be an intervening antagonism and incompatibility. The illegitimate child is disgracefully looked down upon by the legitimate family; the family is in turn, hated by the illegitimate child; the latter considers the privileged condition of the former, and the resources of which it is thereby deprived; the former, in turn, sees in the illegitimate child nothing but the product of sin, palpable evidence of a blemish broken in life; the law does no more than recognize this truth, by avoiding further grounds of resentment.
Thus, petitioners herein cannot represent their father Pablo Santero in the succession of the latter to the intestate estate of his legitimate mother Simona Pamuti Vda. de Santero, because of the barrier provided for under Art. 992 of the New Civil Code.
In answer to the erroneous contention of petitioners that Article 941 of the Spanish Civil Code is changed by Article 990 of the New Civil Code, We are reproducing herewith the Reflections of the illustrious Hon. Justice Jose B.L. Reyes which also finds full support from other civilists, to wit:
"In the Spanish Civil Code of 1889 the right of representation was admitted only within the legitimate family; so much so that Article 943 of that Code prescribed that an illegitimate child can not inherit ab intestato from the legitimate children and relatives of his father and mother. The Civil Code of the Philippines apparently adhered to this principle since it reproduced Article 943 of the Spanish Code in its own Art. 992, but with fine inconsistency, in subsequent articles (990, 995 and 998) our Code allows the hereditary portion of the illegitimate child to pass to his own descendants, whether legitimate or illegitimate. So that while Art. 992 prevents the illegitimate issue of a legitimate child from representing him in the intestate succession of the grandparent, the illegitimates of an illegitimate child can now do so. This difference being indefensible and unwarranted, in the future revision of the Civil Code we shall have to make a choice and decide either that the illegitimate issue enjoys in all cases the right of representation, in which case Art. 992 must be suppressed; or contrariwise maintain said article and modify Articles 995 and 998. The first solution would be more in accord with an enlightened attitude vis-a-vis illegitimate children. (Reflections on the Reform of Hereditary succession, JOURNAL of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, First Quater, 1976, Volume 4, Number 1, pp. 40-41).
It is therefore clear from Article 992 of the New Civil Code that the phrase "legitimate children and relatives of his father or mother" includes Simona Pamuti Vda. de Santero as the word "relative" includes all the kindred of the person spoken of. The record shows that from the commencement of this case the only parties who claimed to be the legitimate heirs of the late Simona Pamuti Vda. de Santero are Felisa Pamuti Jardin and the six minor natural or illegitimate children of Pablo Santero. Since petitioners herein are barred by the provisions of Article 992, the respondent Intermediate Appellate Court did not commit any error in holding Felisa Pamuti-Jardin to be the sole legitimate heir to the intestate estate of the late Simona Pamuti Vda. de Santero.
Lastly, petitioners claim that the respondent Intermediate Appellate Court erred in ruling that the Orders of the Court a quo dated December 1, 1976 and December 9, 1976 are final and executory. Such contention is without merit. The Hon. Judge Jose Raval in his order dated December 1, 1976 held that the oppositors (petitioners herein) are not entitled to intervene and hence not allowed to intervene in the proceedings for the declaration of the heirship in the intestate estate of Simona Pamuti Vda. de Santero. Subsequently, Judge Jose Raval issued an Order, dated December 9, 1976, which declared Felisa Pamuti-Jardin to be the sole legitimate heir of Simona Pamuti. The said Orders were never made the subjects of either a motion for reconsideration or a perfected appeal. Hence, said orders which long became final and executory are already removed from the power of jurisdiction of the lower court to decide anew. The only power retained by the lower court, after a judgment has become final and executory is to order its execution. The respondent Court did not err therefore in ruling that the Order of the Court a quo dated May 30, 1980 excluding Felisa Pamuti-Jardin as intestate heir of the deceased Simona Pamuti Vda. de Santero "is clearly a total reversal of an Order which has become final and executory, hence null and void."
WHEREFORE, this petition is hereby DISMISSED, and the assailed decision is hereby AFFIRMED.
Fernan, (Chairman), Gutierrez, Jr., and Cortes, JJ., concur.
Padilla, J., took no part; principal counsel of petitioners is related to me.
Bidin, J., no part.
RA pp. 30-35
RA pp. 35-38
R.A. p. 87
Penned by Justice Marcelino R. Veloso and concurred in by Justices Porfirio V. Sison, Abdulwahid A. Bidin and Desiderio P. Jurado.
Motion for Reconsideration - pp. 78-79, Rollo.
F. Manresa 110 cited in Grey v. Fabie 40 O.G. (First S) No. 3, p. 196).
Comment, p. 139 Rollo citing, p. 2862, Bouvier's Law Dictionary vol. II, Third Revision, Eight Edition.
Supreme Court E-Library Search
ALONZO Q. ANCHETA, G.R. No. 139868
PANGANIBAN, C.J. (Chairperson)
- versus - *YNARES-SANTIAGO,
CALLEJO, SR., and
Respondent. June 8, 2006
x - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -x
D E C I S I O N
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. 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. The court also named Atty. Alonzo Q. Ancheta (petitioner) of the Quasha Asperilla Ancheta Pena & Nolasco Law Offices as ancillary administrator.
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. 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.
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. 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. Atty. Quasha was appointed as ancillary administrator on July 24, 1986.
On October 19, 1987, petitioner filed in Special Proceeding No. 9625, a motion to declare Richard and Kyle as heirs of Audrey. 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.
The motion and project of partition was granted and approved by the trial court in its Order dated February 12, 1988. 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.
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.
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.” 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.
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. Respondent 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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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. However, in exceptional cases, a final decree of distribution of the estate may be set aside for lack of jurisdiction or fraud. Further, in Ramon v. Ortuzar, 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.
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. For fraud to become a basis for annulment of judgment, it has to be extrinsic or actual, and must be brought within four years from the discovery of the fraud.
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, 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.
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. Respondent 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, 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.
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.
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; however, petitioner, as ancillary administrator of Audrey’s estate, was duty-bound to introduce in evidence the pertinent law of the State of Maryland.
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.” 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., 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:
x x x
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. (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.
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”.
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. 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.
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.
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.
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, 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. 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.
MA. ALICIA AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ
ARTEMIO V. PANGANIBAN
ROMEO J. CALLEJO, SR.
MINITA V. CHICO-NAZARIO
Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, it is hereby certified that the conclusions in the above Decision were reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court’s Division.
ARTEMIO V. PANGANIBAN
* On leave.
CA rollo, pp. 84-88.
Id. at 89-91.
Id. at 92.
Supra, note 2.
CA rollo, pp. 93-94.
Id. at 95-98.
Id. at 99-100.
Id. at 101.
Id. at 102-103.
Id. at 104-106.
Id. at 107.
Id. at 108-109.
Id. at 114-116.
RTC Order dated December 6, 1991, CA rollo, p. 48.
OFELIA HERNANDO BAGUNU, petitioner, vs. PASTORA PIEDAD, respondent.
D E C I S I O N
On 28 August 1995, herein petitioner Ofelia Hernando Bagunu moved to intervene in Special Proceedings No. 3652, entitled "In the Matter of the Intestate Proceedings of the Estate of Augusto H. Piedad," pending before the Regional Trial Court ("RTC"), Branch 117, of Pasay City. Asserting entitlement to a share of the estate of the late Augusto H. Piedad, petitioner assailed the finality of the order of the trial court awarding the entire estate to respondent Pastora Piedad contending that the proceedings were tainted with procedural infirmities, including an incomplete publication of the notice of hearing, lack of personal notice to the heirs and creditors, and irregularity in the disbursements of allowances and withdrawals by the administrator of the estate. The trial court denied the motion, prompting petitioner to raise her case to the Court of Appeals. Respondent sought the dismissal of the appeal on the thesis that the issues brought up on appeal only involved pure questions of law. Finding merit in that argument, the appellate court dismissed the appeal, citing Section 2(c) of Rule 41 of the 1997 Revised Rules on Civil Procedure which would require all appeals involving nothing else but questions of law to be raised before the Supreme Court by petition for review on certiorari in accordance with Rule 45 thereof and consistently with Circular 2-90 of the Court.
In a well-written resolution, the Court of Appeals belabored the distinctions between questions of law and questions of fact, thus:
"There is a question of law in a given case when the doubt or difference arises as to what the law is on a certain state of facts, and there is a question of fact when the doubt or difference arises as to the truth or the falsehood of alleged facts. There is question of fact when the query necessarily invites calibration of the whole evidence considering mainly the credibility of witnesses, existence and relevance of specific surrounding circumstances, and their relation to each other and to the whole and the probabilities of the situation."
Justice Eugenio S. Labitoria, speaking for the appellate court, ratiocinated that whether or not the RTC erred in denying the intervention considering (1) that the intervenor-appellant had a prima facie interest over the case, (2) that the jurisdiction over the person of the proper parties was not acquired in view of the deficient publication or notice of hearing, and (3) that the proceedings had yet to be closed and terminated, were issues which did not qualify as "questions of fact" as to place the appeal within the jurisdiction of the appellate court; thus:
"The issues are evidently pure questions of law because their resolution are based on facts not in dispute. Admitted are the facts that intervenor-appellant is a collateral relative within the fifth degree of Augusto H. Piedad; that she is the daughter of the first cousin of Augusto H. Piedad; that as such, intervenor-appellant seek to inherit from the estate of Augusto H. Piedad; that the notice of hearing was published for three consecutive weeks in a newspaper of general circulation; that there was no order of closure of proceedings that has been issued by the intestate court; and that the intestate court has already issued an order for the transfer of the remaining estate of Augusto H. Piedad to petitioner-appellee.
"These facts are undisputed.
"In this case, there is no doubt nor difference that arise as to the truth or falsehood on alleged facts. The question as to whether intervenor-appellant as a collateral relative within the fifth civil degree, has legal interest in the intestate proceeding which would justify her intervention; the question as to whether the publication of notice of hearing made in this case is defective which would amount to lack of jurisdiction over the persons of the parties and the question as to whether the proceedings has already been terminated when the intestate court issued the order of transfer of the estate of Augusto H. Piedad to petitioner-appellee, in spite the absence of an order of closure of the intestate court, all call for the application and interpretation of the proper law. There is doubt as to what law is applicable on a certain undisputed state of facts.
"The resolution of the issues raised does not require the review of the evidence, nor the credibility of witnesses presented, nor the existence and relevance of specific surrounding circumstances. Resolution on the issues may be had even without going to examination of facts on record."
Still unsatisfied, petitioner contested the resolution of the appellate court in the instant petition for review on certiorari.
The Court finds no reversible error in the ruling of the appellate court. But let us set aside the alleged procedural decrepitude and take on the basic substantive issue. Specifically, can petitioner, a collateral relative of the fifth civil degree, inherit alongside respondent, a collateral relative of the third civil degree? Elsewise stated, does the rule of proximity in intestate succession find application among collateral relatives?
Augusto H. Piedad died without any direct descendants or ascendants. Respondent is the maternal aunt of the decedent, a third-degree relative of the decedent, while petitioner is the daughter of a first cousin of the deceased, or a fifth-degree relative of the decedent.
The various provisions of the Civil Code on succession embody an almost complete set of law to govern, either by will or by operation of law, the transmission of property, rights and obligations of a person upon his death. Each article is construed in congruity with, rather than in isolation of, the system set out by the Code.
The rule on proximity is a concept that favors the relatives nearest in degree to the decedent and excludes the more distant ones except when and to the extent that the right of representation can apply. Thus, Article 962 of the Civil Code provides:
"ART. 962. In every inheritance, the relative nearest in degree excludes the more distant ones, saving the right of representation when it properly takes place.
"Relatives in the same degree shall inherit in equal shares, subject to the provisions of article 1006 with respect to relatives of the full and half blood, and of article 987, paragraph 2, concerning division between the paternal and maternal lines."
By right of representation, a more distant blood relative of a decedent is, by operation of law, "raised to the same place and degree" of relationship as that of a closer blood relative of the same decedent. The representative thereby steps into the shoes of the person he represents and succeeds, not from the latter, but from the person to whose estate the person represented would have succeeded.
"ART. 970. Representation is a right created by fiction of law, by virtue of which the representative is raised to the place and the degree of the person represented, and acquires the rights which the latter would have if he were living or if he could have inherited."
"ART. 971. The representative is called to the succession by the law and not by the person represented. The representative does not succeed the person represented but the one whom the person represented would have succeeded."
In the direct line, right of representation is proper only in the descending, never in the ascending, line. In the collateral line, the right of representation may only take place in favor of the children of brothers or sisters of the decedent when such children survive with their uncles or aunts.
"ART. 972. The right of representation takes place in the direct descending line, but never in the ascending.
"In the collateral line, it takes place only in favor of the children of brothers or sisters, whether they be of the full or half blood."
"ART. 974. Whenever there is succession by representation, the division of the estate shall be made per stirpes, in such manner that the representative or representatives shall not inherit more than what the person they represent would inherit, if he were living or could inherit."
"ART. 975. When children of one or more brothers or sisters of the deceased survive, they shall inherit from the latter by representation, if they survive with their uncles or aunts. But if they alone survive, they shall inherit in equal portions."
The right of representation does not apply to "other collateral relatives within the fifth civil degree" (to which group both petitioner and respondent belong) who are sixth in the order of preference following, firstly, the legitimate children and descendants, secondly, the legitimate parents and ascendants, thirdly, the illegitimate children and descendants, fourthly, the surviving spouse, and fifthly, the brothers and sisters/nephews and nieces, of the decedent. Among collateral relatives, except only in the case of nephews and nieces of the decedent concurring with their uncles or aunts, the rule of proximity, expressed in Article 962, aforequoted, of the Code, is an absolute rule. In determining the degree of relationship of the collateral relatives to the decedent, Article 966 of the Civil Code gives direction.
"Article 966. x x x
"In the collateral line, ascent is made to the common ancestor and then descent is made to the person with whom the computation is to be made. Thus, a person is two degrees removed from his brother, three from his uncle, who is the brother of his father, four from his first cousin and so forth."
Respondent, being a relative within the third civil degree, of the late Augusto H. Piedad excludes petitioner, a relative of the fifth degree, from succeeding ab intestato to the estate of the decedent.
The provisions of Article 1009 and Article 1010 of the Civil Code –
"Article 1009. Should there be neither brothers nor sisters nor children of brothers or sisters, the other collateral relatives shall succeed to the estate.
"The latter shall succeed without distinction of lines or preference among them by reason of relationship by the whole blood."
"Article 1010. The right to inherit ab intestato shall not extend beyond the fifth degree of relationship in the collateral line." -
invoked by petitioner do not at all support her cause. The law means only that among the other collateral relatives (the sixth in the line of succession), no preference or distinction shall be observed "by reason of relationship by the whole blood." In fine, a maternal aunt can inherit alongside a paternal uncle, and a first cousin of the full blood can inherit equally with a first cousin of the half blood, but an uncle or an aunt, being a third-degree relative, excludes the cousins of the decedent, being in the fourth-degree of relationship; the latter, in turn, would have priority in succession to a fifth-degree relative.
WHEREFORE, the instant Petition is DENIED. No costs.
Melo, (Chairman), Panganiban, and Gonzaga-Reyes, JJ., concur.
Supreme Court E-Library SearchFIRST DIVISION
[G.R. No. 109972. April 29, 1996]
ZOSIMA VERDAD, petitioner, vs. THE HON. COURT OF APPEALS, SOCORRO C. ROSALES, AURORA ROSALES, NAPOLEON ROSALES, ANTONIO ROSALES, FLORENDA ROSALES, ELENA ROSALES AND VIRGINIA ROSALES, respondents.
1. CIVIL LAW; SUCCESSION; RIGHT TO REDEEM PROPERTY AS LEGAL HEIR OF HUSBAND, PART OF WHOSE ESTATE IS A SHARE IN HIS MOTHER’S INHERITANCE. - The thrust of the petition before us is the alleged incapacity of private respondent Socorro C. Rosales to redeem the property, she being merely the spouse of David Rosales, a son of Macaria, and not being a co-heir herself in the intestate estate of Macaria. Socorro’s right to the property is not because she rightfully can claim heirship in Macaria’s estate but that she is a legal heir of her husband, David Rosales, part of whose estate is a share in his mother’s inheritance. David Rosales, incontrovertibly, survived his mother’s death. When Macaria died her estate passed on to her surviving children, among them David Rosales, who thereupon became co-owners of the property. When David Rosales himself later died, his own estate, which included his undivided interest over the property inherited from Macaria, passed on to his widow Socorro and her co-heirs pursuant to the law on succession. Socorro and herein private respondents, along with the co-heirs of David Rosales, thereupon became co-owners of the property that originally descended from Macaria.
2. ID.; ID.; RIGHT OF REDEMPTION; WRITTEN NOTICE OF SALE, MANDATORY. - When their interest in the property was sold by the Burdeos heirs to petitioner, a right of redemption arose in favor of private respondents. This right of redemption was timely exercised by private respondents. Concededly, no written notice of the sale was given by the Burdeos heirs (vendors) to the co-owners required under Article 1623 of the Civil Code. The thirty-day period of redemption had yet to commence when private respondent Rosales sought to exercise the right of redemption on 31 March 1987, a day after she discovered the sale from the Office of the City Treasurer of Butuan City, or when the case was initiated, on 16 October 1987, before the trial court. The written notice of sale is mandatory. This Court has long established the rule that notwithstanding actual knowledge of a co-owner, the latter is still entitled to a written notice from the selling co-owner in order to remove all uncertainties about the sale, its terms and conditions, as well as its efficacy and status.
APPEARANCES OF COUNSEL
Jessie C. Ligan for petitioner.
Federico A. Calo for private respondents.
D E C I S I O N
The petitioner, Zosima Verdad, is the purchaser of a 248-square meter residential lot (identified to be Lot No. 529, Ts-65 of the Butuan Cadastre, located along Magallanes Street, now Marcos M. Calo St., Butuan City). Private respondent, Socorro Cordero Vda. de Rosales, seeks to exercise a right of legal redemption over the subject property and traces her title to the late Macaria Atega, her mother-in-law, who died intestate on 08 March 1956.
During her lifetime, Macaria contracted two marriages: the first with Angel Burdeos and the second, following the latter’s death, with Canuto Rosales. At the time of her own death, Macaria was survived by her son Ramon A. Burdeos and her grandchild (by her daughter Felicidad A. Burdeos) Estela Lozada of the first marriage and her children of the second marriage, namely, David Rosales, Justo Rosales, Romulo Rosales, and Aurora Rosales.
Socorro Rosales is the widow of David Rosales who himself, some time after Macaria’s death, died intestate without an issue.
In an instrument, dated 14 June 1982, the heirs of Ramon Burdeos, namely, his widow Manuela Legaspi Burdeos and children Felicidad and Ramon, Jr., sold to petitioner Zosima Verdad (their interest on) the disputed lot supposedly for the price of P55,460.00. In a duly notarized deed of sale, dated 14 November 1982, it would appear, however, that the lot was sold for only P23,000.00. Petitioner explained that the second deed was intended merely to save on the tax on capital gains.
Socorro discovered the sale on 30 March 1987 while she was at the City Treasurer’s Office. On 31 March 1987, she sought the intervention of the Lupong Tagapayapa of Barangay 9, Princess Urduja, for the redemption of the property. She tendered the sum of P23,000.00 to Zosima. The latter refused to accept the amount for being much less than the lot’s current value of P80,000.00. No settlement having been reached before the Lupong Tagapayapa, private respondents, on 16 October 1987, initiated against petitioner an action for “Legal Redemption with Preliminary Injunction” before the Regional Trial Court of Butuan City.
On 29 June 1990, following the reception of evidence, the trial court handed down its decision holding, in fine, that private respondents’ right to redeem the property had already lapsed.
An appeal to the Court of Appeals was interposed by private respondents. the appellate court, in its decision of 22 April 1993, reversed the court a quo; thus:
“WHEREFORE, premises considered, the judgment appealed from is hereby REVERSED, and a new one is accordingly entered declaring plaintiff-appellant, Socorro C. Rosales, entitled to redeem the inheritance rights (Art. 1088, NCC) or pro indiviso share (Art. 1620, NCC) of the Heirs of Ramon Burdeos, Sr. in Lot 529, Ts-65 of the Butuan Cadastre, within the remaining ELEVEN (11) DAYS from finality hereon, unless written notice of the sale and its terms are received in the interim, under the same terms and conditions appearing under Exhibit ‘J’ and after returning the purchase price of P23,000.00 within the foregoing period. No cost.”
In her recourse to this Court, petitioner assigned the following “errors:” That –
”The Honorable Court of Appeals erred in declaring Socorro C. Rosales is entitled to redeem the inheritance rights (Article 1088, NCC) or pro-indiviso share (Article 1620, NCC) of the heirs of Ramon Burdeos, Sr. in Lot 529, Ts-65 of the Butuan Cadastre, for being contrary to law and evidence.
“The Honorable Court of Appeals erred in ignoring the peculiar circumstance, in that, the respondents’ actual knowledge, as a factor in the delay constitutes laches.
“The Honorable Court of Appeals erred in concluding that Socorro C. Rosales, in effect, timely exercised the right of legal redemption when referral to Barangay by respondent signifies bonafide intention to redeem and; that, redemption is properly made even if there is no offer of redemption in legal tender.
“The Honorable Court of Appeals erred in ruling that the running of the statutory redemption period is stayed upon commencement of Barangay proceedings.”
Still, the thrust of the petition before us is the alleged incapacity of private respondent Socorro C. Rosales to redeem the property, she being merely the spouse of David Rosales, a son of Macaria, and not being a co-heir herself in the intestate estate of Macaria.
We rule that Socorro can. It is true that Socorro, a daughter-in-law (or, for that matter, a mere relative by affinity), is not an intestate heir of her parents-in-law; however, Socorro’ s right to the property is not because she rightfully can claim heirship in Macaria’s estate but that she is a legal heir of her husband, David Rosales, part of whose estate is a share in his mother’s inheritance.
David Rosales, incontrovertibly, survived his mother’s death. When Macaria died on 08 March 1956 her estate passed on to her surviving children, among them David Rosales, who thereupon became co-owners of the property. When David Rosales himself later died, his own estate, which included his undivided interest over the property inherited from Macaria, passed on to his widow Socorro and her co-heirs pursuant to the law on succession.
“ART. 995. In the absence of legitimate descendants and ascendants, and illegitimate children and their descendants, whether legitimate or illegitimate, the surviving spouse shall inherit the entire estate, without prejudice to the rights of brothers and sisters, nephews and nieces, should there be any, under Article 1001.
“xxx xxx xxx
“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 half.”
Socorro and herein private respondents, along with the co-heirs of David Rosales, thereupon became co-owners of the property that originally descended from Macaria.
When their interest in the property was sold by the Burdeos heirs to petitioner, a right of redemption arose in favor of private respondents; thus:
“ART. 1619. Legal redemption is the right to be subrogated, upon the same terms and conditions stipulated in the contract, in the place of one who acquires a thing by purchase or dation in payment, or by any other transaction whereby ownership is transmitted by onerous title.”
“ART. 1620. A co-owner of a thing may exercise the right of redemption in case the shares of all the other co-owners or of any of them, are sold to a third person. If the price of the alienation is grossly excessive, the redemptioner shall pay only a reasonable one.”
We hold that the right of redemption was timely exercised by private respondents. Concededly, no written notice of the sale was given by the Burdeos heirs (vendors) to the co-owners required under Article 1623 of the Civil Code –
”ART. 1623. The right of legal pre-emption or redemption shall not be exercised except within thirty days from the notice in writing by the prospective vendor, or by the vendor, as the case may be. The deed of sale shall not be recorded in the Registry of Property, unless accompanied by an affidavit of the vendor that he has given written notice thereof to all possible redemptioners.”
Hence, the thirty-day period of redemption had yet to commence when private respondent Rosales sought to exercise the right of redemption on 31 March 1987, a day after she discovered the sale from the Office of the City Treasurer of Butuan City, or when the case was initiated, on 16 October 1987, before the trial court.
The written notice of sale is mandatory. This Court has long established the rule that notwithstanding actual knowledge of a co-owner, the latter is still entitled to a written notice from the selling co-owner in order to remove all uncertainties about the sale, its terms and conditions, as well as its efficacy and status.
Even in Alonzo vs. Intermediate Appellate Court, relied upon by petitioner in contending that actual knowledge should be an equivalent to a written notice of sale, the Court made it clear that it was not reversing the prevailing jurisprudence; said the Court:
“We realize that in arriving at our conclusion today, we are deviating from the strict letter of the law, which the respondent court understandably applied pursuant to existing jurisprudence. The said court acted properly as it had no competence to reverse the doctrines laid down by this Court in the above-cited cases. In fact, and this should be clearly stressed, we ourselves are not abandoning the De Conejero and Buttle doctrines. What we are doing simply is adopting an exception to the general rule, in view of the peculiar circumstances of this case.”
In Alonzo, the right of legal redemption was invoked several years, notjust days or months, after the consummation of the contracts of sale. The complaint for legal redemption itself was there filed more than thirteen years after the sales were concluded.
Relative to the question posed by petitioner on private respondents’ tender of payment, it is enough that we quote, with approval, the appellate court; viz:
“In contrast, records clearly show that an amount was offered, as required in Sempio vs. Del Rosario, 44 Phil. 1 and Daza vs. Tomacruz, 58 Phil. 414, by the redemptioner-appellant during the barangay conciliation proceedings (Answer, par. 8) but was flatly rejected by the appellee, not on the ground that it was not the purchase price (though it appeared on the face of the deed of sale, Exh. ‘J-1’), nor that it was offered as partial payment thereof, but rather that it was ‘unconscionable’ based upon its ‘present value.’ (Answer, par. 8).”
All given, we find no error in the appellate court’s finding that private respondents are entitled to the redemption of the subject property.
WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED and the assailed decision of the Court of Appeals is AFFIRMED. Costs against petitioner.
Padilla (Chairman), Bellosillo, Kapunan, and Hermosisima, Jr., JJ., concur.
Rollo, p. 49.
Rollo, p. 23.
Supreme Court E-Library Search
BLANQUITA E. DELA MERCED, LUISITO E. DELA MERCED, BLANQUITA M. MACATANGAY, MA. OLIVIA M. PAREDES, TERESITA P. RUPISAN, RUBEN M. ADRIANO, HERMINIO M. ADRIANO, JOSELITO M. ADRIANO, ROGELIO M. ADRIANO, WILFREDO M. ADRIANO, VICTOR M. ADRIANO, CORAZON A. ONGOCO, JASMIN A. MENDOZA and CONSTANTINO M. ADRIANO, petitioners, vs. JOSELITO P. DELA MERCED, respondent.
D E C I S I O N
This is a Petition for Review on Certiorari of the Decision of the Court of Appeals, dated October 17, 1996, in CA-G.R. CV No. 41283, which reversed the decision, dated June 10, 1992, of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 67, Pasig City, in Civil Case No. 59705.
The facts of the case are, as follows:
On March 23, 1987, Evarista M. dela Merced died intestate, without issue. She left five (5) parcels of land situated in Orambo, Pasig City.
At the time of her death, Evarista was survived by three sets of heirs, viz: (1) Francisco M. dela Merced, her legitimate brother ; (2) Teresita P. Rupisan, her niece who is the only daughter of Rosa de la Merced-Platon (a sister who died in 1943) ; and (3) the legitimate children of Eugenia dela Merced-Adriano (another sister of Evarista who died in 1965), namely: Herminio, Ruben, Joselito, Rogelio, Wilfredo, Victor and Constantino, all surnamed Adriano, Corazon Adriano-Ongoco and Jasmin Adriano-Mendoza.
Almost a year later or on March 19, 1988, to be precise, Francisco (Evarista’s brother) died. He was survived by his wife Blanquita Errea dela Merced and their three legitimate children, namely, Luisito E. dela Merced, Blanquita M. Macatangay and Ma. Olivia M. Paredes.
On April 20, 1989, the three sets of heirs of the decedent, Evarista M. dela Merced, referring to (1) the abovenamed heirs of Francisco; (2) Teresita P. Rupisan and (3) the nine  legitimate children of Eugenia, executed an extrajudicial settlement, entitled “Extrajudicial Settlement of the Estate of the Deceased Evarista M. dela Merced” adjudicating the properties of Evarista to them, each set with a share of one-third (1/3) pro-indiviso.
On July 26 ,1990, private respondent Joselito P. Dela Merced , illegitimate son of the late Francisco de la Merced, filed a “Petition for Annulment of the Extrajudicial Settlement of the Estate of the Deceased Evarista M. Dela Merced with Prayer for a Temporary Restraining Order”, alleging that he was fraudulently omitted from the said settlement made by petitioners, who were fully aware of his relation to the late Francisco. Claiming successional rights, private respondent Joselito prayed that he be included as one of the beneficiaries, to share in the one-third (1/3) pro-indiviso share in the estate of the deceased Evarista, corresponding to the heirs of Francisco.
On August 3, 1990, the trial court issued the temporary restraining order prayed for by private respondent Joselito, enjoining the sale of any of the real properties of the deceased Evarista.
After trial, however, or on June 10, 1992, to be definite, the trial court dismissed the petition, lifted the temporary restraining order earlier issued, and cancelled the notice of lis pendens on the certificates of title covering the real properties of the deceased Evarista.
In dismissing the petition, the trial court stated:
“The factual setting of the instant motion after considering the circumstances of the entire case and the other evidentiary facts and documents presented by the herein parties points only to one issue which goes into the very skeleton of the controversy, to wit: “Whether or not the plaintiff may participate in the intestate estate of the late Evarista M. Dela Merced in his capacity as representative of his alleged father, Francisdo Dela Merced, brother of the deceased, whose succession is under consideration.
x x x x x x x x x
It is to be noted that Francisco Dela Merced, alleged father of the herein plaintiff, is a legitimate child, not an illegitimate. Plaintiff, on the other hand, is admittedly an illegitimate child of the late Francisco Dela Merced. Hence, as such, he cannot represent his alleged father in the succession of the latter in the intestate estate of the late Evarista Dela Merced, because of the barrier in Art. 992 of the New Civil Code which states that:
‘An illegitimate child has no right to inherit ab intestato from the legitimate children and relatives of his father or mother, nor shall such children or relatives inherit in the same manner from the illegitimate child.’
The application of Art. 992 cannot be ignored in the instant case, it is clearly worded in such a way that there can be no room for any doubts and ambiguities. This provision of the law imposes a barrier between the illegitimate and the legitimate family. x x x” (Rollo, p. 87-88)
Not satisfied with the dismissal of his petition, the private respondent appealed to the Court of Appeals.
In its Decision of October 17,1996, the Court of Appeals reversed the decision of the trial court of origin and ordered the petitioners to execute an amendatory agreement which shall form part of the original settlement, so as to include private respondent Joselito as a co-heir to the estate of Francisco, which estate includes one-third (1/3) pro indiviso of the latter’s inheritance from the deceased Evarista.
The relevant and dispositive part of the Decision of the Court of Appeals, reads:
“x x x x x x x x x
It is a basic principle embodied in Article 777, New Civil Code that the rights to the succession are transmitted from the moment of the death of the decedent, so that Francisco dela Merced inherited 1/3 of his sister’s estate at the moment of the latter’s death. Said 1/3 of Evarista’s estate formed part of Francisco’s estate which was subsequently transmitted upon his death on March 23, 1987 to his legal heirs, among whom is appellant as his illegitimate child. Appellant became entitled to his share in Francisco’s estate from the time of the latter’s death in 1987. The extrajudicial settlement therefore is void insofar as it deprives plaintiff-appellant of his share in the estate of Francisco M. dela Merced. As a consequence, the cancellation of the notice of lis pendens is not in order because the property is directly affected. Appellant has the right to demand a partition of his father’s estate which includes 1/3 of the property inherited from Evarista dela Merced.
“WHEREFORE, premises considered, the appealed decision is hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Defendants-appellees are hereby ordered to execute an amendatory agreement/settlement to include herein plaintiff-appellant Joselito dela Merced as co-heir to the estate of Francisco dela Merced which includes 1/3 of the estate subject of the questioned Deed of Extrajudicial Settlement of the Estate of Evarista M. dela Merced dated April 20, 1989. The amendatory agreement/settlement shall form part of the original Extrajudicial Settlement. With costs against defendants-appellees.
SO ORDERED.” (Rollo, p. 41)
In the Petition under consideration, petitioners insist that being an illegitimate child, private respondent Joselito is barred from inheriting from Evarista because of the provision of Article 992 of the New Civil Code, which lays down an impassable barrier between the legitimate and illegitimate families.
The Petition is devoid of merit.
Article 992 of the New Civil Code is not applicable because involved here is not a situation where an illegitimate child would inherit ab intestato from a legitimate sister of his father, which is prohibited by the aforesaid provision of law. Rather, it is a scenario where an illegitimate child inherits from his father, the latter’s share in or portion of, what the latter already inherited from the deceased sister, Evarista.
As opined by the Court of Appeals, the law in point in the present case is Article 777 of the New Civil Code, which provides that the rights to succession are transmitted from the moment of death of the decedent.
Since Evarista died ahead of her brother Francisco, the latter inherited a portion of the estate of the former as one of her heirs. Subsequently, when Francisco died, his heirs, namely: his spouse, legitimate children, and the private respondent, Joselito, an illegitimate child, inherited his (Francisco’s) share in the estate of Evarista. It bears stressing that Joselito does not claim to be an heir of Evarista by right of representation but participates in his own right, as an heir of the late Francisco, in the latter’s share (or portion thereof) in the estate of Evarista.
Petitioners argue that if Joselito desires to assert successional rights to the intestate estate of his father, the proper forum should be in the settlement of his own father’s intestate estate, as this Court held in the case of Gutierrez vs. Macandog (150 SCRA 422 )
Petitioners’ reliance on the case of Gutierrez vs. Macandog (supra) is misplaced. The said case involved a claim for support filed by one Elpedia Gutierrez against the estate of the decedent, Agustin Gutierrez, Sr., when she was not even an heir to the estate in question, at the time, and the decedent had no obligation whatsoever to give her support. Thus, this Court ruled that Elpedia should have asked for support pendente lite before the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court in which court her husband (one of the legal heirs of the decedent) had instituted a case for legal separation against her on the ground of an attempt against his life. When Mauricio (her husband) died, she should have commenced an action for the settlement of the estate of her husband, in which case she could receive whatever allowance the intestate court would grant her.
The present case, however, relates to the rightful and undisputed right of an heir to the share of his late father in the estate of the decedent Evarista, ownership of which had been transmitted to his father upon the death of Evarista. There is no legal obstacle for private respondent Joselito, admittedly the son of the late Francisco, to inherit in his own right as an heir to his father’s estate, which estate includes a one-third (1/3) undivided share in the estate of Evarista.
WHEREFORE, for lack of merit, the Petition is hereby DENIED and the Appealed Decision of the Court of Appeals AFFIRMED in toto.
Romero (Chairman), Panganiban, and Gonzaga-Reyes, JJ., concur.
Vitug, J., on official business abroad.
Supreme Court E-Library SearchSECOND DIVISION
HEIRS OF IGNACIO CONTI and ROSARIO CUARIO, petitioners, vs. COURT OF APPEALS and LYDIA S. REYES as Attorney-in-Fact of JOSEFINA S. REYES, BERNARDITA S. PALILIO, HERMINIA S. PALILIO, REMEDIOS A. SAMPAYO, ILUMINADA A. SAMPAYO, ENRICO A. SAMPAYO, CARLOS A. SAMPAYO, GENEROSO C. SAMPAYO, MYRNA C. SAMPAYO, ROSALINO C. SAMPAYO, MANUEL C. SAMPAYO, DELIA A. SAMPAYO, CORAZON C. SAMPAYO, NILO C. SAMPAYO, and LOLITA A. SAMPAYO in her own behalf and as Attorney-in-Fact of NORMA A. SAMPAYO, respondents.
D E C I S I O N
This petition for review on certiorari seeks to reverse the 30 March 1994 Decision and 21 December 1994 Resolution of respondent Court of Appeals which upheld the right of private respondents as heirs of Lourdes Sampayo to demand partition under Art. 494 of the Civil Code.
Lourdes Sampayo and Ignacio Conti, married to Rosario Cuario, were the co-owners of the property in litigation consisting of a 539-square meter lot at the corner of Zamora and Abellanosa Streets, Lucena City, covered by TCT No. T–15374, with a house erected thereon. On 17 March 1986 Lourdes Sampayo died intestate without issue. Subsequently, on 1 April 1987 private respondents Josefina S. Reyes, Bernardita S. Palilio, Herminia S. Palilio, Remedios A. Sampayo, Iluminada A. Sampayo, Enrico A. Sampayo, Carlos A. Sampayo, Generoso C. Sampayo, Myrna C. Sampayo, Rosalina C. Sampayo, Manuel C. Sampayo, Delia A. Sampayo, Corazon C. Sampayo, Nilo C. Sampayo, Lolita A. Sampayo and Norma A. Sampayo, all represented by their Attorney-in-Fact Lydia S. Reyes, with Lolita A. Sampayo acting also in her own behalf and as Attorney-in-Fact of Norma A. Sampayo, all claiming to be collateral relatives of the deceased Lourdes Sampayo, filed an action for partition and damages before RTC–Br. 54, Lucena City.
The spouses Ignacio Conti and Rosario Cuario refused the partition on the ground that private respondents failed to produce any document to prove that they were the rightful heirs of Lourdes Sampayo. On 30 August 1987 Ignacio Conti died and was substituted as party-defendant by his children Asuncion, Francisco, Milagros, Joselito, Luisito, Diego and Teresita, all surnamed Conti.
At the trial, private respondents presented Lydia Sampayo Reyes and Adelaida Sampayo to prove that they were the collateral heirs of the deceased Lourdes Sampayo and therefore entitled to her rights as co-owner of the subject lot. Bringing with her the original copy of her certificate of live birth showing that her father was Inocentes Reyes and her mother was Josefina Sampayo, Lydia Sampayo Reyes testified that she was one of the nieces of Lourdes Sampayo, being the daughter of Josefina Sampayo, the only living sibling of Lourdes. Lydia also testified that Lourdes had another sister named Remedios J. Sampayo who died in 1948, and two brothers, Manuel J. Sampayo and Luis J. Sampayo who died in 1983 and 1960, respectively. To prove that Josefina, Remedios, Luis and Manuel were siblings of Lourdes, their baptismal certificates together with a photocopy of the birth certificate of Manuel Sampayo were offered in evidence. These documents showed that their father and mother, like Lourdes Sampayo, were Antonio Sampayo and Brigida Jaraza.
The certificates of baptism presented as part of the testimony of Lydia Sampayo Reyes were prepared by Rev. Franklin C. Rivero who duly certified that all data therein written were in accordance with the church records, hence, the lower left portion of the documents bearing the seal of the church with the notation as to where the documents were logged in particular. The baptismal certificates were presented in lieu of the birth certificates because the repository of those documents, the Office of the Civil Registrar of Lucena City, had been razed by fire on two separate occasions, 27 November 1974 and 30 August 1983, thus all civil registration records were totally burned. On the other hand, a photocopy of Manuel's birth certificate dated 25 October 1919 (Exh. "I") showed that it was issued by the Local Civil Registrar of Lucena, Tayabas (now Lucena City).
Adelaida Sampayo, widow of Manuel Sampayo, testified that her husband Manuel was the brother of the deceased Lourdes, and with the death of Manuel, Luis and Remedios, the only living sibling of Lourdes was Josefina.
To rebut whatever rights the alleged heirs of Lourdes had over the subject lot, petitioners presented Rosario Cuario Conti, Rosa Ladines Malundas and Rodolfo Espineli. Rosario testified that the subject property was co-owned in equal shares by her husband Ignacio Conti and Lourdes Sampayo and that her family (Rosario) had been staying in the subject property since 1937. In fact, she said that her late husband Ignacio Conti paid for the real estate taxes and spent for the necessary repairs and improvements thereon because by agreement Lourdes would leave her share of the property to them.
However, as correctly found by the trial court, no will, either testamentary or holographic, was presented by petitioners to substantiate this claim. Rosario also disclosed that when Lourdes died her remains were taken by her relatives from their house. When cross examined on who those relatives were, she replied that the only one she remembered was Josefina since there were many relatives who came. When asked who Josefina's parents were, she said she could not recall. Likewise, when asked who the parents of Lourdes were, Rosario denied having ever known them.
Another witness, Rosa Ladines Malundas, narrated that she used to be the neighbor and hairdresser of the deceased Lourdes Sampayo who told her that upon her death her share would go to Ignacio Conti whom she considered as her brother since both of them were "adopted" by their foster parents Gabriel Cord and Anastacia Allarey Cord, although she admitted that she did not know whether Lourdes had other relatives.
According to another witness, Rodolfo Espineli, he took pictures of the tombs bearing the tombstones of Gabriel Cord and Anastacia Allarey Cord and Ignacio Conti as well as that of Lourdes Sampayo who was supposed to have been interred beside her "adoptive" parents. However, as revealed by Rosario during her direct examination, Lourdes was not in fact interred there because her relatives took her remains.
On 4 April 1991 the trial court declared private respondents as the rightful heirs of Lourdes Sampayo. It further ordered private respondents and petitioners to submit a project of partition of the residential house and lot for confirmation by the court.
Petitioners elevated the case to the Court of Appeals contending that the trial court erred in finding that private respondents were the heirs of Lourdes Sampayo and that they were entitled to the partition of the lot and the improvements thereon.
In the instant case, plaintiffs [now private respondents] were able to prove and establish by preponderance of evidence that they are the collateral heirs of deceased Lourdes Sampayo and therefore the lower court did not err in ordering herein plaintiffs [now private respondents] and defendants [now petitioners] to submit a project of partition of the residential house and lot owned in common by the deceased Lourdes Sampayo and defendant spouses Conti for confirmation by the court x x x x Considering our earlier finding that the lower court did not err in declaring herein plaintiffs [now private respondents] as heirs of deceased Sampayo and therefore entitled to inherit her property, the argument of the appellants [now petitioners] that the plaintiffs [now private respondents] are not entitled to partition is devoid of merit (insertions in [ ] supplied).
Respondent court also ruled, citing Hernandez v. Padua and Marabilles v. Quito, that a prior and separate judicial declaration of heirship was not necessary and that private respondents became the co-owners of the portion of the property owned and registered in the name of Lourdes Sampayo upon her death and, consequently, entitled to the immediate possession thereof and all other incidents/rights of ownership as provided for by law including the right to demand partition under Art. 777 of the Civil Code, and Ilustre v. Alaras Frondosa holding that the property belongs to the heirs at the moment of death of the decedent, as completely as if he had executed and delivered to them a deed for the same before his death.
The appellate court subsequently denying a motion for reconsideration upheld the probative value of the documentary and testimonial evidence of private respondents and faulted petitioners for not having subpoenaed Josefina if they believed that she was a vital witness in the case. Hence, petitioners pursued this case arguing that a complaint for partition to claim a supposed share of the deceased co-owner cannot prosper without prior settlement of the latter's estate and compliance with all legal requirements, especially publication, and private respondents were not able to prove by competent evidence their relationship with the deceased.
There is no merit in the petition. A prior settlement of the estate is not essential before the heirs can commence any action originally pertaining to the deceased as we explained in Quison v. Salud -
Claro Quison died in 1902. It was proven at the trial that the present plaintiffs are next of kin and heirs, but it is said by the appellants that they are not entitled to maintain this action because there is no evidence that any proceedings have been taken in court for the settlement of the estate of Claro Quison, and that without such settlement, the heirs cannot maintain this action. There is nothing in this point. As well by the Civil Code as by the Code of Civil Procedure, the title to the property owned by a person who dies intestate passes at once to his heirs. Such transmission is, under the present law, subject to the claims of administration and the property may be taken from the heirs for the purpose of paying debts and expenses, but this does not prevent an immediate passage of the title, upon the death of the intestate, from himself to his heirs. Without some showing that a judicial administrator had been appointed in proceedings to settle the estate of Claro Quison, the right of the plaintiffs to maintain this action is established.
Conformably with the foregoing and taken in conjunction with Arts. 777 and 494 of the Civil Code, from the death of Lourdes Sampayo her rights as a co-owner, incidental to which is the right to ask for partition at any time or to terminate the co-ownership, were transmitted to her rightful heirs. In so demanding partition private respondents merely exercised the right originally pertaining to the decedent, their predecessor-in-interest.
Petitioners' theory as to the requirement of publication would have been correct had the action been for the partition of the estate of Lourdes Sampayo, or if we were dealing with extrajudicial settlement by agreement between heirs and the summary settlement of estates of small value. But what private respondents are pursuing is the mere segregation of Lourdes' one-half share which they inherited from her through intestate succession. This is a simple case of ordinary partition between co-owners. The applicable law in point is Sec. 1 of Rule 69 of the Rules of Court -
Sec. 1. Complaint in an action for partition of real estate. - A person having the right to compel the partition of real estate may do so as in this rule prescribed, setting forth in his complaint the nature and extent of his title and an adequate description of the real estate of which partition is demanded and joining as defendants all the other persons interested in the property.
A cursory reading of the aforecited rule shows that publication is not required as erroneously maintained by petitioners. There are two (2) simultaneous issues in an action for partition. First, whether the plaintiff is indeed a co-owner of the property sought to be partitioned, and second, if answered in the affirmative, the manner of the division of the property, i.e., what portion should go to which co-owner. Thus, in this case, we must determine whether private respondents, by preponderance of evidence, have been able to establish that they are co-owners by way of succession as collateral heirs of the late Lourdes Sampayo as they claim to be, either a sister, a nephew or a niece. These, private respondents were able to prove in the trial court as well as before respondent Court of Appeals.
Petitioners however insist that there was no such proof of filiation because: (a) mere photocopies of birth certificates do not prove filiation; (b) certifications on non-availability of records of birth do not prove filiation; (c) baptismal certificates do not prove filiation of alleged collateral relatives of the deceased; and, (d) the testimonies of Lydia S. Reyes, alleged daughter of Josefina Reyes, and Adelaida Sampayo, alleged sister-in-law of Josefina and Lourdes, were incompetent as Lydia was made to testify on events which happened before her birth while Adelaida testified on matters merely narrated to her.
We are not persuaded. Altogether, the documentary and testimonial evidence submitted are competent and adequate proofs that private respondents are collateral heirs of Lourdes Sampayo. Private respondents assert that they are co-owners of one-half (1/2) pro-indiviso share of the subject property by way of legal or intestate succession.
Succession is a mode of acquisition by virtue of which the property, rights and obligations to the extent of the value of the inheritance of a person are transmitted through his death to another or others either by his will or by operation of law. Legal or intestate succession takes place if a person dies without a will, or with a void will, or one which has subsequently lost its validity. If there are no descendants, ascendants, illegitimate children, or a surviving spouse, the collateral relatives shall succeed to the entire estate of the decedent. It was established during the trial that Lourdes died intestate and without issue. Private respondents as sister, nephews and nieces now claim to be the collateral relatives of Lourdes.
Under Art. 172 of the Family Code, the filiation of legitimate children shall be proved by any other means allowed by the Rules of Court and special laws, in the absence of a record of birth or a parent’s admission of such legitimate filiation in a public or private document duly signed by the parent. Such other proof of one’s filiation may be a baptismal certificate, a judicial admission, a family Bible in which his name has been entered, common reputation respecting his pedigree, admission by silence, the testimonies of witnesses and other kinds of proof admissible under Rule 130 of the Rules of Court. By analogy, this method of proving filiation may also be utilized in the instant case.
Public documents are the written official acts, or records of the official acts of the sovereign authority, official bodies and tribunals, and public officers, whether of the Philippines, or of a foreign country. The baptismal certificates presented in evidence by private respondents are public documents. Parish priests continue to be the legal custodians of the parish records and are authorized to issue true copies, in the form of certificates, of the entries contained therein.
The admissibility of baptismal certificates offered by Lydia S. Reyes, absent the testimony of the officiating priest or the official recorder, was settled in People v. Ritter, citing U.S. v. de Vera (28 Phil. 105 ), thus -
x x x the entries made in the Registry Book may be considered as entries made in the course of the business under Section 43 of Rule 130, which is an exception to the hearsay rule. The baptisms administered by the church are one of its transactions in the exercise of ecclesiastical duties and recorded in the book of the church during the course of its business.
It may be argued that baptismal certificates are evidence only of the administration of the sacrament, but in this case, there were four (4) baptismal certificates which, when taken together, uniformly show that Lourdes, Josefina, Remedios and Luis had the same set of parents, as indicated therein. Corroborated by the undisputed testimony of Adelaida Sampayo that with the demise of Lourdes and her brothers Manuel, Luis and sister Remedios, the only sibling left was Josefina Sampayo Reyes, such baptismal certificates have acquired evidentiary weight to prove filiation.
Petitioners' objection to the photocopy of the certificate of birth of Manuel Sampayo was properly discarded by the court a quo and respondent Court of Appeals. According to Sec. 3, par. (1), Rule 130, of the Rules of Court, when the subject of inquiry is the contents of a document, no evidence shall be admissible other than the original document itself except when the original has been lost or destroyed or cannot be produced in court, without bad faith on the part of the offeror. The loss or destruction of the original certificate of birth of Manuel J. Sampayo was duly established by the certification issued by the Office of the Local Civil Registrar of Lucena City to the effect that its office was completely destroyed by fire on 27 November 1974 and 30 August 1983, respectively, and as a consequence thereof, all civil registration records were totally burned.
Apparently, there seems to be some merit in petitioners’ contention that the testimony of Adelaida Sampayo cannot prove filiation for being hearsay considering that there was no declaration ante litem motam as required by the rules, i.e., that the declaration relating to pedigree was made before the controversy occurred. Nonetheless, petitioners made no move to dispute her testimony in open court when she was mentioning who the brothers and sisters of Lourdes were. As correctly observed by the trial court in explicit terms, "the documentary and testimonial evidence were not disputed by defendants" (now petitioners). Notably, when Rosario Cuario Conti took the witness stand, she admitted that she was not aware of the identities of the parents of the deceased. Clearly, this runs counter to the relationship akin to filial bonding which she professed she had enjoyed with the decedent. As wife of Ignacio Conti, she was supposedly a "sister-in-law" of the deceased Lourdes Sampayo who regarded Ignacio as a brother. However, in sum, we rule that all the pieces of evidence adduced, taken together, clearly preponderate to the right of private respondents to maintain the action for partition. Absent any reversible error in the assailed Decision and Resolution of the Court of Appeals, this petition for review on certiorari will not lie.
WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The assailed Decision dated 30 March 1994 and Resolution dated 21 December 1994 of the Court of Appeals are AFFIRMED. Costs against petitioners.
Puno, Mendoza, and Martinez JJ., concur.
Decision penned by Judge Jaime D. Discaya, RTC-Br. 54, Lucena City, Original Records, pp. 180-181.
Id., p. 180.
Complaint docketed as Civil Case No. 87-37; id., pp. 1-6.
Answer filed 10 June 1987; id., p. 26.
Order dated 8 December 1987 by then Presiding Judge Rodolfo G. Palattao; id., pp. 57-58.
Exh. “A”, Folder of Exhibits, p. 1.
Exhs. “C”, “E”, “G”, and “J;” Id., pp. 3, 5, 7, and 11.
Exhs. "B," "D," "F," "H," and "K;" Id., pp. 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10.
Id., p. 9.
Art. 254 of the Family Code of the Philippines, which took effect on 3 August 1988, expressly repealed Title VIII on Paternity and Filiation (Arts. 255-289) of the New Civil Code. While the complaint for partition was filed in 1987, or prior to the Family Code, nonetheless the latter law is applicable to the case at bar in view of Art. 256 which explicitly provides that "(t)his code shall have retroactive effect insofar as it does not prejudice or impair vested or acquired rights in accordance with the Civil Code or other laws."
Supreme Court E-Library Search
IN THE MATTER OF THE INTESTATE G.R. No. 155733
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, Present :
PUNO, J., Chairman,
- v e r s u s - CORONA,
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; and GUILLERMA RUSTIA, as Intervenor,
Respondents. Promulgated :
January 27, 2006
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D E C I S I O N
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, in SP Case No. 97668, which was reversed and set aside by the Court of Appeals in its decision dated October 24, 2002.
FACTS OF THE CASE
This case concerns the settlement of the intestate estates of Guillermo Rustia and Josefa Delgado. 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, his nephews and nieces, his illegitimate child, and the de facto adopted child (ampun-ampunan) of the decedents.
The alleged heirs of Josefa Delgado
The deceased Josefa Delgado was the daughter of Felisa 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 Osorio 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. 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 Casamiento stated that he was “hijo natural de Felisa Delgado” (the natural child of Felisa Delgado), significantly omitting any mention of the name and other circumstances of his father. 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 Delgado 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;
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, 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.
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.
On January 7, 1974, more than a year after the death of Josefa Delgado, Guillermo Rustia filed a petition for the adoption 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.” 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. de Damian 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.
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. This petition was opposed by the following: (1) the sisters of Guillermo Rustia, namely, Marciana Rustia vda. de Damian and Hortencia Rustia-Cruz; (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. 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 (
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.
On May 20, 1990, oppositors filed an appeal which was denied on the ground that the record on appeal was not filed on time. They then filed a petition for certiorari and mandamus which was dismissed by the Court of Appeals. 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.
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 decision 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.
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A review of the trial court’s decision is needed.
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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.
Acting on the appeal, the Court of Appeals partially set aside the trial court’s decision. Upon motion for reconsideration, the Court of Appeals amended its earlier decision. 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 (
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.
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:
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(aa) That a man and a woman deporting themselves as husband and wife have entered into a lawful contract of marriage;
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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 witness attesting that they were not married, and a baptismal certificate which referred to Josefa Delgado as “Señorita” or unmarried woman.
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. 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, the passport issued to her as Josefa D. Rustia, the declaration under oath of no less than Guillermo Rustia that he was married to Josefa Delgado 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. 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 certificate 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, 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.
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. On 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 Casamiento identifying Luis as “hijo natural de Felisa Delgado” (the natural child of Felisa Delgado).
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, were her natural children.
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.
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. 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. 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, they are entitled to inherit from Josefa Delgado in accordance with Article 1001 of the new Civil Code:
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 child of Guillermo Rustia. As such, she may be entitled to successional rights only upon proof of an admission or recognition of paternity. 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. 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) 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. 
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.
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. Furthermore, any (judicial) action for compulsory acknowledgment has a dual limitation: the lifetime of the child and the lifetime of the putative parent. On the death of either, the action for compulsory recognition can no longer be filed. 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. 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.
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, nieces and nephews.
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. 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, 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.
 Oppositors in SP Case No. 97668 with the RTC Manila, Branch 55.
 Intervenor in SP Case No. 97668 with the RTC Manila, Branch 55.
 In the petition for review on certiorari filed by petitioners, the oppositors were identified as “oppositors-respondents,” while intervenor was identified as “intervenor-respondent.” For clarity, we shall refer to them collectively as “respondents” in this decision. The Court of Appeals was also impleaded as public respondent but this was not necessary since this is a petition for review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court.
 Judge Hermogenes Liwag, Rollo, pp. 92-106.
 Penned by Associate Justice Jose L. Sabio, Jr., and concurred in by Associate Justices Oswaldo D. Agcaoili and Sergio L. Pestaño of the former 15th Division, Rollo, pp. 75-90.
 The original action was a petition for letters of administration of the intestate estates of Guillermo Rustia and Josefa Delgado, Rollo, p. 92.
 Marciana Rustia vda. de Damian and Hortencia Rustia Cruz, both deceased and now substituted by their respective heirs.
 The children of Guillermo Rustia’s deceased brother Roman Rustia, Sr.
 Intervenor Guillerma Rustia.
 Oppositor Guillermina Rustia Rustia.
 In some pleadings, this was spelled as “Feliza.”
 In some pleadings, this was spelled as “Osario” and in others, “Oscorro.”
 Art. 992, new Civil Code. An illegitimate child has no right to inherit ab intestato from the legitimate children and relatives of his father or mother; nor shall such children or relatives inherit in the same manner from the illegitimate child.
 Rollo, p. 1262.
 Id., pp. 1200-1201.
 In relation, the Civil Code of Spain (the old Civil Code) provided that when the acknowledgment was made separately by either parent, the name of the other parent shall not be revealed. Nor shall any circumstance be mentioned by which such person might be recognized (Article 132). This showed the intent of the said Code to protect the identity of the non-acknowledging parent.
 One of the children of Felisa Delgado with Lucio Campo.
 CA decision, Rollo, pp. 77-78.
 Under the old Civil Code, which was in effect at the time of Guillerma Rustia’s birth in 1920, she was an illegitimate child, not a natural child, since she was born of parents who at the time of conception were disqualified to marry each other.
 Rollo, p. 920.
 Law in effect at the time of the death of Guillermo Rustia.
 Filed before the then Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court of Manila.
 Rollo, p. 1149.
 Most of the respondents herein.
 Filed on behalf of the surviving brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces, grandnephews and grandnieces of Josefa Delgado.
 Now represented by their heirs as respondents.
 Rollo, pp. 105-106.
 Dated September 25, 1990.
 This petition was initially filed with the Supreme Court but was referred to the Court of Appeals, the latter having concurrent jurisdiction with the Supreme Court over the petition.
 Penned by Associate Justice Artemon Luna, and concurred in by Associate Justices Serafin Camilon and Celso Magsino of the Seventh Division, dated March 20, 1991, Rollo, pp. 627-644.
 Resolution dated November 27, 1991, Rollo, pp. 656-671.
 De la Rosa v. Court of Appeals, 345 Phil. 678 (1997).
 Decision penned by Associate Justice Jose L. Sabio, Jr., and concurred in by Associate Justices Oswaldo D. Agcaoili and Sergio L. Pestaño of the 15th Division, dated January 31, 2002, Rollo, pp. 46-63.
 Both the petitioner and the oppositors filed a motion for reconsideration of the January 31, 2002 decision of the Court of Appeals.
 Dated October 24, 2002.
 II Florenz D. Regalado, Remedial Law Compendium 672 (9th rev. ed. 2001).
 Elisa vda. de Anson.
 Rollo, p. 1266.
 Balogbog v. Court of Appeals, 336 Phil. 252 (1997).
 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.
 Philippine Passport No. 4767 issued to Josefa D. Rustia on June 25, 1947.
 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 stated under oath to his marriage to Josefa Delgado in Manila on June 3, 1919.
 Rule 132, Section 23, Rules of Court.
 Josefa Delgado stood as sponsor in the baptism of Luisa Delgado on September 14, 1919, Rollo, p. 1266. In 1975, Luisa Delgado vda. de Danao filed a petition for letters of administration for the intestate estate of Josefa Delgado; supra, note 25.
 Acebedo v. Arquero, 447 Phil. 76 (2003).
 Vda. de Jacob v. Court of Appeals, 371 Phil. 693 (1999), citing Perido v. Perido, No. L-28248, 12 March 1975, 63 SCRA 97.
 Ricardo Francisco, Evidence 400 (3rd ed. 1996).
 Rollo, p. 1262.
 Id., pp. 1200-1201.
 Old Civil Code, art. 134. An acknowledged natural child is entitled:
1. To bear the surname of the person acknowledging it.
2. To receive support from such person, in accordance with article 143.
3. To receive the hereditary portion, if available, determined by this Code.
 The records do not indicate the dates of birth of Felisa Delgado’s children. The dates when Felisa Delgado cohabited with Ramon Osorio and Lucio Campo were likewise not stated. From the limited facts of the case on this issue, it is safe to assume that they were all born during the effectivity of the old Civil Code. Under the said Code, children born out of wedlock of parents who, at the time of conception, could have married, were natural children.
 III Arturo M. Tolentino, Commentaries and Jurisprudence on the Civil Code of the Philippines 493-494 (1979 ed.) citing 7 Manresa 139.
 Desiderio P. Jurado, Comments and Jurisprudence on Succession 391 (8th ed. 1991).
 In case the surviving collateral relatives are already deceased at the time of execution of this judgment, their shares in the inheritance of Josefa Delgado shall accrue to their respective estates.
 Then surviving spouse, now represented by his intestate estate.
 Law in effect at the time of the death of Josefa Delgado.
 Under the old Civil Code, which was in effect at the time of Guillerma Rustia’s birth in 1920, she is an illegitimate child, not a natural child, since she was born of parents who, at the time of conception, were disqualified to marry each other.
 Paterno v. Paterno, No. L- 23060, 30 June 1967, 20 SCRA 585.
 I Arturo M. Tolentino, Commentaries and Jurisprudence on the Civil Code of the Philippines 577 (1985 ed.).
 Art. 284 of the new Civil Code provided that the mother is obliged to recognize her natural child in any of the cases referred to in Art. 283.
 New Civil Code, Art. 283.
 New Civil Code, Art. 278.
 Supra, note 60, at 283.
 This was provided in Article 285 of the new Civil Code and carried over to Article 175 of the Family Code. While there are exceptions to this rule, Guillerma’s case does not fall within the exceptions.
 Subject to exceptions provided in paragraphs (1) and (2) of Article 285 of the new Civil Code.
 I Tolentino, supra note 60, at 585-586.
 RTC decision, Rollo, p. 104.
 Marciana Rustia vda. de Damian and Hortencia Rustia Cruz, represented by their heirs in this
 Children of his predeceased brother Roman Rustia, Sr.
 II Regalado, supra note 37, at 39.
 Gabriel et al. v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 101512, 7 August 1992, 212 SCRA 413.
Supreme Court E-Library SearchSECOND DIVISION
[G.R. No. 149751. March 11, 2005]
PURIFICACION BALILO-MONTERO and JOVENCIO* BALILO, petitioners, vs. EUGENIA SEPTIMO, CONSUELO ROBLES and PLACIDO ROBLES, respondents.
D E C I S I O N
CALLEJO, SR., J.:
Jose Balilo was the owner of a parcel of land, with an area of 7.7837 hectares, located in San Jose, Occidental Mindoro, covered by Homestead Patent No. 46784 issued on February 21, 1938. Based on the said patent, Original Certificate of Title (OCT) No. 3014 was issued to and under his name by the Register of Deeds.
On August 12, 1943, Jose Balilo died intestate. Sometime in 1948, Niniana Balilo, the sister of Jose Balilo, filed a petition in the Court of First Instance (CFI) of Pampanga, for the guardianship of the property and the person of Jovencio Balilo whom she alleged to be the son of her brother, Jose Balilo; hence, her nephew. The case was docketed as Special Proceeding No. 262. Niniana filed a motion in the said case, for authority to execute, for and in behalf of her ward, a deed of absolute sale over the property covered by OCT No. 3014 in favor of Jose Septimo for
P750.00. The CFI granted the motion. Niniana executed the deed of absolute sale over the property in favor of Jose Septimo who, thereafter, declared the property in his name for taxation purposes and paid the realty taxes thereon.
However, Jose Septimo failed to register the deed in the Office of the Register of Deeds and, consequently, to secure a torrens title over the property in his name. The guardianship case was terminated on September 24, 1951 per the Order of the CFI of even date.
Thereafter, on October 12, 1963, Jovencio Balilo filed a complaint against Jose Septimo in the CFI of Occidental Mindoro, to compel the latter to resell the property to him. The case was docketed as Civil Case No. R-159. Jovencio alleged therein that he was the only legitimate child of the spouses Jose Balilo and Juana Villarama, and that the latter died on August 30, 1946. He prayed that, after due proceedings, judgment be rendered in his favor, thus:
WHEREFORE, it is most respectfully prayed that an order be issued requiring the Defendant to resell the said Lot No. 1649, Pls-33, situated in San Jose, Occidental Mindoro, to the herein Plaintiff upon tender to the herein Defendant the sum of SEVEN HUNDRED FIFTY (
P750.00) PESOS, Philippine Currency, or any such sum as this Honorable Court finds just and fair, and requiring said Defendant to deliver possession of said homestead land to the herein Plaintiff.
Plaintiff further prays for other relief as may be deemed just and proper in the premises.
Jovencio amended the complaint and impleaded Placido Robles as party-defendant, on his claim that the latter purchased a five-hectare portion of the property before the complaint was filed. On November 8, 1966, the CFI rendered judgment dismissing the complaint. The CFI ruled that Jovencio had no right to repurchase the property, the five-year period under Section 119 of Commonwealth Act No. 141 having long expired. Jovencio failed to appeal the decision.
On March 3, 1987, Purificacion Balilo-Montero filed a complaint with the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of San Jose, Occidental Mindoro, Branch 46, against the respondents, Eugenia Septimo, the surviving spouse of Jose Septimo, and the spouses Placido Robles and Consuelo Robles, for recovery of possession of the said property. However, despite the allegation in his complaint in Civil Case No. R-159 that he was the only legitimate child of Jose Balilo, she impleaded Jovencio Balilo as party-plaintiff.
The complaint alleged, inter alia, that the parties were the children and only legal heirs of the late Jose Balilo who, before his death, was the owner of Lot No. 1649 covered by OCT No. 3014 located in San Jose, Occidental Mindoro; only a year before the complaint was filed, Purificacion learned that she was one of the co-owners of the property; that the respondents claimed ownership over the property and installed tenants thereon; and despite their demands, the respondents and their tenants refused to do so.
Jovencio and Purificacion prayed that, after due proceedings, judgment be rendered in their favor:
WHEREFORE, it is respectfully prayed of this Honorable Court that judgment be rendered for the plaintiffs and against the defendants:
1. Restoring possession of the landholdings in question unto the plaintiffs;
2. Ordering defendants to reimburse plaintiffs the rentals on the landholdings to be determined by this Honorable Court;
3. Ordering the defendants to pay the plaintiffs the sum of
P20,000.00 as attorney’s fees and litigation expenses;
4. Ordering the defendants to pay the costs of suit; and
5. Extending unto the plaintiffs such other reliefs to which they may be entitled in law and equity.
The summons and complaint were served on respondents Eugenia Septimo and Consuelo Robles. As per the return of the sheriff, Placido Robles was already dead.
In her answer to the complaint, respondent Eugenia Septimo alleged that her late husband Jose Septimo had purchased the property from Jovencio Balilo, through his guardian, and that the sale was approved by the CFI of Pampanga in Special Proceeding No. 262. She specifically denied, for lack of information sufficient to form a belief as to the truth thereof, the allegation of Purificacion Montero that she was one of Jose Balilo’s children and one of his heirs. Consuelo Robles was declared in default for her failure to file her answer to the complaint.
On October 15, 1991, the trial court rendered judgment in favor of Jovencio and Purificacion. The fallo of the decision reads:
Premises thoroughly and fairly considered, judgment is hereby rendered:
1. Ordering defendant Eugenia Septimo as successor-in-interest of decedent Jose Septimo to recovery (sic) to plaintiff Purificacion Balilo-Montero one-half of the parcel of agricultural land covered by Original Certificate of Title No. 3014;
2. Denying claim for damages; and
3. Dismissing counterclaim.
Only respondent Eugenia Septimo appealed the decision to the Court of Appeals (CA), where she alleged the following:
I. That the trial court erred in finding that the plaintiff Purificacion Balilo-Montero did not lost (sic) her right to recover the property from the defendants, because she was not a party to the sale and for not having actual knowledge on the guardianship proceedings.
II. That the trial court erred in ruling that the sale of the land by the legal guardian of Jovencio Balilo duly authorized and approved by the Court which (sic) the guardianship proceedings was being held did not affect the share of plaintiff Purificacion Balilo-Montero because the sale was not registered.
III. The trial court erred in ordering defendant Eugenia Septimo to reconvey 1/2 of the property in question covered by TCT No. T-3014 to plaintiff Purificacion Balilo-Montero.
In a Decision dated April 11, 2001, the CA affirmed with modification the decision of the trial court. The CA applied the Old Civil Code on testate succession, and ruled that the property was registered in the name of Jose Balilo whose civil status was stated as single. Considering that he was survived by Purificacion Montero, his wife Juana Villarama and their son Jovencio Balilo when he died in 1943; and when Juana Villarama died intestate, was, in turn, survived by her son Jovencio Balilo and Purificacion Montero, Jovencio was entitled to two-thirds undivided portion of the property, while Purificacion Montero was entitled to one-third undivided portion of the property. Respondent Eugenia Septimo did not file any motion for the reconsideration of the decision. However, Purificacion Montero filed a motion for the partial reconsideration of the decision, alleging that, applying the provisions of the Old Civil Code on intestate succession, she was entitled to an undivided one-half portion of the property. The CA, however, denied the said motion.
Purificacion Montero, now the petitioner, filed the instant petition for review, contending that:
THE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED IN HOLDING THAT THE PETITIONER IS ENTITLED ONLY TO ONE-THIRD (1/3) SHARE OF THE PROPERTY SOUGHT TO BE RECOVERED HEREIN, SAID ADJUDICATION FINDING NO LEGAL SUPPORT UNDER THE CIVIL CODE OF SPAIN WHICH WAS THE LAW THEN PREVAILING.
The petitioner maintains that the CA should have applied the provisions of the Old Civil Code on intestate succession because Jose Balilo died intestate in 1943 before the New Civil Code took effect. She posits that she and Jovencio Balilo were entitled to inherit the property from Jose Balilo in equal shares, because there is no competent evidence on record to prove that Jose Balilo and Juana Villarama, the mother of Jovencio, were married.
The petition is granted.
We agree with the contention of the petitioner that there is no evidence on record that Jose Balilo and Juana Villarama were married, or that they cohabited with each other as husband and wife. Even Jovencio Balilo opted not to testify. Neither was Jose Balilo survived by any ascendants. However, we agree with the ruling of the CA that Jose Balilo and Gertrudes Nicdao were not, likewise, married.
The contention of the petitioner that the CA erred in applying the law on testate succession under the Old Civil Code is, likewise, correct. The appellate court should have applied the provisions of the Old Civil Code on intestate succession considering that Jose Balilo died intestate in 1943, before the effectivity of the New Civil Code.
Article 931 of the Old Civil Code provides that when a person dies intestate, his legitimate children and their descendants succeed him, without distinction of sex, or age, even though they spring from different marriages. Article 932 of the same Code provides that the children of the deceased shall always inherit from him in their own right, dividing the inheritance in equal shares. Moreover, under Article 939 of the Old Civil Code, in the absence of legitimate descendants or ascendants, the natural children legally acknowledged and those legitimated by royal succession shall succeed to the entire estate of the deceased.
When Jose Balilo died intestate on August 12, 1943, he was survived by his daughter, the petitioner herein, his son Jovencio Balilo, and Gertrudes Nicdao and Juana Villarama. Conformably to Article 939 of the Old Civil Code, only the petitioner and Jovencio Balilo inherited the property in equal shares, to the exclusion of Juana Villarama and Gertrudes Nicdao. Neither of them was the lawful wife of Jose Balilo. Besides, under Article 946 of the Old Civil Code, the surviving spouse shall inherit only in default of the persons enumerated “in the three sections next preceding.”
Consequently, when Jovencio Balilo, through his guardian Niniana Balilo, executed the deed of absolute sale over the entire property on May 26, 1948 in favor of Jose Septimo, the latter did not acquire title over the entire property, but only to an undivided one-half portion thereof which Jovencio Balilo had inherited from Jose Balilo. Jose Septimo could not have purchased and acquired the other half of the property from Jovencio Balilo because the latter was not the owner thereof. Hence, the CA erred in holding that Jovencio Balilo inherited an undivided two-thirds portion of the property, and that Jose Septimo acquired title over the said two-thirds undivided portion.
IN LIGHT OF ALL THE FOREGOING, the petition is GRANTED. The assailed Decision and Resolution of the Court of Appeals are REVERSED AND SET ASIDE. The Decision of the Regional Trial Court is REINSTATED. No pronouncement as to costs.
Puno, (Chairman), Austria-Martinez, Tinga, and Chico-Nazario, JJ., concur.
* “Ovencio” in the records.
 Records, p. 106.
 Id. at 168.
 Id. at 166.
 Id. at 166-167.
 Id. at 175.
 Id. at 2.
 Id. at 33.
 Id. at 226.
 CA Rollo, p. 28.
 Rollo, p. 20.
Supreme Court E-Library SearchEN BANC
NENG “KAGUI KADIGUIA” MALANG, petitioner, vs. HON. COROCOY MOSON, Presiding Judge of 5th Shari’a District Court, Cotabato City, HADJI MOHAMMAD ULYSSIS MALANG, HADJI ISMAEL MALINDATU MALANG, FATIMA MALANG, DATULNA MALANG, LAWANBAI MALANG, JUBAIDA KADO MALANG, NAYO OMAL MALANG and MABAY GANAP MALANG, respondents.
D E C I S I O N
Presented for resolution in this special civil action of certiorari is the issue of whether or not the regime of conjugal partnership of gains governed the property relationship of two Muslims who contracted marriage prior to the effectivity of the Code of Muslim Personal Laws of the Philippines (hereafter, “P.D. 1083” or “Muslim Code”). The question is raised in connection with the settlement of the estate of the deceased husband.
Hadji Abdula Malang, a Muslim, contracted marriage with Aida (Kenanday) Limba. They begot three sons named Hadji Mohammad Ulyssis, Hadji Ismael Malindatu and Datulna, and a daughter named Lawanbai. Hadji Abdula Malang was engaged in farming, tilling the land that was Aida’s dowry (mahr or majar). Thereafter, he bought a parcel of land in Sousa, Cotabato. Hadji Abdula and Aida already had two children when he married for the second time another Muslim named Jubaida Kado in Kalumamis, Talayan, Maguindanao. No child was born out of Hadji Abdula’s second marriage. When Aida, the first wife, was pregnant with their fourth child, Hadji Abdula divorced her.
In 1965, Hadji Abdula married another Muslim, Nayo H. Omar but they were childless. Thereafter, Hadji Abdula contracted marriage with Hadji Mabai (Mabay) H. Adziz in Kalumamis, Talayan, Maguindanao and soon they had a daughter named Fatima (Kueng). Hadji Abdula and Hadji Mabai stayed in that place to farm while Hadji Abdula engaged in the business of buying and selling of rice, corn and other agricultural products. Not long after, Hadji Abdula married three other Muslim women named Saaga, Mayumbai and Sabai but he eventually divorced them.
Hadji Abdula then migrated to Tambunan where, in 1972, he married petitioner Neng “Kagui Kadiguia” Malang, his fourth wife, excluding the wives he had divorced. They established residence in Cotabato City but they were childless. For a living, they relied on farming and on the business of buying and selling of agricultural products. Hadji Abdula acquired vast tracts of land in Sousa and Talumanis, Cotabato City, some of which were cultivated by tenants. He deposited money in such banks as United Coconut Planters Bank, Metrobank and Philippine Commercial and Industrial Bank.
On December 18, 1993, while he was living with petitioner in Cotabato City, Hadji Abdula died without leaving a will. On January 21, 1994, petitioner filed with the Shari’a District Court in Cotabato City a petition for the settlement of his estate with a prayer that letters of administration be issued in the name of her niece, Tarhata Lauban.
Petitioner claimed in that petition that she was the wife of Hadji Abdula; that his other legal heirs are his three children named Teng Abdula, Keto Abdula and Kueng Malang, and that he left seven (7) parcels of land, five (5) of which are titled in Hadji Abdula’s name “married to Neng P. Malang,” and a pick-up jeepney.
On February 7, 1994, the Shari’a District Court ordered the publication of the petition. After such publication or on March 16, 1994, Hadji Mohammad Ulyssis Malang (“Hadji Mohammad”, for brevity), the eldest son of Hadji Abdula, filed his opposition to the petition. He alleged among other matters that his father’s surviving heirs are as follows: (a) Jubaida Malang, surviving spouse; (b) Nayo Malang, surviving spouse; (c) Mabay Malang, surviving spouse; (d) petitioner Neng Malang, surviving spouse; (e) oppositor Hadji Mohammad Ulyssis Malang who is also known as “Teng Abdula,” son; (f) Hadji Ismael Malindatu Malang, also known as “Keto Abdula,” son, (g) Fatima Malang, also known as “Kueng Malang,” daughter; (h) Datulna Malang, son, and (i) Lawanbai Malang, daughter. Oppositor Hadji Mohammad Ulyssis Malang alleged that since he and his brother, Hadji Ismael Malindatu Malang, had helped their father in his business, then they were more competent to be administrators of his estate.
On March 30, 1994, Jubaida Malang, Ismael Malindatu Malang, Nayo Malang, Fatima Malang, Mabay Malang, Datulna Malang and Lawanbai Malang filed an opposition to the petition, adopting as their own the written opposition of Hadji Mohammad.
On April 7, 1994, the Shari’a District Court issued an Order appointing Hadji Mohammad administrator of his father’s properties outside Cotabato City. The same order named petitioner and Hadji Ismael Malindatu Malang as joint administrators of the estate in Cotabato City. Each administrator was required to post a bond in the amount of P100,000.00. On April 13, 1994, letters of administration were issued to Hadji Mohammad after he had posted the required bond. He took his oath on the same day. The following day, Hadji Ismael and petitioner likewise filed their respective bonds and hence, they were allowed to take their oath as administrators.
On April 25, 1994 and May 3, 1994, petitioner filed two motions informing the court that Hadji Abdula had outstanding deposits with nine (9) major banks. Petitioner prayed that the managers of each of those banks be ordered to submit a bank statement of the outstanding deposit of Hadji Abdula. The Shari’a District Court having granted the motions, Assistant Vice President Rockman O. Sampuha of United Coconut Planters Bank informed the court that as of April 24, 1994, the outstanding deposit of Hadji Abdula amounted to one million five hundred twenty thousand four hundred pesos and forty-eight centavos (
P1,520,400.48). The Senior Manager of the Cotabato branch of Metrobank also certified that as of December 18, 1993, “Hadji Abdula Malang or Malindatu Malang” had on savings deposit the balance of three hundred seventy-eight thousand four hundred ninety-three pesos and 32/100 centavos (P378,493.32). PCIB likewise issued a certification that Hadji Abdula had a balance of eight hundred fifty pesos (P850.00) in his current account as of August 11, 1994.
During the pendency of the case, petitioner suffered a congestive heart failure that required immediate medical treatment. On May 5, 1994, she filed a motion praying that on account of her ailment, she be allowed to withdraw from UCPB the amount of three hundred thousand pesos (P300,000.00) that shall constitute her advance share in the estate of Hadji Abdula. After due hearing, the Sharia District Court allowed petitioner to withdraw the sum of two hundred fifty thousand pesos (P250,000.00).
On May 12, 1994, the Shari’a District Court required petitioner and Hadji Ismael as joint administrators to submit an inventory and appraisal of all properties of Hadji Abdula. In compliance therewith, Hadji Ismael submitted an inventory showing that in Cotabato City, Hadji Abdula had seven (7) residential lots with assessed value ranging from P5,020.00 to P25,800.00, an agricultural land with assessed value of P860.00, three (3) one-storey residential buildings, and one (1) two-storey residential building. All these properties were declared for taxation purposes in Hadji Abdula’s name.
For her part, petitioner submitted an inventory showing that Hadji Abdula “married to Neng Malang” had seven (7) residential lots with a total assessed value of P243,840.00 in Cotabato City, an Isuzu pick-up jeepney valued at P30,000.00 and bank deposits.
In the Memorandum that she filed with the Shari’a District Court, petitioner asserted that all the properties located in Cotabato City, including the vehicle and bank deposits, were conjugal properties in accordance with Article 160 of the Civil Code and Article 116 of the Family Code while properties located outside of Cotabato City were exclusive properties of the decedent.
On the other hand, the oppositors contended in their own Memorandum that all the properties left by Hadji Abdula were his exclusive properties for various reasons. First, Hadji Abdula had no conjugal partnership with petitioner because his having contracted eight (8) marriages with different Muslim women was in violation of the Civil Code that provided for a monogamous marriage; a conjugal partnership presupposes a valid civil marriage, not a bigamous marriage or a common-law relationship. Second, the decedent adopted a “complete separation of property regime” in his marital relations; while his wives Jubaida Kado, Nayo Hadji Omal and Mabay Ganap Hadji Adzis contributed to the decedent’s properties, there is no evidence that petitioner had contributed funds for the acquisition of such properties. Third, the presumption that properties acquired during the marriage are conjugal properties is inapplicable because at the time he acquired the properties, the decedent was married to four (4) women. Fourth, the properties are not conjugal in nature notwithstanding that some of these properties were titled in the name of the decedent “married to Neng Malang” because such description is not conclusive of the conjugal nature of the property. Furthermore, because petitioner admitted in her verified petition that the properties belonged “to the estate of decedent,” she was estopped from claiming, after formal offer of evidence, that the properties were conjugal in nature just because some of the properties were titled in Hadji Abdula’s name “married to Neng Malang.” Fifth, if it is true that the properties were conjugal properties, then these should have been registered in the names of both petitioner and the decedent.
In its Order of September 26, 1994, the Shari’a District Court presided by Judge Corocoy D. Moson held that there was no conjugal partnership of gains between petitioner and the decedent primarily because the latter married eight times. The Civil Code provision on conjugal partnership cannot be applied if there is more than one wife because “conjugal partnership presupposes a valid civil marriage, not a plural marriage or a common-law relationship.” The court further found that the decedent was “the chief, if not the sole, breadwinner of his families” and that petitioner did not contribute to the properties unlike the other wives named Jubaida, Nayo and Mabay. The description “married to Neng Malang” in the titles to the real properties is no more than that –-- the description of the relationship between petitioner and the decedent. Such description is insufficient to prove that the properties belong to the conjugal partnership of gains. The court stated:
In the instant case, decedent had four (4) wives at the time he acquired the properties in question. To sustain the contention of the petitioner that the properties are her conjugal property with the decedent is doing violence to the provisions of the Civil Code. Be it noted that at the time of the marriage of the petitioner with the decedent, there were already three (3) existing marriages. Assuming for the moment that petitioner and the decedent had agreed that the property regime between them will be governed by the regime of conjugal partnership property, that agreement is null and void for it is against the law, public policy, public order, good moral(s) and customs.
Under Islamic law, the regime of property relationship is complete separation of property, in the absence of any stipulation to the contrary in the marriage settlements or any other contract (Article 38, P.D. 1083). There being no evidence of such contrary stipulation or contract, this Court concludes as it had begun, that the properties in question, both real and personal, are not conjugal, but rather, exclusive property of the decedent.
Thus, the Shari’a District Court held that the Islamic law should be applied in the distribution of the estate of Hadji Abdula and accordingly disposed of the case as follows:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Court orders the following:
1) That the estate shall pay the corresponding estate tax, reimburse the funeral expenses in the amount of P50,000.00, and the judicial expenses in the amount of P2,040.80;
2) That the net estate, consisting of real and personal properties, located in Talayan, Maguindanao and in Cotabato City, is hereby ordered to be distributed and adjudicated as follows:
a) Jubaida Kado Malang ------------------------- 2/64 of the estate
b) Nayo Omar Malang ------------------------- 2/64 - do -
c) Mabai Aziz Malang ------------------------- 2/64 - do -
d) Neng “Kagui Kadiguia” Malang ------------------- 2/64 - do -
e) Mohammad Ulyssis Malang-------------------------14/64 - do -
f) Ismael Malindatu Malang---------------------------14/64 - do -
g) Datulna Malang ------------------------- 14/64 - do -
h) Lawanbai Malang ------------------------- 7/64 - do -
i) Fatima (Kueng) Malang ------------------------- 7/64 - do -
3) That the amount of P250,000.00 given to Neng “Kagui Kadiguia” Malang by way of advance be charged against her share and if her share is not sufficient, to return the excess; and
4) That the heirs are hereby ordered to submit to this court their Project of Partition for approval, not later than three (3) months from receipt of this order.
On October 4, 1994, petitioner filed a motion for the reconsideration of that Order. The oppositors objected to that motion. On January 10, 1995, the Shari’a District Court denied petitioner’s motion for reconsideration. Unsatisfied, petitioner filed a notice of appeal. However, on January 19, 1995, she filed a manifestation withdrawing the notice of appeal on the strength of the following provisions of P.D. No. 1083:
Art. 145. Finality of Decisions – The decisions of the Shari’a District Courts whether on appeal from the Shari’a Circuit Court or not shall be final. Nothing herein contained shall affect the original and appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court as provided in the Constitution.
Petitioner accordingly informed the court that she would be filing “an original action of certiorari with the Supreme Court.”
On March 1, 1995, petitioner filed the instant petition for certiorari with preliminary injunction and/or restraining order. She contends that the Shari’a District Court gravely erred in: (a) ruling that when she married Hadji Abdula Malang, the latter had three existing marriages with Jubaida Kado Malang, Nayo Omar Malang and Mabay Ganap Malang and therefore the properties acquired during her marriage could not be considered conjugal, and (b) holding that said properties are not conjugal because under Islamic Law, the regime of relationship is complete separation of property, in the absence of stipulation to the contrary in the marriage settlement or any other contract.
As petitioner sees it, “the law applicable on issues of marriage and property regime is the New Civil Code”, under which all property of the marriage is presumed to belong to the conjugal partnership. The Shari’a Court, meanwhile, viewed the Civil Code provisions on conjugal partnership as incompatible with plural marriage, which is permitted under Muslim law, and held the applicable property regime to be complete separation of property under P.D. 1083.
Owing to the complexity of the issue presented, and the fact that the case is one of first impression --- this is a singular situation where the issue on what law governs the property regime of a Muslim marriage celebrated prior to the passage of the Muslim Code has been elevated from a Shari’a court for the Court’s resolution --- the Court decided to solicit the opinions of two amici curiae, Justice Ricardo C. Puno and former Congressman Michael O. Mastura. The Court extends its warmest thanks to the amici curiae for their valuable inputs in their written memoranda and in the hearing of June 27, 2000.
Resolution of the instant case is made more difficult by the fact that very few of the pertinent dates of birth, death, marriage and divorce are established by the record. This is because, traditionally, Muslims do not register acts, events or judicial decrees affecting civil status. It also explains why the evidence in the instant case consisted substantially of oral testimonies.
What is not disputed is that: Hadji Abdula contracted a total of eight marriages, counting the three which terminated in divorce; all eight marriages were celebrated during the effectivity of the Civil Code and before the enactment of the Muslim Code; Hadji Abdula divorced four wives --- namely, Aida, Saaga, Mayumbai and Sabai --- all divorces of which took place before the enactment of the Muslim Code; and, Hadji Abdula died on December 18, 1993, after the Muslim Code and Family Code took effect, survived by four wives (Jubaida, Nayo, Mabay and Neng) and five children, four of whom he begot with Aida and one with Mabay. It is also clear that the following laws were in force, at some point or other, during the marriages of Hadji Abdula: the Civil Code, which took effect on August 30, 1950; Republic Act No. 394 (“R.A. 394”), authorizing Muslim divorces, which was effective from June 18, 1949 to June 13, 1969; the Muslim Code, which took effect February 4, 1977; and the Family Code, effective August 3, 1988.
Proceeding upon the foregoing, the Court has concluded that the record of the case is simply inadequate for purposes of arriving at a fair and complete resolution of the petition. To our mind, any attempt at this point to dispense with the basic issue given the scantiness of the evidence before us could result in grave injustice to the parties in this case, as well as cast profound implications on Muslim families similarly or analogously situated to the parties herein. Justice and accountability dictate a remand; trial must reopen in order to supply the factual gaps or, in Congressman Mastura’s words, “missing links”, that would be the bases for judgment and accordingly, allow respondent court to resolve the instant case. In ordering thus, however, we take it as an imperative on our part to set out certain guidelines in the interpretation and application of pertinent laws to facilitate the task of respondent court.
It will also be recalled that the main issue presented by the petition --- concerning the property regime applicable to two Muslims married prior to the effectivity of the Muslim Code --- was interposed in relation to the settlement of the estate of the deceased husband. Settlement of estates of Muslims whose civil acts predate the enactment of the Muslim Code may easily result in the application of the Civil Code and other personal laws, thus convincing the Court that it is but propitious to go beyond the issue squarely presented and identify such collateral issues as are required to be resolved in a settlement of estate case. As amicus curiae Congressman Mastura puts it, the Court does not often come by a case as the one herein, and jurisprudence will be greatly enriched by a discussion of the “watershed of collateral issues” that this case presents.
The Court has identified the following collateral issues, which we hereby present in question form: (1) What law governs the validity of a Muslim marriage celebrated under Muslim rites before the effectivity of the Muslim Code? (2) Are multiple marriages celebrated before the effectivity of the Muslim Code valid? (3) How do the Court’s pronouncements in People vs. Subano, 73 Phil. 692 (1942), and People vs. Dumpo, 62 Phil. 246 (1935), affect Muslim marriages celebrated before the effectivity of the Muslim Code? (4) What laws govern the property relationship of Muslim multiple marriages celebrated before the Muslim Code? (5) What law governs the succession to the estate of a Muslim who died after the Muslim Code and the Family Code took effect? (6) What laws apply to the dissolution of property regimes in the cases of multiple marriages entered into before the Muslim Code but dissolved (by the husband’s death) after the effectivity of the Muslim Code? and (7) Are Muslim divorces effected before the enactment of the Muslim Code valid?
The succeeding guidelines, which derive mainly from the Compliance of amicus curiae Justice Puno, are hereby laid down by the Court for the reference of respondent court, and for the direction of the bench and bar:
First Collateral Issue: The Law(s) Governing Validity of Muslim Marriages Celebrated Before the Muslim Code
The time frame in which all eight marriages of Hadji Abdula were celebrated was during the effectivity of the Civil Code which, accordingly, governs the marriages. Article 78 of the Civil Code recognized the right of Muslims to contract marriage in accordance with their customs and rites, by providing that ---
Marriages between Mohammedans or pagans who live in the non-Christian provinces may be performed in accordance with their customs, rites or practices. No marriage license or formal requisites shall be necessary. Nor shall the persons solemnizing these marriages be obliged to comply with article 92.
However, thirty years after the approval of this Code, all marriages performed between Muslims or other non-Christians shall be solemnized in accordance with the provisions of this Code. But the President of the Philippines, upon recommendation of the Commissioner of National Integration, may at any time before the expiration of said period, by proclamation, make any of said provisions applicable to the Muslims and non-Christian inhabitants of any of the non-Christian provinces.
Notably, before the expiration of the thirty-year period after which Muslims are enjoined to solemnize their marriages in accordance with the Civil Code, P.D. 1083 or the Muslim Code was passed into law. The enactment of the Muslim Code on February 4, 1977 rendered nugatory the second paragraph of Article 78 of the Civil Code which provides that marriages between Muslims thirty years after the approval of the Civil Code shall be solemnized in accordance with said Code.
Second and Third Collateral Issues: The Validity of Muslim Multiple Marriages Celebrated Before the Muslim Code; The Effect of People vs. Subano and People vs. Dumpo
Prior to the enactment of P.D. 1083, there was no law in this jurisdiction which sanctioned multiple marriages. It is also not to be disputed that the only law in force governing marriage relations between Muslims and non-Muslims alike was the Civil Code of 1950.
The Muslim Code, which is the first comprehensive codification of Muslim personal laws, also provides in respect of acts that transpired prior to its enactment:
Art. 186. Effect of code on past acts. --- (1) Acts executed prior to the effectivity of this Code shall be governed by the laws in force at the time of their execution, and nothing herein except as otherwise specifically provided, shall affect their validity or legality or operate to extinguish any right acquired or liability incurred thereby.
The foregoing provisions are consistent with the principle that all laws operate prospectively, unless the contrary appears or is clearly, plainly and unequivocably expressed or necessarily implied; accordingly, every case of doubt will be resolved against the retroactive opertion of laws. Article 186 aforecited enunciates the general rule of the Muslim Code to have its provisions applied prospectively, and implicitly upholds the force and effect of a pre-existing body of law, specifically, the Civil Code --- in respect of civil acts that took place before the Muslim Code’s enactment.
Admittedly, an apparent antagonism arises when we consider that what the provisions of the Civil Code contemplate and nurture is a monogamous marriage. “Bigamous or polygamous marriages” are considered void and inexistent from the time of their performance. The Family Code which superseded the Civil Code provisions on marriage emphasizes that a subsequent marriage celebrated before the registration of the judgment declaring a prior marriage void shall likewise be void. These provisions illustrate that the marital relation perceived by the Civil Code is one that is monogamous, and that subsequent marriages entered into by a person with others while the first one is subsisting is by no means countenanced.
Thus, when the validity of Muslim plural marriages celebrated before the enactment of the Muslim Code was touched upon in two criminal cases, the Court applied the perspective in the Civil Code that only one valid marriage can exist at any given time.
In People vs. Subano, supra, the Court convicted the accused of homicide, not parricide, since ---
(f)rom the testimony of Ebol Subano, father of the deceased, it appears that the defendant has three wives and that the deceased was the last in point of time. Although the practice of polygamy is approved by custom among these non-Christians, polygamy, however, is not sanctioned by the Marriage Law, which merely recognizes tribal marriage rituals. The deceased, under our law, is not thus the lawful wife of the defendant and this precludes conviction for the crime of parricide.
In People vs. Dumpo, supra, Mora Dumpo was prosecuted for bigamy when, legally married to Moro Hassan, she allegedly contracted a second marriage with Moro Sabdapal. The Court acquitted her on the ground that it was not duly proved that the alleged second marriage had all the essential requisites to make it valid were it not for the subsistence of the first marriage. As it appears that the consent of the bride’s father is an indispensable requisite to the validity of a Muslim marriage, and as Mora Dumpo’s father categorically affirmed that he did not give his consent to her union with Moro Sabdapal, the Court held that such union could not be a marriage otherwise valid were it not for the existence of the first one, and resolved to acquit her of the charge of bigamy.
The ruling in Dumpo indicates that, had it been proven as a fact that the second marriage contained all the essential requisites to make it valid, a conviction for bigamy would have prospered.
Fourth Collateral Issue: Law(s) Governing Property Relations of Muslim Marriages Celebrated Before the Muslim Code
This is the main issue presented by the instant petition. In keeping with our holding that the validity of the marriages in the instant case is determined by the Civil Code, we hold that it is the same Code that determines and governs the property relations of the marriages in this case, for the reason that at the time of the celebration of the marriages in question the Civil Code was the only law on marriage relations, including property relations between spouses, whether Muslim or non-Muslim. Inasmuch as the Family Code makes substantial amendments to the Civil Code provisions on property relations, some of its provisions are also material, particularly to property acquired from and after August 3, 1988.
Which law would govern depends upon: (1) when the marriages took place; (2) whether the parties lived together as husband and wife; and (3) when and how the subject properties were acquired.
Following are the pertinent provisions of the Civil Code:
Art. 119. The future spouses may in the marriage settlements agree upon absolute or relative community of property, or upon complete separation of property, or upon any other regime. In the absence of marriage settlements, or when the same are void, the system of relative community or conjugal partnership of gains as established in this Code shall govern the property relations between husband and wife.
Art. 135. All property brought by the wife to the marriage, as well as all property she acquires during the marriage, in accordance with article 148, is paraphernal.
Art. 136. The wife retains the ownership of the paraphernal property.
Art. 142. By means of the conjugal partnership of gains the husband and wife place in a common fund the fruits of their separate property and the income from their work or industry, and divide equally, upon the dissolution of the marriage or of the partnership, the net gains or benefits obtained indiscriminately by either spouse during the marriage.
Art. 143. All property of the conjugal partnership of gains is owned in common by the husband and wife.
The Civil Code also provides in Article 144:
When a man and a woman live together as husband and wife, but they are not married, or their marriage is void from the beginning, 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 long line of cases, this Court has interpreted the co-ownership provided in Article 144 of the Civil Code to require that the man and woman living together as husband and wife without the benefit of marriage or under a void marriage must not in any way be incapacitated to marry. Situating these rulings to the instant case, therefore, the co-ownership contemplated in Article 144 of the Civil Code cannot apply to Hadji Abdula’s marriages celebrated subsequent to a valid and legally existing marriage, since from the point of view of the Civil Code Hadji Abdula is not capacitated to marry. However, the wives in such marriages are not precluded from proving that property acquired during their cohabitation with Hadji Abdula is their exclusive property, respectively. Absent such proof, however, the presumption is that property acquired during the subsistence of a valid marriage --- and in the Civil Code, there can only be one validly existing marriage at any given time --- is conjugal property of such subsisting marriage.
With the effectivity of the Family Code on August 3, 1988, the following provisions of the said Code are pertinent:
Art. 147. When a man and a woman who are capacitated to marry each other live exclusively with each other as husband and wife without the benefit of marriage or under a void marriage, their wages and salaries shall be owned by them in equal shares and the property acquired by both of them through their work or industry shall be governed by the rules on co-ownership.
In the absence of proof to the contrary, properties acquired while they lived together shall be presumed to have been obtained by their joint efforts, work or industry, and shall be owned by them in equal shares. For purposes of this Article, a party who did not participate in the acquisition of the other party of any property shall be deemed to have contributed jointly in the acquisition thereof if the former’s efforts consisted in the care and maintenance of the family and of the household.
Neither party can encumber or dispose by acts inter vivos of his or her share in the property acquired during cohabitation and owned in common, without the consent of the other, until after the termination of the cohabitation.
When only one of the parties to a void marriage is in good faith, the share of the party in bad faith in the co-ownership shall be forfeited in favor of their common children. In case of default or of waiver by any or all of the common children or their descendants, each vacant share shall belong to the respective surviving descendants. In the absence of descendants, such share shall belong to the innocent party. In all cases, the forfeiture shall take place upon termination of the cohabitation.
Art. 148. In cases of cohabitation not falling under the preceding Article, only the properties acquired by both of the parties through their actual joint contribution of money, property, or industry shall be owned by them in common in proportion to their respective contributions. In the absence of proof to the contrary, their contributions and corresponding shares are presumed to be equal. The same rule and presumption shall apply to joint deposits of money and evidences of credit.
If one of the parties is validly married to another, his or her share in the co-ownership shall accrue to the absolute community or conjugal partnership existing in such valid marriage. If the party who acted in bad faith is not validly married to another, his or her share shall be forfeited in the manner provided in the last paragraph of the preceding Article.
The foregoing rules on forfeiture shall likewise apply even if both parties are in bad faith.
It will be noted that while the Civil Code merely requires that the parties “live together as husband and wife” the Family Code in Article 147 specifies that they “live exclusively with each other as husband and wife.” Also, in contrast to Article 144 of the Civil Code as interpreted by jurisprudence, Article 148 of the Family Code allows for co-ownership in cases of cohabitation where, for instance, one party has a pre-existing valid marriage, provided that the parties prove their “actual joint contribution of money, property, or industry” and only to the extent of their proportionate interest therein. The rulings in Juaniza vs. Jose, 89 SCRA 306, Camporodendo vs. Garcia, 102 Phil. 1055, and related cases are embodied in the second paragraph of Article 148, which declares that the share of the party validly married to another shall accrue to the property regime of such existing marriage.
Fifth and Sixth Collateral Issues: Law(s) on Succession and Dissolution of Property Regimes
Hadji Abdula died intestate on December 16, 1993. Thus, it is the Muslim Code which should determine the identification of the heirs in the order of intestate succession and the respective shares of the heirs.
Meanwhile, the status and capacity to succeed on the part of the individual parties who entered into each and every marriage ceremony will depend upon the law in force at the time of the performance of the marriage rite.
The status and capacity to succeed of the children will depend upon the law in force at the time of conception or birth of the child. If the child was conceived or born during the period covered by the governance of the Civil Code, the Civil Code provisions on the determination of the legitimacy or illegitimacy of the child would appear to be in point. Thus, the Civil Code provides:
Art. 255. Children born after one hundred and eighty days following the celebration of the marriage, and before three hundred days following its dissolution or the separation of the spouses shall be presumed to be legitimate.
Against this presumption no evidence shall be admitted other than that of the physical impossibility of the husband’s having access to his wife within the first one hundred and twenty days of the three hundred which preceded the birth of the child.
This physical impossibility may be caused:
(1) By the impotence of the husband;
(2) By the fact that the husband and wife were living separately, in such a way that access was not possible;
(3) By the serious illness of the husband.
Art. 256. The child shall be presumed legitimate, although the mother may have declared against its legitimacy or may have been sentenced as an adulteress.
If the child was conceived or born during the period covered by the governance of the Muslim Code, i.e., from February 4, 1977 up to the death of Hadji Abdula on December 18, 1993, the Muslim Code determines the legitimacy or illegitimacy of the child. Under the Muslim Code:
Art. 58. Legitimacy, how established. --- Legitimacy of filiation is established by the evidence of valid marriage between the father and the mother at the time of the conception of the child.
Art. 59. Legitimate children. ---
(1) Children conceived in lawful wedlock shall be presumed to be legitimate. Whoever claims illegitimacy of or impugns such filiation must prove his allegation.
(2) Children born after six months following the consummation of marriage or within two years after the dissolution of the marriage shall be presumed to be legitimate. Against this presumption no evidence shall be admitted other than that of physical impossibility of access between the parents at or about the time of the conception of the child.
Art. 60. Children of subsequent marriage. --- Should the marriage be dissolved and the wife contracts another marriage after the expiration of her ‘idda, the child born within six months from the dissolution of the prior marriage shall be presumed to have been conceived during the former marriage, and if born thereafter, during the latter.
Art. 61. Pregnancy after dissolution. --- If, after the dissolution of marriage, the wife believes that she is pregnant by her former husband, she shall, within thirty days from the time she became aware of her pregnancy, notify the former husband or his heirs of that fact. The husband or his heirs may ask the court to take measures to prevent a simulation of birth.
Upon determination of status and capacity to succeed based on the foregoing provisions, the provisions on legal succession in the Muslim Code will apply. Under Article 110 of the said Code, the sharers to an inheritance include:
(a) The husband, the wife;
(b) The father, the mother, the grandfather, the grandmother;
(c) The daughter and the son’s daughter in the direct line;
(d) The full sister, the consanguine sister, the uterine sister and the uterine brother.
When the wife survives with a legitimate child or a child of the decedent’s son, she is entitled to one-eighth of the hereditary estate; in the absence of such descendants, she shall inherit one-fourth of the estate. The respective shares of the other sharers, as set out in Article 110 abovecited, are provided for in Articles 113 to 122 of P.D. 1083.
Seventh Collateral Issue: Muslim Divorces Before the Effectivity of the Muslim Code
R.A. 394 authorized absolute divorce among Muslims residing in non-Christian provinces, in accordance with Muslim custom, for a period of 20 years from June 18, 1949 (the date of approval of R.A. 394) to June 13, 1969. Thus, a Muslim divorce under R.A. 394 is valid if it took place from June 18, 1949 to June 13, 1969.
From the seven collateral issues that we discussed, we identify four corollary issues as to further situate the points of controversy in the instant case for the guidance of the lower court. Thus:
1. Which of the several marriages was validly and legally existing at the time of the opening of the succession of Hadji Abdula when he died in 1993? The validly and legally existing marriage would be that marriage which was celebrated at a time when there was no other subsisting marriage standing undissolved by a valid divorce or by death. This is because all of the marriages were celebrated during the governance of the Civil Code, under the rules of which only one marriage can exist at any given time.
Whether or not the marriage was validly dissolved by a Muslim divorce depends upon the time frame and the applicable law. A Muslim divorce under R.A. No. 394 is valid if it took place from June 18, 1949 to June 13, 1969, and void if it took place from June 14, 1969.
2. There being a dispute between the petitioner and the oppositors as regards the heirship of the children begotten from different marriages, who among the surviving children are legitimate and who are illegitimate? The children conceived and born of a validly existing marriage as determined by the first corollary issue are legitimate. The fact and time of conception or birth may be determined by proof or presumption depending upon the time frame and the applicable law.
3. What properties constituted the estate of Hadji Abdula at the time of his death on December 18, 1993? The estate of Hadji Abdula consists of the following:
a. Properties acquired during the existence of a valid marriage as determined by the first corollary issue are conjugal properties and should be liquidated and divided between the spouses under the Muslim Code, this being the law in force at the time of Hadji Abdula’s death.
b. Properties acquired under the conditions prescribed in Article 144 of the Civil Code during the period August 30, 1950 to August 2, 1988 are conjugal properties and should be liquidated and divided between the spouses under the Muslim Code. However, the wives other than the lawful wife as determined under the first corollary issue may submit their respective evidence to prove that any of such property is theirs exclusively.
c. Properties acquired under the conditions set out in Articles 147 and 148 of the Family Code during the period from and after August 3, 1988 are governed by the rules on co-ownership.
d. Properties acquired under conditions not covered by the preceding paragraphs and obtained from the exclusive efforts or assets of Hadji Abdula are his exclusive properties.
4. Who are the legal heirs of Hadji Abdula, and what are their shares in intestacy? The following are Hadji Abdula’s legal heirs: (a) the lawful wife, as determined under the first corollary issue, and (2) the children, as determined under the second corollary issue. The Muslim Code, which was already in force at the time of Hadji Abdula’s death, will govern the determination of their respective shares.
As we have indicated early on, the evidence in this case is inadequate to resolve in its entirety the main, collateral and corollary issues herein presented and a remand to the lower court is in order. Accordingly, evidence should be received to supply the following proofs: (1) the exact dates of the marriages performed in accordance with Muslim rites or practices; (2) the exact dates of the dissolutions of the marriages terminated by death or by divorce in accordance with Muslim rites and practices, thus indicating which marriage resulted in a conjugal partnership under the criteria prescribed by the first, second, and third collateral issues and the first corollary issue; (3) the exact periods of actual cohabitation (“common life” under a “common roof”) of each of the marriages during which time the parties lived together; (4) the identification of specific properties acquired during each of the periods of cohabitation referred to in paragraph 3 above, and the manner and source of acquisition, indicating joint or individual effort, thus showing the asset as owned separately, conjugally or in co-ownership; and (5) the identities of the children (legitimate or illegitimate) begotten from the several unions, the dates of their respective conceptions or births in relation to paragraphs 1 and 2 above, thereby indicating their status as lawful heirs.
Amicus curiae Congressman Mastura agrees that since the marriage of petitioner to decedent took place in 1972 the Civil Code is the law applicable on the issue of marriage settlement, but espouses that customs or established practices among Muslims in Mindanao must also be applied with the force of law to the instant case. Congressman Mastura’s disquisition has proven extremely helpful in impressing upon us the background in which Islamic law and the Muslim Code need to be interpreted, particularly the interconnectedness of law and religion for Muslims and the impracticability of a strict application of the Civil Code to plural marriages recognized under Muslim law. Regrettably, the Court is duty-bound to resolve the instant case applying such laws and rights as are in existence at the time the pertinent civil acts took place. Corollarily, we are unable to supplant governing law with customs, albeit how widely observed. In the same manner, we cannot supply a perceived hiatus in P.D. 1083 concerning the distribution of property between divorced spouses upon one of the spouses’ death.51
WHEREFORE, the decision dated September 26, 1994 of the Fifth Shari’a District Court of Cotabato City in Special Proceeding No. 94-40 is SET ASIDE, and the instant petition is REMANDED for the reception of additional evidence and the resolution of the issues of the case based on the guidelines set out in this Decision.
Davide, Jr., C.J., Bellosillo, Melo, Puno, Vitug, Kapunan, Mendoza, Panganiban, Quisumbing, Purisima, Pardo, Buena, Ynares-Santiago, and De Leon, Jr., JJ., concur.
51 TSN, Oral Argument, p. 24; Memorandum of Amicus Curiae, p. 14.
Record, p. 14.
Exhs. C-1, D-1 & E-1.
Record, p. 20.
Ibid., p. 28.
Ibid., p. 31.
Ibid., pp. 32-36.
Ibid., pp. 37-49.
These banks were allegedly: (1) United Coconut Planters Bank; (2) Solidbank; (3) Far East Bank and Trust Company; (4) Philippine Commercial and Industrial Bank; (5) Bank of the Philippine Islands; (6) Metrobank; (7) Philippine National Bank; (8) Land Bank of the Philippines, and (9) Development Bank of the Philippines.
Record, pp. 50 & 59.
Ibid., p. 52 & 61.
Ibid., p. 220 (Exh. CC).
Ibid, p. 219 (Exh. BB).
Ibid., p. 221 (Exh. DD).
Ibid., pp. 62-63.
Ibid., p. 102-103.
Ibid., p. 97.
Ibid., pp. 123-126.
Ibid., p. 108.
Ibid., pp. 229-232.
Ibid., pp. 222-228.
Order of September 26, 1994, pp. 12-13; Rollo, pp. 25-56.
Ibid., pp. 280-281.
Ibid., p. 282.
Ibid., p. 284.
Petition, pp. 5 & 10.
Retired Justice of the Court of Appeals and former Minister of Justice, author, noted civil law professor, and law practitioner. He was also a member of the Family Code Revision Committee.
Former Congressman, law practitioner, and member of the Presidential Code Commission which reviewed P.D. 1083.
Justice Puno’s Compliance by Amicus Curiae was submitted on June 27, 2000 while Congressman Mastura’s Memorandum was submitted on March 29, 2000.
The registration of marriages, divorces, revocations of divorce and conversions into Islam is now required under Title VI (Civil Registry) of P.D. 1083.
TSN, Oral Argument of July 27, 2000, p. 26.
As amended by Republic Act No. 6268, which was approved on June 19, 1971 and was made to take effect as of June 18, 1969.
Article 27 of P.D. 1083 now provides: “Notwithstanding the rule of Islamic law permitting a Muslim to have more than one wife but not more than four at a time, no Muslim male can have more than one wife unless he can deal with them with equal companionship and just treatment as enjoined by Islamic law and only in exceptional cases.”
The Explanatory Note to the Draft Muslim Code states: “This (Code) is the first fundamental concept that the Muslim legal system breathes into the Philippine legal system which has recognized to the present only the application of jural rules of mainly non-Muslim origin.”
Includes all laws on personal status, marriage and divorce, matrimonial and family relations, succession and inheritance, and property relations between spouses. Muslim Code, Art. 7, par. (i).
Commisioner vs. Lingayen Gulf E;ectric Power Co., 164 SCRA 27; Castro vs.. Collector of Internal Revenue, 6 Scar 886; Ichiong vs. Hernandez, 101 Phil. 1155.
Segovia vs. Noel, 47 Phil. 220.
Civil Code, Art. 80, par. 4.
Family Code, Arts. 52, 53.
The Marriage Law, approved on December 4, 1929, preceded the Civil Code of 1950 and was the governing law when People vs. Subano was promulgated.
This is significantly changed by the enactment of P.D. 1083, Article 180 of which provides: “The provisions of the Revised Penal Code relative to the crime of bigamy shall not apply to a person married in accordance with the provisions of this (Muslim) Code or, before its effectivity, under Muslim law. ”
Adriano vs. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 124118, March 27, 2000; Belcodero vs. Court of Appeals, 227 SCRA 303; Juaniza vs. Jose, 89 SCRA 306; Camporodendo vs. Aznar, 102 Phil. 1055; Osmeña vs. Rodriguez, 54 O.G. 5526; Malajacan vs. Rubi, 42 O.G. 5576.
In Osmeña vs. Rodriguez, supra, the Court ruled that a parcel of land acquired in the subsistence of a prior valid marriage did not belong to the conjugal estate of such marriage, in the face of evidence submitted by the common-law wife that such land was her exclusive property.
Civil Code, Art. 160; Adriano vs. Court of Appeals, supra; Belcodero vs. Court of Appeals, supra.
Art. 112, Muslim Code.
Divorce provisions are now embodied in Articles 45 to 55 of the Muslim Code. Under Article 13 of the same Code, the provisions on divorce apply to marriages “wherein both parties are Muslims, or wherein only the male party is a Muslim and the marriage is solemnized in accordance with Muslim law or this Code in any part of the Philippines.”
Ibid., pp. 9, 27, 35-37, 42. Congressman Mastura particularly suggests that the Court take judicial notice of the principle of sa-pancharian on property acquired through the joint efforts of the husband and wife, judicially recognized by the Muslim courts of Malaysia and Singapore and also allegedly practiced as custom by Muslims in Mindanao.