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G.R. No. 74695 September 14, 1993 In the Matter of the Probate of the Last W !!

an" #estament of the $e%ease" &r ' "o (!)ara"o, *+S(R (L,(R($-, petitioner, vs. .-N. R(M-N G. G(,I-L(, /R., Pres " n' /0st %e, .-N. M(. R-S(RI- 12+#2LI- L-S( an" .-N. L+-N-R IN+S L2*I(N-, (sso% ate /0st %es, Interme" ate (ppe!!ate *o0rt, 3 rst $ ) s on 4* ) ! *ases5, an" &(6(NI M(. RIN-, respondents. Vicente R. Redor for petitioner. Bayani Ma. Rino for and in his own behalf. &+LL-SILL-, J.: Before us is an appeal from the Decision dated 11 April 1986 1 of the First Civil Cases Division of the then Intermediate Appellate Court, now Court of Appeals, which affirmed the rder dated !" #une 198$ 7 of the %e&ional 'rial Court of (ta. Cru), *a&una, admittin& to pro+ate the last will and testament 3 with codicil 4 of the late Bri&ido Alvarado. n , -ovem+er 19"", the "9./ear old Bri&ido Alvarado e0ecuted a notarial will entitled 12ulin& 2a+ilin1 wherein he disinherited an ille&itimate son 3petitioner4 and e0pressl/ revo5ed a previousl/ e0ecuted holo&raphic will at the time awaitin& pro+ate +efore Branch 6 of the %e&ional 'rial Court of sta. Cru), *a&una. As testified to +/ the three instrumental witnesses, the notar/ pu+lic and +/ private respondent who were present at the e0ecution, the testator did not read the final draft of the will himself. Instead, private respondent, as the law/er who drafted the ei&ht.pa&ed document, read the same aloud in the presence of the testator, the three instrumental witnesses and the notar/ pu+lic. 'he latter four followed the readin& with their own respective copies previousl/ furnished them. 7eanwhile, Bri&ido8s holo&raphic will was su+se9uentl/ admitted to pro+ate on 9 Decem+er 19"". n the !9th da/ of the same month, a codicil entitled 1:asulatan n& ;a&+a+a&o sa Ilan& ;a&papasi/a na -asasaad sa 2ulin& 2a+ilin na ma/ ;etsa -o+iem+re ,, 19"" ni Bri&ido Alvarado1 was e0ecuted chan&in& some dispositions in the notarial will to &enerate cash for the testator8s e/e operation. Bri&ido was then sufferin& from &laucoma. But the disinheritance and revocator/ clauses were unchan&ed. As in the case of the notarial will, the testator did not personall/ read the final draft of the codicil. Instead, it was private respondent who read it aloud in his presence and in the presence of the three instrumental witnesses 3same as those of the notarial will4 and the notar/ pu+lic who followed the readin& usin& their own copies. A petition for the pro+ate of the notarial will and codicil was filed upon the testator8s death on $ #anuar/ 19"9 +/ private respondent as e0ecutor with the Court of First Instance, now %e&ional 'rial Court, of (iniloan, *a&una. 5;etitioner, in turn, filed an pposition on the followin& &rounds< that the will sou&ht to +e pro+ated was not e0ecuted and attested as re9uired +/ law= that the testator was insane or otherwise mentall/ incapacitated to ma5e a will at the time of its e0ecution due to senilit/ and old a&e= that the will was e0ecuted under duress, or influence of fear and threats= that it was procured +/ undue and improper pressure and influence on the part of the +eneficiar/ who stands to &et the lion8s share of the testator8s estate= and lastl/, that the si&nature of the testator was procured +/ fraud or tric5.

>hen the oppositor 3petitioner4 failed to su+stantiate the &rounds relied upon in the pposition, a ;ro+ate rder was issued on !" #une 198$ from which an appeal was made to respondent court. 'he main thrust of the appeal was that the deceased was +lind within the meanin& of the law at the time his 12ulin& 2a+ilin1 and the codicil attached thereto was e0ecuted= that since the readin& re9uired +/ Art. 8?8 of the Civil Code was admittedl/ not complied with, pro+ate of the deceased8s last will and codicil should have +een denied. n 11 April 1986, the Court of Appeals rendered the decision under review with the followin& findin&s< that Bri&ido Alvarado was not +lind at the time his last will and codicil were e0ecuted= that assumin& his +lindness, the readin& re9uirement of Art. 8?8 was su+stantiall/ complied with when +oth documents were read aloud to the testator with each of the three instrumental witnesses and the notar/ pu+lic followin& the readin& with their respective copies of the instruments. 'he appellate court then concluded that althou&h Art. 8?8 was not followed to the letter, there was su+stantial compliance since its purpose of ma5in& 5nown to the testator the contents of the drafted will was served. 'he issues now +efore us can +e stated thus< >as Bri&ido Alvarado +lind for purpose of Art, 8?8 at the time his 12ulin& 2a+ilin1 and its codicil were e0ecuted@ If so, was the dou+le.readin& re9uirement of said article complied with@ %e&ardin& the first issue, there is no dispute on the followin& facts< Bri&ido Alvarado was not totall/ +lind at the time the will and codicil were e0ecuted. 2owever, his vision on +oth e/es was onl/ of 1countin& fin&ers at three 3$4 feet1 +/ reason of the &laucoma which he had +een sufferin& from for several /ears and even prior to his first consultation with an e/e specialist on 16 Decem+er 19"". 'he point of dispute is whether the fore&oin& circumstances would 9ualif/ Bri&ido as a 1+lind1 testator under Art. 8?8 which reads< Art. 8?8. If the testator is +lind, the will shall +e read to him twice= once, +/ one of the su+scri+in& witnesses, and a&ain, +/ the notar/ pu+lic +efore whom the will is ac5nowled&ed. ;etitioner contends that althou&h his father was not totall/ +lind when the will and codicil were e0ecuted, he can +e so considered within the scope of the term as it is used in Art. 8?8. 'o support his stand, petitioner presented +efore the trial court a medical certificate issued +/ Dr. (alvador %. (alceda, Director of the Institute of pthalmolo&/ 3;hilippine A/e %esearch Institute4, 6 the contents of which were interpreted in la/man8s terms +/ Dr. %uperto %oasa, whose e0pertise was admitted +/ private respondent. 7 Dr. %oasa e0plained that althou&h the testator could visuali)e fin&ers at three 3$4 feet, he could no lon&er read either printed or handwritten matters as of 16 Decem+er 19"", the da/ of his first consultation. 8 n the other hand, the Court of Appeals, contrar/ to the medical testimon/, held that the testator could still read on the da/ the will and the codicil were e0ecuted +ut chose not to do so +ecause of 1poor e/esi&ht.1 9 (ince the testator was still capa+le of readin& at that time, the court a quo concluded that Art. 8?8 need not +e complied with. >e a&ree with petitioner in this respect. %e&ardless of respondent8s staunch contention that the testator was still capa+le of readin& at the time his will and codicil were prepared, the fact remains and this was testified to +/ his witnesses, that Bri&ido did not do so +ecause of his 1poor,1 19 1defective,1 11 or 1+lurred1 17 vision ma5in& it necessar/ for private respondent to do the actual readin& for him.

'he followin& pronouncement in Garcia vs. Vasquez 13 provides an insi&ht into the scope of the term 1+lindness1 as used in Art. 8?8, to wit< 'he rationale +ehind the re9uirement of readin& the will to the testator if he is blind or incapable of reading the will himself (as when he is illiterate , is to ma5e the provisions thereof 5nown to him, so that he ma/ +e a+le to o+Bect if the/ are not in accordance with his wishes . . . Clear from the fore&oin& is that Art. 8?8 applies not onl/ to +lind testators +ut also to those who, for one reason or another, are 1incapa+le of readin& the3ir4 will3s4.1 (ince Bri&ido Alvarado was incapa+le of readin& the final drafts of his will and codicil on the separate occasions of their e0ecution due to his 1poor,1 1defective,1 or 1+lurred1 vision, there can +e no other course for us +ut to conclude that Bri&ido Alvarado comes within the scope of the term 1+lind1 as it is used in Art. 8?8. Cnless the contents were read to him, he had no wa/ of ascertainin& whether or not the law/er who drafted the will and codicil did so conforta+l/ with his instructions. 2ence, to consider his will as validl/ e0ecuted and entitled to pro+ate, it is essential that we ascertain whether Art. 8?8 had +een complied with. Article 8?8 re9uires that in case of testators li5e Bri&ido Alvarado, the will shall +e read twice= once, +/ one of the instrumental witnesses and, a&ain, +/ the notar/ pu+lic +efore whom the will was ac5nowled&ed. 'he purpose is to ma5e 5nown to the incapacitated testator the contents of the document +efore si&nin& and to &ive him an opportunit/ to o+Bect if an/thin& is contrar/ to his instructions. 'hat Art. 8?8 was not followed strictl/ is +e/ond cavil. Instead of the notar/ pu+lic and an instrumental witness, it was the law/er 3private respondent4 who drafted the ei&ht.pa&ed will and the five.pa&ed codicil who read the same aloud to the testator, and read them onl/ once, not twice as Art. 8?8 re9uires. ;rivate respondent however insists that there was su+stantial compliance and that the sin&le readin& suffices for purposes of the law. n the other hand, petitioner maintains that the onl/ valid compliance or compliance to the letter and since it is admitted that neither the notar/ pu+lic nor an instrumental witness read the contents of the will and codicil to Bri&ido, pro+ate of the latter8s will and codicil should have +een disallowed. >e sustain private respondent8s stand and necessaril/, the petition must +e denied. 'his Court has held in a num+er of occasions that su+stantial compliance is accepta+le where the purpose of the law has +een satisfied, the reason +ein& that the solemnities surroundin& the e0ecution of wills are intended to protect the testator from all 5inds of fraud and tric5er/ +ut are never intended to +e so ri&id and infle0i+le as to destro/ the testamentar/ privile&e. 14 In the case at +ar, private respondent read the testator8s will and codicil aloud in the presence of the testator, his three instrumental witnesses, and the notar/ pu+lic. ;rior and su+se9uent thereto, the testator affirmed, upon +ein& as5ed, that the contents read corresponded with his instructions. nl/ then did the si&nin& and ac5nowled&ement ta5e place. 'here is no evidence, and petitioner does not so alle&e, that the contents of the will and codicil were not sufficientl/ made 5nown and communicated to the testator. n the contrar/, with respect to the 12ulin& 2a+ilin,1 the da/ of the e0ecution was not the first time that Bri&ido had affirmed the truth and authenticit/ of the contents of the draft. 'he uncontradicted testimon/ of Att/. %ino is that Bri&ido Alvarado alread/ ac5nowled&ed that the will was drafted in accordance with his e0pressed wishes even prior to , -ovem+er 19"" when Att/. %ino went to the testator8s residence precisel/ for the purpose of securin& his conformit/ to the draft. 15

7oreover, it was not onl/ Att/. %ino who read the documents on , -ovem+er and !9 Decem+er 19"". 'he notar/ pu+lic and the three instrumental witnesses li5ewise read the will and codicil, al+eit silentl/. Afterwards, Att/. -onia de la ;ena 3the notar/ pu+lic4 and Dr. Crescente . Avidente 3one of the three instrumental witnesses and the testator8s ph/sician4 as5ed the testator whether the contents of the document were of his own free will. Bri&ido answered in the affirmative. 16 >ith four persons followin& the readin& word for word with their own copies, it can +e safel/ concluded that the testator was reasona+l/ assured that what was read to him 3those which he affirmed were in accordance with his instructions4, were the terms actuall/ appearin& on the t/pewritten documents. 'his is especiall/ true when we consider the fact that the three instrumental witnesses were persons 5nown to the testator, one +ein& his ph/sician 3Dr. Avidente4 and another 3;otenciano C. %anieses4 +ein& 5nown to him since childhood. 'he spirit +ehind the law was served thou&h the letter was not. Althou&h there should +e strict compliance with the su+stantial re9uirements of the law in order to insure the authenticit/ of the will, the formal imperfections should +e +rushed aside when the/ do not affect its purpose and which, when ta5en into account, ma/ onl/ defeat the testator8s will. 17 As a final word to convince petitioner of the propriet/ of the trial court8s ;ro+ate rder and its affirmance +/ the Court of Appeals, we 9uote the followin& pronouncement in !bangan v. !bangan, 18 to wit< 'he o+Bect of the solemnities surroundin& the e0ecution of wills is to close the door a&ainst +ad faith and fraud, to avoid the su+stitution of wills and testaments and to &uarant/ their truth and authenticit/. 'herefore the laws on the su+Bect should +e interpreted in such a wa/ as to attain these primordial ends. But, on the other hand, also one must not lose si&ht of the fact that it is not the ob"ect of the law to restrain and curtail the e#ercise of the right to ma$e a will . %o when an interpretation already given assures such ends& any other interpretation whatsoever& that adds nothing but demands more requisites entirely unnecessary& useless and frustrative of the testator's will& must be disregarded 3emphasis supplied4. Bri&ido Alvarado had e0pressed his last wishes in clear and unmista5a+le terms in his 12ulin& 2a+ilin1 and the codicil attached thereto. >e are unwillin& to cast these aside fro the mere reason that a le&al re9uirement intended for his protection was not followed strictl/ when such compliance had +een rendered unnecessar/ +/ the fact that the purpose of the law, i.e., to ma5e 5nown to the incapacitated testator the contents of the draft of his will, had alread/ +een accomplished. 'o reiterate, su+stantial compliance suffices where the purpose has +een served. >2A%AF %A, the petition is DA-IAD and the assailed Decision of respondent Court of Appeals dated 11 April 1986 is AFFI%7AD. Considerin& the len&th of time that this case has remained pendin&, this decision is immediatel/ e0ecutor/. Costs a&ainst petitioner. ( %DA%AD.