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G.R. No.

129505 January 31, 2000

OCTAVIO S. MALOLES II, petitioner,


vs.
PACITA DE LOS REYES PHILLIPS, respondent.

-----------------------------

G.R. No. 133359 January 31, 2000

OCTAVIO S. MALOLES II, petitioner,


vs.
COURT OF APPEALS, HON. FERNANDO V. GOROSPE, JR., in his Official Capacity as Presiding Judge of RTC-Makati, Branch 61, and PACITA
PHILLIPS as the alleged executrix of the alleged will of the late Dr. Arturo de Santos, respondents.

MENDOZA, J.:

These are petitions for review on certiorari of the decisions of the Thirteenth and the Special Eighth Divisions of the Court of Appeals which ruled that
petitioner has no right to intervene in the settlement of the estate of Dr. Arturo de Santos. The cases were consolidated considering that they involve the
same parties and some of the issues raised are the same.

The facts which gave rise to these two petitions are as follows:

On July 20, 1995, Dr. Arturo de Santos, Filipino and a resident of Makati City, filed a petition for probate of his will in the Regional Trial Court, Branch 61,
1

Makati, docketed as Sp. Proc. No. M-4223. In his petition, Dr. De Santos alleged that he had no compulsory heirs; that he had named in his will as sole
legatee and devisee the Arturo de Santos Foundation, Inc.; that he disposed by his will his properties with an approximate value of not less than
P2,000,000.00; and that copies of said will were in the custody of the named executrix, private respondent Pacita de los Reyes Phillips. A copy of the
will was annexed to the petition for probate.
2

On February 16, 1996, Judge Fernando V. Gorospe, Jr. of RTC-Makati, Branch 61 issued an order granting the petition and allowing the will. The order
reads:

On 03 August 1995, the Court issued an Order setting the hearing of the petition on 12 September 1995, at 8:30 o'clock in the morning, copies
of which were served to Arturo de Santos Foundation, Inc. and Ms. Pacita de los Reyes Phillips (Officer's Return, dated 04 September 1995
attached to the records). When the case was called for hearing on the date set, no oppositor appeared nor any written opposition was ever
filed and on motion of petitioner, he was allowed to adduce his evidence in support of the petition.

Petitioner personally appeared before this Court and was placed on the witness stand and was directly examined by the Court through "free
wheeling" questions and answers to give this Court a basis to determine the state of mind of the petitioner when he executed the subject will.
After the examination, the Court is convinced that petitioner is of sound and disposing mind and not acting on duress, menace and undue
influence or fraud, and that petitioner signed his Last Will and Testament on his own free and voluntary will and that he was neither forced nor
influenced by any other person in signing it.

Furthermore, it appears from the petition and the evidence adduced that petitioner in his lifetime, executed his Last Will and Testament (Exhs.
"A", "A-1", "A-2", "A-4", "A-5") at his residence situated at 9 Bauhinia corner Intsia Streets, Forbes Park, Makati City; said Last Will and
Testament was signed in the presence of his three (3) witnesses, namely, to wit: Dr. Elpidio Valencia (Exhs. "A-6", "A-7", "A-8", "A-16", "A-16-
A"), Atty. Edward J. Berenguer (Exhs. "A-3", "A-3-A", "A-9", "A-10", & "A-11"), and Atty. Victoria C. delos Reyes (Exhs. "A-12", "A-13", "A-14",
"A-17", & "A-18"), who in turn, in the presence of the testator and in the presence of each and all of the witnesses signed the said Last Will
and Testament and duly notarized before Notary Public Anna Melissa L. Rosario (Exh. "A-15"); on the actual execution of the Last Will and
Testament, pictures were taken (Exhs. "B" to "B-3").

Petitioner has no compulsory heirs and Arturo de Santos Foundation, Inc., with address at No. 9 Bauhinia corner Intsia Streets, Forbes Park,
Makati City has been named as sole legatee and devisee of petitioner's properties, real and personal, approximately valued at not less than
P2 million, Ms. Pacita de los Reyes Phillips was designated as executor and to serve as such without a bond. 1âwphi1.nêt

From the foregoing facts, the Court finds that the petitioner has substantially established the material allegations contained in his petition. The
Last Will and Testament having been executed and attested as required by law; that testator at the time of the execution of the will was of
sane mind and/or not mentally incapable to make a Will; nor was it executed under duress or under the influence of fear or threats; that it was
in writing and executed in the language known and understood by the testator duly subscribed thereof and attested and subscribed by three
(3) credible witnesses in the presence of the testator and of another; that the testator and all the attesting witnesses signed the Last Will and
Testament freely and voluntarily and that the testator has intended that the instrument should be his Will at the time of affixing his signature
thereto.

WHEREFORE, as prayed for by the petitioner (testator himself) the petition for the allowance of the Last Will and Testament of Arturo de
Santos is hereby APPROVED and ALLOWED.

Shortly after the probate of his will, Dr. De Santos died on February 26, 1996.

On April 3, 1996, petitioner Octavio S. Maloles II filed a motion for intervention claiming that, as the only child of Alicia de Santos (testator's sister) and
Octavio L. Maloles, Sr., he was the sole full-blooded nephew and nearest of kin of Dr. De Santos. He likewise alleged that he was a creditor of the
testator. Petitioner thus prayed for the reconsideration of the order allowing the will and the issuance of letters of administration in his name.

On the other hand, private respondent Pacita de los Reyes Phillips, the designated executrix of the will, filed a motion for the issuance of letters
testamentary with Branch 61. Later, however, private respondent moved to withdraw her motion. This was granted, while petitioner was required to file a
memorandum of authorities in support of his claim that said court (Branch 61) still had jurisdiction to allow his intervention. 3

Petitioner filed his memorandum of authorities on May 13, 1996. On the other hand, private respondent, who earlier withdrew her motion for the
issuance of letters testamentary in Branch 61, refiled a petition for the same purpose with the Regional Trial Court, Makati, which was docketed as Sp.
Proc. No. M-4343 and assigned to Branch 65.

Upon private respondent's motion, Judge Salvador Abad Santos of Branch 65 issued an order, dated June 28, 1996, appointing her as special
administrator of Dr. De Santos's estate.

On July 29, 1996, petitioner sought to intervene in Sp. Proc. No. M-4343 and to set aside the appointment of private respondent as special administrator.
He reiterated that he was the sole and full blooded nephew and nearest of kin of the testator; that he came to know of the existence of Sp. Proc. No. M-
4343 only by accident; that the probate proceedings in Sp. Proc. No. M-4223 before Branch 61 of the same court was still pending; that private
respondent misdeclared the true worth of the testator's estate; that private respondent was not fit to be the special administrator of the estate; and that
petitioner should be given letters of administration for the estate of Dr. De Santos.
On August 28, 1996, Judge Abad Santos ordered the transfer of Sp. Proc. No. M-4343 to Branch 61, on the ground that "[it] is related to the case before
Judge Gorospe of RTC Branch 61 . . ."

It appears, however, that in Sp. Proc. No. M-4223, Judge Gorospe had denied on August 26, 1996 petitioner's motion for intervention. Petitioner brought
this matter to the Court of Appeals which, in a decision promulgated on February 13, 1998, upheld the denial of petitioner's motion for intervention.
4

Meanwhile, Judge Gorospe issued an order, dated September 4, 1996, returning the records of Sp. Proc. No. M-4343 to Branch 65 on the ground that
there was a pending case involving the Estate of Decedent Arturo de Santos pending before said court. The order reads:

Acting on the ORDER dated 28 August 1996 of Branch 65, this Court, transferring this case to this Branch 61 on the ground that this case is
related with a case before this Court, let this case be returned to Branch 65 with the information that there is no related case involving the
ESTATE OF DECEDENT ARTURO DE SANTOS pending before this Branch.

There is, however, a case filed by ARTURO DE SANTOS, as petitioner under Rule 76 of the Rules of Court for the Allowance of his will during
his lifetime docketed as SP. PROC. NO. M-4223 which was already decided on 16 February 1996 and has become final.

It is noted on records of Case No. M-4223 that after it became final, herein Petitioner Pacita de los Reyes Phillips filed a MOTION FOR THE
ISSUANCE OF LETTERS TESTAMENTARY, which was subsequently withdrawn after this Court, during the hearing, already ruled that the
motion could not be admitted as the subject matter involves a separate case under Rule 78 of the Rules of Court, and movant withdrew her
motion and filed this case (No. 4343).

Octavio de Santos Maloles [II] filed a MOTION FOR INTERVENTION before Case No. M-4223 and this motion was already DENIED in the
order (Branch 61) of 26 August 1996 likewise for the same grounds that the matter is for a separate case to be filed under Rule 78 of the
Rules of Court and cannot be included in this case filed under Rule 76 of the Rules of Court.

It is further noted that it is a matter of policy that consolidation of cases must be approved by the Presiding Judges of the affected Branches.

Initially, in his decision dated September 23, 1996, Judge Abad Santos appeared firm in his position that " . . . it would be improper for (Branch 65) to
5

hear and resolve the petition (Sp. Proc. No. M-4343)," considering that the probate proceedings were commenced with Branch 61. He thus ordered the
transfer of the records back to the latter branch. However, he later recalled his decision and took cognizance of the case "to expedite the proceedings."
Thus, in his Order, dated October 21, 1996, he stated:

Considering the refusal of the Hon. Fernando V. Gorospe, Jr. of Branch 61 to continue hearing this case notwithstanding the fact that said
branch began the probate proceedings of the estate of the deceased and must therefore continue to exercise its jurisdiction to the exclusion of
all others, until the entire estate of the testator had been partitioned and distributed as per Order dated 23 September 1996, this branch
(Regional Trial Court Branch 65) shall take cognizance of the petition if only to expedite the proceedings, and under the concept that the
Regional Trial Court of Makati City is but one court.

Furnish a copy of this order to the Office of the Chief justice and the Office of the Court Administrator, of the Supreme Court; the Hon.
Fernando V. Gorospe, Jr.; Pacita De Los Reyes Phillips, Petitioner; and Octavio de Santos Maloles, Intervenor.

On November 4, 1996, Judge Abad Santos granted petitioner's motion for intervention. Private respondent moved for a reconsideration but her motion
was denied by the trial court. She then filed a petition for certiorari in the Court of Appeals which, on February 26, 1997, rendered a decision setting 6

aside the trial court's order on the ground that petitioner had not shown any right or interest to intervene in Sp. Proc. No. M-4343.

Hence, these petitions which raise the following issues:

1. Whether or not the Honorable Regional Trial Court — Makati, Branch 61 has lost jurisdiction to proceed with the probate proceedings upon
its issuance of an order allowing the will of Dr. Arturo de Santos.

2. Whether or not the Honorable (Regional Trial Court — Makati, Branch 65) acquired jurisdiction over the petition for issuance of letters
testamentary filed by (private) respondent.

3. Whether or not the petitioner, being a creditor of the late Dr. Arturo de Santos, has a right to intervene and oppose the petition for issuance
of letters testamentary filed by the respondent.

4. Whether or not (private) respondent is guilty of forum shopping in filing her petition for issuance of letters testamentary with the Regional
Trial Court — Makati, Branch 65 knowing fully well that the probate proceedings involving the same restate estate of the decedent is still
pending with the Regional Trial Court — Makati, Branch 61.

First. Petitioner contends that the probate proceedings in Branch 61 of RTC-Makati did not terminate upon the issuance of the order allowing the will of
Dr. De Santos. Citing the cases of Santiesteban v. Santiesteban and Tagle v. Manalo, he argues that the proceedings must continue until the estate is
7 8

fully distributed to the lawful heirs, devisees, and legatees of the testator, pursuant to Rule 73, §1 of the Rules of Court. Consequently, petitioner
contends that Branch 65 could not lawfully act upon private respondent's petition for issuance of letters testamentary.

The contention has no merit.

In cases for the probate of wills, it is well-settled that the authority of the court is limited to ascertaining the extrinsic validity of the will, i.e., whether the
testator, being of sound mind, freely executed the will in accordance with the formalities prescribed by law. 9

Ordinarily, probate proceedings are instituted only after the death of the testator, so much so that, after approving and allowing the will, the court
proceeds to issue letters testamentary and settle the estate of the testator. The cases cited by petitioner are of such nature. In fact, in most jurisdictions,
courts cannot entertain a petition for probate of the will of a living testator under the principle of ambulatory nature of wills. 10

However, Art. 838 of the Civil Code authorizes the filing of a petition for probate of the will filed by the testator himself. It provides:

CIVIL CODE, ART. 838. No will shall pass either real or personal property unless it is proved and allowed in accordance with the Rules of
Court.

The testator himself may, during his lifetime, petition the court having jurisdiction for the allowance of his will. In such case, the pertinent
provisions of the Rules of Court for the allowance of wills after the testator's death shall govern.

The Supreme Court shall formulate such additional Rules of Court as may be necessary for the allowance of wills on petition of the testator.

Subject to the right of appeal, the allowance of the will, either during the lifetime of the testator or after his death, shall be conclusive as to its
due execution.

Rule 76, §1 likewise provides:


Sec. 1. Who may petition for the allowance of will. — Any executor, devisee, or legatee named in a will, or any other person interested in the
estate, may, at any time after the death of the testator, petition the court having jurisdiction to have the will allowed, whether the same be in his
possession or not, or is lost or destroyed.

The testator himself may, during his lifetime, petition in the court for the allowance of his will.

The rationale for allowing the probate of wills during the lifetime of testator has been explained by the Code Commission thus:

Most of the cases that reach the courts involve either the testamentary capacity of the testator or the formalities adopted in the execution of
wills. There are relatively few cases concerning the intrinsic validity of testamentary dispositions. It is far easier for the courts to determine the
mental condition of a testator during his lifetime than after his death. Fraud, intimidation and undue influence are minimized. Furthermore, if a
will does not comply with the requirements prescribed by law, the same may be corrected at once. The probate during the testator's life,
therefore, will lessen the number of contest upon wills. Once a will is probated during the lifetime of the testator, the only questions that may
remain for the courts to decide after the testator's death will refer to the intrinsic validity of the testamentary dispositions. It is possible, of
course, that even when the testator himself asks for the allowance of the will, he may be acting under duress or undue influence, but these are
rare cases.

After a will has been probated during the lifetime of the testator, it does not necessarily mean that he cannot alter or revoke the same before
his death. Should he make a new will, it would also be allowable on his petition, and if he should die before he has had a chance to present
such petition, the ordinary probate proceeding after the testator's death would be in order. 11

Thus, after the allowance of the will of Dr. De Santos on February 16, 1996, there was nothing else for Branch 61 to do except to issue a certificate of
allowance of the will pursuant to Rule 73, §12 of the Rules of Court. There is, therefore, no basis for the ruling of Judge Abad Santos of Branch 65 of
RTC-Makati that —

Branch 61 of the Regional Trial Court of Makati having begun the probate proceedings of the estate of the deceased, it continues and shall
continue to exercise said jurisdiction to the exclusion of all others. It should be noted that probate proceedings do not cease upon the
allowance or disallowance of a will but continues up to such time that the entire estate of the testator had been partitioned and distributed.

The fact that the will was allowed during the lifetime of the testator meant merely that the partition and distribution of the estate was to be
suspended until the latter's death. In other words, the petitioner, instead of filing a new petition for the issuance of letters testamentary, should
have simply filed a manifestation for the same purpose in the probate court. 12

Petitioner, who defends the order of Branch 65 allowing him to intervene, cites Rule 73, §1 which states:

Where estate of deceased persons settled. — If the decedent is an inhabitant of the Philippines at the time of his death, whether a citizen or
an alien, his will shall be proved, or letters of administration granted, and his estate settled, in the Court of First Instance in the province in
which he resides at the time of his death, and if he is an inhabitant of a foreign country, the Court of First Instance of any province in which he
had estate. The court first taking cognizance of the settlement of the estate of a decedent, shall exercise jurisdiction to the exclusion of all
other courts. The jurisdiction assumed by a court, so far as it depends on the place of residence of the decedent, or of the location of his
estate, shall not be contested in a suit or proceeding, except in an appeal from that court, in the original case, or when the want of jurisdiction
appears on the record.

The above rule, however, actually provides for the venue of actions for the settlement of the estate of deceased persons. In Garcia Fule v. Court of
Appeals, it was held:13

The aforequoted Section 1, Rule 73 (formerly Rule 75, Section 1), specifically the clause "so far as it depends on the place of residence of the
decedent, or of the location of the state," is in reality a matter of venue, as the caption of the Rule indicates: "Settlement of Estate of Deceased
Persons. Venue and Processes." It could not have been intended to define the jurisdiction over the subject matter, because such legal
provision is contained in a law of procedure dealing merely with procedural matters. Procedure is one thing, jurisdiction over the subject matter
is another. The power or authority of the court over the subject matter "existed was fixed before procedure in a given cause began." That
power or authority is not altered or changed by procedure, which simply directs the manner in which the power or authority shall be fully and
justly exercised. There are cases though that if the power is not exercised conformably with the provisions of the procedural law, purely, the
court attempting to exercise it loses the power to exercise it legally. However, this does not amount to a loss of jurisdiction over the subject
matter. Rather, it means that the court may thereby lose jurisdiction over the person or that the judgment may thereby be rendered defective
for lack of something essential to sustain it. The appearance of this provision in the procedural law at once raises a strong presumption that it
has nothing to do with the jurisdiction of the court over the subject matter. In plain words, it is just a matter of method, of convenience to the
parties.

Indeed, the jurisdiction over probate proceedings and settlement of estates with approximate value of over P100,000.00 (outside Metro Manila) or
P200,000.00 (in Metro Manila) belongs to the regional trial courts under B.P. Blg. 129, as amended. The different branches comprising each court in one
judicial region do not possess jurisdictions independent of and incompatible with each other. 14

It is noteworthy that, although Rule 73, §1 applies insofar as the venue of the petition for probate of the will of Dr. De Santos is concerned, it does not
bar other branches of the same court from taking cognizance of the settlement of the estate of the testator after his death. As held in the leading case
of Bacalso v. Ramolote: 15

The various branches of the Court of First Instance of Cebu under the Fourteenth Judicial District, are a coordinate and co-equal courts, and
the totality of which is only one Court of First Instance. The jurisdiction is vested in the court, not in the judges. And when a case is filed in one
branch, jurisdiction over the case does not attach to the branch or judge alone, to the exclusion of the other branches. Trial may be held or
proceedings continue by and before another branch or judge. It is for this reason that Section 57 of the Judiciary Act expressly grants to the
Secretary of Justice, the administrative right or power to apportion the cases among the different branches, both for the convenience of the
parties and for the coordination of the work by the different branches of the same court. The apportionment and distribution of cases does not
involve a grant or limitation of jurisdiction, the jurisdiction attaches and continues to be vested in the Court of First Instance of the province,
and the trials may be held by any branch or judge of the court.

Necessarily, therefore, Branch 65 of the RTC of Makati City has jurisdiction over Sp. Proc. No. M-4343.

Second. Petitioner claims the right to intervene in and oppose the petition for issuance of letters testamentary filed by private respondent. He argues
that, as the nearest next of kin and creditor of the testator, his interest in the matter is material and direct. In ruling that petitioner has no right to
intervene in the proceedings before Branch 65 of RTC-Makati City, the Court of Appeals held:

The private respondent herein is not an heir or legatee under the will of the decedent Arturo de Santos. Neither is he a compulsory heir of the
latter. As the only and nearest collateral relative of the decedent, he can inherit from the latter only in case of intestacy. Since the decedent
has left a will which has already been probated and disposes of all his properties the private respondent can inherit only if the said will is
annulled. His interest in the decedent's estate is, therefore, not direct or immediate.

His claim to being a creditor of the estate is a belated one, having been raised for the first time only in his reply to the opposition to his motion
to intervene, and, as far as the records show, not supported by evidence.
. . . . [T]he opposition must come from one with a direct interest in the estate or the will, and the private respondent has none. Moreover, the
ground cited in the private respondent's opposition, that the petitioner has deliberately misdeclared the truth worth and value of the estate, is
not relevant to the question of her competency to act as executor. Section 2, Rule 76 of the Rules of Court requires only an allegation of the
probable value and character of the property of the estate. The true value can be determined later on in the course of the settlement of the
estate.16

Rule 79, §1 provides:

Opposition to issuance of letters testamentary. Simultaneous petition for administration. — Any person interested in a will may state in writing
the grounds why letters testamentary should not issue to the persons named therein as executors, or any of them, and the court, after hearing
upon notice, shall pass upon the sufficiency of such grounds. A petition may, at the same time, be filed for letters of administration with the will
annexed.

Under this provision, it has been held that an "interested person" is one who would be benefited by the estate, such as an heir, or one who has a claim
against the estate, such as a creditor, and whose interest is material and direct, not merely incidental or contingent.17

Even if petitioner is the nearest next of kin of Dr. De Santos, he cannot be considered an "heir" of the testator. It is a fundamental rule of testamentary
succession that one who has no compulsory or forced heirs may dispose of his entire estate by will. Thus, Art. 842 of the Civil Code provides:

One who has no compulsory heirs may dispose by will of all his estate or any part of it in favor of any person having capacity to succeed.

One who has compulsory heirs may dispose of his estate provided he does not contravene the provisions of this Code with regard to the
legitimate of said heirs.

Compulsory heirs are limited to the testator's —

(1) Legitimate children and descendants, with respect to their legitimate parents and ascendants;

(2) In default of the foregoing, legitimate parents and ascendants, with respect to their legitimate children and descendants;

(3) The widow or widower;

(4) Acknowledged natural children, and natural children by legal fiction;

(5) Other illegitimate children referred to in Article 287 of the Civil Code. 18

Petitioner, as nephew of the testator, is not a compulsory heir who may have been preterited in the testator's will.

Nor does he have any right to intervene in the settlement proceedings based on his allegation that he is a creditor of the deceased. Since the testator
instituted or named an executor in his will, it is incumbent upon the Court to respect the desires of the testator. As we stated in Ozaeta v. Pecson: 19

The choice of his executor is a precious prerogative of a testator, a necessary concomitant of his right to dispose of his property in the manner
he wishes. It is natural that the testator should desire to appoint one of his confidence, one who can be trusted to carry out his wishes in the
disposal of his estate. The curtailment of this right may be considered a curtailment of the right to dispose.

Only if the appointed executor is incompetent, refuses the trust, or fails to give bond may the court appoint other persons to administer the estate. None
20

of these circumstances is present in this case.

Third. Petitioner contends that private respondent is guilty of forum shopping when she filed the petition for issuance of letters testamentary (Sp. Proc.
No. M-4343) while the probate proceedings (Sp. Proc. No. M-4223) were still pending. According to petitioner, there is identity of parties, rights asserted,
and reliefs prayed for in the two actions which are founded on the same facts, and a judgment in either will result in res judicata in the other.

This contention has no merit. As stated earlier, the petition for probate was filed by Dr. De Santos, the testator, solely for the purpose of authenticating
his will. Upon the allowance of his will, the proceedings were terminated. 1âwphi1.nêt

On the other hand, the petition for issuance of letters testamentary was filed by private respondent, as executor of the estate of Dr. De Santos, for the
purpose of securing authority from the Court to administer the estate and put into effect the will of the testator. The estate settlement proceedings
commenced by the filing of the petition terminates upon the distribution and delivery of the legacies and devises to the persons named in the will.
Clearly, there is no identity between the two petitions, nor was the latter filed during the pendency of the former. There was, consequently, no forum
shopping.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED and the decisions of the Court of Appeals are hereby AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.

In re CARLOS S. BASA

Pedro Guevara for respondent.


Attorney-General Feria for the Government.

The Attorney-General asks that an order issue for the disbarment of Attorney Carlos S. Basa.

Carlos S. Basa is a young man about 29 years of age, admitted to the bars of California and the Philippine Islands. Recently he was charged in the
Court of Fist Instance of the city of Manila with the crime of abduction with consent, was found guilt in a decision rendered by the Honorable M.V. del
Rosario, Judge of First Instance, and was sentenced to be imprisoned for a period of two years, eleven months and eleven days of prision correccional.
On appeal, this decision was affirmed in a judgment handed down by the second division of the Supreme Court. 1

The Code of Civil Procedure, section 21, provides that "A member of the bar may be removed or suspended from his office of lawyer by the Supreme
Court by reason of his conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude . . ." The sole question presented, therefore, is whether the crime of abduction with
consent, as punished by article 446 of the Penal Code, involves moral turpitude.
"Moral turpitude," it has been said, "includes everything which is done contrary to justice, honesty, modesty, or good morals." (Bouvier's Law Dictionary,
cited by numerous courts.) Although no decision can be found which has decided the exact question, it cannot admit of doubt that crimes of this
character involve moral turpitude. The inherent nature of the act is such that it is against good morals and the accepted rule of right conduct. (In
re Hopkins [1909], 54 Wash., 569; Pollard vs. Lyon [1875], 91 U.S., 225; 5 Ops. Atty.-Gen. P. I., 46, 185; decisions of the Supreme Court of Spain of
November 30, 1876 and June 15, 1895.)

When we come next, as we must, to determine the exact action which should be taken by the court, we do so regretfully and reluctantly. On the one
hand, the violation of the criminal law by the respondent attorney cannot be lightly passed over. On the other hand, we are willing to strain the limits of
our compassion to the uttermost in order that so promising a career may not be utterly ruined.

It is the order of the court that beginning with the day when Carlos S. Basa shall be discharged from prison, he be suspended from his office of lawyer
for one year. So ordered. lawphi1.net

G.R. No. 116835 March 5, 1998

ANTONIETTA GARCIA VDA. DE CHUA, petitioner,


vs.
COURT OF APPEALS (Special Eight Division), HON. JAPAL M. GUIANI, RTC, Branch 14, 12th Judicial Region, Cotabato City, and FLORITA A.
VALLEJO, as Administratrix of the Estate of the late Roberto L. Chua, respondents.

KAPUNAN, J.:

Assailed before us in this Appeal by Certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court is the decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-GR Sp. No. 33101,
promulgated on 19 April 1994 affirming the decision of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 14, of Cotabato City in Special Procedure Case No. 331.

As culled from the records, the following facts have been established by evidence:

During his lifetime, Roberto Lim Chua lived out of wedlock with private respondent Florita A. Vallejo from 1970 up to 1981. Out of this union, the couple
begot two illegitimate children, namely, Roberto Rafson Alonzo and Rudyard Pride Alonzo.

On 28 May 1992, Roberto Chua died intestate in Davao City.

On 2 July 1992, private respondent filed with the Regional Trial Court of Cotabato City a Petition which is reproduced hereunder:
1

IN RE: PETITION FOR DECLARATION

OF HEIRSHIP, GUARDIANSHIP OVER

THE PERSONS AND PROPERTIES OF

MINORS ROBERT RAFSON ALONZO SP. PROC. NO/ 331

and RUDYARD PRIDE ALONZO, all

surnamed CHUA and ISSUANCE OF

LETTERS OF ADMINISTRATION.

FLORITA ALONZO VALLEJO,

Petitioner

PETITION

COMES NOW the petitioner assisted by counsel and unto this Honorable Court most respectfully states:

1. That she is of legal age, Filipino, married but separated from her husband and residing at Quezon Avenue, Cotabato City,
Philippines;

2. That sometime from 1970 up to and until late 1981 your petitioner lived with Roberto Lim Chua as husband and wife and out of
said union they begot two (2) children, namely, Robert Rafson Alonzo Chua who was born in General Santos City on April 28, 1977
and Rudyard Pride Alonzo Chua who was born in Davao City on August 30, 1978. A xerox copy of the birth certificate of each child
is hereto attached as annex "A" and "B", respectively.

3. That the aforementioned children who are still minors today are both staying with herein petitioner at her address at Quezon
Avenue, Cotabato City;

4. That Roberto Lim Chua, father of the above-mentioned minors, died intestate on May 28, 1992 in Davao City.

5. That the aforementioned deceased left properties both real and personal worth P5,000,000.00 consisting of the following:

a) Lot in Kakar, Cotabato City covered by TCT


No. T-12835 with an area of 290 sq. m. estimated at P50,000.00

b) Lot in Kakar, Cotabato City covered by TCT


No. T-12834 with an area of 323 sq. m. 50,000.00

c) Lot in Davao City covered by TCT


No. T-126583 with an area of 303 sq. m. 50,000.00

d) Lot in Davao City covered by TCT


No. T-126584 with an area of 303 sq. m. 50,000.00
e) Residential house in Cotabato City valued at 30,000.00

f) Residential house in Davao City valued at 600,000.00

g) Car, Colt Lancer with Motor No. 4G33-3 AF6393 210,000.00

h) Colt, Galant Super Saloon with Motor


No. 4G37-GB0165 545,000.00

i) Car, Colt Galant with Motor No. 4G52-52D75248 110,000.00

j) Reo Isuzu Dump Truck with Motor


No. DA640-838635 350,000.00

k) Hino Dump Truck with Motor No. ED100-T47148 350,000.00

l) Stockholdings in various corporations with par value


estimated at 3,335,000.00

Total P5,000,000.00

6. That deceased Roberto Lim Chua died single and without legitimate descendants or ascendants, hence, the above named minors
Robert Rafson Alonzo Chua and Rudyard Pride Alonzo Chua, his children with herein petitioner shall succeed to the entire estate of
the deceased. (Article 988 of the Civil Code of the Philippines).

7. That the names, ages and residences of the relatives of said minors are the following, to wit:

Names Relationship Ages Residence

1. Carlos Chua Uncle 60 Quezon Avenue,


Cotabato City

2. Aida Chua Auntie 55 Rosary Heights,


Cotabato City

3. Romulo Uy Uncle 40 c/o Overseas


Fishing Exporation
Co. Inc., Matina,
Davao City

6. That considering the fact that the aforementioned minors by operation of law are to succeed to the entire estate of Roberto Lim
Chua under the provisions of Article 988 of the New Civil Code of the Philippines, it is necessary that for the protection of the rights
and interest of Robert Rafson Alonzo Chua and Rudyard Pride Alonzo Chua, both minors and heirs of deceased Roberto Lim Chua,
a guardian over the persons and properties of said minors be appointed by this Honorable Court.

7. That herein petitioner being the mother and natural guardian of said minors is also competent and willing to act as the guardian
of minors Robert Rafson Alonzo Chua and Rudyard Pride Alonzo Chua both staying and living with her; that petitioner possesses
all the qualifications and none of the disqualifications of a guardian.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, it is most respectfully prayed:

1. That, upon proper notice and hearing, an order be issued declaring minors ROBERTO RAFSON ALONZO CHUA and RUDYARD
PRIDE ALONZO CHUA as heirs to the intestate estate of deceased ROBERTO LIM CHUA;

2. That Letters of Administration be issued to herein petitioner for the administration of the estate of the deceased ROBERTO LIM
CHUA;

3. That the petitioner be also appointed the guardian of the persons and estate of minors ROBERT RAFSON ALONZO CHUA and
RUDYARD PRIDE ALONZO CHUA;

4. That after all the property of deceased Roberto Lim Chua have been inventoried and expenses and just debts, have been paid, the
intestate estate of Roberto Lim Chua be distributed to its rightful heirs, the minors in this case, pursuant to the provisions of Article
988 of the New Civil Code of the Philippines.

5. And for such other reliefs and remedies this Honorable Court may consider fit and proper in the premises.

Cotabato City, Philippines, June 29, 1992.

(Sgd.) FLORITA ALONZO VALLEJO


(Petitioner)

The trial court issued an order setting the hearing of the petition on 14 August 1992 and directed that notice thereof be published in a
newspaper of general circulation in the province of Maguindanao and Cotabato City and or Davao City.

On 21 July 1992, herein petitioner Antonietta Garcia Vda. de Chua, representing to be the surviving spouse of Roberto Chua, filed a Motion to
Dismiss on the ground of improper venue. Petitioner alleged that at the time of the decedent's death Davao City was his residence, hence,
2

the Regional Trial Court of Davao City is the proper forum.

Private respondent filed an opposition to the Motion to Dismiss dated July 20, 1992 based on the following grounds:
3

(1) That this petition is for the guardianship of the minor children of the petitioner who are heirs to the estate of the late Roberto L.
Chua and under Section 1, Rule 92 of the Rules of Court the venue shall be at the place where the minor resides;

(2) That the above-named minors are residents of Cotabato City:


(3) That the movant in this case has no personality to intervene nor oppose in the granting of this petition for the reason that she is
a total stranger to the minors Robert Rafson Alonzo and Rudyard Pride Alonzo, all surnamed Chua.

(4) That deceased Roberto L. Chua died a bachelor. He is the father of the above-named minors with the petitioner in this case;

(5) That movant/oppositor Antonietta Chua is not the surviving spouse of the late Roberto L. Chua but a pretender to the estate of
the latter since the deceased never contracted marriage with any woman until he died.

On 6 August 1992, private respondent Vallejo filed a Motion for Admission of an Amended Petition "in order that the designation of the case
4

title can properly and appropriately capture or capsulize in clear terms the material averments in the body of the pleadings; thus avoiding any
confusion or misconception of the nature and real intent and purpose of this petition." The amended petition contained identical material
5

allegations but differed in its title, thus:.

IN RE: PETITION FOR THE SETTLEMENT OF THE INTESTATE ESTATE OF ROBERTO L. CHUA, DECLARATION OF HEIRSHIP,
GUARDIANSHIP OVER THE PERSONS AND PROPERTIES OF MINORS ROBERT AND RUDYARD, all surnamed CHUA and
ISSUANCE OF LETTERS OF ADMINISTRATION.

FLORITA ALONZO VALLEJO,


Petitioner.

Paragraph 4 of the original petition was also amended to read as follows:

4. That Roberto Lim Chua, father of the abovementioned minors is a resident of Cotabato City and died intestate on May 28, 1992 at
Davao City.

The petition contained exactly the same prayers as the original petition.

Petitioner opposed the motion to amend petition alleging that at the hearing of said motion on 24 July 1992, private respondent's counsel
allegedly admitted that the sole intention of the original petition was to secure guardianship over the persons and property of the minors. 6

On 21 August 1992, the trial court issued an Order denying the motion to dismiss for lack of merit. The court ruled that Antonietta Garcia had
7

no personality to file the motion to dismiss not having proven her status as wife of the decedent. Further, the court found that the actual
residence of the deceased was Cotabato City, and even assuming that there was concurrent venue among the Regional Trial Courts where
the decedent had resided, the R.T.C. of Cotabato had already taken cognizance of the settlement of the decedent's estate to the exclusion of
all others. The pertinent portions of the order read:

At the hearing of the motion to dismiss on August 19, 1992, counsel for movant Antonietta G. Chua presented 18 Exhibits in support
of her allegation that she was the lawful wife of the decedent and that the latter resides in Davao City at the time of his death. Exh.
"1" was the xerox copy of the alleged marriage contract between the movant and the petitioner. This cannot be admitted in evidence
on the ground of the timely objection of the counsels for petitioner that the best evidence is the original copy or authenticated copy
which the movant cannot produce. Further, the counsels for petitioner in opposition presented the following: a certification from the
Local Civil Registrar concerned that no such marriage contract was ever registered with them; a letter from Judge Augusto Banzali,
the alleged person to have solemnized the alleged marriage that he has not solemnized such alleged marriage. Exhibit "2" through
"18" consist among others of Transfer Certificate of Title issued in the name of Roberto L. Chua married to Antonietta Garcia, and a
resident of Davao City; Residence Certificates from 1988 and 1989 issued at Davao City indicating that he was married and was born
in Cotabato City; Income Tax Returns for 1990 and 1991 filed in Davao City where the status of the decedent was stated as married;
passport of the decedent specifying that he was married and his residence was Davao City. Petitioner through counsels, objected to
the admission in evidence of Exhibits "2" through "18" if the purpose is to establish the truth of the alleged marriage between the
decedent and Antonietta Garcia. The best evidence they said is the marriage contract. They do not object to the admission of said
exhibit if the purpose is to show that Davao City was the business residence of the decedent.

Petitioner through counsels, presented Exhibit "A" through "K" to support her allegation that the decedent was a resident of
Cotabato City; that he died a bachelor; that he begot two illegitimate children with the petitioner as mother. Among these exhibits
are Income Tax Returns filed in Cotabato City from 1968 through 1979 indicating therein that he was single; birth certificates of the
alleged two illegitimate children of the decedent; Resident Certificates of the decedent issued in Cotabato City; Registration
Certificate of Vehicle of the decedent showing that his residence is Cotabato City.

It is clear from the foregoing that the movant failed to establish the truth of her allegation that she was the lawful wife of the
decedent. The best evidence is a valid marriage contract which the movant failed to produce. Transfer Certificates of Title,
Residence Certificates, passports and other similar documents cannot prove marriage especially so when the petitioner has
submitted a certification from the Local Civil Registrar concerned that the alleged marriage was not registered and a letter from the
judge alleged to have solemnized the marriage that he has not solemnized said alleged marriage. Consequently, she has no
personality to file the subject motion to dismiss.

On the issue of the residence of the decedent at the time of his death, the decedent as a businessman has many business
residences from different parts of the country where he usually stays to supervise and pursue his business ventures. Davao City is
one of them. It cannot be denied that Cotabato City is his actual residence where his alleged illegitimate children also reside.

The place of residence of the deceased in settlement of estates, probate of will, and issuance of letters of administration does not
constitute an element of jurisdiction over the subject matter. It is merely constitutive of venue (Fule vs. CA, L-40502, November 29,
1976). Even assuming that there is concurrent venue among the Regional Trial Courts of the places where the decedent has
residences, the Regional Trial Court first taking cognizance of the settlement of the estate of the decedent, shall exercise
jurisdiction to the exclusion of all other courts (Section 1, Rule 73). It was this Court which first took cognizance of the case when
the petition was filed on July 2, 1992, docketed as Special Proceeding No. 331 and an order of publication issued by this Court on
July 13, 1992.

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the motion to dismiss is hereby denied for lack of merit.

On 31 August 1992, upon motion of private respondent, the trial court issued an order appointing Romulo Lim Uy, a first cousin of the
deceased, as special administrator of the decedent's estate. 8

On the same day, the trial court, likewise, issued an Order appointing Florita Vallejo as guardian over the persons and properties of the two
minor children. 9

Thereafter, petitioner filed a Motion dated 25 October 1993 praying that the letters of administration issued to Vallejo be recalled and that
10

new letters of administration be issued to her. She, likewise, filed a Motion dated 5 November 1993 to declare the proceedings a mistrial.
11

Both motions were denied by the trial court in its Order dated 22 November 1993. Petitioner's motion for reconsideration of the order was
12

denied by the trial court in an Order dated 13 December 1993. 13

Assailing the last two orders of the trial court, petitioner filed a petition for certiorari and prohibition (Rule 65) with the respondent Court of
Appeals, docketed as CA G.R. No. Sp. 33101, alleging that the trial court acted with grave abuse of discretion in:
(1) unilaterally and summarily converting, if not treating, the guardianship proceedings into an intestate proceeding;

(2) summarily hearing the intestate proceedings without jurisdiction and without any notice to herein petitioner whatsoever; and

(3) issuing the questioned order (sic) on the alleged pretension that herein petitioner has no personality to intervene in SPL Proc.
No. 331 questioning the highly anomalous orders precipitately issued ex-parte by the public respondent R.T.C. without notice to the
petitioners.

Petitioner in the main argued that private respondent herself admitted in her opposition to petitioner's motion to dismiss filed in the trial court
and in open court that the original petition she filed is one for guardianship; hence, the trial court acted beyond its jurisdiction when it issued
letters of administration over the estate of Roberto L. Chua, thereby converting the petition into an intestate proceeding, without the amended
petition being published in a newspaper of general circulation as required by Section 3, Rule 79.

The Court of Appeals, in its decision promulgated on 19 April 1994, denied the petition ratiocinating that the original petition filed was one
14

for guardianship of the illegitimate children of the deceased as well as for administration of his intestate estate. While private respondent may
have alleged in her opposition to the motion to dismiss that petition was for guardianship, the fact remains that the very allegations of the
original petition unmistakably showed a twin purpose: (1) guardianship; and (2) issuance of letters of administration. As such, it was
unnecessary for her to republish the notice of hearing through a newspaper of general circulation in the province. The amended petition was
filed for the only reason stated in the motion for leave: so that the "case title can properly and appropriately capture or capsulize in clear
terms the material averments in the body of the pleadings; thus avoiding any confusion or misconception of the nature and real intent and
purpose of this petition," which was for guardianship over the persons and properties of her minor children and for the settlement of the
intestate estate of the decedent who was their father. In other words, there being no change in the material allegations between the original
and amended petitions, the publication of the first in a newspaper of general circulation sufficed for purposes of compliance with the legal
requirements of notice.

Moreover, the appellate court ruled that the petitioner's remedy is appeal from the orders complained of under Section 1(f), Rule 109 of the
Rules of Court, not certiorari and prohibition.

Not satisfied with the decision of the Court of Appeals, petitioner comes to this Court contending that the appellate court committed the
following errors:

THE PUBLIC RESPONDENT COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY AND SERIOUSLY ERRED IN HOLDING THAT THE ORIGINAL PETITION
(Annex F, Petition) WAS FOR A TWIN PURPOSE, TO WIT: FOR GUARDIANSHIP AND FOR INTESTATE ESTATE PROCEEDINGS;

II

THE PUBLIC RESPONDENT COURT APPEALS SERIOUSLY ERRED IN HOLDING THAT THERE IS NO NEED TO PUBLISH THE
AMENDED PETITION FOR ADMINISTRATION OF THE INTESTATE ESTATE THEREBY CONTRAVENING THE RULES OF COURT AND
THE RULINGS OF THE SUPREME COURT.

III

THE PUBLIC RESPONDENT COURT OF APPEALS SERIOUSLY ERRED IN NOT NULLIFYING THE ORDERS (Annex "P" to "T")
PRECIPITATELY ISSUED EX-PARTE BY THE PUBLIC RESPONDENT REGIONAL TRIAL COURT IN THE INTESTATE PROCEEDINGS
WITHOUT PRIOR HEARING OR NOTICE TO HEREIN PETITIONER THEREBY DEPRIVING THE LATTER (ANTONIETTA GARCIA VDA.
DE CHUA ) OF DUE PROCESS AND OPPORTUNITY TO BE HEARD.

IV

THE PUBLIC RESPONDENT COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED IN SWEEPINGLY HOLDING THAT PETITIONER'S REMEDY IS
APPEAL. 15

In support of her first assignment of error, petitioner submits that the Court of Appeals' conclusion that the original petition was one for
guardianship and administration of the intestate estate is contradicted by the evidence on hand, asserting that the original petition failed to
allege and state the jurisdictional facts required by the Rules of Court in petitions for administration of a decedent's estate, such as: (a) the
last actual residence of the decedent at the time of his death; (b) names, ages and residences of the heirs; and (c) the names and residences
of the creditors of the decedent. Petitioner also reiterates her argument regarding private respondent's alleged admission that the original
petition was one for guardianship and not for issuance of letters of administration, pointing to the Opposition to the Motion to Dismiss dated
20 July 1992, where the private respondent alleged.

1. That this petition is for guardianship of the minor children of the petitioner who are heirs to the estate of the late Roberto L. Chua
and under Section 1, Rule 92 of the Rules of Court the venue shall be at the place where the minor resides. 16

as well as to the statements made by counsel for the private respondent during the 24 July 1992 hearing on the motion to dismiss:

ATTY. RENDON:

We filed our opposition to the motion to dismiss the petition because this is a petition for guardianship of minors, not for intestate
proceedings. So this is a case where the mother wanted to be appointed as guardian because she is also the litigant here. Because
whenever there is an intestate proceedings, she has to represent the minors, and under the Rules of Court in any guardianship
proceedings, the venue is at the place where the minor is actually residing. 17

The petition is devoid of merit.

The title alone of the original petition clearly shows that the petition is one which includes the issuance of letters of administration. The title
of said petition reads:

IN RE: PETITION FOR DECLARATION OF HEIRSHIPS, GUARDIANSHIP OVER THE PERSON AND PROPERTIES OF MINORS
ROBERTO ALONZO AND RUDYARD ALONZO, all surnamed CHUA and ISSUANCE OF LETTERS OF ADMINISTRATION. 18

Likewise, the prayer of the petition states:

2. That Letters of Administration be issued to herein petition for the administration of the estate of the deceased ROBERTO LIM
CHUA.
The original petition also contains the jurisdictional facts required in a petition for the issuance of letters of administration. Section 2, Rule 79
of the Rules of Court reads:

Sec. 2. Contents of petition for letters of administration — A petition for letters of administration must be filed by an interested
person and must show, so far as known to the petitioner:

(a) jurisdictional facts;

(b) The names, ages, and residences of the heirs and the names and residences of the creditors, of the decedent'

(c) The probative value and character of the property of the estate;.

(d) The name of the person for whom letters of administration are prayed;

But no defect in the petition shall render void the issuance of letters of administration. (emphasis ours).

The jurisdictional facts required in a petition for issuance of letters of administration are: (1) the death of the testator; (2) residence at the time
of death in the province where the probate court is located; and (3) if the decedent was a non-resident, the fact of being a resident of a foreign
country and that the decedent has left an estate in the province where the court is sitting. 19

While paragraph 4 of the original petition stating:

(4) That Roberto Lim Chua, father of the above mentioned minors, died intestate on May 28, 1992 in Davao City.

failed to indicate the residence of the deceased at the time of his death, the omission was cured by the amended petitions wherein the same
paragraph now reads:

(4) That Roberto Lim Chua, father of the abovementioned minors is a resident of Cotabato City and died intestate on May 28, 1992 at
Davao City. (Emphasis in the original.)
20

All told the original petition alleged substantially all the facts required to be stated in the petition for letters of administration. Consequently,
there was no need to publish the amended petition as petitioner would insist in her second assignment of errors.

Be that as it may, petitioner has no legal standing to file the motion to dismiss as she is not related to the deceased, nor does she have any
interest in his estate as creditor or otherwise. The Rules are explicit on who may do so:

Sec. 4. Opposition to petition for administration — Any interested person, may by filing a written opposition, contest the petition on
the ground of incompetency of the person for whom letters of administration are prayed therein, or on the ground of the
contestant's own right to the administration, and may pray that letters issue to himself, or to any competent person or persons
named in the opposition..

Only an interested person may oppose the petition for issuance of letters of administration. An interested person is one who would be
benefited by the estate such as an heir, or one who has a claim against the estate, such as a creditor; his interest is material and direct, and
not one that is only indirect or contingent.21

Petitioner was not able to prove her status as the surviving wife of the decedent. The best proof of marriage between man and wife is a
marriage contract which Antonietta Chua failed to produce. The lower court correctly disregarded the photostat copy of the marriage
certificate which she presented, this being a violation of the best evidence rule, together with other worthless pieces of evidence. The trial
court correctly ruled in its 21 August 1992 Order that:

. . . Transfer Certificates of Title, Residence Certificates, passports and other similar documents cannot prove marriage especially
so when the petitioner has submitted a certification from the Local Civil Registrar concerned that the alleged marriage was not
registered and a letter from the judge alleged to have solemnized the marriage that he has not solemnized said alleged marriage. . .
.
22

Under her third assignment of error, petitioner claims that the trial court issued its orders, Annexes "P" to "T" without prior hearing or notice
to her, thus, depriving her of due process.

The orders referred to by petitioner are: Order dated 31 August 1992 appointing Romulo Lim Uy, first cousin of the deceased, as special
administrator of the estate; Order dated 31 August 1992 appointing private respondent as guardian over the person and property of the
minors; Order dated 5 August 1993, directing the transfer of the remains of the deceased from Davao City to Cotabato City; Order dated 6
September 1993 directing petitioner to turn over a Mitsubishi Gallant car owned by the estate of the deceased to the special administrator;
and Order dated 28 September 1993, authorizing the sheriff to break open the deceased's house for the purpose of conducting an inventory
of the properties found therein, after the sheriff was refused entry to the house by the driver and maid of petitioner.

Apart from the fact that petitioner was not entitled to notice of the proceedings of the trial court, not being able to establish proof of her
alleged marriage to the deceased, or of her interest in the estate as creditor or otherwise, petitioner categorically stated in the instant petition
that on 25 October 1993 she filed a motion praying for the recall of the letters of administration issued by the trial court and another motion
dated 5 August 1993 praying that the proceedings conducted by the trial court be declared as a mistrial and the court orders relative thereto
be set aside and nullified. Petitioner further stated that her motions were denied by the trial court in its Order dated 22 November 21, 1993 and
that on 30 November 1993 she filed a motion for reconsideration of the order of denial which in turn was denied by the trial court on 13
December 1993.

Due process was designed to afford opportunity to be heard, not that an actual hearing should always and indispensably be held. The 23

essence of due process is simply an opportunity to be heard. Here, even granting that the petitioner was not notified of the orders of the trial
24

court marked as Exhibits "P" to "T," inclusive, nonetheless, she was duly heard in her motions to recall letters of administration and to
declare the proceedings of the court as a "mistrial," which motions were denied in the Order dated 22 November 1993. A motion for the
25

reconsideration of this order of denial was also duly heard by the trial court but was denied in its Order of 13 December 1993. 26

Denial of due process cannot be successfully invoked by a party who has had the opportunity to be heard on his motion for reconsideration. 27

As to the last assignment of errors, we agree with the Court of Appeals that the proper remedy of the petitioner in said court was an ordinary
appeal and not a special civil action for certiorari; which can be availed of if a party has no plain, speedy and adequate remedy in the ordinary
course of law. Except for her bare allegation that an ordinary appeal would be inadequate, nothing on record would indicate that
extraordinary remedy of certiorari or prohibition is warranted.

Finally, petitioner further argues as supplement to her memorandum that the ruling of the Court of Appeals treating the Special Proceeding
No. 331 as one for both guardianship and settlement of estate is in contravention of our ruling in Gomez vs. Imperial, which the petitioner
28

quotes:
The distribution of the residue of the estate of the deceased is a function pertaining property not to the guardianship proceedings,
but to another proceeding which the heirs are at liberty to initiate.

Petitioner's reliance on said case is misplaced. In the Gomez case, the action before the lower court was merely one for guardianship.
Therefore said court did not have the jurisdiction to distribute the estate of the deceased. While in the case at bar, the petition filed before the
court was both for guardianship and settlement of estate.

IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, the petition of petitioner Antonietta Chua is hereby denied.

SO ORDERED.

G.R. NO. 129242 January 16, 2001

PILAR S. VDA. DE MANALO, ANTONIO S. MANALO, ORLANDO S. MANALO, and ISABELITA MANALO ,petitioners,
vs.
HON. COURT OF APPEALS, HON. REGIONAL TRIAL COURT OF MANILA (BRANCH 35), PURITA S. JAYME, MILAGROS M. TERRE, BELEN M.
ORILLANO, ROSALINA M. ACUIN, ROMEO S. MANALO, ROBERTO S. MANALO, AMALIA MANALO and IMELDA MANALO, respondents.

DE LEON, JR., J.:

This is a petition for review on certiorari filed by petitioners Pilar S. Vda De Manalo, et. Al., seeking to annul the Resolution 1 of the Court of
Appeals 2 affirming the Orders 3 of the Regional Trial Court and the Resolution 4 which denied petitioner' motion for reconsideration.

The antecedent facts 5 are as follows:

Troadio Manalo, a resident of 1996 Maria Clara Street, Sampaloc, Manila died intestate on February 14, 1992. He was survived by his wife, Pilar S.
Manalo, and his eleven (11) children, namely: Purita M. Jayme, Antonio Manalo, Milagros M. Terre, Belen M. Orillano, Isabelita Manalo, Rosalina M.
Acuin, Romeo Manalo, Roberto Manalo, Amalia Manalo, Orlando Manalo and Imelda Manalo, who are all of legal age. 1âwphi1.nêt

At the time of his death on February 14, 1992, Troadio Manalo left several real properties located in Manila and in the province of Tarlac including a
business under the name and style Manalo's Machine Shop with offices at No. 19 Calavite Street, La Loma, Quezon City and at NO. 45 General Tinio
Street, Arty Subdivision, Valenzuela, Metro Manila.

On November 26, 1992, herein respondents, who are eight (8) of the surviving children of the late Troadio Manalo, namely; Purita, Milagros, Belen
Rocalina, Romeo, Roberto, Amalia, and Imelda filed a petition 6 with the respondent Regional Trial Court of Manila 7 of the judicial settlement of the
estate of their late father, Troadio Manalo, and for the appointment of their brother, Romeo Manalo, as administrator thereof.

On December 15, 1992, the trial court issued an order setting the said petition for hearing on February 11, 1993 and directing the publication of the order
for three (3) consecutive weeks in a newspaper of general circulation in Metro Manila, and further directing service by registered mail of the said order
upon the heirs named in the petition at their respective addresses mentioned therein.

On February 11, 1993, the date set for hearing of the petition, the trial court issued an order 'declaring the whole world in default, except the
government," and set the reception of evidence of the petitioners therein on March 16, 1993. However, the trial court upon motion of set this order of
general default aside herein petitioners (oppositors therein) namely: Pilar S. Vda. De Manalo, Antonio, Isabelita and Orlando who were granted then (10)
days within which to file their opposition to the petition.

Several pleadings were subsequently filed by herein petitioners, through counsel, culminating in the filling of an Omnibus Motion8 on July 23, 1993
seeking; (1) to seat aside and reconsider the Order of the trial court dated July 9, 1993 which denied the motion for additional extension of time file
opposition; (2) to set for preliminary hearing their affirmative defenses as grounds for dismissal of the case; (3) to declare that the trial court did not
acquire jurisdiction over the persons of the oppositors; and (4) for the immediate inhibition of the presiding judge.

On July 30, 1993, the trial court issued an order9 which resolved, thus:

A. To admit the so-called Opposition filed by counsel for the oppositors on July 20, 1993, only for the purpose of considering the merits
thereof;

B. To deny the prayer of the oppositors for a preliminary hearing of their affirmative defenses as ground for the dismissal of this proceeding,
said affirmative defenses being irrelevant and immaterial to the purpose and issue of the present proceeding;

C. To declare that this court has acquired jurisdiction over the persons of the oppositors;

D. To deny the motion of the oppositors for the inhibition of this Presiding Judge;

E. To set the application of Romeo Manalo for appointment as regular administrator in the intestate estate of the deceased Troadio Manalo for
hearing on September 9, 1993 at 2:00 o'clock in the afternoon.

Herein petitioners filed a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court with the Court of Appeals, docketed as CA-G.R. SP. No. 39851, after
the trial court in its Order 10 dated September 15, 1993. In their petition for improperly laid in SP. PROC. No. 92-63626; (2) the trial court did not acquire
jurisdiction over their persons; (3) the share of the surviving spouse was included in the intestate proceedings; (4) there was absence of earnest efforts
toward compromise among members of the same family; and (5) no certification of non-forum shopping was attached to the petition.

Finding the contentions untenable, the Court of Appeals dismissed the petition for certiorari in its Resolution 11promulgated on September 30, 1996. On
May 6, 1997 the motion for reconsideration of the said resolution was likewise dismissed. 12

The only issue raised by herein petitioners in the instant petition for review is whether or not the respondent Court of Appeals erred in upholding the
questioned orders of the respondent trial court which denied their motion for the outright dismissal of the petition for judicial settlement of estate despite
the failure of the petitioners therein to aver that earnest efforts toward a compromise involving members of the same family have been made prior to the
filling of the petition but that the same have failed.

Herein petitioners claim that the petition in SP. PROC. No. 92-63626 is actually an ordinary civil action involving members of the same family. They point
out that it contains certain averments, which, according to them, are indicative of its adversarial nature, to wit:

X X X

Par. 7. One of the surviving sons, ANTONIO MANALO, since the death of his father, TROADIO MANALO, had not made any settlement,
judicial or extra-judicial of the properties of the deceased father TROADIO MANALO.
Par. 8. xxx the said surviving son continued to manage and control the properties aforementioned, without proper accounting, to his own
benefit and advantage xxx.

X X X

Par. 12. That said ANTONIO MANALO is managing and controlling the estate of the deceased TROADIO MANALO to his own advantage and
to the damage and prejudice of the herein petitioners and their co-heirs xxx.

X X X

Par. 14. For the protection of their rights and interests, petitioners were compelled to bring this suit and were forced to litigate and incur
expenses and will continue to incur expenses of not less than, P250,000.00 and engaged the services of herein counsel committing to pay
P200,000.00 as and attorney's fees plus honorarium of P2,500.00 per appearance in court xxx. 13

Consequently, according to herein petitioners, the same should be dismissed under Rule 16, Section 1(j) of the Revised Rules of Court which provides
that a motion to dismiss a complaint may be filed on the ground that a condition precedent for filling the claim has not been complied with, that is, that
the petitioners therein failed to aver in the petition in SP. PROC. No. 92-63626, that earnest efforts toward a compromise have been made involving
members of the same family prior to the filling of the petition pursuant to Article 222 14 of the Civil Code of the Philippines.

The instant petition is not impressed with merit.

It is a fundamental rule that in the determination of the nature of an action or proceeding, the averments 15 and the character of the relief sought 16 in the
complaint, or petition, as in the case at bar, shall be controlling. A careful srutiny of the Petition for Issuance of Letters of Administration, Settlement and
Distribution of Estatein SP. PROC. No. 92-63626 belies herein petitioners' claim that the same is in the nature of an ordinary civil action. The said
petition contains sufficient jurisdictional facts required in a petition for the settlement of estate of a deceased person such as the fat of death of the late
Troadio Manalo on February 14, 1992, as well as his residence in the City of Manila at the time of his said death. The fact of death of the decedent and
of his residence within he country are foundation facts upon which all the subsequent proceedings in the administration of the estate rest.17 The petition
is SP.PROC No. 92-63626 also contains an enumeration of the names of his legal heirs including a tentative list of the properties left by the deceased
which are sought to be settled in the probate proceedings. In addition, the relief's prayed for in the said petition leave no room for doubt as regard the
intention of the petitioners therein (private respondents herein) to seek judicial settlement of the estate of their deceased father, Troadio Manalo, to wit;

PRAYER

WHEREFORE, premises considered, it is respectfully prayed for of this Honorable Court:

a. That after due hearing, letters of administration be issued to petitioner ROMEO MANALO for the administration of the estate of the
deceased TROADIO MANALO upon the giving of a bond in such reasonable sum that this Honorable Court may fix.

b. That after all the properties of the deceased TROADIO MANALO have been inventoried and expenses and just debts, if any, have been
paid and the legal heirs of the deceased fully determined, that the said estate of TROADIO MANALO be settled and distributed among the
legal heirs all in accordance with law.

c. That the litigation expenses of these proceedings in the amount of P250,000.00 and attorney's fees in the amount of P300,000.00 plus
honorarium of P2,500.00 per appearance in court in the hearing and trial of this case and costs of suit be taxed solely against ANTONIO
MANALO.18

Concededly, the petition in SP. PROC. No. 92-63626 contains certain averments which may be typical of an ordinary civil action. Herein petitioners, as
oppositors therein, took advantage of the said defect in the petition and filed their so-called Opposition thereto which, as observed by the trial court, is
actually an Answer containing admissions and denials, special and affirmative defenses and compulsory counterclaims for actual, moral and exemplary
damages, plus attorney's fees and costs 19 in an apparent effort to make out a case of an ordinary civil action and ultimately seek its dismissal under
Rule 16, Section 1(j) of the Rules of Court vis-à-vis, Article 222 of civil of the Civil Code.

It is our view that herein petitioners may not be allowed to defeat the purpose of the essentially valid petition for the settlement of the estate of the late
Troadio Manalo by raising matters that as irrelevant and immaterial to the said petition. It must be emphasized that the trial court, siting as a probate
court, has limited and special jurisdiction 20and cannot hear and dispose of collateral matters and issues which may be properly threshed out only in an
ordinary civil action. In addition, the rule has always been to the effect that the jurisdiction of a court, as well as the concomitant nature of an action, is
determined by the averments in the complaint and not by the defenses contained in the answer. If it were otherwise, it would not be too difficult to have a
case either thrown out of court or its proceedings unduly delayed by simple strategem. 21 So it should be in the instant petition for settlement of estate.

Herein petitioners argue that even if the petition in SP. PROC. No. 92-63626 were to be considered as a special proceeding for the settlement of estate
of a deceased person, Rule 16, Section 1(j) of the Rules of Court vis-à-visArticle 222 of the Civil Code of the Philippines would nevertheless apply as a
ground for the dismissal of the same by virtue of ule 1, Section 2 of the Rules of Court which provides that the 'rules shall be liberally construed in order
to promote their object and to assist the parties in obtaining just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every action and proceedings.' Petitioners
contend that the term "proceeding" is so broad that it must necessarily include special proceedings.

The argument is misplaced. Herein petitioners may not validly take refuge under the provisions of Rule 1, Section 2, of the Rules of Court to justify the
invocation of Article 222 of the Civil Code of the Philippines for the dismissal of the petition for settlement of the estate of the deceased Troadio Manalo
inasmuch as the latter provision is clear enough. To wit:

Art. 222. No suit shall be filed or maintained between members of the same family unless it should appear that earnest efforts toward a compromise
have been made, but that the same have failed, subject to the limitations in Article 2035(underscoring supplied).22

The above-quoted provision of the law is applicable only to ordinary civil actions. This is clear from the term 'suit' that it refers to an action by one person
or persons against another or other in a court of justice in which the plaintiff pursues the remedy which the law affords him for the redress of an injury or
the enforcement of a right, whether at law or in equity. 23 A civil action is thus an action filed in a court of justice, whereby a party sues another for the
enforcement of a right, or the prevention or redress of a wrong. 24 Besides, an excerpt form the Report of the Code Commission unmistakably reveals the
intention of the Code Commission to make that legal provision applicable only to civil actions which are essentially adversarial and involve members of
the same family, thus:

It is difficult to imagine a sadder and more tragic spectacle than a litigation between members of the same family. It is necessary that every
effort should be made toward a compromise before litigation is allowed to breed hate and passion in the family. It is know that lawsuit between
close relatives generates deeper bitterness than stranger. 25

It must be emphasized that the oppositors (herein petitioners) are not being sued in SP. PROC. No. 92-63626 for any cause of action as in fact no
defendant was imploded therein. The Petition for issuance of letters of Administration, Settlement and Distribution of Estate in SP. PROC. No. 92-63626
is a special proceeding and, as such, it is a remedy whereby the petitioners therein seek to establish a status, a right, or a particular fact. 26 the
petitioners therein (private respondents herein) merely seek to establish the fat of death of their father and subsequently to be duly recognized as among
the heirs of the said deceased so that they can validly exercise their right to participate in the settlement and liquidation of the estate of the decedent
consistent with the limited and special jurisdiction of the probate court.1âwphi1.nêt
WHEREFORE, the petition in the above-entitled case, is DENIED for lack of merit, Costs against petitioners.

SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 183053 October 10, 2012

EMILIO A.M. SUNTAY III, Petitioner,


vs.
ISABEL COJUANGCO-SUNTAY, Respondent.

RESOLUTION

PEREZ, J.:

The now overly prolonged, all-too familiar and too-much-stretched imbroglio over the estate of Cristina Aguinaldo-Suntay has continued. We issued a
Decision in the dispute as in Inter Caetera. We now find a need to replace the decision.
1

Before us is a Motion for Reconsideration filed by respondent Isabel Cojuangco-Suntay (respondent Isabel) of our Decision in G.R. No. 183053 dated 16
2

June 2010, directing the issuance of joint letters of administration to both petitioner Emilio A.M. Suntay III (Emilio III) and respondent. The dispositive
portion thereof reads:

WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 74949 is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Letters of
Administration over the estate of decedent Cristina Aguinaldo-Suntay shall issue to both petitioner Emilio A.M. Suntay III and respondent Isabel
Cojuangco-Suntay upon payment by each of a bond to be set by the Regional Trial Court, Branch 78, Malolos, Bulacan, in Special Proceeding Case No.
117-M-95. The Regional Trial Court, Branch 78, Malolos, Bulacan is likewise directed to make a determination and to declare the heirs of decedent
Cristina Aguinaldo-Suntay according to the actual factual milieu as proven by the parties, and all other persons with legal interest in the subject estate. It
is further directed to settle the estate of decedent Cristina Aguinaldo-Suntay with dispatch. No costs. 3

We are moved to trace to its roots the controversy between the parties.

The decedent Cristina Aguinaldo-Suntay (Cristina) died intestate on 4 June 1990. Cristina was survived by her spouse, Dr. Federico Suntay (Federico)
and five grandchildren: three legitimate grandchildren, including herein respondent, Isabel; and two illegitimate grandchildren, including petitioner Emilio
III, all by Federico’s and Cristina’s only child, Emilio A. Suntay (Emilio I), who predeceased his parents.

The illegitimate grandchildren, Emilio III and Nenita, were both reared from infancy by the spouses Federico and Cristina. Their legitimate grandchildren,
Isabel and her siblings, Margarita and Emilio II, lived with their mother Isabel Cojuangco, following the separation of Isabel’s parents, Emilio I and Isabel
Cojuangco. Isabel’s parents, along with her paternal grandparents, were involved in domestic relations cases, including a case for parricide filed by
Isabel Cojuangco against Emilio I. Emilio I was eventually acquitted.

In retaliation, Emilio I filed a complaint for legal separation against his wife, charging her among others with infidelity. The trial court declared as null and
void and of no effect the marriage of Emilio I and Isabel Cojuangco on the finding that:

From February 1965 thru December 1965 plaintiff was confined in the Veterans memorial Hospital. Although at the time of the trial of parricide case
(September 8, 1967) the patient was already out of the hospital, he continued to be under observation and treatment.

It is the opinion of Dr. Aramil that the symptoms of the plaintiffs mental aberration classified as schizophernia (sic) had made themselves manifest even
as early as 1955; that the disease worsened with time, until 1965 when he was actually placed under expert neuro-psychiatrist (sic) treatment; that even
if the subject has shown marked progress, the remains bereft of adequate understanding of right and wrong.

There is no controversy that the marriage between the parties was effected on July 9, 1958, years after plaintiffs mental illness had set in. This fact
would justify a declaration of nullity of the marriage under Article 85 of the Civil Code which provides:

Art. 95. (sic) A marriage may be annulled for any of the following causes after (sic) existing at the time of the marriage:

xxxx

(3) That either party was of unsound mind, unless such party, after coming to reason, freely cohabited with the other as husband or wife.

There is a dearth of proof at the time of the marriage defendant knew about the mental condition of plaintiff; and there is proof that plaintiff continues to
be without sound reason. The charges in this very complaint add emphasis to the findings of the neuro-psychiatrist handling the patient, that plaintiff
really lives more in fancy than in reality, a strong indication of schizophernia (sic).
4

Intent on maintaining a relationship with their grandchildren, Federico and Isabel filed a complaint for visitation rights to spend time with Margarita, Emilio
II, and Isabel in the same special lower court. The Juvenile Domestic Relations Court in Quezon City (JDRC-QC) granted their prayer for one hour a
month of visitation rights which was subsequently reduced to thirty minutes, and ultimately stopped, because of respondent Isabel’s testimony in court
that her grandparents’ visits caused her and her siblings stress and anxiety. 5

On 27 September 1993, more than three years after Cristina’s death, Federico adopted his illegitimate grandchildren, Emilio III and Nenita.

On 26 October 1995, respondent Isabel, filed before the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Malolos, Bulacan, a petition for the issuance of letters of
administration over Cristina’s estate docketed as Special Proceeding Case No. 117-M-95. Federico, opposed the petition, pointing out that: (1) as the
surviving spouse of the decedent, he should be appointed administrator of the decedent’s estate; (2) as part owner of the mass of conjugal properties
left by the decedent, he must be accorded preference in the administration thereof; (3) Isabel and her siblings had been alienated from their
grandparents for more than thirty (30) years; (4) the enumeration of heirs in the petition was incomplete as it did not mention the other children of his
son, Emilio III and Nenita; (5) even before the death of his wife, Federico had administered their conjugal properties, and thus, is better situated to
protect the integrity of the decedent’s estate; (6) the probable value of the estate as stated in the petition was grossly overstated; and (7) Isabel’s
allegation that some of the properties are in the hands of usurpers is untrue.

Federico filed a Motion to Dismiss Isabel’s petition for letters of administration on the ground that Isabel had no right of representation to the estate of
Cristina, she being an illegitimate grandchild of the latter as a result of Isabel’s parents’ marriage being declared null and void. However, in Suntay v.
Cojuangco-Suntay, we categorically declared that Isabel and her siblings, having been born of a voidable marriage as opposed to a void marriage based
on paragraph 3, Article 85 of the Civil Code, were legitimate children of Emilio I, who can all represent him in the estate of their legitimate grandmother,
the decedent, Cristina.

Undaunted by the set back, Federico nominated Emilio III to administer the decedent’s estate on his behalf in the event letters of administration issues to
Federico. Consequently, Emilio III filed an Opposition-In-Intervention, echoing the allegations in his grandfather’s opposition, alleging that Federico, or in
his stead, Emilio III, was better equipped than respondent to administer and manage the estate of the decedent, Cristina.
On 13 November 2000, Federico died.

Almost a year thereafter or on 9 November 2001, the trial court rendered a decision appointing Emilio III as administrator of decedent Cristina’s intestate
estate:

WHEREFORE, the petition of Isabel Cojuangco-Suntay is DENIED and the Opposition-in-Intervention is GRANTED.

Accordingly, the Intervenor, Emilio A.M. Suntay, III (sic) is hereby appointed administrator of the estate of the decedent Cristina Aguinaldo Suntay, who
shall enter upon the execution of his trust upon the filing of a bond in the amount of ₱ 200,000.00, conditioned as follows:

(1) To make and return within three (3) months, a true and complete inventory;

(2) To administer the estate and to pay and discharge all debts, legatees, and charge on the same, or dividends thereon;

(3) To render a true and just account within one (1) year, and at any other time when required by the court, and

(4) To perform all orders of the Court.

Once the said bond is approved by the court, let Letters of Administration be issued in his favor. 6

On appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed and set aside the decision of the RTC, revoked the Letters of Administration issued to Emilio III, and
appointed respondent as administratrix of the subject estate:

WHEREFORE, in view of all the foregoing, the assailed decision dated November 9, 2001 of Branch 78, Regional Trial Court of Malolos, Bulacan in
SPC No. 117-M-95 is REVERSED and SET ASIDE and the letters of administration issued by the said court to Emilio A.M. Suntay III, if any, are
consequently revoked. Petitioner Isabel Cojuangco-Suntay is hereby appointed administratrix of the intestate estate of Cristina Aguinaldo Suntay. Let
letters of administration be issued in her favor upon her filing of a bond in the amount of Two Hundred Thousand (₱ 200,000.00) Pesos. 7

As previously adverted to, on appeal by certiorari, we reversed and set aside the ruling of the appellate court. We decided to include Emilio III as co-
administrator of Cristina’s estate, giving weight to his interest in Federico’s estate. In ruling for co-administration between Emilio III and

Isabel, we considered that:

1. Emilio III was reared from infancy by the decedent, Cristina, and her husband, Federico, who both acknowledged him as their grandchild;

2. Federico claimed half of the properties included in the estate of the decedent, Cristina, as forming part of their conjugal partnership of gains
during the subsistence of their marriage;

3. Cristina’s properties, forming part of her estate, are still commingled with those of her husband, Federico, because her share in the conjugal
partnership remains undetermined and unliquidated; and

4. Emilio III is a legally adopted child of Federico, entitled to share in the distribution of the latter’s estate as a direct heir, one degree from
Federico, and not simply in representation of his deceased illegitimate father, Emilio I.

In this motion, Isabel pleads for total affirmance of the Court of Appeals’ Decision in favor of her sole administratorship based on her status as a
legitimate grandchild of Cristina, whose estate she seeks to administer.

Isabel contends that the explicit provisions of Section 6, Rule 78 of the Rules of Court on the order of preference for the issuance of letters of
administration cannot be ignored and that Article 992 of the Civil Code must be followed. Isabel further asserts that Emilio III had demonstrated adverse
interests and disloyalty to the estate, thus, he does not deserve to become a co-administrator thereof.

Specifically, Isabel bewails that: (1) Emilio III is an illegitimate grandchild and therefore, not an heir of the decedent; (2) corollary thereto, Emilio III, not
being a "next of kin" of the decedent, has no interest in the estate to justify his appointment as administrator thereof; (3) Emilio III’s actuations since his
appointment as administrator by the RTC on 9 November 2001 emphatically demonstrate the validity and wisdom of the order of preference in Section 6,
Rule 78 of the Rules of Court; and (4) there is no basis for joint administration as there are no "opposing parties or factions to be represented."

To begin with, the case at bar reached us on the issue of who, as between Emilio III and Isabel, is better qualified to act as administrator of the
decedent’s estate. We did not choose. Considering merely his demonstrable interest in the subject estate, we ruled that Emilio III should likewise
administer the estate of his illegitimate grandmother, Cristina, as a co-administrator. In the context of this case, we have to make a choice and therefore,
reconsider our decision of 16 June 2010.

The general rule in the appointment of administrator of the estate of a decedent is laid down in Section 6, Rule 78 of the Rules of Court:

SEC. 6. When and to whom letters of administration granted. – If no executor is named in the will, or the executor or executors are incompetent, refuse
the trust, or fail to give bond, or a person dies intestate, administration shall be granted:

(a) To the surviving husband or wife, as the case may be, or next of kin, or both, in the discretion of the court, or to such person as such surviving
husband or wife, or next of kin, requests to have appointed, if competent and willing to serve;

(b) If such surviving husband or wife, as the case may be, or next of kin, or the person selected by them, be incompetent or unwilling, or if the husband
or widow, or next of kin, neglects for thirty (30) days after the death of the person to apply for administration or to request that administration be granted
to some other person, it may be granted to one or more of the principal creditors, if competent and willing to serve;

(c) If there is not such creditor competent and willing to serve, it may be granted to such other person as the court may select.

Textually, the rule lists a sequence to be observed, an order of preference, in the appointment of an administrator. This order of preference, which
categorically seeks out the surviving spouse, the next of kin and the creditors in the appointment of an administrator, has been reinforced in
jurisprudence. 8

The paramount consideration in the appointment of an administrator over the estate of a decedent is the prospective administrator’s interest in the
estate. This is the same consideration which Section 6, Rule 78 takes into account in establishing the order of preference in the appointment of
9

administrator for the estate. The rationale behind the rule is that those who will reap the benefit of a wise, speedy and economical administration of the
estate, or, in the alternative, suffer the consequences of waste, improvidence or mismanagement, have the highest interest and most influential motive
to administer the estate correctly. In all, given that the rule speaks of an order of preference, the person to be appointed administrator of a decedent’s
10

estate must demonstrate not only an interest in the estate, but an interest therein greater than any other candidate.
To illustrate, the preference bestowed by law to the surviving spouse in the administration of a decedent’s estate presupposes the surviving spouse’s
interest in the conjugal partnership or community property forming part of the decedent’s estate. Likewise, a surviving spouse is a compulsory heir of a
11

decedent which evinces as much, if not more, interest in administering the entire estate of a decedent, aside from her share in the conjugal partnership
12

or absolute community property.

It is to this requirement of observation of the order of preference in the appointment of administrator of a decedent’s estate, that the appointment of co-
administrators has been allowed, but as an exception. We again refer to Section 6(a) of Rule 78 of the Rules of Court which specifically states that
letters of administration may be issued to both the surviving spouse and the next of kin. In addition and impliedly, we can refer to Section 2 of Rule 82 of
the Rules of Court which say that "x x x when an executor or administrator dies, resigns, or is removed, the remaining executor or administrator may
administer the trust alone, x x x."

In a number of cases, we have sanctioned the appointment of more than one administrator for the benefit of the estate and those interested therein. We 13

recognized that the appointment of administrator of the estate of a decedent or the determination of a person’s suitability for the office of judicial
administrator rests, to a great extent, in the sound judgment of the court exercising the power of appointment. 14

Under certain circumstances and for various reasons well-settled in Philippine and American jurisprudence, we have upheld the appointment of co-
administrators: (1) to have the benefits of their judgment and perhaps at all times to have different interests represented; (2) where justice and equity
15

demand that opposing parties or factions be represented in the management of the estate of the deceased; (3) where the estate is large or, from any
cause, an intricate and perplexing one to settle; (4) to have all interested persons satisfied and the representatives to work in harmony for the best
16

interests of the estate; and when a person entitled to the administration of an estate desires to have another competent person associated with him in
17

the office.
18

In the frequently cited Matias v. Gonzales, we dwelt on the appointment of special co-administrators during the pendency of the appeal for the probate of
the decedent’s will. Pending the probate thereof, we recognized Matias’ special interest in the decedent’s estate as universal heir and executrix
designated in the instrument who should not be excluded in the administration thereof. Thus, we held that justice and equity demands that the two (2)
factions among the non-compulsory heirs of the decedent, consisting of an instituted heir (Matias) and intestate heirs (respondents thereat), should be
represented in the management of the decedent’s estate. 19

Another oft-cited case is Vda. de Dayrit v. Ramolete, where we held that "inasmuch as petitioner-wife owns one-half of the conjugal properties and that
she, too, is a compulsory heir of her husband, to deprive her of any hand in the administration of the estate prior to the probate of the will would be unfair
to her proprietary interests."
20

Hewing closely to the aforementioned cases is our ruling in Ventura v. Ventura where we allowed the appointment of the surviving spouse and
21

legitimate children of the decedent as co-administrators. However, we drew a distinction between the heirs categorized as next of kin, the nearest of kin
in the category being preferred, thus:

In the case at bar, the surviving spouse of the deceased Gregorio Ventura is Juana Cardona while the next of kin are: Mercedes and Gregoria Ventura
and Maria and Miguel Ventura. The "next of kin" has been defined as those persons who are entitled under the statute of distribution to the decedent’s
property (citations omitted). It is generally said that "the nearest of kin, whose interest in the estate is more preponderant, is preferred in the choice of
administrator. ‘Among members of a class the strongest ground for preference is the amount or preponderance of interest. As between next of kin, the
nearest of kin is to be preferred.’" (citations omitted)

As decided by the lower court and sustained by the Supreme Court, Mercedes and Gregoria Ventura are the legitimate children of Gregorio Ventura and
his wife, the late Paulina Simpliciano. Therefore, as the nearest of kin of Gregorio Ventura, they are entitled to preference over the illegitimate children of
Gregorio Ventura, namely: Maria and Miguel Ventura. Hence, under the aforestated preference provided in Section 6 of Rule 78, the person or persons
to be appointed administrator are Juana Cardona, as the surviving spouse, or Mercedes and Gregoria Ventura as nearest of kin, or Juana Cardona and
Mercedes and Gregoria Ventura in the discretion of the Court, in order to represent both interests. (Emphasis supplied)
22

In Silverio, Sr. v. Court of Appeals, we maintained that the order of preference in the appointment of an administrator depends on the attendant facts
23

and circumstances. In that case, we affirmed the legitimate child’s appointment as special administrator, and eventually as regular administrator, of the
decedent’s estate as against the surviving spouse who the lower court found unsuitable. Reiterating Sioca v. Garcia as good law, we pointed out that
24

unsuitableness for appointment as administrator may consist in adverse interest of some kind or hostility to those immediately interested in the estate.

In Valarao v. Pascual, we see another story with a running theme of heirs squabbling over the estate of a decedent. We found no reason to set aside
25

the probate court’s refusal to appoint as special co-administrator Diaz, even if he had a demonstrable interest in the estate of the decedent and
represented one of the factions of heirs, because the evidence weighed by the probate court pointed to Diaz’s being remiss in his previous duty as co-
administrator of the estatein the early part of his administration. Surveying the previously discussed cases of Matias, Corona, and Vda. de Dayrit, we
clarified, thus:

Respondents cannot take comfort in the cases of Matias v. Gonzales, Corona v. Court of Appeals, and Vda. de Dayrit v. Ramolete, cited in the assailed
Decision. Contrary to their claim, these cases do not establish an absolute right demandable from the probate court to appoint special co-administrators
who would represent the respective interests of squabbling heirs. Rather, the cases constitute precedents for the authority of the probate court to
designate not just one but also two or more special co-administrators for a single estate. Now whether the probate court exercises such prerogative
when the heirs are fighting among themselves is a matter left entirely to its sound discretion.

Furthermore, the cases of Matias, Corona and Vda. de Dayrit hinge upon factual circumstances other than the incompatible interests of the heirs which
are glaringly absent from the instant case. In Matias this Court ordered the appointment of a special co-administrator because of the applicant's status
as the universal heir and executrix designated in the will, which we considered to be a "special interest" deserving protection during the pendency of the
appeal. Quite significantly, since the lower court in Matias had already deemed it best to appoint more than one special administrator, we found grave
abuse of discretion in the act of the lower court in ignoring the applicant's distinctive status in the selection of another special administrator.

In Corona we gave "highest consideration" to the "executrix's choice of Special Administrator, considering her own inability to serve and the wide latitude
of discretion given her by the testatrix in her will," for this Court to compel her appointment as special co-administrator. It is also manifest from the
decision in Corona that the presence of conflicting interests among the heirs therein was not per se the key factor in the designation of a second special
administrator as this fact was taken into account only to disregard or, in the words of Corona, to "overshadow" the objections to the appointment on
grounds of "impracticality and lack of kinship."

Finally in Vda. de Dayrit we justified the designation of the wife of the decedent as special co-administrator because it was "our considered opinion that
inasmuch as petitioner-wife owns one-half of the conjugal properties and that she, too, is a compulsory heir of her husband, to deprive her of any hand in
the administration of the estate prior to the probate of the will would be unfair to her proprietary interests." The special status of a surviving spouse in the
special administration of an estate was also emphasized in Fule v. Court of Appeals where we held that the widow would have more interest than any
other next of kin in the proper administration of the entire estate since she possesses not only the right of succession over a portion of the exclusive
property of the decedent but also a share in the conjugal partnership for which the good or bad administration of the estate may affect not just the fruits
but more critically the naked ownership thereof. And in Gabriel v. Court of Appeals we recognized the distinctive status of a surviving spouse applying as
regular administrator of the deceased spouse's estate when we counseled the probate court that "there must be a very strong case to justify the
exclusion of the widow from the administration."

Clearly, the selection of a special co-administrator in Matias, Corona and Vda. de Dayrit was based upon the independent proprietary interests and
moral circumstances of the appointee that were not necessarily related to the demand for representation being repeatedly urged by
respondents. (Emphasis supplied)
26

In Gabriel v. Court of Appeals, we unequivocally declared the mandatory character of the rule on the order of preference for the issuance of letters of
administration:
Evidently, the foregoing provision of the Rules prescribes the order of preference in the issuance of letters of administration, it categorically seeks out the
surviving spouse, the next of kin and the creditors, and requires that sequence to be observed in appointing an administrator. It would be a grave abuse
of discretion for the probate court to imperiously set aside and insouciantly ignore that directive without any valid and sufficient reason therefor. 27

Subsequently, in Angeles v. Angeles-Maglaya, we expounded on the legal contemplation of a "next of kin," thus:
28

Finally, it should be noted that on the matter of appointment of administrator of the estate of the deceased, the surviving spouse is preferred over the
next of kin of the decedent. When the law speaks of "next of kin," the reference is to those who are entitled, under the statute of distribution, to the
decedent's property; one whose relationship is such that he is entitled to share in the estate as distributed, or, in short, an heir. In resolving, therefore,
the issue of whether an applicant for letters of administration is a next of kin or an heir of the decedent, the probate court perforce has to determine and
pass upon the issue of filiation. A separate action will only result in a multiplicity of suits. Upon this consideration, the trial court acted within bounds
when it looked into and passed upon the claimed relationship of respondent to the late Francisco Angeles. 29

Finally, in Uy v. Court of Appeals, we took into consideration the size of, and benefits to, the estate should respondent therein be appointed as co-
30

administrator. We emphasized that where the estate is large or, from any cause, an intricate and perplexing one to settle, the appointment of co-
administrators may be sanctioned by law.

In our Decision under consideration, we zeroed in on Emilio III’s demonstrable interest in the estate and glossed over the order of preference set forth in
the Rules. We gave weight to Emilio III’s demonstrable interest in Cristina’s estate and without a closer scrutiny of the attendant facts and
circumstances, directed co-administration thereof. We are led to a review of such position by the foregoing survey of cases.

The collected teaching is that mere demonstration of interest in the estate to be settled does not ipso facto entitle an interested person to co-
administration thereof. Neither does squabbling among the heirs nor adverse interests necessitate the discounting of the order of preference set forth in
Section 6, Rule 78. Indeed, in the appointment of administrator of the estate of a deceased person, the principal consideration reckoned with is the
interest in said estate of the one to be appointed as administrator. Given Isabel’s unassailable interest in the estate as one of the decedent’s legitimate
31

grandchildren and undoubted nearest "next of kin," the appointment of Emilio III as co-administrator of the same estate, cannot be a demandable right. It
is a matter left entirely to the sound discretion of the Court and depends on the facts and the attendant circumstances of the case.
32 33

Thus, we proceed to scrutinize the attendant facts and circumstances of this case even as we reiterate Isabel’s and her sibling’s apparent greater
interest in the estate of Cristina.

These considerations do not warrant the setting aside of the order of preference mapped out in Section 6, Rule 78 of the Rules of Court. They compel
that a choice be made of one over the other.

1. The bitter estrangement and long-standing animosity between Isabel, on the one hand, and Emilio III, on the other, traced back from the
time their paternal grandparents were alive, which can be characterized as adverse interest of some kind by, or hostility of, Emilio III to Isabel
who is immediately interested in the estate;

2. Corollary thereto, the seeming impossibility of Isabel and Emilio III working harmoniously as co-administrators may result in prejudice to the
decedent’s estate, ultimately delaying settlement thereof; and

3. Emilio III, for all his claims of knowledge in the management of Cristina’s estate, has not looked after the estate’s welfare and has acted to
the damage and prejudice thereof.

Contrary to the assumption made in the Decision that Emilio III’s demonstrable interest in the estate makes him a suitable co-administrator thereof, the
evidence reveals that Emilio III has turned out to be an unsuitable administrator of the estate. Respondent Isabel points out that after Emilio III’s
appointment as administrator of the subject estate in 2001, he has not looked after the welfare of the subject estate and has actually acted to the
damage and prejudice thereof as evidenced by the following:

1. Emilio III, despite several orders from the probate court for a complete inventory, omitted in the partial inventories he filed therewith
34

properties of the estate including several parcels of land, cash, bank deposits, jewelry, shares of stock, motor vehicles, and other personal
35

properties, contrary to Section 1, paragraph a, Rule 81 of the Rules of Court.


36

2. Emilio III did not take action on both occasions against Federico’s settlement of the decedent’s estate which adjudicated to himself a
number of properties properly belonging to said estate (whether wholly or partially), and which contained a declaration that the decedent did
not leave any descendants or heirs, except for Federico, entitled to succeed to her estate. 37

In compliance to our Resolution dated 18 April 2012 requiring Emilio III to respond to the following imputations of Isabel that:

1. Emilio III did not file an inventory of the assets until November 14, 2002;

2. The inventory Emilio III submitted did not include several properties of the decedent;

3. That properties belonging to the decedent have found their way to different individuals or persons; several properties to Federico Suntay himself; and

4. While some properties have found their way to Emilio III, by reason of falsified documents; 38

Emilio III refutes Isabel’s imputations that he was lackadaisical in assuming and performing the functions of administrator of Cristina’s estate:

1. From the time of the RTC’s Order appointing Emilio III as administrator, Isabel, in her pleadings before the RTC, had vigorously opposed
Emilio III’s assumption of that office, arguing that "the decision of the RTC dated 9 November 2001 is not among the judgments authorized by
the Rules of Court which may be immediately implemented or executed;"

2. The delay in Emilio III’s filing of an inventory was due to Isabel’s vociferous objections to Emilio III’s attempts to act as administrator while
the RTC decision was under appeal to the Court of Appeals;

3. The complained partial inventory is only initiatory, inherent in the nature thereof, and one of the first steps in the lengthy process of
settlement of a decedent’s estate, such that it cannot constitute a complete and total listing of the decedent’s properties; and

4. The criminal cases adverted to are trumped-up charges where Isabel, as private complainant, has been unwilling to appear and testify,
leading the Judge of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 44 of Mamburao, Occidental Mindoro, to warn the prosecutor of a possible motu propio
dismissal of the cases.

While we can subscribe to Emilio III’s counsel’s explanation for the blamed delay in the filing of an inventory and his exposition on the nature thereof,
partial as opposed to complete, in the course of the settlement of a decedent’s estate, we do not find any clarification on Isabel’s accusation that Emilio
III had deliberately omitted properties in the inventory, which properties of Cristina he knew existed and which he claims to be knowledgeable about.
The general denial made by Emilio III does not erase his unsuitability as administrator rooted in his failure to "make and return x x x a true and complete
inventory" which became proven fact when he actually filed partial inventories before the probate court and by his inaction on two occasions of
Federico’s exclusion of Cristina’s other compulsory heirs, herein Isabel and her siblings, from the list of heirs.

As administrator, Emilio III enters into the office, posts a bond and executes an oath to faithfully discharge the duties of settling the decedent’s estate
with the end in view of distribution to the heirs, if any. This he failed to do. The foregoing circumstances of Emilio III’s omission and inaction become
even more significant and speak volume of his unsuitability as administrator as it demonstrates his interest adverse to those immediately interested in
the estate of the decedent, Cristina.

In this case, palpable from the evidence on record, the pleadings, and the protracted litigation, is the inescapable fact that Emilio III and respondent
Isabel have a deep aversion for each other. To our mind, it becomes highly impractical, nay, improbable, for the two to work as co-administrators of
1awp++i 1

their grandmother’s estate. The allegations of Emilio III, the testimony of Federico and the other witnesses for Federico and Emilio III that Isabel and her
siblings were estranged from their grandparents further drive home the point that Emilio III bears hostility towards Isabel. More importantly, it appears
detrimental to the decedent’s estate to appoint a co-administrator (Emilio III) who has shown an adverse interest of some kind or hostility to those, such
as herein respondent Isabel, immediately interested in the said estate.

Bearing in mind that the issuance of letters of administration is simply a preliminary order to facilitate the settlement of a decedent’s estate, we here point
out that Emilio III is not without remedies to protect his interests in the estate of the decedent. In Hilado v. Court of Appeals, we mapped out as among
39

the allowable participation of "any interested persons" or "any persons interested in the estate" in either testate or intestate proceedings:

xxxx

4. Section 6 of Rule 87, which allows an individual interested in the estate of the deceased "to complain to the court of the concealment, embezzlement,
40

or conveyance of any asset of the decedent, or of evidence of the decedent’s title or interest therein;"

5. Section 10 of Rule 85, which requires notice of the time and place of the examination and allowance of the Administrator’s account "to persons
41

interested;"

6. Section 7(b) of Rule 89, which requires the court to give notice "to the persons interested" before it may hear and grant a petition seeking the
42

disposition or encumbrance of the properties of the estate; and

7. Section 1, Rule 90, which allows "any person interested in the estate" to petition for an order for the distribution of the residue of the estate of the
43

decedent, after all obligations are either satisfied or provided for.


44

In addition to the foregoing, Emilio III may likewise avail of the remedy found in Section 2, Rule 82 of the Rules of Court, to wit:

Sec. 2. Court may remove or accept resignation of executor or administrator. Proceedings upon death, resignation, or removal. – If an executor or
administrator neglects to render his account and settle the estate according to law, or to perform an order or judgment of the court, or a duty expressly
provided by these rules, or absconds, or becomes insane, or otherwise incapable or unsuitable to discharge the trust, the court may remove him, or, in
its discretion, may permit him to resign. When an executor or administrator dies, resigns, or is removed, the remaining executor or administrator may
administer the trust alone, unless the court grants letters to someone to act with him. If there is no remaining executor or administrator, administration
may be granted to any suitable person.

Once again, as we have done in the Decision, we exercise judicial restraint: we uphold that the question of who are the heirs of the decedent Cristina is
not yet upon us. Article 992 of the Civil Code or the curtain bar rule is inapplicable in resolving the issue of who is better qualified to administer the estate
of the decedent.

Thus, our disquisition in the assailed Decision:

Nonetheless, it must be pointed out that judicial restraint impels us to refrain from making a final declaration of heirship and distributing the presumptive
shares of the parties in the estates of Cristina and Federico, considering that the question on who will administer the properties of the long deceased
couple has yet to be settled.

Our holding in Capistrano v. Nadurata on the same issue remains good law:

The declaration of heirs made by the lower court is premature, although the evidence sufficiently shows who are entitled to succeed the deceased. The
estate had hardly been judicially opened, and the proceeding has not as yet reached the stage of distribution of the estate which must come after the
inheritance is liquidated.

Section 1, Rule 90 of the Rules of Court does not depart from the foregoing admonition:

Sec. 1. When order for distribution of residue is made. - x x x. If there is a controversy before the court as to who are the lawful heirs of the deceased
person or as to the distributive shares to which each person is entitled under the law, the controversy shall be heard and decided as in ordinary cases.

No distribution shall be allowed until the payment of the obligations above mentioned has been made or provided for, unless the distributees, or any of
them, give a bond, in a sum to be fixed by the court, conditioned for the payment of said obligations within such time as the court directs. 45

Lastly, we dispose of a peripheral issue raised in the Supplemental Comment of Emilio III questioning the Special Second Division which issued the 18
46

April 2012 Resolution. Emilio III asseverates that "the operation of the Special Second Division in Baguio is unconstitutional and void" as the Second
Division in Manila had already promulgated its Decision on 16 June 2010 on the petition filed by him:

7. The question is: who created the Special Second Division in Baguio, acting separately from the Second Division of the Supreme Court in Manila?
There will then be two Second Divisions of the Supreme Court: one acting with the Supreme Court in Manila, and another Special Second Division
acting independently of the Second Division of the Supreme Court in Manila. 47

For Emilio III’s counsels’ edification, the Special Second Division in Baguio is not a different division created by the Supreme Court.

The Second Division which promulgated its Decision on this case on 16 June 2010, penned by Justice Antonio Eduardo B. Nachura, now has a different
composition, with the advent of Justice Nachura’s retirement on 13 June 2011. Section 7, Rule 2 of the Internal Rules of the Supreme Court provides:

Sec. 7. Resolutions of motions for reconsideration or clarification of decisions or signed resolutions and all other motions and incidents subsequently
filed; creation of a Special Division. – Motions for reconsideration or clarification of a decision or of a signed resolution and all other motions and
incidents subsequently filed in the case shall be acted upon by the ponente and the other Members of the Division who participated in the rendition of
the decision or signed resolution.

If the ponente has retired, is no longer a Member of the Court, is disqualified, or has inhibited himself or herself from acting on the motion for
reconsideration or clarification, he or she shall be replaced through raffle by a new ponente who shall be chosen among the new Members of the
Division who participated in the rendition of the decision or signed resolution and who concurred therein. If only one Member of the Court who
participated and concurred in the rendition of the decision or signed resolution remains, he or she shall be designated as the new ponente.
If a Member (not the ponente) of the Division which rendered the decision or signed resolution has retired, is no longer a Member of the Court, is
disqualified, or has inhibited himself or herself from acting on the motion for reconsideration or clarification, he or she shall be replaced through raffle by
a replacement Member who shall be chosen from the other Divisions until a new Justice is appointed as replacement for the retired Justice. Upon the
appointment of a new Justice, he or she shall replace the designated Justice as replacement Member of the Special Division.

Any vacancy or vacancies in the Special Division shall be filled by raffle from among the other Members of the Court to constitute a Special Division of
five (5) Members.

If the ponente and all the Members of the Division that rendered the Decision or signed Resolution are no longer Members of the Court, the case shall
be raffled to any Member of the Court and the motion shall be acted upon by him or her with the participation of the other Members of the Division to
which he or she belongs.

If there are pleadings, motions or incidents subsequent to the denial of the motion for reconsideration or clarification, the case shall be acted upon by the
ponente on record with the participation of the other Members of the Division to which he or she belongs at the time said pleading, motion or incident is
to be taken up by the Court. (Emphasis supplied)

As regards the operation thereof in Baguio City, such is simply a change in venue for the Supreme Court's summer session held last April. 48

WHEREFORE, the Motion for Reconsideration is PARTIALLY GRANTED. Our Decision in G.R. No. 183053 dated 16 June 2010 is MODIFIED. Letters
of Administration over the estate of decedent Cristina Aguinaldo-Suntay shall solely issue to respondent Isabel Cojuangco-Suntay upon payment of a
bond to be set by the Regional Trial Court, Branch 78, Malolos, Bulacan, in Special Proceeding Case No. 117-M-95. The Regional Trial Court, Branch
78, Malolos, Bulacan is likewise directed to settle the estate of decedent Cristina Aguinaldo-Suntay with dispatch. No costs.

SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. L-26306 April 27, 1988

TESTATE ESTATE OF THE LATE GREGORIO VENTURA MARIA VENTURA, executrix- appellant, MIGUEL VENTURA and JUANA
CARDONA, heirs-appellants,
vs.
GREGORIA VENTURA and HER HUSBAND, EXEQUIEL VICTORIO, MERCEDES VENTURA and HER HUSBAND, PEDRO D. CORPUZ, oppositors-
appellees.

PARAS, J.:

This is an appeal from the order of the Court of First Instance of Nueva Ecija, Guimba, Branch V in Special Proceedings No. 812, Testate of the late Gregorio
Venture, dated October 5, 1965, removing the appellant Maria Ventura as executrix and administratrix of the estate of the late Gregorio Ventura, and in her place
appointing the appellees Mercedes Ventura and Gregoria Ventura as joint administratrices of the estate. (Record on Appeal, pp. 120-131.)

Appellant Maria Ventura is the illegitimate daughter of the deceased Gregorio Ventura while Miguel Ventura and Juana Cardona are his son and saving
spouse who are also the brother and mother of Maria Ventura. On the other hand, appellees Mercedes and Gregoria Ventura are the deceased's
legitimate children with his former wife, the late Paulina Simpliciano (Record on Appeal, p. 122) but the paternity of appellees was denied by the
deceased in his will (Record on Appeal, p. 4).

On December 14,1953, Gregorio Ventura filed a petition for the probate of his will which did not include the appellees and the petition was docketed as
Special Proceedings No. 812 (Record on Appeal, pp. 1-3). In the said will, the appellant Maria Ventura, although an illegitimate child, was named and
appointed by the testator to be the executrix of his will and the administratrix of his estate (Record on Appeal, p. 7).

In due course, said will was admitted to probate on January 14,1954 (Record on Appeal, pp. 8-10). Gregorio Ventura died on September 26,1955. On
October 10, 1955, the appellant Maria Ventura filed a motion for her appointment as executrix and for the issuance of letters testamentary in her favor
(Record on Appeal, pp. 10-11). On October 17, 1955, Maria Ventura was appointed executrix and the corresponding letters testamentary was issued in
her favor (Record on Appeal, pp. 11-12).

On or about July 26, 1956, Maria Ventura submitted an inventory of the estate of Gregorio Ventura (Record on Appeal, pp. 12-20).

On June 17,1960, she filed her accounts of administration for the years 1955 to 1960, inclusive. (Record on Appeal, pp. 20-27). Said account of
administration was opposed by the spouses Mercedes Ventura and Pedro Corpuz on July 25, 1960 (Record on Appeal, pp. 27-33) and by Exequiel
Victorio and Gregoria Ventura on August 5,1963 (Record on Appeal, pp. 46-50). Both oppositions assailed the veracity of the report as not reflecting the
true income of the estate and the expenses which allegedly are not administration expenses. But on January 25, 1961, Maria Ventura filed a motion to
hold in abeyance the approval of the accounts of administration or to have their approval without the opposition of the spouses Mercedes Ventura and
Pedro Corpuz and Gregoria Ventura and Exequiel Victorio on the ground that the question of the paternity of Mercedes Ventura and Gregoria Ventura is
still pending final determination before the Supreme Court and that should they be adjudged the adulterous children of testator, as claimed, they are not
entitled to inherit nor to oppose the approval of the counts of administration (Record on Appeals, pp. 33-36). Spouses Mercedes Ventura and Pedro
Corpuz filed on February 2, 1961 their opposition to the motion to hold in abeyance the approval of the accounts of administration on the ground that
Mercedes and Gregoria Ventura had already been declared by the Court of First Instance in Civil Cases No. 1064 and 1476, which cases are supposed
to be pending before the Supreme Court, as the legitimate children of Gregorio Ventura, hence, they have reason to protect their interest (Record on
Appeal, pp. 36-39). On February 9,1961, the motion to hold in abeyance the approval of the accounts was denied (Record on Appeal, pp. 39-40).

It appears that on July 12, 1963, the Court set the case for pre-trial on August 7, 1963 in connection with the accounts of the executrix Maria Ventura
dated June 17, 1960 and the Motion to Annul Provision of Will dated July 14,1962 of Mercedes Ventura (Record on Appeal, p. 45).

On October 22, 1963, four motions were filed by Mercedes Ventura and Gregoria Ventura, namely: (1) motion to remove the executrix Maria Ventura
which was supplemented on April 27, 1965; (2) motion to require her to deposit the harvest of palay of the property under administration in a bonded
warehouse; (3) motion to render an accounting of the proceeds and expenses of Administration; and (4) motion to require her to include in the inventory
of the estate certain excluded properties (Record on Appeal, pp. 50-53; 71). An opposition to said motions was filed by the heirs Juana Cardona and
Miguel Ventura and by the executrix Maria Ventura herself (Record on Appeal, pp. 56-61; 61-70 and 71).

On motion of counsel for Exequiel Victorio and Gregoria Ventura the joint motions to require an Up-to-date Accounting and to Require Executrix Ventura
to Include Excluded Properties in Her Inventory were ordered withdrawn (Order dated February 2, 1965, Record on Appeal, p. 73). The other two
motions were however set for hearing.

The grounds of aforesaid joint motions to remove the executrix Maria Ventura are: (1) that she is grossly incompetent; (2) that she has maliciously and
purposely concealed certain properties of the estate in the inventory; (3) that she is merely an illegitimate daughter who can have no harmonious
relations with the appellees; (4) that the executrix has neglected to render her accounts and failed to comply with the Order of the Court of December 12,
1963, requiring her to file her accounts of administration for the years 1961 to 1963 (Record on Appeal, pp. 70 and 75-76) and the Order of June 11,
1964, reiterating aforesaid Order of December 12, 1963 (Record on Appeal, p. 76); and (5) that she is with permanent physical defect hindering her from
efficiently performing her duties as an executrix (Record on Appeal, pp. 50-53 and 74-79).
On May 17, 1965, the executrix Maria Ventura finally submitted her accounts of administration covering the period 1961 to 1965 (Record on Appeal, pp.
79-84) which were again opposed by the spouses Exequiel Victorio and Gregoria Ventura on September 21, 1965 and by the spouses Mercedes
Ventura and Pedro Corpuz on September 29, 1965 (Record on Appeal, pp. 106-120). On June 2, 1965, the executrix filed her supplemental opposition
to the aforesaid four motions, and prayed that the joint supplemental motion to remove the executrix be denied or held in abeyance until after the status
of Mercedes and Gregoria Ventura as heirs of the testator is finally decided (Record on Appeal, pp. 85-1 01). On June 3, 1965, the Court, finding that the
estate taxes have not been paid, ordered the administratrix to pay the same within thirty (30) days. On September 13, 1965, the lower court denied the
suspension of the proceedings and deferred the resolution of the joint motion to remove executrix Maria Ventura until after the examination of the
physical fitness of said executrix to undertake her duties as such. Also, it ordered the deposit of all palay to be harvested in the next agricultural year and
subsequent years to be deposited in a bonded warehouse to be selected by the Court and the palay so deposited shall not be withdrawn without the
express permission of the Court (Record on Appeal, pp. 103-105). On September 21, 1965, spouses Exequiel Victorio and Gregoria Ventura filed their
opposition to the accounts of administration of Maria Ventura dated May 17, 1965, while that of spouses Mercedes Ventura and Pedro Corpuz was filed
on September 29, 1965, both oppositions alleging among others that said accounts do not reflect the true and actual income of the estate and that the
expenses reported thereunder are fake, exhorbitant and speculative (Record on Appeal, pp. 106-120).

On October 5, 1965, the court a quo, finding that the executrix Maria Ventura has squandered the funds of the estate, was inefficient and incompetent,
has failed to comply with the orders of the Court in the matter of presenting up-to-date statements of accounts and neglected to pay the real estate taxes
of the estate, rendered the questioned decision, the dispositive portion of which reads:

WHEREFORE, Maria Ventura is hereby removed as executrix and administratrix of the estate and in her place Mercedes Ventura
and Gregoria Ventura are hereby appointed joint a tratrices of the estate upon filing by each of them of a bond of P 7,000.00. Let
letters of administration be issued to Mercedes Ventura and Gregoria Ventura upon their qualification.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

(Record on Appeal pp. 120-131).

Hence, this appeal.

In their brief, appellants Maria Ventura and spouses Juana Cardona and Miguel Ventura assign the following errors allegedly committed by the probate
court:

ASSIGNMENT OF ERRORS

The lower court erred in ordering the removal of Maria Ventura as executrix and administratrix of the will and estate of the deceased
Gregorio Ventura without giving her full opportunity to be heard and to present all her evidence.

II

The lower court erred in finding that the executrix Maria Ventura had squandered and dissipated the funds of the estate under her
administration.

III

The lower court erred in finding that the executrix Maria Ventura was inefficient and incompetent.

IV

That, considering the circumtances surrounding the case, the lower court erred in finding that the failure of Maria Ventura to submit
her periodical account had justified her removal as executrix.

The lower court erred in considering as an established fact that the appellees Mercedes Ventura and Gregoria Ventura are the
legitimate daughters of the deceased Gregorio Ventura.

VI

The lower court erred in finding that the devises and bequests in favor of Maria Ventura and Miguel Ventura as specified in
paragraph 8 of the last Will and Testament of the late Gregorio Ventura have ipso facto been annulled.

VII

The lower court erred in allowing the appellees Mercedes Ventura and Gregoria Ventura to intervene in the hearing of the accounts
of administration submitted by the executrix Maria Ventura and/or in not suspending the hearing of the said accounts until the said
appellees have finally established their status as legitimate children of the deceased Gregorio Ventura.

VIII

The lower court erred in appointing (even without a proper petition for appointment and much less a hearing on the appointment of)
the appellees Mercedes Ventura and Gregoria Ventura who have an adverse interest as joint administratrices of the estate of the
deceased Gregorio Ventura.

IX

The lower court erred in not appointing the surviving widow, Juana Cardona, or Miguel Ventura, as administratrix of the estate of
Gregorio Ventura in case the removal of Maria Ventura as executrix and administratrix thereof is legally justified.

Considering that there are in fact two (2) factions representing opposite interests in the estate, the lower court erred in not
appointing Juana Cardona, or Miguel Ventura, as one of the two (2) administratrices.' (Joint Brief for the Appellants, pp. 1-4)

On July 19,1967, Atty. Arturo Tolentino (representing appellees Mercedes Ventura and Pedro Corpuz) and Atty. Jose J. Francisco (representing
Gregoria and Exequiel Victoria), having failed to submit their respective briefs within the period for the purpose, which expired on July 2 and May
29,1967, respectively, the Supreme Court Resolved to consider this case submitted for decision WITHOUT SAID APPELLEES' BRIEF (Rollo, p. 152).
The crucial issue in this case is whether or not the removal of Maria Ventura as executrix is legally justified. This issue has, however, become moot and
academic in view of the decision of this Court in related cases.

At the outset, it is worthy to note that aside from the instant special proceedings, there are two other civil cases involving the estate of the deceased
Gregoria Ventura, namely, Civil Cases Nos. 1064 and 1476. Civil Case No. 1064 was filed on December 2, 1952 by herein appellee Gregoria Ventura in
the Court of First Instance of Nueva Ecija, Branch I, against the other appellees herein Mercedes Ventura and their father, Gregorio Ventura. Later
Mercedes Ventura joined cause with Gregoria Ventura. (Record on Appeal, p. 95). Gregoria and Mercedes Ventura claimed that they are the legitimate
children of Gregorio Ventura and his wife Paulina Simpliciano, who died in 1943, and asked that one-half of the properties described in the complaint be
declared as the share of their mother in the conjugal partnership, with them as the only forced heirs of their mother Paulina (Joint Brief for the
Appellants, pp. 53-68).

Subsequently, Civil Case No. 1476 was filed by Alipio, Eufracia and Juliana, all surnamed Simpliciano, against Gregorio Ventura and the two sisters,
Mercedes and Gregoria Ventura, before the Court of First Instance of Nueva Ecija, Branch I. They alleged that as the only children of Modesto
Simpliciano, sole brother of Paulina Simpliciano, they, instead of Mercedes and Gregoria Ventura, whom they claimed are adulterous children of Paulina
with another man, Teodoro Ventura and as such are not entitled to inherit from her, are the ones who should inherit the share of Paulina Simpliciano in
the conjugal Partnership with Gregorio Ventura (Joint Brief For The Appealant,pp.69-79)

It appears that on November 4, 1959, after a joint hearing of Civil Cases Nos. 1064 and 1476, the lower court rendered its judgment, the dispositive
portion of which reads as follows:

WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered declaring Mercedes Ventura and Gregoria Ventura to be the ligitimate daughters of
Paulina Simpliciano and Gregorio Ventura; declaring that as such ligitimate daughters of Paulina Simpliciano they are entitled to 1/2
of the properties described in paragraph six of the complaint; ordering the defendant Maria Ventura, as administratrix of the estate of
Gregorio Ventura to pay to Mercedes Ventura and Gregorio Ventura the amount of P 19,074.09 which shall be divided equally
between Mercedes and Gregoria Ventura declaring Mercedes Ventura and Pedro Corpuz are the exclusive owners of the property
describe in the certificate of Title Nos. T-1102, 212, T-1213, T-1214, Exhibits 32, 33, 34 and 35, respectively; ordering Mercedes
Ventura and Pedro D. Corpuz to pay to the conjugal partnership of Gregorio Ventura and Paulina Simpliciano the sum of
P100,000.00, one-half of which shall pertain to the estate of Gregorio Ventura and the other half to the estate of Paulina Simpliciano
to whom Mercedes and Gregoria Ventura have succeeded, to be divided between Mercedes and Gregoria in equal parts; and
dismissing Civil Case No. 1476. The parties are urged to arrive at an amicable partition of the properties herein adjudicated within
twenty days from receipt of this decision. Upon their failure to do so, the Court shall appoint commissioners to divide the properties
in accordance with the terms of the decision. Without pronouncements as to costs. (Emphasis supplied). (Joint Brief for the
Appellants, pp. 3738.)

Thereafter, on July 14, 1962, Mercedes Ventura filed a motion to annul the provisions of the will of the deceased Gregorio Ventura in Special
Proceedings No. 812, which motion was opposed by Miguel Ventura and Juana Cardona and later by Maria Ventura. They claimed that the decision
dated November 4,1959 in Civil Cases Nos. 1064 and 1476 was not yet final.

On February 26,1964, the court annulled the institution of the heirs in the probated will of Gregorio Ventura. The motion for reconsideration of the
aforesaid order filed by executrix Maria Ventura was denied on June 11, 1964.

Accordingly, Maria Ventura appealed the February 26, 1964 and June 11, 1964 orders of the probate court in Special Proceedings No. 812 before the
Supreme Court and was docketed as G.R. No. L-23878. On May 27,1977, this Court, through then Associate Justice Antonio P. Barredo, ruled, as
follows:

And so, acting on appellees' motion to dismiss appeal, it is Our considered opinion that the decision in Civil Cases Nos.1064 and
1476 declaring that appellees Mercedes and Gregoria Ventura are the ligimate children of the deceased Gregorio Ventura and his
wife, Paulina Simpliciano, and as such are entitled to the annulment of the institution of heirs made in the probated will of said
deceased became final and executory upon the finality of the order, approving ther partition directed in the decision in question. We
need not indulge in any discussion as to whether or not, as of the time the orders here in question were issued by the trial court said
decision had the nature of an interlocutory order only. To be sure, in the case of Miranda, aforementioned, the opinion of the
majority of the Court may well be invoked against appellant's pose. In any event, even if the Court were minded to modify again
Miranda and go back to Fuentebella and Zaldariaga — and it is not, as of now — there can be no question that the approval by the
trial court in Civil Cases Nos. 1064 and 1476 of the partition report of the commissioners appointed for the purpose, one of whom,
Emmanuel Mariano, is the husband of appellant, put a definite end to those cases, leaving nothing else to be done in the trial court.
That order of approval is an appealable one, and inasmuch as no appeal has been taken from the same, it is beyond dispute that
the decision in controversy has already become final and executory in all respects. Hence, the case at bar has become moot and
academic. (Ventura vs. Ventura, 77 SCRA 159, May 27,1977)

Under Article 854 of the Civil Code, "the pretention or omission of one, some, or all of the compulsory heirs in the direct line, whether living at the time of
the execution of the will or born after the death of the testator, shall annul the institution of heir; but the devises and legacies shall be valid insofar as
they are not inofficious," and as a result, intestacy follows, thereby rendering the previous appointment of Maria Ventura as executrix moot and
academic. This would now necessitate the appointment of another administrator, under the following provision:

Section 6, Rule 78 of the Rules of Court:

When and to whom letters of administration granted.-If no executor is named in the will, or the executor or executors are
incompetent, refuse the trust, or fail to give bond, or a person dies intestate, a petition shall be granted:

(a) To the surviving husband or wife, as the case may be or next of kin, or both, in the discretion of the court, or to such person as
such surviving husband or wife, or both, in the discretion of the court, or to such person as such surviving husband or wife, or next of
kin, requests to have appointed, if competent and willing to serve;"

xxx xxx xxx

In the case at bar, the surviving spouse of the deceased Gregorio Ventura is Juana Cardona while the next of kin are: Mercedes and Gregoria Ventura
and Maria and Miguel Ventura. The "next of kin" has been defined as those persons who are entitled under the statute of distribution to the decedent's
property (Cooper vs. Cooper, 43 Ind. A. 620, 88 NE 341). It is generally said that "the nearest of kin, whose interest in the estate is more preponderant,
is preferred in the choice of administrator. 'Among members of a class the strongest ground for preference is the amount or preponderance of interest.
As between next of kin, the nearest of kin is to be preferred." (Cabanas, et al. vs. Enage et al., 40 Off. Gaz. 12 Suppl. 227; citing 12 Am. Jur. Sec. 77, p.
416, cited in Francisco Vicente J., The Revised Rules of Court in the Philippines, Vol. V-B 1970 Ed., p. 23).

As decided by the lower court and sustained by the Supreme Court, Mercedes and Gregoria Ventura are the legitimate children of Gregorio Ventura and
his wife, the late Paulina Simpliciano. Therefore, as the nearest of kin of Gregorio Ventura they are entitled to preference over the illegitimate children of
Gregorio Ventura, namely: Maria and Miguel Ventura. Hence, under the aforestated preference provided in Section 6 of Rule 78, the person or persons
to be appointed administrator are Juana Cardona, as the surviving spouse, or Mercedes and Gregoria Ventura as nearest of kin, or Juana Cardona and
Mercedes and Gregoria Ventura in the discretion of the Court, in order to represent both interests.

PREMISES CONSIDERED, the appeal interposed by appellants Maria Ventura, Juana Cardona and Miguel Ventura is hereby DISMISSED.

SO ORDERED.
G.R. No. 101512 August 7, 1992

NILDA GABRIEL, EVA GABRIEL, EDGAR GABRIEL, GEORGE GABRIEL, ROSEMARIE GABRIEL, MARIBEL GABRIEL, CYNTHIA GABRIEL,
RENATO GABRIEL, GERARDO GABRIEL, JOJI ZORAYDA GABRIEL, DANIEL GABRIEL and FELICITAS JOSE-GABRIEL, petitioners,
vs.
HON COURT OF APPEALS, HON. MANUEL E. YUZON, Judge, Regional Trial Court of Manila, Branch XI, and ROBERTO DINDO
GABRIEL, respondents.

REGALADO, J.:

In its decision in CA-G.R. SP No. 19797 promulgated on August 23, 1991, respondent Court of Appeals dismissed the petition for certiorari filed by
1

herein petitioners assailing the orders of the lower court in Special Proceeding No. 88-44589 thereof which effectively sustained the appointment of
private respondent Roberto Dindo Gabriel as administrator of the estate of the late Domingo Gabriel.

Petitioners' present appeal by certiorari would have this Court set aside that decision of respondent court, hence the need to examine the chronology of
antecedent facts, as found by respondent court and detailed hereunder, pertinent to and which culminated in their recourse now before us.

On May 12, 1988, or nine (9) months after Domingo Gabriel died on August 6, 1987, private respondent filed with the Regional Trial Court of Manila,
Branch XI, a petition for letters of administration alleging, among others, that he is the son of the decedent, a college graduate, engaged in business,
and is fully capable of administering the estate of the late Domingo Gabriel. Private respondent mentioned eight (8) of herein petitioners as the other
next of kin and heirs of the decedent. 2

On May 17, 1988, the court below issued an order setting the hearing of the petition on June 29, 1988, on which date all persons interested may show
3

cause, if any, why the petition should not be granted. The court further directed the publication of the order in "Mabuhay," a newspaper of general
circulation, once a week for three (3) consecutive weeks. No opposition having been filed despite such publication of the notice of hearing, private
respondent was allowed to present his evidence ex parte. Thereafter, the probate court issued an order, dated July 8, 1988, appointing private
respondent as administrator of the intestate estate of the late Domingo Gabriel on a bond of P30,000.00. 4

Subsequently, a notice to creditors for the filing of claims against the estate of the decedent was published in the "Metropolitan News." As a
consequence, Aida Valencia, mother of private respondent, filed a "Motion to File Claim of (sic) the Intestate Estate of Domingo P. Gabriel" alleging that
the decision in a civil case between her and the deceased remained unsatisfied and that she thereby had an interest in said estate. 5

On December 12, 1988, private respondent filed for approval by the probate court an "Inventory and Appraisal" placing the value of the properties left by
the decedent at P18,960,000.00, which incident was set for hearing on January 16, 1989. 6

On February 2, 1989, petitioners Nilda, Eva, Boy, George, Rosemarie, and Maribel, all surnamed Gabriel, filed their "Opposition and Motion" praying for
the recall of the letters of administration issued to private respondent and the issuance of such letters instead to petitioner Nilda Gabriel, as the
legitimate daughter of the deceased, or any of the other oppositors who are the herein petitioners. After some exchanges and on order of the court,
7

petitioners filed an "Opposition to the Petition and Motion," dated May 20, 1989, alleging that (1) they were not duly informed by personal notice of the
petition for administration; (2) petitioner Nilda Gabriel, as the legitimate daughter, should be preferred over private respondent; (3) private respondent
has a conflicting and/or adverse interest against the estate because he might prefer the claims of his mother and (4) most of the properties of the
decedent have already been relinquished by way of transfer of ownership to petitioners and should not be included in the value of the estate sought to
be administered by private respondent. 8

On September 21, 1989, the probate court issued an order denying the opposition of petitioners on the ground that they had not shown any circumstance sufficient
to overturn the order of July 8, 1988, in that (1) no evidence was submitted by oppositor Nilda Gabriel to prove that she is a legitimate daughter of the deceased;
and (2) there is no proof to show that the person who was appointed administrator is unworthy, incapacitated or unsuitable to perform the trust as to make his
appointment inadvisable under these circumstances. The motion for reconsideration filed by petitioners was likewise denied in an order dated December 22,
9

1989. 10

From said orders, herein petitioners filed a special civil action for certiorari with the Court of Appeals, on the following grounds:

1. The orders of September 21, 1989 and December 22, 1989 are null and void, being contrary to the facts, law and jurisprudence
on the matter;

2. Respondent judge, in rendering the aforesaid orders, gravely acted with abuse of discretion amounting to lack and/or excess of
jurisdiction, hence said orders are null and void ab initio; and

3. Private respondent is morally incompetent and unsuitable to perform the duties of an administrator as he would give prior
preference to the claims of his mother against the estate itself. 11

As stated at the outset, the Court of Appeals rendered judgment dismissing that petition for certiorari on the ground that the appointment of an
administrator is left entirely to the sound discretion of the trial court which may not be interfered with unless abused; that the fact that there was no
personal notice served on petitioners is not a denial of due process as such service is not a jurisdictional requisite and petitioners were heard on their
opposition; and that the alleged violation of the order of preference, if any, is an error of fact or law which is a mistake of judgment, correctible by appeal
and not by the special civil action of certiorari.
12

In the petition for review on certiorari at bar, petitioners primarily aver that under Section 6, Rule 78 of the Rules of Court, it is the surviving spouse who
is first in the order of preference for the appointment of an administrator. Petitioner Felicitas Jose-Gabriel is the widow and legal surviving spouse of the
deceased Domingo Gabriel and should, therefore, be preferred over private respondent who is one of the illegitimate children of the decedent by
claimant. Aida Valencia. Secondly, they claim that assuming that the widow is incompetent, the next of kin must be appointed. As between a legitimate
and an illegitimate child, the former is preferred, hence petitioner Nilda Gabriel, as the legitimate daughter, must be preferred over private respondent
who is an illegitimate son. Thirdly, it is contended that the non-observance or violation per se of the order of preference already constitutes a grave
abuse of discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction.

On the other hand, private respondent contends that the court did not commit a grave abuse of discretion in not following the order of preference
because the same is not absolute and the choice of who to appoint rests in the sound discretion of the court. He calls attention to the fact that petitioners
Nilda Gabriel and Felicitas Jose-Gabriel never applied for appointment despite the lapse of more than nine (9) months from the death of Domingo
Gabriel, hence it was not possible for the probate court to have considered them for appointment. Besides, it is not denied that several properties of the
deceased have already been relinquished to herein petitioners, hence they would have no interest in applying for letters of administration. Lastly, private
respondent submits that it has not been shown that he is incompetent nor is he disqualified from being appointed or serving as administrator.

Section 6, Rule 78 of the Rules of Court provides:

Sec. 6. When and to whom letters of administration granted. — If no executor is named in the will, or the executor or executors are
incompetent, refuse the trust, or fail to give bond, or a person dies intestate, administration shall be granted:
(a) To the surviving husband or wife, as the case may be, or next of kin, or both, in the discretion of the court, or to such person as
such surviving husband or wife, or next of kin, requests to have appointed, if competent and willing to serve;

(b) If such husband or wife, as the case may be, or the next of kin, or the person selected by them, be incompetent or unwilling, or if
the husband or widow, or next of kin, neglects for thirty (30) days after the death of the person to apply for administration or to
request that administration be granted to some other person, it may be granted to one or more of the principal creditors, if
competent and willing to serve;

(c) If there is no such creditor competent and willing to serve, it may be granted to such other person as the court may select.
(Emphases ours.)

Evidently, the foregoing provision of the Rules prescribes the order of preference in the issuance of letters of administration, categorically seeks out the
surviving spouse, the next of kin and the creditors, and requires that sequence to be observed in appointing an administrator. It would be a grave abuse
of discretion for the probate court to imperiously set aside and insouciantly ignore that directive without any valid and sufficient reason therefor.

In the appointment of the administrator of the estate of a deceased person, the principal consideration reckoned with is the interest in said estate of the
one to be appointed as administrator. This is the same consideration which Section 6 of Rule 78 takes into account in establishing the order of
preference in the appointment of administrators for the estate. The underlying assumption behind this rule is that those who will reap the benefit of a
wise, speedy and economical administration of the estate, or, on the other hand, suffer the consequences of waste, improvidence or mismanagement,
have the highest interest and most influential motive to administer the estate correctly. 13

This is likewise the same consideration which the law takes into account in establishing the preference of the widow to administer the estate of her
husband upon the latter's death, because she is supposed to have an interest therein as a partner in the conjugal partnership. Under the law, the
14

widow would have the right of succession over a portion of the exclusive property of the decedent, aside from her share in the conjugal partnership. For
such reason, she would have as much, if not more, interest in administering the entire estate correctly than any other next of kin. On this ground alone,
15

petitioner Felicitas Jose-Gabriel, the widow of the deceased Domingo Gabriel, has every right and is very much entitled to the administration of the
estate of her husband since one who has greater interest in the estate is preferred to another who has less. 16

Private respondent, however, argues that Felicitas Jose-Gabriel may no longer be appointed administratrix by reason of her failure to apply for letters of
administration within thirty (30) days from the death of her husband, as required under the rules.

It is true that Section 6(b) of Rule 78 provides that the preference given to the surviving spouse or next of kin may be disregarded by the court where
said persons neglect to apply for letters of administration for thirty (30) days after the decedent's death. However, it is our considered opinion that such
failure is not sufficient to exclude the widow from the administration of the estate of her husband. There must be a very strong case to justify the
exclusion of the widow from the administration. 17

In the case at bar, there is no compelling reason sufficient to disqualify Felicitas Jose-Gabriel from appointment as administratrix of the decedent's
estate. Moreover, just as the order of preference is not absolute and may be disregarded for valid cause despite the mandatory tenor in the opening
18

sentence of Rule 78 for its observance, so may the 30-day period be likewise waived under the permissive tone in paragraph (b) of said rule which
merely provides that said letters, as an alternative, "may be granted to one or more of the principal creditors."

On the other hand, we feel that we should not nullify the appointment of private respondent as administrator. The determination of a person's suitability
for the office of judicial administrator rests, to a great extent, in the sound judgment of the court exercising the power of appointment and said judgment
is not to be interfered with on appeal unless the said court is clearly in error. Administrators have such a right and corresponding interest in the
19

execution of their trust as would entitle them to protection from removal without just cause. Thus, Section 2 of Rule 82 provides the legal and specific
causes authorizing the probate court to remove an administrator.

While it is conceded that the court is invested with ample discretion in the removal of an administrator, it must, however, have some fact legally before it
in order to justify such removal. There must be evidence of an act or omission on the part of the administrator not conformable to or in disregard of the
rules or the orders of the court which it deems sufficient or substantial to warrant the removal of the administrator. In the instant case, a mere
20

importunity by some of the heirs of the deceased, there being no factual and substantial bases therefor, is not adequate ratiocination for the removal of
private respondent. Suffice it to state that the removal of an administrator does not lie on the whims, caprices and dictates of the heirs or beneficiaries of
the estate. In addition, the court may also exercise its discretion in appointing an administrator where those who are entitled to letters fail to apply
therefor within a given time.21

On the equiponderance of the foregoing legal positions, we see no reason why, for the benefit of the estate and those interested therein, more than one
administrator may not be appointed since that is both legally permissible and sanctioned in practice. Section 6(a) of Rule 78 specifically states that
22

letters of administration may be issued to both the surviving spouse and the next of
kin. In fact, Section 2 of Rule 82 contemplates a contingency which may arise when there is only one administrator but which may easily be remediable
23

where there is co-administration, to wit: "When an executor or administrator dies, resigns, or is removed the remaining executor or administrator may
administer the trust alone, . . . ." Also, co-administration herein will constitute a recognition of both the extent of the interest of the widow in the estate
and the creditable services rendered to and which may further be expected from private respondent for the same estate.

Under both Philippine and American jurisprudence, the appointment of co-administrators has been upheld for various reasons, viz: (1) to have the
benefit of their judgment and perhaps at all times to have different interests represented; (2) where justice and equity demand that opposing parties or
24

factions be represented in the management of the estate of the deceased; 25

(3) where the estate is large or, from any cause, an intricate and perplexing one to settle; (4) to have all interested persons satisfied and the
26

representatives to work in harmony for the best interests of the estate; and (5) when a person entitled to the administration of an estate desires to have
27

another competent person associated with him in the office. 28

Under the circumstances obtaining herein, we deem it just, equitable and advisable that there be a co-administration of the estate of the deceased by
petitioner Felicitas Jose-Gabriel and private respondent Roberto Dindo Gabriel. As earlier stated, the purpose of having co-administrators is to have the
benefit of their judgment and perhaps at all times to have different interests represented, especially considering that in this proceeding they will
respectively represent the legitimate and illegitimate groups of heirs to the estate. Thereby, it may reasonably be expected that all interested persons will
be satisfied, with the representatives working in harmony under the direction and supervision of the probate court.

WHEREFORE, the judgment of respondent Court of Appeals is MODIFIED by AFFIRMING the validity of the appointment of respondent Roberto Dindo
Gabriel as judicial administrator and ORDERING the appointment of petitioner Felicitas Jose-Gabriel as co-administratrix in Special Proceeding No. 88-
4458 of Branch XI, Regional Trial Court of Manila.

SO ORDERED.