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G.R. No.

L-43082 June 18, 1937

PABLO LORENZO, as trustee of the estate of Thomas Hanley, deceased, plaintiff-appellant,

JUAN POSADAS, JR., Collector of Internal Revenue, defendant-appellant.

Pablo Lorenzo and Delfin Joven for plaintiff-appellant.

Office of the Solicitor-General Hilado for defendant-appellant.


On October 4, 1932, the plaintiff Pablo Lorenzo, in his capacity as trustee of the estate of Thomas
Hanley, deceased, brought this action in the Court of First Instance of Zamboanga against the
defendant, Juan Posadas, Jr., then the Collector of Internal Revenue, for the refund of the amount of
P2,052.74, paid by the plaintiff as inheritance tax on the estate of the deceased, and for the
collection of interst thereon at the rate of 6 per cent per annum, computed from September 15, 1932,
the date when the aforesaid tax was [paid under protest. The defendant set up a counterclaim for
P1,191.27 alleged to be interest due on the tax in question and which was not included in the
original assessment. From the decision of the Court of First Instance of Zamboanga dismissing both
the plaintiff's complaint and the defendant's counterclaim, both parties appealed to this court.

It appears that on May 27, 1922, one Thomas Hanley died in Zamboanga, Zamboanga, leaving a
will (Exhibit 5) and considerable amount of real and personal properties. On june 14, 1922,
proceedings for the probate of his will and the settlement and distribution of his estate were begun in
the Court of First Instance of Zamboanga. The will was admitted to probate. Said will provides,
among other things, as follows:

4. I direct that any money left by me be given to my nephew Matthew Hanley.

5. I direct that all real estate owned by me at the time of my death be not sold or otherwise
disposed of for a period of ten (10) years after my death, and that the same be handled and
managed by the executors, and proceeds thereof to be given to my nephew, Matthew
Hanley, at Castlemore, Ballaghaderine, County of Rosecommon, Ireland, and that he be
directed that the same be used only for the education of my brother's children and their

6. I direct that ten (10) years after my death my property be given to the above mentioned
Matthew Hanley to be disposed of in the way he thinks most advantageous.

xxx xxx xxx

8. I state at this time I have one brother living, named Malachi Hanley, and that my nephew,
Matthew Hanley, is a son of my said brother, Malachi Hanley.

The Court of First Instance of Zamboanga considered it proper for the best interests of ther estate to
appoint a trustee to administer the real properties which, under the will, were to pass to Matthew
Hanley ten years after the two executors named in the will, was, on March 8, 1924, appointed
trustee. Moore took his oath of office and gave bond on March 10, 1924. He acted as trustee until
February 29, 1932, when he resigned and the plaintiff herein was appointed in his stead.
During the incumbency of the plaintiff as trustee, the defendant Collector of Internal Revenue,
alleging that the estate left by the deceased at the time of his death consisted of realty valued at
P27,920 and personalty valued at P1,465, and allowing a deduction of P480.81, assessed against
the estate an inheritance tax in the amount of P1,434.24 which, together with the penalties for
deliquency in payment consisting of a 1 per cent monthly interest from July 1, 1931 to the date of
payment and a surcharge of 25 per cent on the tax, amounted to P2,052.74. On March 15, 1932, the
defendant filed a motion in the testamentary proceedings pending before the Court of First Instance
of Zamboanga (Special proceedings No. 302) praying that the trustee, plaintiff herein, be ordered to
pay to the Government the said sum of P2,052.74. The motion was granted. On September 15,
1932, the plaintiff paid said amount under protest, notifying the defendant at the same time that
unless the amount was promptly refunded suit would be brought for its recovery. The defendant
overruled the plaintiff's protest and refused to refund the said amount hausted, plaintiff went to court
with the result herein above indicated.

In his appeal, plaintiff contends that the lower court erred:

I. In holding that the real property of Thomas Hanley, deceased, passed to his instituted heir,
Matthew Hanley, from the moment of the death of the former, and that from the time, the
latter became the owner thereof.

II. In holding, in effect, that there was deliquency in the payment of inheritance tax due on the
estate of said deceased.

III. In holding that the inheritance tax in question be based upon the value of the estate upon
the death of the testator, and not, as it should have been held, upon the value thereof at the
expiration of the period of ten years after which, according to the testator's will, the property
could be and was to be delivered to the instituted heir.

IV. In not allowing as lawful deductions, in the determination of the net amount of the estate
subject to said tax, the amounts allowed by the court as compensation to the "trustees" and
paid to them from the decedent's estate.

V. In not rendering judgment in favor of the plaintiff and in denying his motion for new trial.

The defendant-appellant contradicts the theories of the plaintiff and assigns the following error

The lower court erred in not ordering the plaintiff to pay to the defendant the sum of
P1,191.27, representing part of the interest at the rate of 1 per cent per month from April 10,
1924, to June 30, 1931, which the plaintiff had failed to pay on the inheritance tax assessed
by the defendant against the estate of Thomas Hanley.

The following are the principal questions to be decided by this court in this appeal: (a) When does
the inheritance tax accrue and when must it be satisfied? (b) Should the inheritance tax be
computed on the basis of the value of the estate at the time of the testator's death, or on its value ten
years later? (c) In determining the net value of the estate subject to tax, is it proper to deduct the
compensation due to trustees? (d) What law governs the case at bar? Should the provisions of Act
No. 3606 favorable to the tax-payer be given retroactive effect? (e) Has there been deliquency in the
payment of the inheritance tax? If so, should the additional interest claimed by the defendant in his
appeal be paid by the estate? Other points of incidental importance, raised by the parties in their
briefs, will be touched upon in the course of this opinion.
(a) The accrual of the inheritance tax is distinct from the obligation to pay the same. Section 1536 as
amended, of the Administrative Code, imposes the tax upon "every transmission by virtue of
inheritance, devise, bequest, gift mortis causa, or advance in anticipation of inheritance,devise, or
bequest." The tax therefore is upon transmission or the transfer or devolution of property of a
decedent, made effective by his death. (61 C. J., p. 1592.) It is in reality an excise or privilege tax
imposed on the right to succeed to, receive, or take property by or under a will or the intestacy law,
or deed, grant, or gift to become operative at or after death. Acording to article 657 of the Civil Code,
"the rights to the succession of a person are transmitted from the moment of his death." "In other
words", said Arellano, C. J., ". . . the heirs succeed immediately to all of the property of the deceased
ancestor. The property belongs to the heirs at the moment of the death of the ancestor as
completely as if the ancestor had executed and delivered to them a deed for the same before his
death." (Bondad vs. Bondad, 34 Phil., 232. See also, Mijares vs. Nery, 3 Phil., 195; Suilong & Co.,
vs. Chio-Taysan, 12 Phil., 13; Lubrico vs. Arbado, 12 Phil., 391; Innocencio vs. Gat-Pandan, 14
Phil., 491; Aliasas vs.Alcantara, 16 Phil., 489; Ilustre vs. Alaras Frondosa, 17 Phil., 321; Malahacan
vs. Ignacio, 19 Phil., 434; Bowa vs. Briones, 38 Phil., 27; Osario vs. Osario & Yuchausti Steamship
Co., 41 Phil., 531; Fule vs. Fule, 46 Phil., 317; Dais vs. Court of First Instance of Capiz, 51 Phil.,
396; Baun vs. Heirs of Baun, 53 Phil., 654.) Plaintiff, however, asserts that while article 657 of the
Civil Code is applicable to testate as well as intestate succession, it operates only in so far as forced
heirs are concerned. But the language of article 657 of the Civil Code is broad and makes no
distinction between different classes of heirs. That article does not speak of forced heirs; it does not
even use the word "heir". It speaks of the rights of succession and the transmission thereof from the
moment of death. The provision of section 625 of the Code of Civil Procedure regarding the
authentication and probate of a will as a necessary condition to effect transmission of property does
not affect the general rule laid down in article 657 of the Civil Code. The authentication of a will
implies its due execution but once probated and allowed the transmission is effective as of the death
of the testator in accordance with article 657 of the Civil Code. Whatever may be the time when
actual transmission of the inheritance takes place, succession takes place in any event at the
moment of the decedent's death. The time when the heirs legally succeed to the inheritance may
differ from the time when the heirs actually receive such inheritance. "Poco importa", says Manresa
commenting on article 657 of the Civil Code, "que desde el falleimiento del causante, hasta que el
heredero o legatario entre en posesion de los bienes de la herencia o del legado, transcurra mucho
o poco tiempo, pues la adquisicion ha de retrotraerse al momento de la muerte, y asi lo ordena el
articulo 989, que debe considerarse como complemento del presente." (5 Manresa, 305; see also,
art. 440, par. 1, Civil Code.) Thomas Hanley having died on May 27, 1922, the inheritance tax
accrued as of the date.

From the fact, however, that Thomas Hanley died on May 27, 1922, it does not follow that the
obligation to pay the tax arose as of the date. The time for the payment on inheritance tax is clearly
fixed by section 1544 of the Revised Administrative Code as amended by Act No. 3031, in relation to
section 1543 of the same Code. The two sections follow:

SEC. 1543. Exemption of certain acquisitions and transmissions. — The following shall not
be taxed:

(a) The merger of the usufruct in the owner of the naked title.

(b) The transmission or delivery of the inheritance or legacy by the fiduciary heir or
legatee to the trustees.

(c) The transmission from the first heir, legatee, or donee in favor of another
beneficiary, in accordance with the desire of the predecessor.
In the last two cases, if the scale of taxation appropriate to the new beneficiary is greater
than that paid by the first, the former must pay the difference.

SEC. 1544. When tax to be paid. — The tax fixed in this article shall be paid:

(a) In the second and third cases of the next preceding section, before entrance into
possession of the property.

(b) In other cases, within the six months subsequent to the death of the predecessor;
but if judicial testamentary or intestate proceedings shall be instituted prior to the
expiration of said period, the payment shall be made by the executor or administrator
before delivering to each beneficiary his share.

If the tax is not paid within the time hereinbefore prescribed, interest at the rate of twelve per
centum per annum shall be added as part of the tax; and to the tax and interest due and
unpaid within ten days after the date of notice and demand thereof by the collector, there
shall be further added a surcharge of twenty-five per centum.

A certified of all letters testamentary or of admisitration shall be furnished the Collector of

Internal Revenue by the Clerk of Court within thirty days after their issuance.

It should be observed in passing that the word "trustee", appearing in subsection (b) of section 1543,
should read "fideicommissary" or "cestui que trust". There was an obvious mistake in translation
from the Spanish to the English version.

The instant case does fall under subsection (a), but under subsection (b), of section 1544 above-
quoted, as there is here no fiduciary heirs, first heirs, legatee or donee. Under the subsection, the
tax should have been paid before the delivery of the properties in question to P. J. M. Moore as
trustee on March 10, 1924.

(b) The plaintiff contends that the estate of Thomas Hanley, in so far as the real properties are
concerned, did not and could not legally pass to the instituted heir, Matthew Hanley, until after the
expiration of ten years from the death of the testator on May 27, 1922 and, that the inheritance tax
should be based on the value of the estate in 1932, or ten years after the testator's death. The
plaintiff introduced evidence tending to show that in 1932 the real properties in question had a
reasonable value of only P5,787. This amount added to the value of the personal property left by the
deceased, which the plaintiff admits is P1,465, would generate an inheritance tax which, excluding
deductions, interest and surcharge, would amount only to about P169.52.

If death is the generating source from which the power of the estate to impose inheritance taxes
takes its being and if, upon the death of the decedent, succession takes place and the right of the
estate to tax vests instantly, the tax should be measured by the vlaue of the estate as it stood at the
time of the decedent's death, regardless of any subsequent contingency value of any subsequent
increase or decrease in value. (61 C. J., pp. 1692, 1693; 26 R. C. L., p. 232; Blakemore and
Bancroft, Inheritance Taxes, p. 137. See also Knowlton vs. Moore, 178 U.S., 41; 20 Sup. Ct. Rep.,
747; 44 Law. ed., 969.) "The right of the state to an inheritance tax accrues at the moment of death,
and hence is ordinarily measured as to any beneficiary by the value at that time of such property as
passes to him. Subsequent appreciation or depriciation is immaterial." (Ross, Inheritance Taxation,
p. 72.)

Our attention is directed to the statement of the rule in Cyclopedia of Law of and Procedure (vol. 37,
pp. 1574, 1575) that, in the case of contingent remainders, taxation is postponed until the estate
vests in possession or the contingency is settled. This rule was formerly followed in New York and
has been adopted in Illinois, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. This
rule, horever, is by no means entirely satisfactory either to the estate or to those interested in the
property (26 R. C. L., p. 231.). Realizing, perhaps, the defects of its anterior system, we find upon
examination of cases and authorities that New York has varied and now requires the immediate
appraisal of the postponed estate at its clear market value and the payment forthwith of the tax on its
out of the corpus of the estate transferred. (In re Vanderbilt, 172 N. Y., 69; 69 N. E., 782; In
re Huber, 86 N. Y. App. Div., 458; 83 N. Y. Supp., 769; Estate of Tracy, 179 N. Y., 501; 72 N. Y.,
519; Estate of Brez, 172 N. Y., 609; 64 N. E., 958; Estate of Post, 85 App. Div., 611; 82 N. Y. Supp.,
1079. Vide also, Saltoun vs. Lord Advocate, 1 Peter. Sc. App., 970; 3 Macq. H. L., 659; 23 Eng. Rul.
Cas., 888.) California adheres to this new rule (Stats. 1905, sec. 5, p. 343).

But whatever may be the rule in other jurisdictions, we hold that a transmission by inheritance is
taxable at the time of the predecessor's death, notwithstanding the postponement of the actual
possession or enjoyment of the estate by the beneficiary, and the tax measured by the value of the
property transmitted at that time regardless of its appreciation or depreciation.

(c) Certain items are required by law to be deducted from the appraised gross in arriving at the net
value of the estate on which the inheritance tax is to be computed (sec. 1539, Revised
Administrative Code). In the case at bar, the defendant and the trial court allowed a deduction of
only P480.81. This sum represents the expenses and disbursements of the executors until March
10, 1924, among which were their fees and the proven debts of the deceased. The plaintiff contends
that the compensation and fees of the trustees, which aggregate P1,187.28 (Exhibits C, AA, EE, PP,
HH, JJ, LL, NN, OO), should also be deducted under section 1539 of the Revised Administrative
Code which provides, in part, as follows: "In order to determine the net sum which must bear the tax,
when an inheritance is concerned, there shall be deducted, in case of a resident, . . . the judicial
expenses of the testamentary or intestate proceedings, . . . ."

A trustee, no doubt, is entitled to receive a fair compensation for his services (Barney vs. Saunders,
16 How., 535; 14 Law. ed., 1047). But from this it does not follow that the compensation due him
may lawfully be deducted in arriving at the net value of the estate subject to tax. There is no statute
in the Philippines which requires trustees' commissions to be deducted in determining the net value
of the estate subject to inheritance tax (61 C. J., p. 1705). Furthermore, though a testamentary trust
has been created, it does not appear that the testator intended that the duties of his executors and
trustees should be separated. (Ibid.; In re Vanneck's Estate, 161 N. Y. Supp., 893; 175 App. Div.,
363; In re Collard's Estate, 161 N. Y. Supp., 455.) On the contrary, in paragraph 5 of his will, the
testator expressed the desire that his real estate be handled and managed by his executors until the
expiration of the period of ten years therein provided. Judicial expenses are expenses of
administration (61 C. J., p. 1705) but, in State vs. Hennepin County Probate Court (112 N. W., 878;
101 Minn., 485), it was said: ". . . The compensation of a trustee, earned, not in the administration of
the estate, but in the management thereof for the benefit of the legatees or devises, does not come
properly within the class or reason for exempting administration expenses. . . . Service rendered in
that behalf have no reference to closing the estate for the purpose of a distribution thereof to those
entitled to it, and are not required or essential to the perfection of the rights of the heirs or legatees. .
. . Trusts . . . of the character of that here before the court, are created for the the benefit of those to
whom the property ultimately passes, are of voluntary creation, and intended for the preservation of
the estate. No sound reason is given to support the contention that such expenses should be taken
into consideration in fixing the value of the estate for the purpose of this tax."

(d) The defendant levied and assessed the inheritance tax due from the estate of Thomas Hanley
under the provisions of section 1544 of the Revised Administrative Code, as amended by section 3
of Act No. 3606. But Act No. 3606 went into effect on January 1, 1930. It, therefore, was not the law
in force when the testator died on May 27, 1922. The law at the time was section 1544 above-
mentioned, as amended by Act No. 3031, which took effect on March 9, 1922.

It is well-settled that inheritance taxation is governed by the statute in force at the time of the death
of the decedent (26 R. C. L., p. 206; 4 Cooley on Taxation, 4th ed., p. 3461). The taxpayer can not
foresee and ought not to be required to guess the outcome of pending measures. Of course, a tax
statute may be made retroactive in its operation. Liability for taxes under retroactive legislation has
been "one of the incidents of social life." (Seattle vs. Kelleher, 195 U. S., 360; 49 Law. ed., 232 Sup.
Ct. Rep., 44.) But legislative intent that a tax statute should operate retroactively should be perfectly
clear. (Scwab vs. Doyle, 42 Sup. Ct. Rep., 491; Smietanka vs. First Trust & Savings Bank, 257 U.
S., 602; Stockdale vs. Insurance Co., 20 Wall., 323; Lunch vs. Turrish, 247 U. S., 221.) "A statute
should be considered as prospective in its operation, whether it enacts, amends, or repeals an
inheritance tax, unless the language of the statute clearly demands or expresses that it shall have a
retroactive effect, . . . ." (61 C. J., P. 1602.) Though the last paragraph of section 5 of Regulations
No. 65 of the Department of Finance makes section 3 of Act No. 3606, amending section 1544 of the
Revised Administrative Code, applicable to all estates the inheritance taxes due from which have not
been paid, Act No. 3606 itself contains no provisions indicating legislative intent to give it retroactive
effect. No such effect can begiven the statute by this court.

The defendant Collector of Internal Revenue maintains, however, that certain provisions of Act No.
3606 are more favorable to the taxpayer than those of Act No. 3031, that said provisions are penal in
nature and, therefore, should operate retroactively in conformity with the provisions of article 22 of
the Revised Penal Code. This is the reason why he applied Act No. 3606 instead of Act No. 3031.
Indeed, under Act No. 3606, (1) the surcharge of 25 per cent is based on the tax only, instead of on
both the tax and the interest, as provided for in Act No. 3031, and (2) the taxpayer is allowed twenty
days from notice and demand by rthe Collector of Internal Revenue within which to pay the tax,
instead of ten days only as required by the old law.

Properly speaking, a statute is penal when it imposes punishment for an offense committed against
the state which, under the Constitution, the Executive has the power to pardon. In common use,
however, this sense has been enlarged to include within the term "penal statutes" all status which
command or prohibit certain acts, and establish penalties for their violation, and even those which,
without expressly prohibiting certain acts, impose a penalty upon their commission (59 C. J., p.
1110). Revenue laws, generally, which impose taxes collected by the means ordinarily resorted to
for the collection of taxes are not classed as penal laws, although there are authorities to the
contrary. (See Sutherland, Statutory Construction, 361; Twine Co. vs. Worthington, 141 U. S., 468;
12 Sup. Ct., 55; Rice vs. U. S., 4 C. C. A., 104; 53 Fed., 910; Com. vs. Standard Oil Co., 101 Pa. St.,
150; State vs. Wheeler, 44 P., 430; 25 Nev. 143.) Article 22 of the Revised Penal Code is not
applicable to the case at bar, and in the absence of clear legislative intent, we cannot give Act No.
3606 a retroactive effect.

(e) The plaintiff correctly states that the liability to pay a tax may arise at a certain time and the tax
may be paid within another given time. As stated by this court, "the mere failure to pay one's tax
does not render one delinqent until and unless the entire period has eplased within which the
taxpayer is authorized by law to make such payment without being subjected to the payment of
penalties for fasilure to pay his taxes within the prescribed period." (U. S. vs. Labadan, 26 Phil.,

The defendant maintains that it was the duty of the executor to pay the inheritance tax before the
delivery of the decedent's property to the trustee. Stated otherwise, the defendant contends that
delivery to the trustee was delivery to the cestui que trust, the beneficiery in this case, within the
meaning of the first paragraph of subsection (b) of section 1544 of the Revised Administrative Code.
This contention is well taken and is sustained. The appointment of P. J. M. Moore as trustee was
made by the trial court in conformity with the wishes of the testator as expressed in his will. It is true
that the word "trust" is not mentioned or used in the will but the intention to create one is clear. No
particular or technical words are required to create a testamentary trust (69 C. J., p. 711). The words
"trust" and "trustee", though apt for the purpose, are not necessary. In fact, the use of these two
words is not conclusive on the question that a trust is created (69 C. J., p. 714). "To create a trust by
will the testator must indicate in the will his intention so to do by using language sufficient to
separate the legal from the equitable estate, and with sufficient certainty designate the beneficiaries,
their interest in the ttrust, the purpose or object of the trust, and the property or subject matter
thereof. Stated otherwise, to constitute a valid testamentary trust there must be a concurrence of
three circumstances: (1) Sufficient words to raise a trust; (2) a definite subject; (3) a certain or
ascertain object; statutes in some jurisdictions expressly or in effect so providing." (69 C. J., pp.
705,706.) There is no doubt that the testator intended to create a trust. He ordered in his will that
certain of his properties be kept together undisposed during a fixed period, for a stated purpose. The
probate court certainly exercised sound judgment in appointment a trustee to carry into effect the
provisions of the will (see sec. 582, Code of Civil Procedure).

P. J. M. Moore became trustee on March 10, 1924. On that date trust estate vested in him (sec. 582
in relation to sec. 590, Code of Civil Procedure). The mere fact that the estate of the deceased was
placed in trust did not remove it from the operation of our inheritance tax laws or exempt it from the
payment of the inheritance tax. The corresponding inheritance tax should have been paid on or
before March 10, 1924, to escape the penalties of the laws. This is so for the reason already stated
that the delivery of the estate to the trustee was in esse delivery of the same estate to the cestui que
trust, the beneficiary in this case. A trustee is but an instrument or agent for the cestui que
trust (Shelton vs. King, 299 U. S., 90; 33 Sup. Ct. Rep., 689; 57 Law. ed., 1086). When Moore
accepted the trust and took possesson of the trust estate he thereby admitted that the estate
belonged not to him but to his cestui que trust (Tolentino vs. Vitug, 39 Phil.,126, cited in 65 C. J., p.
692, n. 63). He did not acquire any beneficial interest in the estate. He took such legal estate only as
the proper execution of the trust required (65 C. J., p. 528) and, his estate ceased upon the
fulfillment of the testator's wishes. The estate then vested absolutely in the beneficiary (65 C. J., p.

The highest considerations of public policy also justify the conclusion we have reached. Were we to
hold that the payment of the tax could be postponed or delayed by the creation of a trust of the type
at hand, the result would be plainly disastrous. Testators may provide, as Thomas Hanley has
provided, that their estates be not delivered to their beneficiaries until after the lapse of a certain
period of time. In the case at bar, the period is ten years. In other cases, the trust may last for fifty
years, or for a longer period which does not offend the rule against petuities. The collection of the tax
would then be left to the will of a private individual. The mere suggestion of this result is a sufficient
warning against the accpetance of the essential to the very exeistence of government. (Dobbins vs.
Erie Country, 16 Pet., 435; 10 Law. ed., 1022; Kirkland vs. Hotchkiss, 100 U. S., 491; 25 Law. ed.,
558; Lane County vs. Oregon, 7 Wall., 71; 19 Law. ed., 101; Union Refrigerator Transit Co. vs.
Kentucky, 199 U. S., 194; 26 Sup. Ct. Rep., 36; 50 Law. ed., 150; Charles River Bridge vs. Warren
Bridge, 11 Pet., 420; 9 Law. ed., 773.) The obligation to pay taxes rests not upon the privileges
enjoyed by, or the protection afforded to, a citizen by the government but upon the necessity of
money for the support of the state (Dobbins vs. Erie Country, supra). For this reason, no one is
allowed to object to or resist the payment of taxes solely because no personal benefit to him can be
pointed out. (Thomas vs. Gay, 169 U. S., 264; 18 Sup. Ct. Rep., 340; 43 Law. ed., 740.) While
courts will not enlarge, by construction, the government's power of taxation (Bromley vs. McCaughn,
280 U. S., 124; 74 Law. ed., 226; 50 Sup. Ct. Rep., 46) they also will not place upon tax laws so
loose a construction as to permit evasions on merely fanciful and insubstantial distictions. (U. S. vs.
Watts, 1 Bond., 580; Fed. Cas. No. 16,653; U. S. vs. Wigglesirth, 2 Story, 369; Fed. Cas. No.
16,690, followed in Froelich & Kuttner vs. Collector of Customs, 18 Phil., 461, 481; Castle Bros.,
Wolf & Sons vs. McCoy, 21 Phil., 300; Muñoz & Co. vs. Hord, 12 Phil., 624; Hongkong & Shanghai
Banking Corporation vs. Rafferty, 39 Phil., 145; Luzon Stevedoring Co. vs. Trinidad, 43 Phil., 803.)
When proper, a tax statute should be construed to avoid the possibilities of tax evasion. Construed
this way, the statute, without resulting in injustice to the taxpayer, becomes fair to the government.

That taxes must be collected promptly is a policy deeply intrenched in our tax system. Thus, no court
is allowed to grant injunction to restrain the collection of any internal revenue tax ( sec. 1578,
Revised Administrative Code; Sarasola vs. Trinidad, 40 Phil., 252). In the case of Lim Co Chui vs.
Posadas (47 Phil., 461), this court had occassion to demonstrate trenchment adherence to this
policy of the law. It held that "the fact that on account of riots directed against the Chinese on
October 18, 19, and 20, 1924, they were prevented from praying their internal revenue taxes on time
and by mutual agreement closed their homes and stores and remained therein, does not authorize
the Collector of Internal Revenue to extend the time prescribed for the payment of the taxes or to
accept them without the additional penalty of twenty five per cent." (Syllabus, No. 3.)

". . . It is of the utmost importance," said the Supreme Court of the United States, ". . . that the
modes adopted to enforce the taxes levied should be interfered with as little as possible. Any delay
in the proceedings of the officers, upon whom the duty is developed of collecting the taxes, may
derange the operations of government, and thereby, cause serious detriment to the public." (Dows
vs. Chicago, 11 Wall., 108; 20 Law. ed., 65, 66; Churchill and Tait vs. Rafferty, 32 Phil., 580.)

It results that the estate which plaintiff represents has been delinquent in the payment of inheritance
tax and, therefore, liable for the payment of interest and surcharge provided by law in such cases.

The delinquency in payment occurred on March 10, 1924, the date when Moore became trustee.
The interest due should be computed from that date and it is error on the part of the defendant to
compute it one month later. The provisions cases is mandatory (see and cf. Lim Co Chui vs.
Posadas, supra), and neither the Collector of Internal Revenuen or this court may remit or decrease
such interest, no matter how heavily it may burden the taxpayer.

To the tax and interest due and unpaid within ten days after the date of notice and demand thereof
by the Collector of Internal Revenue, a surcharge of twenty-five per centum should be added (sec.
1544, subsec. (b), par. 2, Revised Administrative Code). Demand was made by the Deputy Collector
of Internal Revenue upon Moore in a communiction dated October 16, 1931 (Exhibit 29). The date
fixed for the payment of the tax and interest was November 30, 1931. November 30 being an official
holiday, the tenth day fell on December 1, 1931. As the tax and interest due were not paid on that
date, the estate became liable for the payment of the surcharge.

In view of the foregoing, it becomes unnecessary for us to discuss the fifth error assigned by the
plaintiff in his brief.

We shall now compute the tax, together with the interest and surcharge due from the estate of
Thomas Hanley inaccordance with the conclusions we have reached.

At the time of his death, the deceased left real properties valued at P27,920 and personal properties
worth P1,465, or a total of P29,385. Deducting from this amount the sum of P480.81, representing
allowable deductions under secftion 1539 of the Revised Administrative Code, we have P28,904.19
as the net value of the estate subject to inheritance tax.

The primary tax, according to section 1536, subsection (c), of the Revised Administrative Code,
should be imposed at the rate of one per centum upon the first ten thousand pesos and two per
centum upon the amount by which the share exceed thirty thousand pesos, plus an additional two
hundred per centum. One per centum of ten thousand pesos is P100. Two per centum of
P18,904.19 is P378.08. Adding to these two sums an additional two hundred per centum, or
P965.16, we have as primary tax, correctly computed by the defendant, the sum of P1,434.24.

To the primary tax thus computed should be added the sums collectible under section 1544 of the
Revised Administrative Code. First should be added P1,465.31 which stands for interest at the rate
of twelve per centum per annum from March 10, 1924, the date of delinquency, to September 15,
1932, the date of payment under protest, a period covering 8 years, 6 months and 5 days. To the tax
and interest thus computed should be added the sum of P724.88, representing a surhcarge of 25
per cent on both the tax and interest, and also P10, the compromise sum fixed by the defendant
(Exh. 29), giving a grand total of P3,634.43.

As the plaintiff has already paid the sum of P2,052.74, only the sums of P1,581.69 is legally due
from the estate. This last sum is P390.42 more than the amount demanded by the defendant in his
counterclaim. But, as we cannot give the defendant more than what he claims, we must hold that the
plaintiff is liable only in the sum of P1,191.27 the amount stated in the counterclaim.

The judgment of the lower court is accordingly modified, with costs against the plaintiff in both
instances. So ordered.

Avanceña, C.J., Abad Santos, Imperial, Diaz and Concepcion, JJ., concur.
Villa-Real, J., concurs.

G.R. No. 113725 June 29, 2000

JOHNNY S. RABADILLA,1 petitioner,

VILLACARLOS, respondents.



This is a petition for review of the decision of the Court of Appeals,3 dated December 23, 1993, in
CA-G.R. No. CV-35555, which set aside the decision of Branch 52 of the Regional Trial Court in
Bacolod City, and ordered the defendants-appellees (including herein petitioner), as heirs of Dr.
Jorge Rabadilla, to reconvey title over Lot No. 1392, together with its fruits and interests, to the
estate of Aleja Belleza.

The antecedent facts are as follows:

In a Codicil appended to the Last Will and Testament of testatrix Aleja Belleza, Dr. Jorge Rabadilla,
predecessor-in-interest of the herein petitioner, Johnny S. Rabadilla, was instituted as a devisee of
511, 855 square meters of that parcel of land surveyed as Lot No. 1392 of the Bacolod Cadastre.
The said Codicil, which was duly probated and admitted in Special Proceedings No. 4046 before the
then Court of First Instance of Negros Occidental, contained the following provisions:

I give, leave and bequeath the following property owned by me to Dr. Jorge Rabadilla resident of
141 P. Villanueva, Pasay City:

(a) Lot No. 1392 of the Bacolod Cadastre, covered by Transfer Certificate of Title No. RT-
4002 (10942), which is registered in my name according to the records of the Register of
Deeds of Negros Occidental.

(b) That should Jorge Rabadilla die ahead of me, the aforementioned property and the rights
which I shall set forth hereinbelow, shall be inherited and acknowledged by the children and
spouse of Jorge Rabadilla.



(a)....It is also my command, in this my addition (Codicil), that should I die and Jorge Rabadilla shall
have already received the ownership of the said Lot No. 1392 of the Bacolod Cadastre, covered by
Transfer Certificate of Title No. RT-4002 (10942), and also at the time that the lease of Balbinito G.
Guanzon of the said lot shall expire, Jorge Rabadilla shall have the obligation until he dies, every
year to give to Maria Marlina Coscolluela y Belleza, Seventy (75) (sic) piculs of Export sugar and
Twenty Five (25) piculs of Domestic sugar, until the said Maria Marlina Coscolluela y Belleza dies.


(a) Should Jorge Rabadilla die, his heir to whom he shall give Lot No. 1392 of the Bacolod Cadastre,
covered by Transfer Certificate of Title No. RT-4002 (10492), shall have the obligation to still give
yearly, the sugar as specified in the Fourth paragraph of his testament, to Maria Marlina Coscolluela
y Belleza on the month of December of each year.


I command, in this my addition (Codicil) that the Lot No. 1392, in the event that the one to whom I
have left and bequeathed, and his heir shall later sell, lease, mortgage this said Lot, the buyer,
lessee, mortgagee, shall have also the obligation to respect and deliver yearly ONE HUNDRED
(100) piculs of sugar to Maria Marlina Coscolluela y Belleza, on each month of December,
SEVENTY FIVE (75) piculs of Export and TWENTY FIVE (25) piculs of Domestic, until Maria Marlina
shall die, lastly should the buyer, lessee or the mortgagee of this lot, not have respected my
command in this my addition (Codicil), Maria Marlina Coscolluela y Belleza, shall immediately seize
this Lot No. 1392 from my heir and the latter's heirs, and shall turn it over to my near desendants,
(sic) and the latter shall then have the obligation to give the ONE HUNDRED (100) piculs of sugar
until Maria Marlina shall die. I further command in this my addition (Codicil) that my heir and his heirs
of this Lot No. 1392, that they will obey and follow that should they decide to sell, lease, mortgage,
they cannot negotiate with others than my near descendants and my sister."4

Pursuant to the same Codicil, Lot No. 1392 was transferred to the deceased, Dr. Jorge Rabadilla,
and Transfer Certificate of Title No. 44498 thereto issued in his name.

Dr. Jorge Rabadilla died in 1983 and was survived by his wife Rufina and children Johnny
(petitioner), Aurora, Ofelia and Zenaida, all surnamed Rabadilla.
On August 21, 1989, Maria Marlena Coscolluela y Belleza Villacarlos brought a complaint, docketed
as Civil Case No. 5588, before Branch 52 of the Regional Trial Court in Bacolod City, against the
above-mentioned heirs of Dr. Jorge Rabadilla, to enforce the provisions of subject Codicil. The
Complaint alleged that the defendant-heirs violated the conditions of the Codicil, in that:

1. Lot No. 1392 was mortgaged to the Philippine National Bank and the Republic Planters
Bank in disregard of the testatrix's specific instruction to sell, lease, or mortgage only to the
near descendants and sister of the testatrix.

2. Defendant-heirs failed to comply with their obligation to deliver one hundred (100) piculs of
sugar (75 piculs export sugar and 25 piculs domestic sugar) to plaintiff Maria Marlena
Coscolluela y Belleza from sugar crop years 1985 up to the filing of the complaint as
mandated by the Codicil, despite repeated demands for compliance.

3. The banks failed to comply with the 6th paragraph of the Codicil which provided that in
case of the sale, lease, or mortgage of the property, the buyer, lessee, or mortgagee shall
likewise have the obligation to deliver 100 piculs of sugar per crop year to herein private

The plaintiff then prayed that judgment be rendered ordering defendant-heirs to reconvey/return-Lot
No. 1392 to the surviving heirs of the late Aleja Belleza, the cancellation of TCT No. 44498 in the
name of the deceased, Dr. Jorge Rabadilla, and the issuance of a new certificate of title in the
names of the surviving heirs of the late Aleja Belleza.

On February 26, 1990, the defendant-heirs were declared in default but on March 28, 1990 the
Order of Default was lifted, with respect to defendant Johnny S. Rabadilla, who filed his Answer,

During the pre-trial, the parties admitted that:

On November 15, 1998, the plaintiff (private respondent) and a certain Alan Azurin, son-in-law of the
herein petitioner who was lessee of the property and acting as attorney-in-fact of defendant-heirs,
arrived at an amicable settlement and entered into a Memorandum of Agreement on the obligation to
deliver one hundred piculs of sugar, to the following effect:

"That for crop year 1988-89, the annuity mentioned in Entry No. 49074 of TCT No. 44489 will be
delivered not later than January of 1989, more specifically, to wit:

75 piculs of 'A' sugar, and 25 piculs of 'B' sugar, or then existing in any of our names, Mary Rose
Rabadilla y Azurin or Alan Azurin, during December of each sugar crop year, in Azucar Sugar
Central; and, this is considered compliance of the annuity as mentioned, and in the same manner
will compliance of the annuity be in the next succeeding crop years.

That the annuity above stated for crop year 1985-86, 1986-87, and 1987-88, will be complied in cash
equivalent of the number of piculs as mentioned therein and which is as herein agreed upon, taking
into consideration the composite price of sugar during each sugar crop year, which is in the total
amount of ONE HUNDRED FIVE THOUSAND PESOS (P105,000.00).

That the above-mentioned amount will be paid or delivered on a staggered cash installment, payable
on or before the end of December of every sugar crop year, to wit:
For 1985-86, TWENTY SIX THOUSAND TWO HUNDRED FIFTY (P26,250.00) Pesos, payable on
or before December of crop year 1988-89;

For 1986-87, TWENTY SIX THOUSAND TWO HUNDRED FIFTY (P26,250.00) Pesos, payable on
or before December of crop year 1989-90;

For 1987-88, TWENTY SIX THOUSAND TWO HUNDRED FIFTY (P26,250.00) Pesos, payable on
or before December of crop year 1990-91; and

For 1988-89, TWENTY SIX THOUSAND TWO HUNDRED FIFTY (P26,250.00) Pesos, payable on
or before December of crop year 1991-92."5

However, there was no compliance with the aforesaid Memorandum of Agreement except for a
partial delivery of 50.80 piculs of sugar corresponding to sugar crop year 1988 -1989.

On July 22, 1991, the Regional Trial Court came out with a decision, dismissing the complaint and
disposing as follows:

"WHEREFORE, in the light of the aforegoing findings, the Court finds that the action is prematurely
filed as no cause of action against the defendants has as yet arose in favor of plaintiff. While there
maybe the non-performance of the command as mandated exaction from them simply because they
are the children of Jorge Rabadilla, the title holder/owner of the lot in question, does not warrant the
filing of the present complaint. The remedy at bar must fall. Incidentally, being in the category as
creditor of the left estate, it is opined that plaintiff may initiate the intestate proceedings, if only to
establish the heirs of Jorge Rabadilla and in order to give full meaning and semblance to her claim
under the Codicil.

In the light of the aforegoing findings, the Complaint being prematurely filed is DISMISSED without


On appeal by plaintiff, the First Division of the Court of Appeals reversed the decision of the trial
court; ratiocinating and ordering thus:

"Therefore, the evidence on record having established plaintiff-appellant's right to receive 100 piculs
of sugar annually out of the produce of Lot No. 1392; defendants-appellee's obligation under Aleja
Belleza's codicil, as heirs of the modal heir, Jorge Rabadilla, to deliver such amount of sugar to
plaintiff-appellant; defendants-appellee's admitted non-compliance with said obligation since 1985;
and, the punitive consequences enjoined by both the codicil and the Civil Code, of seizure of Lot No.
1392 and its reversion to the estate of Aleja Belleza in case of such non-compliance, this Court
deems it proper to order the reconveyance of title over Lot No. 1392 from the estates of Jorge
Rabadilla to the estate of Aleja Belleza. However, plaintiff-appellant must institute separate
proceedings to re-open Aleja Belleza's estate, secure the appointment of an administrator, and
distribute Lot No. 1392 to Aleja Belleza's legal heirs in order to enforce her right, reserved to her by
the codicil, to receive her legacy of 100 piculs of sugar per year out of the produce of Lot No. 1392
until she dies.

Accordingly, the decision appealed from is SET ASIDE and another one entered ordering
defendants-appellees, as heirs of Jorge Rabadilla, to reconvey title over Lot No. 1392, together with
its fruits and interests, to the estate of Aleja Belleza.

Dissatisfied with the aforesaid disposition by the Court of Appeals, petitioner found his way to this
Court via the present petition, contending that the Court of Appeals erred in ordering the reversion of
Lot 1392 to the estate of the testatrix Aleja Belleza on the basis of paragraph 6 of the Codicil, and in
ruling that the testamentary institution of Dr. Jorge Rabadilla is a modal institution within the purview
of Article 882 of the New Civil Code.

The petition is not impressed with merit.

Petitioner contends that the Court of Appeals erred in resolving the appeal in accordance with Article
882 of the New Civil Code on modal institutions and in deviating from the sole issue raised which is
the absence or prematurity of the cause of action. Petitioner maintains that Article 882 does not find
application as there was no modal institution and the testatrix intended a mere simple substitution
- i.e. the instituted heir, Dr. Jorge Rabadilla, was to be substituted by the testatrix's "near
descendants" should the obligation to deliver the fruits to herein private respondent be not complied
with. And since the testatrix died single and without issue, there can be no valid substitution and
such testamentary provision cannot be given any effect.

The petitioner theorizes further that there can be no valid substitution for the reason that the
substituted heirs are not definite, as the substituted heirs are merely referred to as "near
descendants" without a definite identity or reference as to who are the "near descendants" and
therefore, under Articles 8438 and 8459 of the New Civil Code, the substitution should be deemed as
not written.

The contentions of petitioner are untenable. Contrary to his supposition that the Court of Appeals
deviated from the issue posed before it, which was the propriety of the dismissal of the complaint on
the ground of prematurity of cause of action, there was no such deviation. The Court of Appeals
found that the private respondent had a cause of action against the petitioner. The disquisition made
on modal institution was, precisely, to stress that the private respondent had a legally demandable
right against the petitioner pursuant to subject Codicil; on which issue the Court of Appeals ruled in
accordance with law.

It is a general rule under the law on succession that successional rights are transmitted from the
moment of death of the decedent10 and compulsory heirs are called to succeed by operation of law.
The legitimate children and descendants, in relation to their legitimate parents, and the widow or
widower, are compulsory heirs.11 Thus, the petitioner, his mother and sisters, as compulsory heirs of
the instituted heir, Dr. Jorge Rabadilla, succeeded the latter by operation of law, without need of
further proceedings, and the successional rights were transmitted to them from the moment of death
of the decedent, Dr. Jorge Rabadilla.

Under Article 776 of the New Civil Code, inheritance includes all the property, rights and obligations
of a person, not extinguished by his death. Conformably, whatever rights Dr. Jorge Rabadilla had by
virtue of subject Codicil were transmitted to his forced heirs, at the time of his death. And since
obligations not extinguished by death also form part of the estate of the decedent; corollarily, the
obligations imposed by the Codicil on the deceased Dr. Jorge Rabadilla, were likewise transmitted to
his compulsory heirs upon his death.

In the said Codicil, testatrix Aleja Belleza devised Lot No. 1392 to Dr. Jorge Rabadilla, subject to the
condition that the usufruct thereof would be delivered to the herein private respondent every year.
Upon the death of Dr. Jorge Rabadilla, his compulsory heirs succeeded to his rights and title over
the said property, and they also assumed his (decedent's) obligation to deliver the fruits of the lot
involved to herein private respondent. Such obligation of the instituted heir reciprocally corresponds
to the right of private respondent over the usufruct, the fulfillment or performance of which is now
being demanded by the latter through the institution of the case at bar. Therefore, private respondent
has a cause of action against petitioner and the trial court erred in dismissing the complaint below.

Petitioner also theorizes that Article 882 of the New Civil Code on modal institutions is not applicable
because what the testatrix intended was a substitution - Dr. Jorge Rabadilla was to be substituted by
the testatrix's near descendants should there be noncompliance with the obligation to deliver the
piculs of sugar to private respondent.

Again, the contention is without merit.

Substitution is the designation by the testator of a person or persons to take the place of the heir or
heirs first instituted. Under substitutions in general, the testator may either (1) provide for the
designation of another heir to whom the property shall pass in case the original heir should die
before him/her, renounce the inheritance or be incapacitated to inherit, as in a simple
substitution,12 or (2) leave his/her property to one person with the express charge that it be
transmitted subsequently to another or others, as in a fideicommissary substitution.13 The Codicil
sued upon contemplates neither of the two.

In simple substitutions, the second heir takes the inheritance in default of the first heir by reason of
incapacity, predecease or renunciation.14 In the case under consideration, the provisions of subject
Codicil do not provide that should Dr. Jorge Rabadilla default due to predecease, incapacity or
renunciation, the testatrix's near descendants would substitute him. What the Codicil provides is that,
should Dr. Jorge Rabadilla or his heirs not fulfill the conditions imposed in the Codicil, the property
referred to shall be seized and turned over to the testatrix's near descendants.

Neither is there a fideicommissary substitution here and on this point, petitioner is correct. In a
fideicommissary substitution, the first heir is strictly mandated to preserve the property and to
transmit the same later to the second heir.15 In the case under consideration, the instituted heir is in
fact allowed under the Codicil to alienate the property provided the negotiation is with the near
descendants or the sister of the testatrix. Thus, a very important element of a fideicommissary
substitution is lacking; the obligation clearly imposing upon the first heir the preservation of the
property and its transmission to the second heir. "Without this obligation to preserve clearly imposed
by the testator in his will, there is no fideicommissary substitution."16 Also, the near descendants' right
to inherit from the testatrix is not definite. The property will only pass to them should Dr. Jorge
Rabadilla or his heirs not fulfill the obligation to deliver part of the usufruct to private respondent.

Another important element of a fideicommissary substitution is also missing here. Under Article 863,
the second heir or the fideicommissary to whom the property is transmitted must not be beyond one
degree from the first heir or the fiduciary. A fideicommissary substitution is therefore, void if the first
heir is not related by first degree to the second heir.17 In the case under scrutiny, the near
descendants are not at all related to the instituted heir, Dr. Jorge Rabadilla.

The Court of Appeals erred not in ruling that the institution of Dr. Jorge Rabadilla under subject
Codicil is in the nature of a modal institution and therefore, Article 882 of the New Civil Code is the
provision of law in point. Articles 882 and 883 of the New Civil Code provide:

Art. 882. The statement of the object of the institution or the application of the property left by the
testator, or the charge imposed on him, shall not be considered as a condition unless it appears that
such was his intention.
That which has been left in this manner may be claimed at once provided that the instituted heir or
his heirs give security for compliance with the wishes of the testator and for the return of anything he
or they may receive, together with its fruits and interests, if he or they should disregard this

Art. 883. When without the fault of the heir, an institution referred to in the preceding article cannot
take effect in the exact manner stated by the testator, it shall be complied with in a manner most
analogous to and in conformity with his wishes.

The institution of an heir in the manner prescribed in Article 882 is what is known in the law of
succession as an institucion sub modo or a modal institution. In a modal institution, the testator
states (1) the object of the institution, (2) the purpose or application of the property left by the
testator, or (3) the charge imposed by the testator upon the heir.18 A "mode" imposes an obligation
upon the heir or legatee but it does not affect the efficacy of his rights to the succession.19 On the
other hand, in a conditional testamentary disposition, the condition must happen or be fulfilled in
order for the heir to be entitled to succeed the testator. The condition suspends but does not
obligate; and the mode obligates but does not suspend.20 To some extent, it is similar to a resolutory

From the provisions of the Codicil litigated upon, it can be gleaned unerringly that the testatrix
intended that subject property be inherited by Dr. Jorge Rabadilla. It is likewise clearly worded that
the testatrix imposed an obligation on the said instituted heir and his successors-in-interest to deliver
one hundred piculs of sugar to the herein private respondent, Marlena Coscolluela Belleza, during
the lifetime of the latter. However, the testatrix did not make Dr. Jorge Rabadilla's inheritance and
the effectivity of his institution as a devisee, dependent on the performance of the said obligation. It
is clear, though, that should the obligation be not complied with, the property shall be turned over to
the testatrix's near descendants. The manner of institution of Dr. Jorge Rabadilla under subject
Codicil is evidently modal in nature because it imposes a charge upon the instituted heir without,
however, affecting the efficacy of such institution.

Then too, since testamentary dispositions are generally acts of liberality, an obligation imposed upon
the heir should not be considered a condition unless it clearly appears from the Will itself that such
was the intention of the testator. In case of doubt, the institution should be considered as modal and
not conditional.22

Neither is there tenability in the other contention of petitioner that the private respondent has only a
right of usufruct but not the right to seize the property itself from the instituted heir because the right
to seize was expressly limited to violations by the buyer, lessee or mortgagee.

In the interpretation of Wills, when an uncertainty arises on the face of the Will, as to the application
of any of its provisions, the testator's intention is to be ascertained from the words of the Will, taking
into consideration the circumstances under which it was made.23 Such construction as will sustain
and uphold the Will in all its parts must be adopted.24

Subject Codicil provides that the instituted heir is under obligation to deliver One Hundred (100)
piculs of sugar yearly to Marlena Belleza Coscuella. Such obligation is imposed on the instituted
heir, Dr. Jorge Rabadilla, his heirs, and their buyer, lessee, or mortgagee should they sell, lease,
mortgage or otherwise negotiate the property involved. The Codicil further provides that in the event
that the obligation to deliver the sugar is not respected, Marlena Belleza Coscuella shall seize the
property and turn it over to the testatrix's near descendants. The non-performance of the said
obligation is thus with the sanction of seizure of the property and reversion thereof to the testatrix's
near descendants. Since the said obligation is clearly imposed by the testatrix, not only on the
instituted heir but also on his successors-in-interest, the sanction imposed by the testatrix in case of
non-fulfillment of said obligation should equally apply to the instituted heir and his successors-in-

Similarly unsustainable is petitioner's submission that by virtue of the amicable settlement, the said
obligation imposed by the Codicil has been assumed by the lessee, and whatever obligation
petitioner had become the obligation of the lessee; that petitioner is deemed to have made a
substantial and constructive compliance of his obligation through the consummated settlement
between the lessee and the private respondent, and having consummated a settlement with the
petitioner, the recourse of the private respondent is the fulfillment of the obligation under the
amicable settlement and not the seizure of subject property.

Suffice it to state that a Will is a personal, solemn, revocable and free act by which a person
disposes of his property, to take effect after his death.25 Since the Will expresses the manner in which
a person intends how his properties be disposed, the wishes and desires of the testator must be
strictly followed. Thus, a Will cannot be the subject of a compromise agreement which would thereby
defeat the very purpose of making a Will.

WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby DISMISSED and the decision of the Court of Appeals, dated
December 23, 1993, in CA-G.R. No. CV-35555 AFFIRMED. No pronouncement as to costs


Melo, J., (Chairman), concur in the separate opinion of Justice Vitug.

Vitug, J., see separate opinion.
Panganiban, J., join the separate opinion of Justice Vitug.
Gonzaga-Reyes, J., no part.

G.R. No. 89783 February 19, 1992



Aytona Law Office and Siquia Law Offices for petitioners.

Mabella, Sangil & Associates for private respondents.


Reversal of the decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. No. CV-11186 — affirming with
modification the judgment of the Regional Trial Court of Albay in favor of the plaintiffs in Civil Case
No. 7152 entitled "Jose Jaucian, et al. v. Mariano B. Locsin, et al.," an action for recovery of real
property with damages — is sought. in these proceedings initiated by petition for review
on certiorari in accordance with Rule 45 of the Rules of Court.
The petition was initially denied due course and dismissed by this Court. It was however reinstated
upon a second motion for reconsideration filed by the petitioners, and the respondents were required
to comment thereon. The petition was thereafter given due course and the parties were directed to
submit their memorandums. These, together with the evidence, having been carefully considered,
the Court now decides the case.

First, the facts as the Court sees them in light of the evidence on record:

The late Getulio Locsin had three children named Mariano, Julian and Magdalena, all surnamed
Locsin. He owned extensive residential and agricultural properties in the provinces of Albay and
Sorsogon. After his death, his estate was divided among his three (3) children as follows:

(a) the coconut lands of some 700 hectares in Bual, Pilar, Sorsogon, were adjudicated to his
daughter, Magdalena Locsin;

(b) 106 hectares of coconut lands were given to Julian Locsin, father of the petitioners Julian,
Mariano, Jose, Salvador, Matilde, and Aurea, all surnamed Locsin;

(c) more than forty (40) hectares of coconut lands in Bogtong, eighteen (18) hectares of riceland in
Daraga, and the residential lots in Daraga, Albay and in Legazpi City went to his son Mariano, which
Mariano brought into his marriage to Catalina Jaucian in 1908. Catalina, for her part, brought into the
marriage untitled properties which she had inherited from her parents, Balbino Jaucian and Simona
Anson. These were augmented by other properties acquired by the spouses in the course of their
union,1 which however was not blessed with children.

Eventually, the properties of Mariano and Catalina were brought under the Torrens System. Those
that Mariano inherited from his father, Getulio Locsin, were surveyed cadastrally and registered in
the name of "Mariano Locsin, married to Catalina Jaucian.'' 2

Mariano Locsin executed a Last Will and Testament instituting his wife, Catalina, as the sole and
universal heir of all his properties. 3 The will was drawn up by his wife's nephew and trusted legal
adviser, Attorney Salvador Lorayes. Attorney Lorayes disclosed that the spouses being childless,
they had agreed that their properties, after both of them shall have died should revert to their
respective sides of the family, i.e., Mariano's properties would go to his "Locsin relatives"
(i.e., brothers and sisters or nephews and nieces), and those of Catalina to her "Jaucian relatives." 4

Don Mariano Locsin died of cancer on September 14, 1948 after a lingering illness. In due time, his
will was probated in Special Proceedings No. 138, CFI of Albay without any opposition from both
sides of the family. As directed in his will, Doña Catalina was appointed executrix of his estate. Her
lawyer in the probate proceeding was Attorney Lorayes. In the inventory of her husband's
estate 5 which she submitted to the probate court for approval, 6Catalina declared that "all items
mentioned from Nos. 1 to 33 are the private properties of the deceased and form part of his capital
at the time of the marriage with the surviving spouse, while items Nos. 34 to 42 are conjugal." 7

Among her own and Don Mariano's relatives, Doña Catalina was closest to her nephew, Attorney
Salvador Lorayes, her nieces, Elena Jaucian, Maria Lorayes-Cornelio and Maria Olbes-Velasco, and
the husbands of the last two: Hostilio Cornelio and Fernando Velasco. 8 Her trust in Hostilio Cornelio was such
that she made him custodian of all the titles of her properties; and before she disposed of any of them, she unfailingly consulted her lawyer-
nephew, Attorney Salvador Lorayes. It was Atty. Lorayes who prepared the legal documents and, more often than not, the witnesses to the
transactions were her niece Elena Jaucian, Maria Lorayes-Cornelio, Maria Olbes-Velasco, or their husbands. Her niece, Elena Jaucian, was
her life-long companion in her house.
Don Mariano relied on Doña Catalina to carry out the terms of their compact, hence, nine (9) years
after his death, as if in obedience to his voice from the grave, and fully cognizant that she was also
advancing in years, Doña Catalina began transferring, by sale, donation or assignment, Don
Mariano's as well as her own, properties to their respective nephews and nieces. She made the
following sales and donation of properties which she had received from her husband's estate, to his
Locsin nephews and nieces:


23 Jan. 26, 1957 Deed of Absolute Sale in 962 P 481

favor of Mariano Locsin

1-JRL Apr. 7, 1966 Deed of Sale in favor of 430,203 P 20,000

Jose R. Locsin

1-JJL Mar. 22, 1967 Deed of Sale in favor of 5,000 P 1,000 Hostilio Cornello
Julian Locsin (Lot 2020) Helen M. Jaucian

1 Nov. 29, 1974 Deed of Donation in 26,509

favor Aurea Locsin,
Matilde L. Cordero
and Salvador Locsin

2 Feb. 4, 1975 Deed of Donation in 34,045

favor Aurea Locsin,
Matilde L. Cordero
and Salvador Locsin

3 Sept. 9, 1975 Deed of Donation in (Lot 2059)

favor Aurea Locsin,
Matilde L. Cordero
and Salvador Locsin

4 July 15, 1974 Deed of Absolute Sale in 1,424 Hostilio Cornelio

favor of Aurea B. Locsin Fernando Velasco

5 July 15, 1974 Deed of Absolute Sale in 1,456 P 5,750 Hostilio Cornelio
favor of Aurea B. Locsin Elena Jaucian

6 July 15, 1974 Deed of Absolute Sale in 1,237 P 5,720 - ditto -

favor of Aurea B. Locsin

7 July 15, 1974 Deed of Absolute Sale in 1,404 P 4,050 - ditto -

favor of Aurea B. Locsin

15 Nov. 26, 1975 Deed of Sale in favor of 261 P 4,930 - ditto -

Aurea Locsin

16 Oct. 17, 1975 Deed of Sale in favor of 533 P 2,000 Delfina Anson
Aurea Locsin M. Acabado
17 Nov. 26, 1975 Deed of Sale in favor of 373 P 1,000 Leonor Satuito
Aurea Locsin Mariano B. Locsin

19 Sept. 1, 1975 Conditional Donation in 1,130 P 3,000 - ditto -

favor of Mariano Locsin

1-MVRJ Dec. 29, 1972 Deed of Reconveyance 1,5110.66 P 1,000 Delfina Anson
in favor of Manuel V. del (Lot 2155) Antonio Illegible
Rosario whose maternal
grandfather was Getulio

2-MVRJ June 30, 1973 Deed of Reconveyance 319.34 P 500 Antonio Illegible
in favor of Manuel V. del (Lot 2155) Salvador Nical
Rosario but the rentals
from bigger portion of
Lot 2155 leased to Filoil
Refinery were assigned to
Maria Jaucian Lorayes

Of her own properties, Doña Catalina conveyed the following to her own nephews and nieces and


2-JJL July 16, 1964 Deed of Sale in favor 5,000 P 1,000

Vicente Jaucian (lot 2020)
(6,825 sqm. when

24 Feb. 12, 1973 Deed of Absolute Sale 100 P 1,000

in favor of Francisco M.

26 July 15, 1973 Deed of Absolute Sale in 130 P 1,300

favor of Francisco

27 May 3, 1973 Deed of Absolute Sale in 100 P 1,000

favor of Ireneo Mamia

28 May 3, 1973 Deed of Absolute Sale in 75 P 750

favor of Zenaida Buiza

29 May 3, 1973 Deed of Absolute Sale in 150 P 1,500

favor of Felisa Morjella

30 Apr. 3, 1973 Deed of Absolute Sale in 31 P 1,000

favor of Inocentes Motocinos
31 Feb. 12, 1973 Deed of Absolute Sale in 150 P 1,500
favor of Casimiro Mondevil

32 Mar. 1, 1973 Deed of Absolute Sale in 112 P 1,200

favor of Juan Saballa

25 Dec. 28, 1973 Deed of Absolute Sale in 250 P 2,500

of Rogelio Marticio

Doña Catalina died on July 6, 1977.

Four years before her death, she had made a will on October 22, 1973 affirming and ratifying the
transfers she had made during her lifetime in favor of her husband's, and her own, relatives. After
the reading of her will, all the relatives agreed that there was no need to submit it to the court for
probate because the properties devised to them under the will had already been conveyed to them
by the deceased when she was still alive, except some legacies which the executor of her will or
estate, Attorney Salvador Lorayes, proceeded to distribute.

In 1989, or six (6) years after Doña Catalina's demise, some of her Jaucian nephews and nieces
who had already received their legacies and hereditary shares from her estate, filed action in the
Regional Trial Court of Legaspi City (Branch VIII, Civil Case No. 7152) to recover the properties
which she had conveyed to the Locsins during her lifetime, alleging that the conveyances were
inofficious, without consideration, and intended solely to circumvent the laws on succession. Those
who were closest to Doña Catalina did not join the action.

After the trial, judgment was rendered on July 8, l985 in favor of the plaintiffs (Jaucian), and against
the Locsin defendants, the dispositive part of which reads:

WHEREFORE, this Court renders judgment for the plaintiffs and against the

(1) declaring the, plaintiffs, except the heirs of Josefina J. Borja and Eduardo
Jaucian, who withdrew, the rightful heirs and entitled to the entire estate, in equal
portions, of Catalina Jaucian Vda. de Locsin, being the nearest collateral heirs by
right of representation of Juan and Gregorio, both surnamed Jaucian, and full-blood
brothers of Catalina;

(2) declaring the deeds of sale, donations, reconveyance and exchange and all other
instruments conveying any part of the estate of Catalina J. Vda. de Locsin including,
but not limited to those in the inventory of known properties (Annex B of the
complaint) as null and void ab-initio;

(3) ordering the Register of Deeds of Albay and/or Legazpi City to cancel all
certificates of title and other transfers of the real properties, subject of this case, in
the name of defendants, and derivatives therefrom, and issue new ones to the

(4) ordering the defendants, jointly and severally, to reconvey ownership and
possession of all such properties to the plaintiffs, together with all muniments of title
properly endorsed and delivered, and all the fruits and incomes received by the
defendants from the estate of Catalina, with legal interest from the filing of this action;
and where reconveyance and delivery cannot be effected for reasons that might
have intervened and prevent the same, defendants shall pay for the value of such
properties, fruits and incomes received by them, also with legal interest from the
filing, of this case

(5) ordering each of the defendants to pay the plaintiffs the amount of P30,000.00 as
exemplary damages; and the further sum of P20,000.00 each as moral damages;

(6) ordering the defendants to pay the plaintiffs attorney's fees and litigation
expenses, in the amount of P30,000.00 without prejudice to any contract between
plaintiffs and counsel.

Costs against the defendants.9

The Locsins appealed to the Court of Appeals (CA-G.R. No. CV-11186) which rendered its now
appealed judgment on March 14, 1989, affirming the trial court's decision.

The petition has merit and should be granted.

The trial court and the Court of Appeals erred in declaring the private respondents, nephews and
nieces of Doña Catalina J. Vda. de Locsin, entitled to inherit the properties which she had already
disposed of more than ten (10) years before her death. For those properties did not form part of her
hereditary estate, i.e., "the property and transmissible rights and obligations existing at the time of
(the decedent's) death and those which have accrued thereto since the opening of the
succession." 10 The rights to a person's succession are transmitted from the moment of his death,
and do not vest in his heirs until such time.11 Property which Doña Catalina had transferred or
conveyed to other persons during her lifetime no longer formed part of her estate at the time of her
death to which her heirs may lay claim. Had she died intestate, only the property that remained in
her estate at the time of her death devolved to her legal heirs; and even if those transfers were, one
and all, treated as donations, the right arising under certain circumstances to impugn and compel the
reduction or revocation of a decedent's gifts inter vivos does not inure to the respondents since
neither they nor the donees are compulsory (or forced) heirs. 12

There is thus no basis for assuming an intention on the part of Doña Catalina, in transferring the
properties she had received from her late husband to his nephews and nieces, an intent to
circumvent the law in violation of the private respondents' rights to her succession. Said respondents
are not her compulsory heirs, and it is not pretended that she had any such, hence there were no
legitimes that could conceivably be impaired by any transfer of her property during her lifetime. All
that the respondents had was an expectancy that in nowise restricted her freedom to dispose of
even her entire estate subject only to the limitation set forth in Art. 750, Civil Code which, even if it
were breached, the respondents may not invoke:

Art. 750. The donation may comprehend all the present property of the donor or part
thereof, provided he reserves, in full ownership or in usufruct, sufficient means for the
support of himself, and of all relatives who, at the time of the acceptance of the
donation, are by law entitled to be supported by the donor. Without such reservation,
the donation shall be reduced on petition of any person affected. (634a)

The lower court capitalized on the fact that Doña Catalina was already 90 years old when she died
on July 6, 1977. It insinuated that because of her advanced years she may have been imposed
upon, or unduly influenced and morally pressured by her husband's nephews and nieces (the
petitioners) to transfer to them the properties which she had inherited from Don Mariano's estate.
The records do not support that conjecture.

For as early as 1957, or twenty-eight (28) years before her death, Doña Catalina had already begun
transferring to her Locsin nephews and nieces the properties which she received from Don Mariano.
She sold a 962-sq.m. lot on January 26, 1957 to his nephew and namesake Mariano Locsin II. 13 On
April 7, 1966, or 19 years before she passed away, she also sold a 43 hectare land to another
Locsin nephew, Jose R. Locsin.14 The next year, or on March 22, 1967, she sold a 5,000-sq.m.
portion of Lot 2020 to Julian Locsin.15

On March 27, 1967, Lot 2020 16 was partitioned by and among Doña Catalina, Julian Locsin, Vicente
Jaucian and Agapito Lorete.17 At least Vicente Jaucian, among the other respondents in this case, is
estopped from assailing the genuineness and due execution of the sale of portions of Lot 2020 to
himself, Julian Locsin, and Agapito Lorete, and the partition agreement that he (Vicente) concluded
with the other co-owners of Lot 2020.

Among Doña, Catalina's last transactions before she died in 1977 were the sales of property which
she made in favor of Aurea Locsin and Mariano Locsin in 1975.18

There is not the slightest suggestion in the record that Doña Catalina was mentally incompetent
when she made those dispositions. Indeed, how can any such suggestion be made in light of the
fact that even as she was transferring properties to the Locsins, she was also contemporaneously
disposing of her other properties in favor of the Jaucians? She sold to her nephew, Vicente Jaucian,
on July 16, 1964 (21 years before her death) one-half (or 5,000 sq.m.) of Lot 2020. Three years
later, or on March 22, 1967, she sold another 5000 sq.m. of the same lot to Julian Locsin.19

From 1972 to 1973 she made several other transfers of her properties to her relatives and other
persons, namely: Francisco Maquiniana, Ireneo Mamia, Zenaida Buiza, Feliza Morjella, Inocentes
Motocinos, Casimiro Mondevil, Juan Saballa and Rogelio Marticio. 20 None of those transactions was
impugned by the private respondents.

In 1975, or two years before her death, Doña Catalina sold some lots not only to Don Mariano's
niece, Aurea Locsin, and his nephew, Mariano Locsin
II, 21 but also to her niece, Mercedes Jaucian Arboleda. 22 If she was competent to make that
conveyance to Mercedes, how can there be any doubt that she was equally competent to transfer
her other pieces of property to Aurea and Mariano II?

The trial court's belief that Don Mariano Locsin bequeathed his entire estate to his wife, from a
"consciousness of its real origin" which carries the implication that said estate consisted of properties
which his wife had inherited from her parents, flies in the teeth of Doña Catalina's admission in her
inventory of that estate, that "items 1 to 33 are the private properties of the deceased (Don Mariano)
and forms (sic) part of his capital at the time of the marriage with the surviving spouse, while items
34 to 42 are conjugal properties, acquired during the marriage." She would have known better than
anyone else whether the listing included any of her paraphernal property so it is safe to assume that
none was in fact included. The inventory was signed by her under oath, and was approved by the
probate court in Special Proceeding No. 138 of the Court of First Instance of Albay. It was prepared
with the assistance of her own nephew and counsel, Atty. Salvador Lorayes, who surely would not
have prepared a false inventory that would have been prejudicial to his aunt's interest and to his
own, since he stood to inherit from her eventually.

This Court finds no reason to disbelieve Attorney Lorayes' testimony that before Don Mariano died,
he and his wife (Doña Catalina), being childless, had agreed that their respective properties should
eventually revert to their respective lineal relatives. As the trusted legal adviser of the spouses and a
full-blood nephew of Doña Catalina, he would not have spun a tale out of thin air that would also
prejudice his own interest.

Little significance, it seems, has been attached to the fact that among Doña Catalina's nephews and
nieces, those closest to her: (a) her lawyer-nephew Attorney Salvador Lorayes; (b) her niece and
companion Elena Jaucian: (c) her nieces Maria Olbes-Velasco and Maria Lorayes-Cornelio and their
respective husbands, Fernando Velasco and Hostilio Cornelio, did not join the suit to annul and
undo the dispositions of property which she made in favor of the Locsins, although it would have
been to their advantage to do so. Their desistance persuasively demonstrates that Doña Catalina
acted as a completely free agent when she made the conveyances in favor of the petitioners. In fact,
considering their closeness to Doña Catalina it would have been well-nigh impossible for the
petitioners to employ "fraud, undue pressure, and subtle manipulations" on her to make her sell or
donate her properties to them. Doña Catalina's niece, Elena Jaucian, daughter of her brother,
Eduardo Jaucian, lived with her in her house. Her nephew-in-law, Hostilio Cornelio, was the
custodian of the titles of her properties. The sales and donations which she signed in favor of the
petitioners were prepared by her trusted legal adviser and nephew, Attorney Salvador Lorayes. The
(1) deed of donation dated November 19,
197423 in favor of Aurea Locsin, (2) another deed of donation dated February 4, 1975 24 in favor of
Matilde Cordero, and (3) still another deed dated September 9, 1975 25 in favor of Salvador Lorayes,
were all witnessed by Hostilio Cornelio (who is married to Doña Catalina's niece, Maria Lorayes) and
Fernando Velasco who is married to another niece, Maria Olbes.26 The sales which she made in
favor of Aurea Locsin on July 15, 1974 27 were witnessed by Hostilio Cornelio and Elena Jaucian.
Given those circumstances, said transactions could not have been anything but free and voluntary
acts on her part.

Apart from the foregoing considerations, the trial court and the Court of Appeals erred in not
dismissing this action for annulment and reconveyance on the ground of prescription. Commenced
decades after the transactions had been consummated, and six (6) years after Doña Catalina's
death, it prescribed four (4) years after the subject transactions were recorded in the Registry of
Property,28 whether considered an action based on fraud, or one to redress an injury to the rights of
the plaintiffs. The private respondents may not feign ignorance of said transactions because the
registration of the deeds was constructive notice thereof to them and the whole world.29

WHEREFORE, the petition for review is granted. The decision dated March 14, 1989 of the Court of
Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 11186 is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The private respondents'
complaint for annulment of contracts and reconveyance of properties in Civil Case No. 7152 of the
Regional Trial Court, Branch VIII of Legazpi City, is DISMISSED, with costs against the private
respondents, plaintiffs therein.