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Republic

of

the

Philippines

SUPREME

COURT

Manila

EN BANC

G.R. No. L-6622 July 31, 1957

 

Intestate

Estate

of

the

deceased

MARCELO

DE

BORJA.

CRISANTO

DE

BORJA,

administrator-appellant,

vs. JUAN DE BORJA, ET AL., oppositors-appellees.

E.

V.

Filamor

for

appellant.

Juan de Borja for himself and co-appellees.

FELIX, J.:

The case. Quintin, Francisco, Crisanta and Juliana, all surnamed de Borja, are legitimate children of Marcelo de Borja who, upon his demise sometime in 1924 or 1925, left a considerable amount of property. Intestate proceedings must have followed, and the pre-war records of the case either burned, lost or destroyed during the last war, because the record shows that in 1930 Quintin de Borja was already the administrator of the Intestate Estate of Marcelo de Borja.

In the early part of 1938, Quintin de Borja died and Crisanto de Borja, son of Francisco de Borja, was appointed and took over as administrator of the Estate. Francisco de Borja, on the other hand, assumed his duties as executor of the will of Quintin de Borja, but upon petition of the heirs of said deceased on the ground that his interests were conflicting with that of his brother's estate he was later required by the Court to resign as such executor and was succeeded by Rogelio Limaco, a son-in-law of Quintin de Borja.

It also appears that on February 16, 1940, at the hearing set for the approval of the statement of accounts of the late administrator of the Intestate Estate of Marcelo de Borja, then being opposed by Francisco de Borja, the parties submitted an agreement, which was approved by

the Court (Exh. A). Said agreement, translated into English, reads as follows:

  • 1. All the accounts submitted and

those that are

to

be

submitted corresponding to this year will be considered approved;

  • 2. No heir shall claim anything of the harvests from the

lands in Cainta that came from Exequiel Ampil, deceased, nor from the land in Tabuatin, Nueva Ecija;

  • 3. That the amounts of money taken by each heir shall be

considered as deposited in conjunction with the other properties of the intestate and shall form part of the mass without drawing any interest;

  • 4. That it shall be understood as included in this mass the

sum of twelve thousand pesos (P12,000) that the sisters Crisanta and Juliana de Borja paid of their own money as part of the price the lands and three thousand pesos (P3,000) the price of the machinery for irrigation;

  • 5. The right, interests or participation that the deceased

Quintin de Borja has or may have in Civil Case No. 6190 of the Court of First Instance of Nueva Ecija, shall be likewise included in the total mass of the inheritance of the Intestate;

  • 6. Not only the lands in Tabuatin but also those in Cainta

coming from the now deceased Exequiel Ampil shall also

from part

of

the

total mass

of

the inheritance of

the

Intestate of the late Marcelo de Borja;

  • 7. Once the total of the inheritance of the intestate is made

up as specified before in this Agreement, partition thereof will be made as follows:

From the total mass shall be deducted in case or in kind, Twelve Thousand Pesos (P12,000) that shall be delivered

to Da. Juliana de Borja and Da. Crisanta de Borja in equal shares, and the rest shall be divided among the four heirs, i. e., Don Francisco de Borja, the heirs of Quintin de Borja, Da. Juliana de Borja, and Da. Crisanta de Borja, in equal parts. (TRANSLATION)

The Intestate remained under the administration of Crisanto de Borja until the then outbreak of the war. From then on and until the termination of the war, there was a lull and state of inaction in Special proceeding No. 2414 of the Court of First Instance of Rizal, Pasig branch (In the Matter of the Intestate Estate of Marcelo de Borja), until upon petition filed by Miguel B. Dayco, as administrator of the estate of his deceased mother, Crisanta de Borja, who is one of heirs, for reconstitution of the records of this case, the Court on December 11, 1945, ordered the reconstitution of the same, requiring the administrator to submit his report and a copy of the project of partition.

On January 3, 1946, the administrator, Dr. Crisanto de Borja, filed his accounts for the period ranging from March 1 to December 22, 1945, which according to the heirs of Quintin de Borja were so inadequate and general that on February 28, 1946, they filed a motion for specification. On April 30, 1946, they also filed their opposition to said statement of accounts alleging that the income reported in said statement was very much less than the true and actual income of the estate and that the expenses appearing therein were exaggerated and/or not actually incurred, and prayed that the statement of accounts submitted by the administrator be disapproved.

The administrator later filed another report of his administration, dated August 9, 1949, corresponding to the period lapsed from December 23, 1945, to July 31, 1949, showing a cash balance of P71.96, but with pending obligation amounting to P35,415.

On August 22, 1949, Juan de Borja and sisters, heirs of the deceased Quintin de Borja, filed their opposition to the statement of accounts filed by the administrator on the ground that same was not detailed enough to enable the interested parties to verify the same; that they cannot understand why the Intestate could suffer any loss considering

that during the administration of the same by Quintin de Borja, the Estate accumulated gains of more than P100,000 in the form of advances to the heirs as well as cash balance; that they desired to examine the accounts of Dr. Crisanto de Borja to verify the loss and therefore prayed that the administrator be ordered to deposit with the Clerk of Court all books, receipts, accounts and other papers pertaining to the Estate of Marcelo de Borja. This motion was answered by the administrator contending that the Report referred to was already clear and enough, the income as well as the expenditures being specified therein; that he had to spend for the repairs of the properties of the Estate damaged during the Japanese occupation; that the allegation that during the administration of Quintin de Boria the Estate realized a profit of P100,000 was not true, because instead of gain there was even a shortage in the funds although said administrator had collected all his fees (honorarios) and commissions corresponding to the entire period of his incumbency; that the obligations mentioned in said in the report will be liquidated before the termination of the proceedings same manner as it is done in any other intestate case; that he was willing to submit all the receipts of the accounts for the examination of the interested parties before the Clerk or before the Court itself; that this Intestate could be terminated, the project of partition having been allowed and confirmed by the Supreme Court and that the Administrator was also desirous of terminating it definitely for the benefit of all the parties.

On September 14, 1949, the administrator filed another statement of accounts covering the period of from March 1, 1945, to July 31, 1949, which showed a cash balance of P71.95, with pending obligations in the sum of P35,810.

The heirs of Quintin de Borja, Juan de Borja and his sisters, registered their opposition said statement of accounts and prayed the Court to disapprove the same and to appoint an account to go over the books of the administrator and to submit a report thereon as soon as possible. The heir Juliana de Borja also formally offered her objection to the approval of the accounts submitted by the administrator and prayed further that said administrator be required to submit a complete

accounting of his administration of the Estate from 1937 to 1949. On the other hand, Francisco de Borja and Miguel B. Dayco, as the only heir of the deceased Crisanta de Borja, submitted to the Court an

agreement to relieve the administrator from accounting for the period of the Japanese occupation; that as to the accounting from 1937 to 1941, they affirmed their conformity with the agreement entered into by all the heirs appearing in the Bill of Exceptions of Juliana de Borja; and they have no objection to the approval of the statement of accounts submitted by the administrator covering of the years 1945 to

1949.

On December 6, 1949, the administrator, answered the opposition of the heir Juliana de Borja, alleging that the corresponding statement of accounts for the years 1937, 1938, 1939, 1940 and 1941 were presented and approved by the Court before and during the Japanese occupation, but the records of the same were destroyed in the Office of the Clerk of that Court during the liberation of the province of Rizal, and his personal records were also lost during the Japanese occupation, when his house was burned; that Judge Peña who was presiding over the Court in 1945 impliedly denied the petition of heirs to require him to render an accounting for the period from 1942 to the early part of 1945, for the reason that whatever money obtained from the Estate during said period could not be made the subject of any adjudication it having been declared fiat money and without value, and ordered that the statement of accounts be presented only for the period starting from March 1, 1945. The administrator further stated that he was anxious to terminate this administration but some of the heirs had not yet complied with the conditions imposed in the project of partition which was approved by the Supreme Court; that in accordance with said partition agreement, Juliana de Borja must deliver to the administrator all the jewelry, objects of value, utensils and other personal belongings of the deceased spouses Marcelo de Borja and Tircila Quiogue, which said heir had kept and continued to retain in her possession; that the heirs of Quintin de Borja should deliver to the administrator all the lands and a document transferring in favor of the Intestate the two parcels of land with a total area of 71 hectares of cultivated land in Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija which were in

the possession of said heirs, together with the house of Feliciana Mariano Vda. de Sarangaya, which were the objects of Civil Case No. 6190 mentioned in Paragraph 11 of the project of partition; that as consequence of the said dispossession the heirs of Quintin de Borja must deliver to the administrator the products of the 71 hectares of land in Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija, and the rentals of the house of Feliciana Mariano or else render to the Court an accounting of the products of these properties from the time they took possession of the same in 1937 to the present; that there was a pending obligation amounting to P36,000 as of September 14, 1949, which the heirs should pay before the properties adjudicated to them would be delivered. The Court, however, ordered the administrator on December 10, 1949, to show and prove by evidence why he should not be accounts the proceeds of his administration from 1937.

Meantime, Juliana de Borja filed a Constancia denying possession of any jewelry belonging to the deceased spouses Marcelo de Borja and Tarcilla Quiogue or any other personal belonging of said spouses, and signified her willingness to turn over to the administrator the silver wares mentioned in Paragraph III of the project of partition, which were the only property in her care, on the date that she would expect the delivery to her of her share in the inheritance from her deceased parents.

On July 6, 1950, Juan de Borja and his sisters Marcela, Saturnina, Eufracia, Jacoba and Olimpia, all surnamed de Borja, as heirs of Quintin de Borja, filed a motion for the delivery to them of their inheritance in the estate, tendering to the administrator a document

ceding and

transferring

to

the

latter all

the rights,

interests and

participation of Quintin de Borja in Civil Case No. 7190 of the Court of

First Instance of Nueva Ecija, pursuant to the provisions of the project

of Partition, and expressing their willingness to put up a bond if required to do so by the Court, and on July 18, 1950, the Court ordered the administrator to deliver to Marcela, Juan, Saturniana, Eufracia, Jacoba and Olimpia, all surnamed de Borja, all the

properties adjudicated to them in

the

Project of Partition dated

February 8, 1944, upon the latter's filing a bond in the sum of P10,000

conditioned upon the payment of such obligation as may be ordered by the Court after a hearing on the controverted accounts of the administrator. The Court considered the fact that the heirs had complied with the requirement imposed by the Project of Partition when they tendered the document ceding and transferring the rights and interests of Quintin de Borja in the aforementioned lands and expressed the necessity of terminating the proceedings as soon as practicable, observing that the Estate had been under administration for over twenty-five years already. The Court, however, deferred action on the petition filed by the special administratrix of the Intestate Estate of Juliana de Borja until after compliance with the conditions imposed by the project of partition. But on July 20, 1950, apparently before the properties were delivered to the heirs, Francisco de Borja and Miguel B. Dayco filed a motion informing the Court that the two parcels of land located in Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija, produced some 21,300 cavans of palay, amounting to P213,000 at P10 per cavan, which were enjoyed by some heirs; that the administrator Crisanto de Borja had not taken possession of the same for circumstances beyond his control; and that there also existed the sum of P70,204 which the former administrator, Quintin de Borja, received from properties that were redeemed, but which amount did not come into the hands of the present, administrator because according to reliable information, same was delivered to the heir Juliana de Borja who deposited it in her name at the Philippine National Bank. It was, therefore prayed that the administrator be required to exert the necessary effort to ascertain the identity of the person or persons who were in possession of the same amount and of the value of the products of the lands in Mayapyap, Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija, and to recover the same for the Intestate Estate.

On July 28, 1950, the special administratrix of the estate of Juliana de Borja, then deceased, filed an answer to the motion of these two heirs, denying the allegation that said heir any product of the lands mentioned from Quintin de Borja, and informed the Court that the Mayapyap property had always been in the possession of Francisco de Borja himself and prayed the court that the administrator be

instructed to demand all the fruits and products of said property from Francisco de Borja.

On July 28, 1950, the heirs of Quintin de Borja also filed their opposition to the said motion of Francisco de Borja and Miguel B. Dayco on the ground that the petition was superfluous because the present proceeding was only for the approval of the statement of accounts filed by the administrator; that said motion was improper because it was asking the Court to order the administrator to perform what he was duty bound to do; and that said heirs were already barred or stopped from raising that question in view of their absolute ratification of and assent to the statement of accounts submitted by the administrator.

On August 16, 1950, by order of the Court, the properties adjudicated to Juliana de Borja in the project of Partition were finally delivered to the estate of said heir upon the filing of a bond for P20,000. In that same order, the Court denied the administrator's motion to reconsider the order of July 18, 1950, requiring him to deliver to the heirs of Quintin de Borja the properties corresponding to them, on the ground that there existed no sufficient reason to disturb said order. It also ruled that as the petition of Francisco de Borja and Miguel B. Dayco made mention of certain properties allegedly belonging to the Intestate, said petition should properly be considered to gather with the final accounts of the administrator.

The administrator raised the matter by certiorari to this Tribunal, which was, docketed as G.R. No. L-4179, and on May 30, 1951, We rendered decision affirming the order complained of, finding that the Juan de Borja and sisters have complied with the requirement imposed in the Project of Partition upon the tender of the document of cession of rights and quit-claim executed by Marcela de Borja, the administratrix of the Estate of Quintin de Borja, and holding that the reasons advanced by the administrator in opposing the execution of the order of delivery were trivial.

On August 27, 1951, the administrator filed his amended statement of accounts covering the period from March 1, 1945, to July 31, 1949,

which showed a cash balance of P36,660. An additional statement of accounts filed on August 31, 1961 for the period of from August 1, 1949, to August 31, 1951, showed a cash balance of P5,851.17 and pending obligations in the amount of P6,165.03.

The heirs of Quintin de Borja again opposed the approval of the statements of accounts charging the administrator with having failed to include the fruits which the estate should have accrued from 1941 to 1951 amounting to P479,429.70, but as the other heirs seemed satisfied with the accounts presented by said administrator and as their group was only one of the 4 heirs of Intestate Estate, they prayed that the administrator be held liable for only P119,932.42 which was 1/4 of the amount alleged to have been omitted. On October 4, 1951, the administrator filed a reply to said opposition containing a counterclaim for moral damages against all the heirs of Quintin de Borja in the sum of P30,000 which was admitted by the Court over the objection of the heirs of Quintin de Borja that the said pleading was filed out of time.

The oppositors, the heirs of Quintin de Borja, then filed their answer to the counterclaim denying the charges therein, but later served interrogatories on the administrator relative to the averments of said counterclaim. Upon receipt of the answer to said interrogatories specifying the acts upon which the claim for moral damages was based, the oppositors filed an amended answer contending that inasmuch as the acts, manifestations and pleadings referred to therein were admittedly committed and prepared by their lawyer, Atty. Amador E. Gomez, same cannot be made the basis of a counterclaim, said lawyer not being a party to the action, and furthermore, as the acts upon which the claim for moral damages were based had been committed prior to the effectivity of the new Civil Code, the provisions of said Code on moral damages could not be invoked. On January 15, 1952, the administrator filed an amended counterclaim including the counsel for the oppositors as defendant.

There followed a momentary respite in the proceedings until another judge was assigned to preside over said court to dispose of the old case pending therein. On August 15, 1952, Judge Encarnacion issued

an order denying admission to administrator's amended counterclaim directed against the lawyer, Atty. Amador E. Gomez, holding that a lawyer, not being a party to the action, cannot be made answerable for counterclaims. Another order was also issued on the same date dismissing the administrator's counterclaim for moral damages against the heirs of Quintin de Borja and their counsel for the alleged defamatory acts, manifestation and utterances, and stating that granting the same to be meritorious, yet it was a strictly private controversy between said heirs and the administrator which would not in any way affect the interest of the Intestate, and, therefore, not proper in an intestate proceedings. The Court stressed that to allow the ventilation of such personal controversies would further delay the proceedings in the case which had already lagged for almost 30 years, a situation which the Court would not countenance.

Having disposed of these pending incidents which arose out of the principal issue, that is, the disputed statement of accounts submitted by the administrator, the Court rendered judgment on September 5, 1952, ordering the administrator to distribute the funds in his possession to the heirs as follows: P1,395.90 to the heirs of Quintin de Borja; P314.99 to Francisco de Borja; P314.99 to the Estate of Juliana de Borja and P314.99 to Miguel B. Dayco, but as the latter still owed the intestate the sum of P900, said heirs was ordered to pay instead the 3 others the sum of P146.05 each. After considering the testimonies of the witnesses presented by both parties and the available records on hand, the Court found the administrator guilty of maladministration and sentenced Crisanto de Borja to pay to the oppositors, the heirs of Quintin de Borja, the sum of P83,337.31, which was 1/4 of the amount which the state lost, with legal interest from the date of the judgment. On the same day, the Court also issued an order requiring the administrator to deliver to the Clerk of that Court PNB Certificate of Deposit No. 211649 for P978.50 which was issued in the name of Quintin de Borja.

The administrator, Dr. Crisanto de Borja, gave notice to appeal from the lower Court's orders of August 15, 1952, the decision of September 5, 1952, and the order of even date, but when the Record

on Appeal was finally approved, the Court ordered the exclusion of the appeal from the order of September 5, 1952, requiring the administrator to deposit the PNB Certificate of Deposit No. 2114649 with the Clerk of Court, after the oppositors had shown that during the hearing of that incident, the parties agreed to abide by whatever resolution the Court would make on the ownership of the funds covered by that deposit.

The issues. Reducing the issues to bare essentials, the questions left for our determination are: (1) whether the counsel for a party in a case may be included as a defendant in a counterclaim; (2) whether a claim for moral damages may be entertained in a proceeding for the settlement of an estate; (3) what may be considered as acts of maladministration and whether an administrator, as the one in the case at bar, may be held accountable for any loss or damage that the estate under his administration may incur by reason of his negligence, bad faith or acts of maladministration; and (4) in the case at bar has the Intestate or any of the heirs suffered any loss or damage by reason of the administrator's negligence, bad faith or maladministration? If so, what is the amount of such loss or damage?

I. Section 1, Rule 10, of the Rules of Court defines a counterclaim as:

SECTION 1. Counterclaim Defined. A counterclaim is any claim, whether for money or otherwise, which a party may have against the opposing party. A counterclaim need not dismiss or defeat the recovery sought by the opposing party, but may claim relief exceeding in amount or different in kind from that sought by the opposing party's claim.

It is an elementary rule of procedure that a counterclaim is a relief available to a party-defendant against the adverse party which may or may not be independent from the main issue. There is no controversy in the case at bar, that the acts, manifestations and actuations alleged to be defamatory and upon which the counterclaim was based were done or prepared by counsel for oppositors; and the administrator contends that as the very oppositors manifested that whatever civil

liability arising from acts, actuations, pleadings and manifestations attributable to their lawyer is enforceable against said lawyer, the amended counterclaim was filed against the latter not in his individual or personal capacity but as counsel for the oppositors. It is his stand, therefore, that the lower erred in denying admission to said pleading. We differ from the view taken by the administrator. The appearance of a lawyer as counsel for a party and his participation in a case as such counsel does not make him a party to the action. The fact that he represents the interests of his client or that he acts in their behalf will not hold him liable for or make him entitled to any award that the Court may adjudicate to the parties, other than his professional fees. The principle that a counterclaim cannot be filed against persons who are acting in representation of another such as trustees in their individual capacities (Chambers vs. Cameron, 2 Fed. Rules Service, p. 155; 29 F. Supp. 742) could be applied with more force and effect in the case of a counsel whose participation in the action is merely confined to the preparation of the defense of his client. Appellant, however, asserted that he filed the counterclaim against said lawyer not in his individual capacity but as counsel for the heirs of Quintin de Borja. But as we have already stated that the existence of a lawyer- client relationship does not make the former a party to the action, even this allegation of appellant will not alter the result We have arrived at.

Granting that the lawyer really employed intemperate language in the course of the hearings or in the preparation of the pleadings filed in connection with this case, the remedy against said counsel would be to have him cited for contempt of court or take other administrative measures that may be proper in the case, but certainly not a counterclaim for moral damages.

II. Special Proceedings No. 6414 of the Court of First Instance of Rizal (Pasig branch) was instituted for the purpose of settling the Intestate Estate of Marcelo de Borja. In taking cognizance of the case, the Court was clothed with a limited jurisdiction which cannot expand to collateral matters not arising out of or in any way related to the settlement and adjudication of the properties of the deceased, for it is a settled rule that the jurisdiction of a probate court is limited and

special (Guzman vs. Anog, 37 Phil. 361). Although there is a tendency now to relax this rule and extend the jurisdiction of the probate court in respect to matters incidental and collateral to the exercise of its recognized powers (14 Am. Jur. 251-252), this should be understood to comprehend only cases related to those powers specifically allowed by the statutes. For it was even said that:

Probate proceedings are

purely

statutory

and

their

functions limited to the control of the property upon the death of its owner, and cannot extend to the adjudication of collateral questions (Woesmes, The American Law of Administration, Vol. I, p. 514, 662-663).

It was in the acknowledgment of its limited jurisdiction that the lower court dismissed the administrator's counterclaim for moral damages against the oppositors, particularly against Marcela de Borja who allegedly uttered derogatory remarks intended to cast dishonor to said administrator sometime in 1950 or 1951, his Honor's ground being that the court exercising limited jurisdiction cannot entertain claims of this kind which should properly belong to a court general jurisdiction. From what ever angle it may be looked at, a counterclaim for moral damages demanded by an administrator against the heirs for alleged utterances, pleadings and actuations made in the course of the proceeding, is an extraneous matter in a testate or intestate proceedings. The injection into the action of incidental questions entirely foreign in probate proceedings should not be encouraged for to do otherwise would run counter to the clear intention of the law, for it was held that:

The speedy settlement of the estate of deceased persons for the benefit of the creditors and those entitled to the residue by way of inheritance or legacy after the debts and expenses of administration have been paid, is the ruling spirit of our probate law (Magabanua vs. Akel, 72 Phil., 567, 40 Off Gaz., 1871).

III. and IV. This appeal arose from the opposition of the heirs of

Quintin

de

Borja to

the approval

of

the statements of

accounts

rendered by the administrator of the Intestate Estate of Marcelo de Borja, on the ground that certain fruits which should have been accrued to the estate were unaccounted for, which charge the administrator denied. After a protracted and extensive hearing on the matter, the Court, finding the administrator, Dr. Crisanto de Borja, guilty of certain acts of maladministration, held him liable for the payment to the oppositors, the heirs of Quintin de Borja, of 1/4 of the unreported income which the estate should have received. The evidence presented in the court below bear out the following facts:

(a) The estate owns a 6-door building, Nos. 1541, 1543, 1545, 1547, 1549 and 1551 in Azcarraga Street, Manila, situated in front of the Arranque market. Of this property, the administrator reported to have received for the estate the following rentals:

Total rentals to P3,085.00

Period of time

March

December,

1945

January

December,

1946

to 4,980.00

Annual

monthly

rental

P51.42

69.17

January

December,

1947

January

December,

1948

January

December,

1949

January

December,

1950

to 8,330.00

115.70

to 9,000.00

125.00

to 8,840.00

122.77

to

6,060.00 184.16

Total P40,295.00

The oppositors, in disputing this record income, presented at the witness stand Lauro Aguila, a lawyer who occupied the basement of Door No. 1541 and the whole of Door No. 1543 from 1945 to November 15, 1949, and who testified that he paid rentals on said apartments as follows:

1945

Door

No.

1541

(basement)

February

P20.00

Door No. 1543

7

March

20.00

For

 

months

at

P300

April

60.00

a month

P2,100.00

May-

800.00

December

Total

P900.00

1946

January-

P1,200.00 January-

P4,080.00

December

December

1947

January

P100.00 January

 

P380.00

February

100.00

February

380.00

March

180.00

March

1- 190.00

 

15

April-

1,140.00

March 16- 4,085.00

December

December

 

P1,820.00

P5,035.00

1948

January-

P1,920.00 January-

P5,150.00

December

December

1949

  • January- P1,680.00 January- December

November

15

P4,315.00

From the testimony of said witness, it appears that from 1945 to November 15,1949, he paid a total of P28,200 for the lease of Door No. 1543 and the basement of Door No. 1541. These figures were not controverted or disputed by the administrator but claim that said tenant subleased the apartments occupied by Pedro Enriquez and Soledad Sodora and paid the said rentals, not to the administrator, but to said Enriquez. The transcript of the testimony of this witness really bolster this contention that Lauro Aguila talked with said Pedro Enriquez when he leased the aforementioned apartments and admitted paying the rentals to the latter and not to the administrator. It is interesting to note that Pedro Enriquez is the same person who appeared to be the administrator's collector, duly authorized to receive the rentals from this Azcarraga property and for which services, said Enriquez received 5 per cent of the amount he might be able to collect as commission. If we are to believe appellant's contention, aside from the commission that Pedro Enriquez received he also sublet the apartments he was occupying at a very much higher rate than that he actually paid the estate without the knowledge of the administrator or with his approval. As the administrator also seemed to possess that peculiar habit of giving little importance to bookkeeping methods, for he never kept a ledger or book of entry for amounts received for the estate, We find no record of the rentals the lessees of the other doors were paying. It was, however, brought about at the hearing that the 6 doors of this building are of the same sizes and construction and the lower Court based its computation of the amount this property should have earned for the estate on the rental paid by Atty. Aguila for the 1 1/2 doors that he occupied. We see no excuse why the administrator could not have taken cognizance of these rates and received the same for the benefit of the estate he was administering, considering the fact that he used to make trips to Manila usually once a month and for which he charged to the estate P8 as transportation expenses for every trip.

Basing on the rentals paid by Atty. Aguila for 1 1/2 doors, the estate received P112,800 from February 1, 1945, to November 15, 1949, for the 6 doors, but the lower Court held him accountable not only for the sum of P34,235 reported for the period ranging from March 1, 1945, to December 31, 1949, but also for a deficit of P90,525 or a total of P124,760. The record shows, however that the upper floor of Door No. 1549 was vacant in September, 1949, and as Atty. Aguila used to pay P390 a month for the use of an entire apartment from September to November, 1949, and he also paid P160 for the use of the basement of an apartment (Door No. 1541), the use, therefore, of said upper floor would cost P230 which should be deducted, even if the computation of the lower Court would have to be followed.

There being no proper evidence to show that the administrator collected more rentals than those reported by him, except in the instance already mentioned, We are reluctant to bold him accountable in the amount for which he was held liable by the lower Court, and We think that under the circumstances it would be more just to add to the sum reported by the administrator as received by him as rents for 1945-1949 only, the difference between the sum reported as paid by Atty. Aguila and the sum actually paid by the latter as rents of 1 1/2 of the apartments during the said period, or P25,457.09 1/4 of which is P6,364.27 which shall be paid to the oppositors.

The record also shows that in July, 1950, the administrator delivered to the other heirs Doors Nos. 1545, 1547, 1549 and 1551 although Doors Nos. 1541 and 1543 adjudicated to the oppositors remained under his administration. For the period from January to June, 1950, that the entire property was still administered by him, the administrator reported to have received for the 2 oppositors' apartments for said period of six months at P168.33 a month, the sum of P1,010 which belongs to the oppositors and should be taken from the amount reported by the administrator.

The lower Court computed at P40 a month the pre-war rental admittedly received for every apartment, the income that said property would have earned from 1941 to 1944, or a total of P11,520, but as We have to exclude the period covered by the Japanese occupation,

the estate should receive only

P2,880

1/4

of

which

P720

the

administrator should pay to the oppositors for the year 1941.

(b) The Intestate estate also owned a parcel of land in Mayapyap, Nueva Ecija, with an area of 71 hectares, 95 ares and 4 centares, acquired by Quintin de Borja the spouses Cornelio Sarangaya and Feliciana Mariano in Civil Case NO. 6190 of the Court of First Instance of said province, In virtue of the agreement entered into by the heirs, this property was turned over by the estate of Quintin de Borja to the intestate and formed part of the general mass of said estate. The report of the administrator failed to disclose any return from this property alleging that he had not taken possession of the same. He does not deny however that he knew of the existence of this land but claimed that when he demanded the delivery of the Certificate of Title covering this property, Rogelio Limaco, then administrator of the estate of Quintin de Borja, refused to surrender the same and he did not take any further action to recover the same.

To counteract the insinuation that the Estate of Quintin de Borja was in possession of this property from 1940 to 1950, the oppositors presented several witnesses, among them was an old man, Narciso Punzal, who testified that he knew both Quintin and Francisco de Borja; that before the war or sometime in 1937, the former administrator of the Intestate, Quintin de Borja, offered him the position of overseer (encargado) of this land but he was notable to assume the same due to the death of said administrator; that on July 7, 1951, herein appellant invited him to go to his house in Pateros, Rizal, and while in said house, he was instructed by appellant to testify in court next day that he was the overseer of the Mayapyap property for Quintin de Borja from 1937-1944, delivering the yearly proceeds of 1,000 cavanes of Palay to Rogelio Limaco; that he did not need to be afraid because both Quintin de Borja and Rogelio Limaco were already dead. But as he knew that the facts on which he was to testify were false, he went instead to the house of one of the daughters of Quintin de Borja, who, together with her brother, Atty. Juan de Borja, accompanied him to the house of the counsel for said oppositors before whom his sworn declaration was taken (Exh. 3).

Other witnesses, i.e., Isidro Benuya, Federico Cojo, Emilio de la Cruz and Ernesto Mangulabnan, testified that they were some of the tenants of the Mayapyap property; that they were paying their shares to the overseers of Francisco de Borja and sometimes to his wife, which the administrator was not able to contradict, and the lower Court found no reason why the administrator would fail to take possession of this property considering that this was even the subject of the agreement of February 16, 1940, executed by the heirs of the Intestate.

The lower Court, giving due credence to the testimonies of the witnesses for the oppositors, computed the loss the estate suffered in the form of unreported income from the rice lands for 10 years at P67,000 (6,700 a year)and the amount of P4,000 from the remaining portion of the land not devoted to rice cultivation which was being leased at P20 per hectare. Consequently, the Court held the administrator liable to appellees in the sum of P17,750 which is 1/4 of the total amount which should have accrued to the estate for this item.

But if We exclude the 3 years of occupation, the income for 7 years would be P46,900 for the ricelands and P2,800 (at P400 a year) for the remaining portion not developed to rice cultivation or a total of P48,700, 1/4 of which is P12,175 which We hold the administrator liable to the oppositors.

(c) The Hacienda Jalajala located in said town of Rizal, was divided into 3 parts: the Punta section belonged to Marcelo de Borja, the Bagombong pertained to Bernardo de Borja and Francisco de Borja got the Jalajala proper. For the purpose of this case, we will just deal with that part called Junta. This property has an area of 1,345, hectares, 29 ares and 2 centares (Exh. 36) of which, according to the surveyor who measured the same, 200 hectares were of cultivated rice fields and 100 hectares dedicated to the planting of upland rice. It has also timberland and forest which produce considerable amount of trees and firewoods. From the said property which has an assessed value of P115,000 and for which the estates pay real estate tax of P1,500 annually, the administrator reported the following:

 

Expenditure

(not

including

Year

Income

administration's fees

  • 1945 P1,310.42

...........

P625.00

  • 1946 3,471.00

.............

1,800.00

  • 1947 2,912.91

.............

2,550.00

 
  • 1948 3,311.88

.............

1,828.00

  • 1949 4,792.09

.............

3,204.50

  • 1950 2,940.91

.............

2,082.00

 

P12,089.50 P18,739.21

This statement was assailed by the oppositors and to substantiate their charge that the administrator did not file the true income of the property, they presented several witnesses who testified that there were about 200 tenants working therein; that these tenants paid to Crisanto de Borja rentals at the rate of 6 cavanes of palay per hectare; that in the years of 1943 and 1944, the Japanese were the ones who collected their rentals, and that the estate could have received no less than 1,000 cavanes of palay yearly. After the administrator had presented witnesses to refute the facts previously testified to by the witnesses for the oppositors, the Court held that the report of the administrator did not contain the real income of the property devoted to rice cultivation, which was fixed at 1,000 cavanes every year for 1941, 1942, 1945, 1946, 1947, 1948, 1949 and 1950, or a total of 8,000 cavanes valued at P73,000. But as the administrator accounted for the sum of P11,155 collected from rice harvests and if to this amount we add the sum of P8,739.20 for expenses, this will make a total of P19,894.20, thus leaving a deficit of P53,105.80, ¼ of which will be P13,276.45 which the administrator is held liable to pay the heirs of Quintin de Borja.

It was also proved during the hearing that the forest land of this property yields considerable amount of marketable firewoods. Taking into consideration the testimonies of witnesses for both parties, the Court arrived at the conclusion that the administrator sold to Gregorio

Santos firewoods worth P600 in 1941, P3,500 in 1945 and P4,200 in 1946 or a total of P8,300. As the report included only the amount of P625, there was a balance of P7,675 in favor of the estate. The oppositors were not able to present any proof of sales made after these years, if there were any and the administrator was held accountable to the oppositors for only P1,918.75.

(d) The estate also, owned ricefields in Cainta, Rizal, with a total area of 22 hectares, 76 ares and 66 centares. Of this particular item, the administrator reported an income of P12,104 from 1945 to 1951. The oppositors protested against this report and presented witnesses to disprove the same.

Basilio Javier worked as a tenant in the land of Juliana de Borja which is near the land belonging to the Intestate, the 2 properties being separated only by a river. As tenant of Juliana de Borja, he knew the tenants working on the property and also knows that both lands are of the same class, and that an area accommodating one cavan of seedlings yields at most 100 cavanes and 60 cavanes at the least. The administrator failed to overcome this testimony. The lower Court considering the facts testified to by this witness made a finding that the property belonging to this Intestate was actually occupied by several persons accommodating 13 ½ cavanes of seedlings; that as for every cavan of seedlings, the land produces 60 cavanes of palay, the whole area under cultivation would have yielded 810 cavanes a year and under the 50-50 sharing system (which was testified by witness Javier), the estate would have received no less than 405 cavanes every year. Now, for the period of 7 years from 1941 to 1950, excluding the 3 years of war the corresponding earning of the estate should be 2,835 cavanes, out of which the 405 cavanes from the harvest of 1941 is valued at P1,215 and the rest 2,430 cavanes at P10 is valued at P24,300, or all in all P25,515. If from this amount the reported income of P12,104 is deducted, there will be a balance of P13,411.10 1/4 of which or P3,352.75 the administrator is held liable to pay to the oppositors.

(e) The records show that the administrator paid surcharges and penalties with a total of P988.75 for his failure to pay on time the taxes

imposed on the properties under his administration. He advanced the reason that he lagged in the payment of those tax obligations because of lack of cash balance for the estate. The oppositors, however, presented evidence that on October 29, 1939, the administrator received from Juliana de Borja the sum of P20,475.17 together with certain papers pertaining to the intestate (Exh. 4),aside from the checks in the name of Quintin de Borja. Likewise, for his failure to pay the taxes on the building at Azcarraga for 1947, 1948 and 1949, said property was sold at public auction and the administrator had to redeem the same at P3,295.48, although the amount that should have been paid was only P2,917.26. The estate therefore suffered a loss of P378.22. Attributing these surcharges and penalties to the negligence of the administrator, the lower Court adjudged him liable to pay the oppositors ¼ of P1,366.97, the total loss suffered by the Intestate, or

P341.74.

(f) Sometime in 1942, a big fire razed numerous houses in Pateros, Rizal, including that of Dr. Crisanto de Borja. Thereafter, he claimed that among the properties burned therein was his safe containing P15,000 belonging to the estate under his administration. The administrator contended that this loss was already proved to the satisfaction of the Court who, approved the same by order of January 8, 1943, purportedly issued by Judge Servillano Platon(Exh. B). The oppositors contested the genuineness of this order and presented on April 21, 1950, an expert witness who conducted several tests to determine the probable age of the questioned document, and arrived at the conclusion that the questioned ink writing "(Fdo)" appearing at the bottom of Exhibit B cannot be more than 4 years old (Exh. 39). However, another expert witness presented by the administrator contradicted this finding and testified that this conclusion arrived at by expert witness Mr. Pedro Manzañares was not supported by authorities and was merely the result of his own theory, as there was no method yet discovered that would determine the age of a document, for every document has its own reaction to different chemicals used in the tests. There is, however, another fact that called the attention of the lower Court: the administrator testified that the money and other papers delivered by Juliana de Borja to him on

October 29, 1939, were saved from said fire. The administrator justified the existence of these valuables by asserting that these properties were locked by Juliana de Borja in her drawer in the "casa solariega" in Pateros and hence was not in his safe when his house, together with the safe, was burned. This line of reasoning is really subject to doubt and the lower Court opined, that it runs counter to the ordinary course of human behaviour for an administrator to leave in the drawer of the "aparador" of Juliana de Borja the money and other documents belonging to the estate under his administration, which delivery has receipted for, rather than to keep it in his safe together with the alleged P15,000 also belonging to the Intestate. The subsequent orders of Judge Platon also put the defense of appellant to bad light, for on February 6, 1943, the Court required Crisanto de Borja to appear before the Court of examination of the other heirs in connection with the reported loss, and on March 1, 1943, authorized the lawyers for the other parties to inspect the safe allegedly burned (Exh. 35). It is inconceivable that Judge Platon would still order the inspection of the safe if there was really an order approving the loss of those P15,000. We must not forget, in this connection, that the records of this case were burned and that at the time of the hearing of this incident in 1951, Judge Platon was already dead. The lower Court also found no reason why the administrator should keep in his such amount of money, for ordinary prudence would dictate that as an administration funds that come into his possession in a fiduciary capacity should not be mingled with his personal funds and should have been deposited in the Bank in the name of the intestate. The administrator was held responsible for this loss and ordered to pay ¼ thereof, or the sum of P3,750.

(g) Unauthorized expenditures

1. The report of the administrator contained certain sums amounting to P2,130 paid to and receipted by Juanita V. Jarencio the administrator's wife, as his private secretary. In explaining this item, the administrator alleged that he needed her services to keep receipts and records for him, and that he did not secure first the authorization

from the court before making these disbursements because it was merely a pure administrative function.

The keeping

of

receipts

and

retaining

in

his custody records

connected with the management of the properties under administration is a duty that properly belongs to the administrator, necessary to support the statement of accounts that he is obliged to submit to the court for approval. If ever his wife took charge of the safekeeping of these receipts and for which she should be compensated, the same should be taken from his fee. This disbursement was disallowed by the Court for being unauthorized and the administrator required to pay the oppositors ¼, thereof or P532.50.

  • 2. The salaries of Pedro Enriquez, as collector of the Azcarraga

property; of Briccio Matienzo and Leoncio Perez, as encargados, and of Vicente Panganiban and Herminigildo Macetas as forest-guards were found justified, although un authorized, as they appear to be reasonable and necessary for the care and preservation of the Intestate.

  • 3. The lower Court disallowed as unjustified and unnecessary the

expenses for salaries paid to special policemen amounting to P1,509. Appellant contended that he sought for the services of Macario Kamungol and others to act as special policemen during harvest time because most of the workers tilting the Punta property were not natives of Jalajala but of the neighboring towns and they were likely to run away with the harvest without giving the share of the estate if they

were not policed. This kind of reasoning did not appear to be convincing to the trial judge as the cause for such fear seemed to exist only in the imagination. Granting that such kind of situation existed, the proper thing for the administrator to do would have been to secure the previous authorization from the Court if he failed to secure the help of the local police. He should be held liable for this unauthorized expenditure and pay the heirs of Quintin de Borja ¼ thereof or

P377.25.

  • 4. From the year 1942 when his house was burned, the administrator

and his family took shelter at the house belonging to the Intestate

known as "casa solariega" which, in the Project of Partition was adjudicated to his father, Francisco de Borja. This property, however, remained under his administration and for its repairs he spent from 1945-1950, P1465,14, duly receipted.

None of these repairs appear to be extraordinary for the receipts were for nipa, for carpenters and thatchers. Although it is true that Rule 85, section 2 provides that:

SEC. 2. EXECUTOR OR ADMINISTRATOR TO KEEP BUILDINGS IN REPAIR. An executor or administrator shall maintain in tenant able repair the houses and other structures and fences belonging to the estate, and deliver the same in such repair to the heirs or devisees when directed so to do by the court.

yet considering that during his occupancy of the said "casa solariega" he was not paying any rental at all, it is but reasonable that he should take care of the expenses for the ordinary repair of said house. Appellant asserted that had he and his family not occupied the same, they would have to pay someone to watch and take care of said house. But this will not excuse him from this responsibility for the disbursements he made in connection with the aforementioned repairs because even if he stayed in another house, he would have had to pay rentals or else take charge also of expenses for the repairs of his residence. The administrator should be held liable to the oppositors in the amount of P366.28.

5. Appellant reported to have incurred expenses amounting to P6,304.75 for alleged repairs on the rice mill in Pateros, also belonging to the Intestate. Of the disbursements made therein, the items corresponding, to Exhibits I, I-1, I-21, L-26, L-15, L-64 and L-65, in the total sum of P570.70 were rejected by the lower court on the ground that they were all unsigned although some were dated. The lower Court, however, made an oversight in including the sum of P150 covered by Exhibit L-26 which was duly signed by Claudio Reyes because this does not refer to the repair of the rice-mill but for the roofing of the house and another building and shall be allowed.

Consequently, the sum of P570.70 shall be reduced to P420.70 which added to the sum of P3,059 representing expenditures rejected as unauthorized to wit:

Exhibit

L-59

Yek

.............

P500.00

Wing

Exhibit

L-60

Yek

.............

616.00

Wing

Exhibit

L-61

Yek

.............

600.00

Wing

Exhibit

L-62

Yek

.............

840.00

Wing

Exhibit

L-63

Yek

.............

180.00

Wing

Exhibit

Q-2

scale

.............

323.00

"Howe"

 

Total

......................

P3,059.00

will give a total of P3,479 1/4 of which is P869.92 that belongs to the oppositors.

6. On the expenses for planting in the Cainta ricefields: In his statement of accounts, appellant reported to have incurred a total expense of P5,977 for the planting of the ricefields in Cainta, Rizal, from the agricultural year 1945-46 to 1950-51. It was proved that the prevailing sharing system in this part of the country was on 50-50 basis. Appellant admitted that expenses for planting were advanced by the estate and liquidated after each harvest. But the report, except for the agricultural year 1950 contained nothing of the payments that the tenants should have made. If the total expenses for said planting amounted to P5,977, ½ thereof or P2,988.50 should have been paid by the tenants as their share of such expenditures, and as P965 was reported by the administrator as paid back in 1950, there still remains a balance of P2,023.50 unaccounted for. For this shortage, the

administrator is responsible and should pay the oppositors ¼ thereof or P505.87.

7. On the transportation expenses of the administrator: It appears that from the year 1945 to 1951, the administrator charged the estate with a total of P5,170 for transportation expenses. The un receipted disbursements were correspondingly itemized, a typical example of which is as follows:

1950

Gastos

de

viaje

del

administrador From Pateros

To

Pasig 50

x

................

P4.00

= P200.00

To

Manila 50

x

...............

P10.00 = P500.00

To

Cainta 8

x

................

P8.00

= P64.00

To

Jalajala 5

...............

x P35.00 = P175.00

(Exhibit W-54).

= P399.00

From the report of the administrator, We are being made to believe that the Intestate estate is a losing proposition and assuming arguendo that this is true, that precarious financial condition which he, as administrator, should know, did not deter Crisanto de Borja from charging to the depleted funds of the estate comparatively big amounts for his transportation expenses. Appellant tried to justify these charges by contending that he used his own car in making those trips to Manila, Pasig and Cainta and a launch in visiting the properties in Jalajala, and they were for the gasoline consumed. This rather unreasonable spending of the estate's fund prompted the Court to observe that one will have to spend only P0.40 for transportation in making a trip from Pateros to Manila and practically the same amount in going to Pasig. From his report for 1949 alone, appellant made a

total of 97 trips to these places or an average of one trip for every 3 1/2 days. Yet We must not forget that it was during this period that the administrator failed or refused to take cognizance of the prevailing rentals of commercial places in Manila that caused certain loss to the estate and for which he was accordingly held responsible. For the reason that the alleged disbursements made for transportation expenses cannot be said to be economical, the lower Court held that the administrator should be held liable to the oppositors for ¼ thereof or the sum of P1,292.50, though We think that this sum should still be reduced to P500.

8. Other expenses:

The administrator also ordered 40 booklets of printed contracts of lease in the name of the Hacienda Jalajala which cost P150. As the said hacienda was divided into 3 parts one belonging to this Intestate and the other two parts to Francisco de Boria and Bernardo de Borja, ordinarily the Intestate should only shoulder ¹/3 of the said expense, but as the tenants who testified during the hearing of the matter testified that those printed forms were not being used, the Court adjudged the administrator personally responsible for this amount. The records reveal, that this printed form was not utilized because the tenants refused to sign any, and We can presume that when the administrator ordered for the printing of the same, he did not foresee this situation. As there is no showing that said printed contracts were used by another and that they are still in the possession of the administrator which could be utilized anytime, this disbursement may be allowed.

The report also contains a receipt of payment made to Mr. Severo Abellera in the sum of P375 for his transportation expenses as one of the two commissioners who prepared the Project of Partition. The oppositors were able to prove that on May 24, 1941, the Court authorized the administrator to withdraw from the funds of the intestate the sum of P300 to defray the transportation expenses of the commissioners. The administrator, however, alleged that he used this amount for the payment of certain fees necessary in connection with the approval of the proposed plan of the Azcarraga property which

was then being processed in the City Engineer's Office. From that testimony, it would seem that appellant could even go to the extent of disobeying the order of the Court specifying for what purpose that amount should be appropriated and took upon himself the task of judging for what it will serve best. Since he was not able to show or prove that the money intended and ordered by the Court to be paid for the transportation expenses of the commissioners was spent for the benefit of the estate as claimed, the administrator should be held responsible therefor and pay to the oppositors ¼ of P375 or the sum of P93.75.

The records reveal that for the service of summons to the defendants in Civil Case No. 84 of the Court of First Instance of Rizal, P104 was paid to the Provincial Sheriff of the same province (Exhibit H-7). However, an item for P40 appeared to have been paid to the Chief of Police on Jalajala allegedly for the service of the same summons. Appellant claimed that as the defendants in said civil case lived in remote barrios, the services of the Chief of Police as delegate or agent of the Provincial Sheriff were necessary. He forgot probably the fact that the local chiefs of police are deputy sheriffs ex-officio. The administrator was therefore ordered by the lower Court to pay ¼ of said amount or P10 to the oppositors.

The administrator included in his Report the sum of P550 paid to Atty. Filamor for his professional services rendered for the defense of the administrator in G.R. No. L-4179, which was decided against him, with costs. The lower Court disallowed this disbursement on the ground that this Court provided that the costs of that litigation should not be borne by the estate but by the administrator himself, personally.

Costs of a litigation in the Supreme Court taxed by the Clerk of Court, after a verified petition has been filed by the prevailing party, shall be awarded to said party and will only include his fee and that of his attorney for their appearance which shall not be more than P40; expenses for the printing and the copies of the record on appeal; all lawful charges imposed by the Clerk of Court; fees for the taking of depositions and other expenses connected with the appearance of witnesses or for lawful fees of a commissioner (De la Cruz, Philippine

Supreme Court Practice, p. 70-71). If the costs provided for in that case, which this Court ordered to be chargeable personally against the administrator are not recoverable by the latter, with more reason this item could not be charged against the Intestate. Consequently, the administrator should pay the oppositors ¼ of the sum of P550 or

P137.50.

(e) The lower

Court

in

its

decision required appellant to

pay the

oppositors the sum of P1,395 out of the funds still in the possession of the administrator.

In the statement of accounts submitted by the administrator, there appeared a cash balance of P5,851.17 as of August 31, 1961. From this amount, the sum of P1,002.96 representing the Certificate of Deposit No. 21619 and Check No. 57338, both of the Philippine National Bank and in the name of Quintin de Borja, was deducted leaving a balance of P4,848. As Judge Zulueta ordered the delivery to the oppositors of the amount of P1,890 in his order of October 8, 1951; the delivery of the amount of P810 to the estate of Juliana de Borja in his order of October 23, 1951, and the sum of P932.32 to the same estate of Juliana de Borja by order of the Court of February 29, 1952, or a total of P3,632.32 after deducting the same from the cash in the possession of the administrator, there will only be a remainder of P134.98.

The

Intestate

is

also the

creditor

of Miguel

B. Dayco, heir and

administrator of the estate of Crisanta de Borja, in the sum of P900 (Exhibits S and S-1). Adding this credit to the actual cash on hand, there will be a total of P1,034.98, ¼, of which or P258.74 properly belongs to the oppositors. However, as there is only a residue of

P134.98 in the hands of the administrator and dividing it among the 3 groups of heirs who are not indebted to the Intestate, each group will receive P44.99, and Miguel B. Dayco is under obligation to reimburse P213.76 to each of them.

The lower Court ordered the administrator to deliver to the oppositors the amount of P1,395.90 and P314.99 each to Francisco de Borja and the estate of Juliana de Borja, but as We have arrived at the

computation that the three heirs not idebted to the Intestate ought to receive P44.99 each out of the amount of P134.98, the oppositors are entitled to the sum of P1,080.91 the amount deducted from them as taxes but which the Court ordered to be returned to them plus P44.99 or a total of P1,125.90. It appearing however, that ina Joint Motion dated November 27, 1952, duly approved by the Court, the parties agreed to fix the amount at P1,125.58, as the amount due and said heirs have already received this amount in satisfaction of this item, no other sum can be chargeable against the administrator.

(f) The probate Court also ordered the administrator to render an accounting of his administration during the Japanese occupation on the ground that although appellant maintained that whatever money he received during that period is worthless, same having been declared without any value, yet during the early years of the war, or during 1942-43, the Philippine peso was still in circulation, and articles of prime necessity as rice and firewood commanded high prices and were paid with jewels or other valuables.

But We must not forget that in his order of December 11, 1945, Judge Peña required the administrator to render an accounting of his administration only from March 1, 1945, to December of the same year without ordering said administrator to include therein the occupation period. Although the Court below mentioned the condition then prevailing during the war-years, We cannot simply presume, in the absence of proof to that effect, that the administrator received such valuables or properties for the use or in exchange of any asset or produce of the Intestate, and in view of the aforementioned order of Judge Peña, which We find no reason to disturb, We see no practical reason for requiring appellant to account for those occupation years when everything was affected by the abnormal conditions created by the war. The records of the Philippine National Bank show that there was a current account jointly in the names of Crisanto de Borja and Juanita V. Jarencio, his wife, with a balance of P36,750.35 in Japanese military notes and admittedly belonging to the Intestate and We do not believe that the oppositors or any of the heirs would be

interested in an accounting for the purpose of dividing or distributing this deposit.

(g) On the sum of P13,294 for administrator's fees:

It is not disputed that the administrator set aside for himself and collected from the estate the sum of P13,294 as his fees from 1945 to 1951 at the rate of P2,400 a year. There is no controversy as to the fact that this appropriated amount was taken without the order or previous approval by the probate Court. Neither is there any doubt that the administration of the Intestate estate by Crisanto de Borja is far from satisfactory.

Yet it is a fact that Crisanto de Borja exercised the functions of an administrator and is entitled also to a certain amount as compensation for the work and services he has rendered as such. Now, considering the extent and size of the estate, the amount involved and the nature of the properties under administration, the amount collected by the administrator for his compensation at P200 a month is not unreasonable and should therefore be allowed.

It might be argued against this disbursement that the records are replete with instances of highly irregular practices of the administrator, such as the pretended ignorance of the necessity of a book or ledger or at least a list of chronological and dated entries of money or produce the Intestate acquired and the amount of disbursements made for the same properties; that admittedly he did not have even a list of the names of the lessees to the properties under his administration, nor even a list of those who owed back rentals, and although We certainly agree with the probate Court in finding appellant guilty of acts of maladministration, specifically in mixing the funds of the estate under his administration with his personal funds instead of keeping a current account for the Intestate in his capacity as administrator, We are of the opinion that despite these irregular practices for which he was held already liable and made in some instances to reimburse the Intestate for amounts that were not properly accounted for, his claim for compensation as administrator's fees shall be as they are hereby allowed.

Recapitulation. Taking all the matters threshed herein together, the administrator is held liable to pay to the heirs of Quintin de Borja the following:

Under Paragraphs III and IV:

(a)

P7,084.27

...............................................................................

(b)

12,175.00

...............................................................................

(c)

16,113.95

...............................................................................

(d)

3,352.75

...............................................................................

(e)

341.74

...............................................................................

(f)

3,750.00

................................................................................

(g)

1 .....................................................................

532.50

  • 2 .....................................................................

377.25

  • 3 .....................................................................

366.28

  • 4 .....................................................................

869.92

  • 5 .....................................................................

505.87

  • 6 .....................................................................

500.00

7-a

b

93.75

c

10.00

 

d

137.50

...................................................................

P46,210.00

In view of the foregoing, the decision appealed from is modified by reducing the amount that the administrator was sentenced to pay the oppositors to the sum of P46,210.78 (instead of P83,337.31), plus legal interests on this amount from the date of the decision appealed

from, which

is

hereby

affirmed

in

all

other

respects.

Without

pronouncement as to costs. It is so ordered.

Paras, C.J., Bengzon, Montemayor, Reyes, A., Bautista Angelo, Labrador and Endencia, JJ., concur.

Republic

of

the

Philippines

SUPREME

COURT

Manila

EN BANC

G.R. No. L-14851 August 31, 1961

INTESTATE ESTATE of the deceased MARCELO DE BORJA. DR. CRISANTO DE BORJA, administrator, JUAN DE BORJA, ET AL.,

oppositors-appellees,

vs.

JOSE DE BORJA administrator of the TESTATE ESTATE of

JOSEFA TANGCO CFI Rizal-7866, third party, claimant- oppositor-appellant.

Jose P. Santillan and J.A. Garcia for oppositors-appellees. David for third-party, claimant-oppositor-appellant.

BENGZON, J.:

In July 1957, this Supreme Court in G.R. No. L-6622 affirmed the decision of the Rizal Court of First Instance that ordered Crisanto de Borja to pay Juan, Marcela, Saturnina, Eufracia Jacoba and Olimpia, all surnamed Borja but reducing the amount to P46,210.78 plus legal in interest. This decision having become final, the clerk of court, at the request of the judgment-creditors, issued a writ of execution. The sheriff, complying therewith, levied in April 1958 on the rights, interest or participation of Crisanto de Borja as prospective heir of the decedents Josefa Tangco and Francisco de Borja in certain specified real estate in the province of Rizal.

Thereafter, Jose de Borja as administrator of the estate of Josefa Tangco filed with the sheriff a third party claim asserting that the properties belonged to the estate of the deceased Josefa Tangco under liquidation in special proceedings No. 7866 of the Court, and that, consequently, they were in custodia legis. Acting upon this opposition, the sheriff required the judgment creditors to post a bond of P2,500,000.00. The latter resorted to the Court contending it was unnecessary to do so. On the other hand, the administrator contended that the levy was improper. The issues thus raised were, after argument, decided as follows: the levy was proper, and as the oppositors did not submit to the court a copy of their third party claim, the sheriff went beyond his powers in requiring submission of a bond. Therefore, it ordered the sheriff to proceed with the execution even without a bond.

The administrator appealed.

There is no doubt that the interest of an heir in the estate of a deceased person may be attached for purposes of execution, even if the estate is in process of settlement before the courts. This is quite clear from a reading of section 14, Rule 39, in connection with section 7 (f), Rule 59, which permits the attachment of "the interest of the defendant in property belonging to the estate of a decedent, whether as heir, legatee etc." As stated in Cook vs. Escobar 1 "when a person dies and his properties are placed under judicial administration, during the pendency of such administration, the right, title, and interest which the heirs, devisees or legatees may have in the properties may be attached subject to the administration of the estate. The administrator retains control over the properties and will still have the power to sell them, if necessary, for the payment of the debts of the deceased."

Although the value of the participation of Rafael Vilar in the estate of Florentino Vilar was indeterminable before the final liquidation of the estate, nevertheless, the right of participation in the estate and the lands thereof may be attached and sold. (Gotauco & Co. vs. Register of Deeds of Tayabas, 59 Phil. 756).

But, appellant argues, the fact of Crisanto's heirship is not a proper subject of inquiry in this proceeding. It is enough to explain that the attachment speaks of Crisanto de Borja as prospective heir of Josefa Tangco and Francisco de Borja, and as there is no question that he is a son of the said two spouses, now deceased, he is a "prospective" heir.

As to the bond, we also think the judgment-creditors are not required to file a bond, because this is not really a third-party claim, since the administrator does not dispute that Crisanto is an heir, or at least a "prospective" heir of Josefa Tangco In other words, there is actually no conflict between the interest of Crisanto de Borja (which is attached) and the interest of Josefa Tangco (or of the administrator), for as already explained, the attachment is in all respects subject to the administration of the estate.

The appealed order is affirmed, with costs.

Padilla, Concepcion, Reyes, J.B.L., Barrera, Paredes, Dizon, De Leon

and

Natividad,

JJ.,

concur.

Bautista

Angelo,

J.,

is

on

leave.

Labrador, J., took no part.

 

Republic

of

the

Philippines

SUPREME

COURT

Manila

EN BANC

G.R. No. L-28040 August 18, 1972

TESTATE ESTATE OF JOSEFA TANGCO, JOSE DE BORJA, administrator-appellee; JOSE DE BORJA, as administrator, CAYETANO DE BORJA, MATILDE DE BORJA and CRISANTO DE BORJA (deceased) as Children of Josefa Tangco, appellees, vs.

TASIANA VDA. DE DE BORJA, Special Administratrix of the

Testate Estate of Francisco de Borja,

appellant.

.

G.R. No L-28568 August 18, 1972

TESTATE ESTATE OF THE LATE FRANCISCO DE BORJA, TASIANA O. VDA. DE DE BORJA, special Administratrix appellee, vs. JOSE DE BORJA, oppositor-appellant.

G.R. No. L-28611 August 18, 1972

TASIANA 0. VDA. DE BORJA, as Administratrix of the Testate Estate of the late Francisco de Borja, plaintiff-appellee, vs.

JOSE DE BORJA, as Administrator of the Testate Estate of the

late Josefa Tangco, defendant-appellant.

L-28040

Pelaez, Jalandoni & Jamir for administrator-appellee.

Quiogue & Quiogue for appellee Matilde de Borja.

Andres Matias for appellee Cayetano de Borja.

Sevilla & Aquino for appellant.

L-28568

Sevilla & Aquino for special administratrix-appellee.

Pelaez, Jalandoni & Jamir for oppositor-appellant.

L-28611

Sevilla & Aquino for plaintiff-appellee.

 

Pelaez,

Jalandoni

&

Jamir

and

David

Gueverra

for

defendant-

appellant.

REYES, J.B.L., J.:p

Of these cases, the first, numbered L-28040 is an appeal by Tasiana Ongsingco Vda. de de Borja, special administratrix of the testate estate of Francisco de Borja, 1 from the approval of a compromise agreement by the Court of First Instance of Rizal, Branch I, in its Special Proceeding No. R-7866, entitled, "Testate Estate of Josefa Tangco, Jose de Borja, Administrator".

Case No. L-28568 is an appeal by administrator Jose Borja from the disapproval of the same compromise agreement by the Court of First Instance of Nueva Ecija, Branch II, in its Special Proceeding No. 832, entitled, "Testate Estate of Francisco de Borja, Tasiana O. Vda. de de Borja, Special Administratrix".

And Case No. L-28611 is an appeal by administrator Jose de Borja from the decision of the Court of First Instance of Rizal, Branch X, in its Civil Case No. 7452, declaring the Hacienda Jalajala Poblacion, which is the main object of the aforesaid compromise agreement, as the separate and exclusive property of the late Francisco de Borja and not a conjugal asset of the community with his first wife, Josefa Tangco, and that said hacienda pertains exclusively to his testate estate, which is under administrator in Special Proceeding No. 832 of the Court of First Instance of Nueva Ecija, Branch II.

It is uncontested that Francisco de Borja, upon the death of his wife Josefa Tangco on 6 October 1940, filed a petition for the probate of her will which was docketed as Special Proceeding No. R-7866 of the Court of First Instance of Rizal, Branch I. The will was probated on 2 April 1941. In 1946, Francisco de Borja was appointed executor and administrator: in 1952, their son, Jose de Borja, was appointed co- administrator. When Francisco died, on 14 April 1954, Jose became the sole administrator of the testate estate of his mother, Josefa Tangco. While a widower Francisco de Borja allegedly took unto himself a second wife, Tasiana Ongsingco. Upon Francisco's death, Tasiana instituted testate proceedings in the Court of First Instance of

Nueva

Ecija,

where,

in

1955,

she

was appointed special

administratrix. The validity of Tasiana's marriage to Francisco was questioned in said proceeding.

The relationship between the children of the first marriage and Tasiana Ongsingco has been plagued with several court suits and counter-suits; including the three cases at bar, some eighteen (18) cases remain pending determination in the courts. The testate estate of Josefa Tangco alone has been unsettled for more than a quarter of a century. In order to put an end to all these litigations, a compromise agreement was entered into on 12 October 1963, 2 by and between "[T]he heir and son of Francisco de Borja by his first marriage, namely, Jose de Borja personally and as administrator of the Testate Estate of Josefa Tangco," and "[T]he heir and surviving spouse of Francisco de Borja by his second marriage, Tasiana Ongsingco Vda. de Borja, assisted by her lawyer, Atty. Luis Panaguiton Jr." The terms and conditions of the compromise agreement are as follows:

A G R E E M E N T

THIS

AGREEMENT

made

and

entered

into

by

and

between

 

The

heir

and

son

of

Francisco

de

Borja

by

his

first

marriage, namely, Jose

de

Borja

personally

and

as

administrator of the Testate Estate of Josefa Tangco,

A N D

The heir and surviving spouse of Francisco de Borja by his second marriage, Tasiana Ongsingco Vda. de Borja, assisted by her lawyer, Atty. Luis Panaguiton Jr.

W I T N E S S E T H

THAT it

is

the mutual

desire of

all

the parties herein

terminate

and

settle,

with

finality,

the

various

court

litigations,

controversies,

claims,

counterclaims,

etc.,

between

them

in

connection

with

the administration,

settlement, partition, adjudication and distribution of the assets as well as liabilities of the estates of Francisco de Borja and Josefa Tangco, first spouse of Francisco de Borja.

THAT with this end in view, the parties herein have agreed voluntarily and without any reservations to enter into and execute this agreement under the following terms and conditions:

1. That the parties agree to sell the Poblacion portion of the Jalajala properties situated in Jalajala, Rizal, presently under administration in the Testate Estate of Josefa Tangco (Sp. Proc. No. 7866, Rizal), more specifically described as follows:

Linda al Norte con el Rio Puwang que la separa

de la jurisdiccion del

Municipio

de

Pililla de

la

Provincia de

Rizal,

y

con

el

pico del

Monte

Zambrano; al Oeste con Laguna de Bay; por el

Sur con los herederos de Marcelo de Borja;

y

por el

Este

con

los

terrenos de

la

Familia

Maronilla

with a segregated area of approximately 1,313 hectares at the amount of P0.30 per square meter.

2. That Jose de Borja agrees and obligates himself to pay Tasiana Ongsingco Vda. de de Borja the total amount of Eight Hundred Thousand Pesos (P800,000) Philippine Currency, in cash, which represent P200,000 as his share in the payment and P600,000 as pro-rata shares of the heirs Crisanto, Cayetano and Matilde, all surnamed de Borja and this shall be considered as full and complete payment and settlement of her hereditary share in the estate of the late Francisco de Borja as well as the estate of Josefa Tangco, Sp. Proc. No. 832-Nueva Ecija and Sp. Proc. No. 7866-Rizal, respectively, and to any properties

bequeathed or devised in her favor by the late Francisco de Borja by Last Will and Testament or by Donation Inter Vivos or Mortis Causa or purportedly conveyed to her for consideration or otherwise. The funds for this payment shall be taken from and shall depend upon the receipt of full payment of the proceeds of the sale of Jalajala, "Poblacion."

3. That Tasiana Ongsingco Vda. de de Borja hereby assumes payment of that particular obligation incurred by the late Francisco de Borja in favor of the Rehabilitation Finance Corporation, now Development Bank of the Philippines, amounting to approximately P30,000.00 and also assumes payment of her 1/5 share of the Estate and Inheritance taxes on the Estate of the late Francisco de Borja or the sum of P3,500.00, more or less, which shall be deducted by the buyer of Jalajala, "Poblacion" from the payment to be made to Tasiana Ongsingco Vda. de Borja under paragraph 2 of this Agreement and paid directly to the Development Bank of the Philippines and the heirs- children of Francisco de Borja.

4. Thereafter, the buyer of Jalajala "Poblacion" is hereby authorized to pay directly to Tasiana Ongsingco Vda. de de Borja the balance of the payment due her under paragraph 2 of this Agreement (approximately P766,500.00) and issue in the name of Tasiana Ongsingco Vda. de de Borja, corresponding certified checks/treasury warrants, who, in turn, will issue the corresponding receipt to Jose de Borja.

5. In consideration of above payment to Tasiana Ongsingco Vda. de de Borja, Jose de Borja personally and as administrator of the Testate Estate of Josefa Tangco, and Tasiana Ongsingco Vda. de de Borja, for themselves and for their heirs, successors, executors, administrators, and assigns, hereby forever mutually renounce, withdraw, waive, remise, release and discharge any and all manner of action or actions, cause or causes of action, suits, debts,

sum or sums of money, accounts, damages, claims and demands whatsoever, in law or in equity, which they ever had, or now have or may have against each other, more specifically Sp. Proceedings Nos. 7866 and 1955, CFI- Rizal, and Sp. Proc. No. 832-Nueva Ecija, Civil Case No. 3033, CFI Nueva Ecija and Civil Case No. 7452-CFI, Rizal, as well as the case filed against Manuel Quijal for perjury with the Provincial Fiscal of Rizal, the intention being to completely, absolutely and finally release each other, their heirs, successors, and assigns, from any and all liability, arising wholly or partially, directly or indirectly, from the administration, settlement, and distribution of the assets as well as liabilities of the estates of Francisco de Borja and Josefa Tangco, first spouse of Francisco de Borja, and lastly, Tasiana Ongsingco Vda. de de Borja expressly and specifically renounce absolutely her rights as heir over any hereditary share in the estate of Francisco de Borja.

6. That Tasiana Ongsingco Vda. de de Borja, upon receipt of the payment under paragraph 4 hereof, shall deliver to the heir Jose de Borja all the papers, titles and documents belonging to Francisco de Borja which are in her possession and said heir Jose de Borja shall issue in turn the corresponding receive thereof.

7. That this agreement shall take effect only upon the fulfillment of the sale of the properties mentioned under paragraph 1 of this agreement and upon receipt of the total and full payment of the proceeds of the sale of the Jalajala property "Poblacion", otherwise, the non-fulfillment of the said sale will render this instrument NULL AND VOID AND WITHOUT EFFECT THEREAFTER.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, the parties hereto have her unto set their hands in the City of Manila, Philippines, the 12th of October, 1963.

On 16 May 1966, Jose de Borja submitted for Court approval the agreement of 12 October 1963 to the Court of First Instance of Rizal, in Special Proceeding No. R-7866; and again, on 8 August 1966, to the Court of First Instance of Nueva Ecija, in Special Proceeding No. 832. Tasiana Ongsingco Vda. de de Borja opposed in both instances. The Rizal court approved the compromise agreement, but the Nueva Ecija court declared it void and unenforceable. Special administratrix Tasiana Ongsingco Vda. de de Borja appealed the Rizal Court's order of approval (now Supreme Court G.R. case No. L-28040), while administrator Jose de Borja appealed the order of disapproval (G.R. case No. L-28568) by the Court of First Instance of Nueva Ecija.

The genuineness and due execution of the compromised agreement of 12 October 1963 is not disputed, but its validity is, nevertheless, attacked by Tasiana Ongsingco on the ground that: (1) the heirs cannot enter into such kind of agreement without first probating the will of Francisco de Borja; (2) that the same involves a compromise on the validity of the marriage between Francisco de Borja and Tasiana Ongsingco; and (3) that even if it were valid, it has ceased to have force and effect.

In assailing the validity of the agreement of 12 October 1963, Tasiana Ongsingco and the Probate Court of Nueva Ecija rely on this Court's decision in Guevara vs. Guevara. 74 Phil. 479, wherein the Court's majority held the view that the presentation of a will for probate is mandatory and that the settlement and distribution of an estate on the basis of intestacy when the decedent left a will, is against the law and public policy. It is likewise pointed out by appellant Tasiana Ongsingco that Section 1 of Rule 74 of the Revised Rules explicitly conditions the validity of an extrajudicial settlement of a decedent's estate by agreement between heirs, upon the facts that "(if) the decedent left no

will and no debts, and the heirs are all of age, or the minors are "

represented by their judicial and legal representatives ...

The will of

Francisco de Borja having been submitted to the Nueva Ecija Court and still pending probate when the 1963 agreement was made, those circumstances, it is argued, bar the validity of the agreement.

Upon the other hand, in claiming the validity of the compromise agreement, Jose de Borja stresses that at the time it was entered into, on 12 October 1963, the governing provision was Section 1, Rule 74 of the original Rules of Court of 1940, which allowed the extrajudicial settlement of the estate of a deceased person regardless of whether he left a will or not. He also relies on the dissenting opinion of Justice Moran, in Guevara vs. Guevara, 74 Phil. 479, wherein was expressed the view that if the parties have already divided the estate in accordance with a decedent's will, the probate of the will is a useless ceremony; and if they have divided the estate in a different manner, the probate of the will is worse than useless.

The doctrine of Guevara vs. Guevara, ante, is not applicable to the case at bar. This is apparent from an examination of the terms of the agreement between Jose de Borja and Tasiana Ongsingco. Paragraph 2 of said agreement specifically stipulates that the sum of P800,000 payable to Tasiana Ongsingco

shall be considered as full complete payment settlement of her hereditary share in the estate of the late Francisco de Borja as well as the estate of Josefa Tangco, and to any properties bequeathed or devised in her favor

... by the late Francisco de Borja by Last Will and Testament or by Donation Inter Vivos or Mortis Causa or purportedly

conveyed to her for consideration or otherwise.

This provision evidences beyond doubt that the ruling in the Guevara case is not applicable to the cases at bar. There was here no attempt to settle or distribute the estate of Francisco de Borja among the heirs thereto before the probate of his will. The clear object of the contract was merely the conveyance by Tasiana Ongsingco of any and all her individual share and interest, actual or eventual in the estate of Francisco de Borja and Josefa Tangco. There is no stipulation as to any other claimant, creditor or legatee. And as a hereditary share in a decedent's estate is transmitted or vested immediately from the moment of the death of such causante or predecessor in interest (Civil Code of the Philippines, Art. 777) 3 there is no legal bar to a successor (with requisite contracting capacity) disposing of her or his hereditary

share immediately after such death, even if the actual extent of such share is not determined until the subsequent liquidation of the estate. 4 Of course, the effect of such alienation is to be deemed limited to what is ultimately adjudicated to the vendor heir. However, the aleatory character of the contract does not affect the validity of the transaction; neither does the coetaneous agreement that the numerous litigations between the parties (the approving order of the Rizal Court enumerates fourteen of them, Rec. App. pp. 79-82) are to be considered settled and should be dismissed, although such stipulation, as noted by the Rizal Court, gives the contract the character of a compromise that the law favors, for obvious reasons, if only because it serves to avoid a multiplicity of suits.

It is likewise worthy of note in this connection that as the surviving spouse of Francisco de Borja, Tasiana Ongsingco was his compulsory heir under article 995 et seq. of the present Civil Code. Wherefore, barring unworthiness or valid disinheritance, her successional interest existed independent of Francisco de Borja's last will and testament and would exist even if such will were not probated at all. Thus, the prerequisite of a previous probate of the will, as established in the Guevara and analogous cases, can not apply to the case of Tasiana Ongsingco Vda. de de Borja.

Since the compromise contract Annex A was entered into by and between "Jose de Borja personally and as administrator of the Testate Estate of Josefa Tangco" on the one hand, and on the other, "the heir and surviving spouse of Francisco de Borja by his second marriage, Tasiana Ongsingco Vda. de de Borja", it is clear that the transaction was binding on both in their individual capacities, upon the perfection of the contract, even without previous authority of the Court to enter into the same. The only difference between an extrajudicial compromise and one that is submitted and approved by the Court, is that the latter can be enforced by execution proceedings. Art. 2037 of the Civil Code is explicit on the point:

8. Art. 2037. A compromise has upon the parties the effect and authority of res judicata; but there shall be no execution except in compliance with a judicial compromise.

It is argued by Tasiana Ongsingco that while the agreement Annex A expressed no definite period for its performance, the same was intended to have a resolutory period of 60 days for its effectiveness. In support of such contention, it is averred that such a limit was expressly stipulated in an agreement in similar terms entered into by said Ongsingco with the brothers and sister of Jose de Borja, to wit, Crisanto, Matilde and Cayetano, all surnamed de Borja, except that the consideration was fixed at P600,000 (Opposition, Annex/Rec. of Appeal, L-28040, pp. 39- 46) and which contained the following clause:

III. That this agreement shall take effect only upon the consummation of the sale of the property mentioned herein and upon receipt of the total and full payment of the proceeds of the sale by the herein owner heirs-children of Francisco de Borja, namely, Crisanto, Cayetano and Matilde, all surnamed de Borja; Provided that if no sale of the said property mentioned herein is consummated, or the non-receipt of the purchase price thereof by the said owners within the period of sixty (60) days from the date hereof, this agreement will become null and void and of no further effect.

Ongsingco's argument loses validity when it is considered that Jose de Borja was not a party to this particular contract (Annex 1), and that the same appears not to have been finalized, since it bears no date, the day being left blank "this day of October 1963"; and while signed by the parties, it was not notarized, although plainly intended to be so done, since it carries a proposed notarial ratification clause. Furthermore, the compromise contract with Jose de Borja (Annex A), provides in its par. 2 heretofore transcribed that of the total consideration of P800, 000 to be paid to Ongsingco, P600,000 represent the "prorata share of the heirs Crisanto, Cayetano and Matilde all surnamed de Borja" which corresponds to the consideration of P600,000 recited in Annex 1, and that circumstance is proof that the duly notarized contract entered into wit Jose de Borja

under date 12 October 1963 (Annex A), was designed to absorb and supersede the separate unformalize agreement with the other three Borja heirs. Hence, the 60 days resolutory term in the contract with the latter (Annex 1) not being repeated in Annex A, can not apply to the formal compromise with Jose de Borja. It is moreover manifest that the stipulation that the sale of the Hacienda de Jalajala was to be made within sixty days from the date of the agreement with Jose de Borja's co-heirs (Annex 1) was plainly omitted in Annex A as improper and ineffective, since the Hacienda de Jalajala (Poblacion) that was to be sold to raise the P800,000 to be paid to Ongsingco for her share formed part of the estate of Francisco de Borja and could not be sold until authorized by the Probate Court. The Court of First Instance of Rizal so understood it, and in approving the compromise it fixed a term of 120 days counted from the finality of the order now under appeal, for the carrying out by the parties for the terms of the contract.

This brings us to the plea that the Court of First Instance of Rizal had no jurisdiction to approve the compromise with Jose de Borja (Annex A) because Tasiana Ongsingco was not an heir in the estate of Josefa Tangco pending settlement in the Rizal Court, but she was an heir of Francisco de Borja, whose estate was the object of Special Proceeding No. 832 of the Court of First Instance of Nueva Ecija. This circumstance is irrelevant, since what was sold by Tasiana Ongsingco was only her eventual share in the estate of her late husband, not the estate itself; and as already shown, that eventual share she owned from the time of Francisco's death and the Court of Nueva Ecija could not bar her selling it. As owner of her undivided hereditary share, Tasiana could dispose of it in favor of whomsoever she chose. Such alienation is expressly recognized and provided for by article 1088 of the present Civil Code:

Art. 1088. Should any of the heirs sell his hereditary rights to a stranger before the partition, any or all of the co-heirs may be subrogated to the rights of the purchaser by reimbursing him for the price of the sale, provided they do so within the period of one month from the time they were notified in writing of the sale of the vendor.

If a sale of a hereditary right can be made to a stranger, then a fortiori sale thereof to a coheir could not be forbidden.

Tasiana Ongsingco further argues that her contract with Jose de Borja (Annex "A") is void because it amounts to a compromise as to her status and marriage with the late Francisco de Borja. The point is without merit, for the very opening paragraph of the agreement with Jose de Borja (Annex "A") describes her as "the heir and surviving spouse of Francisco de Borja by his second marriage, Tasiana Ongsingco Vda. de de Borja", which is in itself definite admission of her civil status. There is nothing in the text of the agreement that would show that this recognition of Ongsingco's status as the surviving spouse of Francisco de Borja was only made in consideration of the cession of her hereditary rights.

It is finally charged by appellant Ongsingco, as well as by the Court of First Instance of Nueva Ecija in its order of 21 September 1964, in Special Proceedings No. 832 (Amended Record on Appeal in L- 28568, page 157), that the compromise agreement of 13 October 1963 (Annex "A") had been abandoned, as shown by the fact that, after its execution, the Court of First Instance of Nueva Ecija, in its order of 21 September 1964, had declared that "no amicable settlement had been arrived at by the parties", and that Jose de Borja himself, in a motion of 17 June 1964, had stated that the proposed amicable settlement "had failed to materialize".

It is difficult to believe, however, that the amicable settlement referred to in the order and motion above-mentioned was the compromise agreement of 13 October 1963, which already had been formally signed and executed by the parties and duly notarized. What the record discloses is that some time after its formalization, Ongsingco had unilaterally attempted to back out from the compromise agreement, pleading various reasons restated in the opposition to the Court's approval of Annex "A" (Record on Appeal, L-20840, page 23):

that the same was invalid because of the lapse of the allegedly intended resolutory period of 60 days and because the contract was not preceded by the probate of Francisco de Borja's will, as required by this Court's Guevarra vs. Guevara ruling; that Annex "A" involved a

compromise affecting Ongsingco's status as wife and widow of Francisco de Borja, etc., all of which objections have been already discussed. It was natural that in view of the widow's attitude, Jose de Borja should attempt to reach a new settlement or novatory agreement before seeking judicial sanction and enforcement of Annex "A", since the latter step might ultimately entail a longer delay in attaining final remedy. That the attempt to reach another settlement failed is apparent from the letter of Ongsingco's counsel to Jose de Borja quoted in pages 35-36 of the brief for appellant Ongsingco in G.R. No. 28040; and it is more than probable that the order of 21 September 1964 and the motion of 17 June 1964 referred to the failure of the parties' quest for a more satisfactory compromise. But the inability to reach a novatory accord can not invalidate the original compromise (Annex "A") and justifies the act of Jose de Borja in finally seeking a court order for its approval and enforcement from the Court of First Instance of Rizal, which, as heretofore described, decreed that the agreement be ultimately performed within 120 days from the finality of the order, now under appeal.

We conclude that in so doing, the Rizal court acted in accordance with law, and, therefore, its order should be upheld, while the contrary resolution of the Court of First Instance of Nueva Ecija should be, and is, reversed.

In her brief, Tasiana Ongsingco also pleads that the time elapsed in the appeal has affected her unfavorably, in that while the purchasing power of the agreed price of P800,000 has diminished, the value of the Jalajala property has increased. But the fact is that her delay in receiving the payment of the agreed price for her hereditary interest was primarily due to her attempts to nullify the agreement (Annex "A") she had formally entered into with the advice of her counsel, Attorney Panaguiton. And as to the devaluation de facto of our currency, what We said in Dizon Rivera vs. Dizon, L-24561, 30 June 1970, 33 SCRA 554, that "estates would never be settled if there were to be a revaluation with every subsequent fluctuation in the values of currency and properties of the estate", is particularly opposite in the present case.

Coming now to Case G.R. No. L-28611, the issue is whether the Hacienda de Jalajala (Poblacion), concededly acquired by Francisco de Borja during his marriage to his first wife, Josefa Tangco, is the husband's private property (as contended by his second spouse, Tasiana Ongsingco), or whether it forms part of the conjugal (ganancial) partnership with Josefa Tangco. The Court of First Instance of Rizal (Judge Herminio Mariano, presiding) declared that there was adequate evidence to overcome the presumption in favor of its conjugal character established by Article 160 of the Civil Code.

We are of the opinion that this question as between Tasiana Ongsingco and Jose de Borja has become moot and academic, in view of the conclusion reached by this Court in the two preceding cases (G.R. No. L-28568), upholding as valid the cession of Tasiana Ongsingco's eventual share in the estate of her late husband, Francisco de Borja, for the sum of P800,000 with the accompanying reciprocal quit-claims between the parties. But as the question may affect the rights of possible creditors and legatees, its resolution is still imperative.

It is undisputed that the Hacienda Jalajala, of around 4,363 hectares, had been originally acquired jointly by Francisco de Borja, Bernardo de Borja and Marcelo de Borja and their title thereto was duly registered in their names as co-owners in Land Registration Case No. 528 of the province of Rizal, G.L.R.O. Rec. No. 26403 (De Barjo vs. Jugo, 54 Phil. 465). Subsequently, in 1931, the Hacienda was partitioned among the co-owners: the Punta section went to Marcelo de Borja; the Bagombong section to Bernardo de Borja, and the part in Jalajala proper (Poblacion) corresponded to Francisco de Borja (V. De Borja vs. De Borja 101 Phil. 911, 932).

The lot allotted to Francisco was described as

Una Parcela de terreno en Poblacion, Jalajala: N. Puang River; E. Hermogena Romero; S. Heirs of Marcelo de Borja O. Laguna de Bay; containing an area of 13,488,870 sq. m. more or less, assessed at P297,410. (Record on Appeal, pages 7 and 105)

On 20 November 1962, Tasiana O. Vda. de Borja, as Administratrix of the Testate Estate of Francisco de Borja, instituted a complaint in the Court of First Instance of Rizal (Civil Case No. 7452) against Jose de Borja, in his capacity as Administrator of Josefa Tangco (Francisco de Borja's first wife), seeking to have the Hacienda above described declared exclusive private property of Francisco, while in his answer defendant (now appellant) Jose de Borja claimed that it was conjugal property of his parents (Francisco de Borja and Josefa Tangco), conformably to the presumption established by Article 160 of the Philippine Civil Code (reproducing Article 1407 of the Civil Code of 1889), to the effect that:

Art. 160. All property of the marriage is presumed to belong to the conjugal partnership, unless it be proved that it pertains exclusively to the husband or to the wife.

Defendant Jose de Borja further counterclaimed for damages, compensatory, moral and exemplary, as well as for attorney's fees.

After trial, the Court of First Instance of Rizal, per Judge Herminio Mariano, held that the plaintiff had adduced sufficient evidence to rebut the presumption, and declared the Hacienda de Jalajala (Poblacion) to be the exclusive private property of the late Francisco de Borja, and his Administratrix, Tasiana Ongsingco Vda. de Borja, to be entitled to its possession. Defendant Jose de Borja then appealed to this Court.

The evidence reveals, and the appealed order admits, that the character of the Hacienda in question as owned by the conjugal partnership De Borja-Tangco was solemnly admitted by the late Francisco de Borja no less than two times: first, in the Reamended Inventory that, as executor of the estate of his deceased wife Josefa Tangco, he filed in the Special Proceedings No. 7866 of the Court of First Instance of Rizal on 23 July 1953 (Exhibit "2"); and again, in the Reamended Accounting of the same date, also filed in the proceedings aforesaid (Exhibit "7"). Similarly, the plaintiff Tasiana O. Vda. de Borja, herself, as oppositor in the Estate of Josefa Tangco, submitted therein an inventory dated 7 September 1954 (Exhibit "3")

listing the Jalajala property among the "Conjugal Properties of the Spouses Francisco de Borja and Josefa Tangco". And once more, Tasiana Ongsingco, as administratrix of the Estate of Francisco de Borja, in Special Proceedings No. 832 of the Court of First Instance of Nueva Ecija, submitted therein in December, 1955, an inventory wherein she listed the Jalajala Hacienda under the heading "Conjugal Property of the Deceased Spouses Francisco de Borja and Josefa Tangco, which are in the possession of the Administrator of the Testate Estate of the Deceased Josefa Tangco in Special Proceedings No. 7866 of the Court of First Instance of Rizal" (Exhibit

"4").

Notwithstanding the four statements aforesaid, and the fact that they are plain admissions against interest made by both Francisco de Borja and the Administratrix of his estate, in the course of judicial proceedings in the Rizal and Nueva Ecija Courts, supporting the legal presumption in favor of the conjugal community, the Court below declared that the Hacienda de Jalajala (Poblacion) was not conjugal property, but the private exclusive property of the late Francisco de Borja. It did so on the strength of the following evidences: (a) the sworn statement by Francis de Borja on 6 August 1951 (Exhibit "F") that

He tomado possession del pedazo de terreno ya delimitado (equivalente a 1/4 parte, 337 hectareas) adjunto a mi terreno personal y exclusivo (Poblacion de Jalajala, Rizal).

and (b) the testimony of Gregorio de Borja, son of Bernardo de Borja, that the entire Hacienda had been bought at a foreclosure sale for P40,100.00, of which amount P25,100 was contributed by Bernardo de Borja and P15,000. by Marcelo de Borja; that upon receipt of a subsequent demand from the provincial treasurer for realty taxes the sum of P17,000, Marcelo told his brother Bernardo that Francisco (son of Marcelo) wanted also to be a co-owner, and upon Bernardo's assent to the proposal, Marcelo issue a check for P17,000.00 to pay the back taxes and said that the amount would represent Francisco's contribution in the purchase of the Hacienda. The witness further testified that

Marcelo de Borja said that that money was entrusted to him by Francisco de Borja when he was still a bachelor and which he derived from his business transactions. (Hearing, 2 February 1965, t.s.n., pages 13-15) (Emphasis supplied)

The Court below, reasoning that not only Francisco's sworn statement overweighed the admissions in the inventories relied upon by defendant-appellant Jose de Borja since probate courts can not finally determine questions of ownership of inventoried property, but that the testimony of Gregorio de Borja showed that Francisco de Borja acquired his share of the original Hacienda with his private funds, for which reason that share can not be regarded as conjugal partnership property, but as exclusive property of the buyer, pursuant to Article 1396(4) of Civil Code of 1889 and Article 148(4) of the Civil Code of the Philippines.

The following shall be the exclusive property of each spouse:

xxx xxx xxx

(4) That which is purchased with exclusive money of the wife or of the husband.

We find the conclusions of the lower court to be untenable. In the first place, witness Gregorio de Borja's testimony as to the source of the money paid by Francisco for his share was plain hearsay, hence inadmissible and of no probative value, since he was merely repeating what Marcelo de Borja had told him (Gregorio). There is no way of ascertaining the truth of the statement, since both Marcelo and Francisco de Borja were already dead when Gregorio testified. In addition, the statement itself is improbable, since there was no need or occasion for Marcelo de Borja to explain to Gregorio how and when Francisco de Borja had earned the P17,000.00 entrusted to Marcelo. A ring of artificiality is clearly discernible in this portion of Gregorio's testimony.

As to Francisco de Borja's affidavit, Exhibit "F", the quoted portion

thereof (ante, page 14) does not clearly demonstrate

that the

"mi

terreno personal y exclusivo (Poblacion de Jalajala, Rizal) " refers precisely to the Hacienda in question. The inventories (Exhibits 3 and 4) disclose that there were two real properties in Jalajala owned by Francisco de Borja, one of 72.038 sq. m., assessed at P44,600, and a much bigger one of 1,357.260.70 sq. m., which is evidently the Hacienda de Jalajala (Poblacion). To which of these lands did the affidavit of Francisco de Borja (Exhibit "F") refer to? In addition, Francisco's characterization of the land as "mi terreno personal y exclusivo" is plainly self-serving, and not admissible in the absence of cross examination.

It may be true that the inventories relied upon by defendant-appellant (Exhibits "2", "3", "4" and "7") are not conclusive on the conjugal character of the property in question; but as already noted, they are clear admissions against the pecuniary interest of the declarants, Francisco de Borja and his executor-widow, Tasiana Ongsingco, and as such of much greater probative weight than the self-serving statement of Francisco (Exhibit "F"). Plainly, the legal presumption in favor of the conjugal character of the Hacienda de Jalajala (Poblacion) now in dispute has not been rebutted but actually confirmed by proof. Hence, the appealed order should be reversed and the Hacienda de Jalajala (Poblacion) declared property of the conjugal partnership of Francisco de Borja and Josefa Tangco.

No error having been assigned against the ruling of the lower court that claims for damages should be ventilated in the corresponding special proceedings for the settlement of the estates of the deceased, the same requires no pro announcement from this Court.

IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, the appealed order of the Court of First Instance of Rizal in Case No. L-28040 is hereby affirmed; while those involved in Cases Nos. L-28568 and L-28611 are reversed and set aside. Costs against the appellant Tasiana Ongsingco Vda. de Borja in all three (3) cases.

Concepcion, C.J., Makalintal, Zaldivar, Castro, Teehankee, Barredo, Makasiar, Antonio and Esguerra, JJ., concur.

Fernando, J., took no part.

Borja

46 SCRA 577

FACTS:

v.

Borja

Francisco de Borja filed a petition for probate of the will of his wife who died, Josefa Tangco, with the CFI of Rizal. He was appointed executor and administrator, until he died; his son Jose became the sole administrator. Francisco had taken a 2nd wife Tasiana before he died; she instituted testate proceedings with the CFI of Nueva Ecija upon his death and was appointed special administatrix. Jose and Tasiana entered upon a compromise agreement, but Tasiana opposed the approval of the compromise agreement. She argues that it was no valid, because the heirs cannot enter into such kind of agreement without first probating the will of Francisco, and at the time the agreement was made, the will was still being probated with the CFI of Nueva Ecija.

ISSUE:

W/N the compromise agreement is valid, even if the will of Francisco has not yet been probated.

HELD:

YES, the compromise agreement is valid.

The agreement stipulated that Tasiana will receive P800,000 as full payment for her hereditary share in the estate of Francisco and Josefa.

There was here no attempt to settle or distribute the estate of Francisco de Borja among the heirs thereto before the probate of his will. The clear object of the contract was merely the conveyance by Tasiana Ongsingco of any and all her individual share and interest, actual or eventual, in the estate of Francisco de Borja and Josefa

Tangco. There is no stipulation as to any other claimant, creditor or legatee.

And as a hereditary share in a decedent’s estate is transmitted or vested immediately from the moment of the death of such causante or predecessor in interest (Civil Code of the Philippines, Art. 777) there is no legal bar to a successor (with requisite contracting capacity) disposing of her or his hereditary share immediately after such death, even if the actual extent of such share is not determined until the subsequent liquidation of the estate.

G.

R.

No.

[ G. R. No. 39547, May 03, 1934 ]

39547

IN RE INTESTATE ESTATE OF THE DECEASED FRANCISCO

TORDILLA. GAUDENCIA TORDILLA,

PETITIONER AND

APPELLEE, VS. MOISES TORDILLA, OPPONENT AND APPELLANT.

D E C I S I O N

HULL, J.:

This is an appeal from a decision of the Court of First Instance of Camarines Sur providing for the distribution of the estate of one Francisco Tordilla, who died intestate in Naga, Camarines Sur, on December 18, 1925, leaving as his only heirs his widow, a legitimate son, the defendant and appellant, and a recognized natural daughter, petitioner and appellee.

It might be said by way of introduction that the record is voluminous and that many questions of fact could have been clearly established by direct means rather than to leave the question in doubt by presenting only circumstantial evidence. This is especially true as to the first and second assignments of error which read:

"I. In including in the partition that residential lot containing 3352 square meters and more fully described as parcel (2) in the decision (69-70 R. A.).

"II. In including ten (10) carabaos and six (6) cattle (Items 8 and 9 in Dec. at pp. 70-71 R. A.) among the properties partitioned and in not holding that said animals do. not exist and never came to the possession of the estate."

In a prior proceeding between the deceased and a third party, the third party was given a right to repurchase the land there in question. But that fact, standing alone, does not" remove the lot from the properties left by the deceased. The fact is whether or not the third party had exercised his option to repurchase. That fact was well known to appellant and was easily susceptible of definite and accurate proof. He has seen fit to leave the record in doubt and, therefore, the finding of the trial court will not be disturbed.

The same remarks are true as to the number of carabaos and cattle that the deceased had at the time of his death.

The contention of appellant in the third assignment of error is that, where a certain value is stated in a deed of donation, that value cannot be questioned when the properties are brought into collation. This is incorrect, as article 1045 of the Civil Code provides for the assessment of the property at its actual valuation at the time of donation. The recital in the deed cannot therefore be controlling. The actual value at the time of the donation is a question of fact which must be established by proof the same as any other fact.

The fourth assignment of error is not well taken. The original testimony was taken by a commissioner, and the report of the commissioner with the evidence was stricken from the files on motion of appellant. Thereafter the parties agreed to submit the case for the decision of the trial court on the evidence taken by the commissioner. Such a procedure waived the erroneous ruling on evidence by the commissioner. The appellant should have reserved the right to introduce additional evidence and should have tendered the proper evidence in the trial court. The trial court, with much experience, and after study of the evidence produced, held that the actual value of one

of the properties was greater than that recited in the deed of donation, and also fixed the fruits and income from the donated properties at a higher figure than appellant thought just. The fruits and interest produced by property subject to collation must be ascertained under article 1049 of the Civil .Code. (See Guinguing vs. Abuton and Abuton, 48 Phil., 144.) There is some doubt in our mind as to the real value of the parcel in question and the amount of the income from the donated properties. But we cannot state from the fragmentary evidence which has been brought to our attention that the opinion of the trial court is contrary to the weight of the evidence, and, in case those figures are incorrect, what are the correct figures.

On the questions of fact dealt with in the fifth and sixth assignments of error, after due consideration, we have determined to be guided by the judgment of the trial court.

The seventh, eighth, and ninth assignments of error refer to the validity of Exhibit H, a contract entered into between the appellee and the appellant in another case and signed shortly before the death of their father. The contract is in the nature of a compromise and covered two items, namely, first, the support of the natural daughter which the brother agreed to assume for one year and, second, a proposed division of their future inheritance upon the death of their father. It is assumed that appellant has complied with his terms of the contract, and the father died before the obligation of the brother terminated. The second portion of the contract Exhibit H clearly relates to the anticipated future inheritance and, therefore, is null and void under the provisions of article 1271 of the Civil Code which reads:

"ART. 1271. All things, even future ones, which are not out of the commerce of man, may be the subject-matter of contracts.

"Nevertheless, no contract may be entered into with respect to future inheritances, except those the object of which is to make a division intervivos of the estate, in accordance with article 1056.

"Any services not contrary to law or to good morals may also be the subject-matter of a contract."

The action of the trial court in holding Exhibit H to be uncontroverted and predicating its final action on the terms of that document was erroneous and contrary to law.

The tenth assignment of error reads: "In adjudicating to the natural daughter the same share or amount of properties as that adjudicated to the legitimate son." This assignment of error is based on article 840 of the Civil Code which provides:

"Art. 840. When the testator leaves legitimate children or descendants, and also natural children, legally acknowledged, each of the latter shall be entitled to one-half of the portion pertaining to each of the legitimate children who have not received any betterment, provided that a sufficient amount remains of the disposable portion, from which it must be taken, after the burial and funeral expenses have been paid.

"The legitimate children may pay the portion pertaining to the natural ones in cash, or in other property of the estate, at a fair valuation."

Appellee contends that article 840 of the Civil Code has been repealed by the Code of Civil Procedure, based on the statement of this court in Concepcion vs. Jose (46 Phil., 809). It is true that in the majority decision in that case it speaks of article 840 being repealed. While, with the question there considered, namely, from where the funeral expenses should be taken, the Code of Civil Procedure changed the rule as to those items from what had formerly been in the Civil Code, by reading the whole decision we have no hesitancy in saying that what the court then had in mind was not a repeal of the article but in fact merely a modification thereof. In the case of In re Intestate Estate of Tad-Y, found in the same volume (46 Phil., 557), this court, speaking through the Chief Justice, applied article 840 of the Civil Code in the following language:

"To determine the share that pertains to the natural child which is but one-half of the portion that in quality and quantity belongs to the legitimate child not bettered, the latter's portion must first be ascertained. If a widow shares in the inheritance, together with only one legitimate child, as in the instant case, the child gets, according to the law, the third constituting the legitime in full ownership, and the

third available for betterment in naked ownership, the usufruct of which goes to the widow. Then the natural child must get one-half of the free third in full ownership and the other half of this third in naked ownership, from which third his portion must be taken, so far as possible, after deducting the funeral and burial expenses. * * *."

Our attention has not been called to any case in which this court has treated article 840 as entirely and completely repealed.

We are therefore of the opinion that this case must be disposed of according to the above quotation from the case of Tad-Y.

The eleventh assignment of error relates to a matter of accountancy which the court ordered to take place after its original decision had become in force and needs no further discussion at this time.

The decision and orders of the trial court must therefore be reversed and the case remanded for further proceedings consonant with this opinion. Costs against appellee. So ordered.

Malcolm, Villa-Real, Imperial, and Goddard, JJ., concur.

This case may be assigned in Wills and Succession.

third available for betterment in naked ownership, the usufruct of which goes to the widow. Then

FACTS:

Facts re: probate proceedings in blue. Facts re: criminal case for forgery/falsification in red. [May 28, 1931] Petitioner Antilano Mercado filed a petition for the probate of the will of his deceased wife, Ines Basa, with the Pampanga CFI.

[June 31, 1931] The will was admitted to probate. [October 27, 1932] Intervenor Rosario Basa de Leon filed with the justice of the peace court of San Fernando, Pampanga, a complaint against Mercado for falsification/forgery of the will probated. Mercado was arrested. The complaint was subsequently dismissed at the instance of de Leon herself.

[March 2, 1933] Same intervenor charged Mercado with the same offense, this time in the justice of the peace court of Mexico, Pampanga. Mercado was arrested again. The complaint was likewise dismissed, again at de Leon’s instance. [February 2, 1934] Same banana as on March 2, 1933. Upon due investigation, the case was dismissed on the ground that the will alleged to have been falsified has already been probated and that there was no evidence that Mercado had forged the signature of the testatrix but that, on the contrary, satisfactory evidence was presented that established the authenticity of said signature. [April 11, 1934] Rosario Basa de Leon and other intervenors moved ex parte to reopen the probate proceedings, alleging lack of jurisdiction to probate the will and to close the proceedings. This motion was denied, having been filed ex parte. [May 9, 1934] The provincial fiscal moved for reinvestigation of the criminal case for forgery before the Pampanga CFI. The motion was granted, and for the fourth time, Mercado was arrested. The reinvestigation dragged on for almost a year… [May 24, 1934] A second motion to reopen and close probate proceedings was filed, this time with notice to the adverse party. Same was denied.

[February 18, 1935] until the CFI ordered the forgery case to be tried on the merits. [July 26, 1935] Intervenors’ motion was appealed to the Supreme Court, which affirmed the probate court’s order of denial. [c. 1936~37] Mercado moved to dismiss the case, claiming again that the will alleged to have been forged had already been probated and, further, that the order probating the will is conclusive as to the authenticity and due execution thereof. The CFI overruled the motion. Mercado thus filed a petition for certiorari with preliminary injunction with the Court of Appeals, which promptly denied same.

HENCE, THIS PETITION. ISSUE:

1. WON the probate of Ines Basa’s

will is

a

bar

to

Mercado’s criminal

prosecution for the alleged forgery of said will.

RULING:

Applicable law: Code of Civil Procedure (then governing the law on wills) Sec. 306 provides, as re: the effect of judgments: in case of a judgment/order in respect to the probate of a will, such judgment/order is conclusive upon the the will. Sec. 333 establishes an incontrovertible presumption in favor of judgments declared by the Code to be conclusive. Sec. 625 provides, as re: conclusiveness of the due execution of a probate will: “… the allowance by the court of a will of real and personal estate shall be conclusive as to its due execution.” Basis for PH law on wills (particularly Sec. 625 of the Code of Civil Procedure) Statutes of [the US state of] Vermont. Decisions of the Supreme Court of Vermont re: effect of probate of a will are of persuasive authority in PH. Says the Vermont SC in Missionary Society vs. Eells: “The probate of a will by the probate court having jurisdiction thereof, upon the due notice, is conclusive as to its due execution against the whole world.” In view of the provisions of Secs. 306, 333 and 625 of the Code of Civil Procedure, a criminal action will not lie against the forger of a will which had been duly admitted to probate by a court of competent jurisdiction. Disposition: Mercado is entitled to have the criminal proceedings against him quashed; CA judgment is reversed, without pronouncement as to costs.

Republic

of

the

Philippines

SUPREME

COURT

Manila

EN BANC

G.R. No. 45629

September 22, 1938

 

ANTILANO

G.

MERCADO,

 

petitioner,

vs.

ALFONSO

SANTOS,

Judge

of

First

Instance

of

Pampanga,

respondents. ROSARIO BASA DE LEON, ET AL., intervenors.

Claro

M.

Recto

and

Benigno

S.

Aquino

for

petitioner.

Esperanza de

la

Cruz

and

Heracio

Abistao

for

respondents.

Sotto and Sotto for intervenors.

LAUREL, J.:

On May 28, 1931, the petitioner herein filed in the Court of First Instance of Pampanga a petition for the probate of the will of his deceased wife, Ines Basa. Without any opposition, and upon the testimony of Benigno F. Gabino, one of the attesting witnesses, the probate court, on June 27,1931, admitted the will to probate. Almost three years later, on April 11, 1934, the five intervenors herein moved ex parte to reopen the proceedings, alleging lack of jurisdiction of the court to probate the will and to close the proceedings. Because filed ex parte, the motion was denied. The same motion was filed a second time, but with notice to the adverse party. The motion was nevertheless denied by the probate court on May 24, 1934. On appeal to this court, the order of denial was affirmed on July 26, 1935. (Basa vs. Mercado, 33 Off. Gaz., 2521.)

It appears that on October 27, 1932, i. e., sixteen months after the probate of the will of Ines Basa, intervenor Rosario Basa de Leon filed with the justice of the peace court of San Fernando, Pampanga, a complaint against the petitioner herein, for falsification or forgery of the will probated as above indicated. The petitioner was arrested. He put up a bond in the sum of P4,000 and engaged the services of an attorney to undertake his defense. Preliminary investigation of the case was continued twice upon petition of the complainant. The complaint was finally dismissed, at the instance of the complainant herself, in an order dated December 8, 1932. Three months later, or on March 2, 1933, the same intervenor charged the petitioner for the second time with the same offense, presenting the complaint this time in the justice of the peace court of Mexico, Pampanga. The petitioner was again arrested, again put up a bond in the sum of P4,000, and engaged the services of counsel to defend him. This second complaint, after investigation, was also dismissed, again at the instance of the complainant herself who alleged that the petitioner was in poor health. That was on April 27, 1933. Some nine months later,

on February 2, 1934, to be exact, the same intervenor accused the same petitioner for the third time of the same offense. The information was filed by the provincial fiscal of Pampanga in the justice of the peace court of Mexico. The petitioner was again arrested, again put up a bond of P4,000, and engaged the services of defense counsel. The case was dismissed on April 24, 1934, after due investigation, on the ground that the will alleged to have been falsified had already been probated and there was no evidence that the petitioner had forged the signature of the testatrix appearing thereon, but that, on the contrary, the evidence satisfactorily established the authenticity of the signature aforesaid. Dissatisfied with the result, the provincial fiscal, on May 9, 1934, moved in the Court of First Instance of Pampanga for reinvestigation of the case. The motion was granted on May 23, 1934, and, for the fourth time, the petitioner was arrested, filed a bond and engaged the services of counsel to handle his defense. The reinvestigation dragged on for almost a year until February 18, 1934, when the Court of First Instance ordered that the case be tried on the merits. The petitioner interposed a demurrer on November 25, 1935, on the ground that the will alleged to have been forged had already been probated. This demurrer was overruled on December 24, 1935, whereupon an exception was taken and a motion for reconsideration and notice of appeal were filed. The motion for reconsideration and the proposed appeal were denied on January 14, 1936. The case proceeded to trial, and forthwith petitioner moved to dismiss the case claiming again that the will alleged to have been forged had already been probated and, further, that the order probating the will is conclusive as to the authenticity and due execution thereof. The motion was overruled and the petitioner filed with the Court of Appeals a petition for certiorari with preliminary injunction to enjoin the trial court from further proceedings in the matter. The injunction was issued and thereafter, on June 19, 1937, the Court of Appeals denied the petition for certiorari, and dissolved the writ of preliminary injunction. Three justices dissented in a separate opinion. The case is now before this court for review on certiorari.

Petitioner contends (1) that the probate of the will of his deceased wife is a bar to his criminal prosecution for the alleged forgery of the said

will;

and, (2)

that he

has

been denied the constitutional right to a

speedy trial.

 

1. Section 306 of our Code of Civil Procedure provides as to the effect of judgments.

SEC. 306. Effect of judgment. The effect of a judgment or final order in an action or special proceeding before a court or judge of the Philippine Islands or of the United States, or of any State or Territory of the United States, having jurisdiction to pronounce the judgment or order, may be as follows.

1. In case of a judgment or order against a specific thing, or in respect to the probate of a will, or the administration of the estate of a deceased person, or in respect to the personal, political, or legal condition or relation of a particular person, the judgment or order is conclusive upon the title of the thing, the will or administration, or the condition or relation of the person Provided, That the probate of a will or granting of letters of administration shall only be prima facie evidence of the death of the testator or intestate.

xxx

xxx

xxx

(Emphasis ours.)

Section 625

of

the

same

Code

is

more

explicit

as

to

the

conclusiveness of the due execution of a probate will. It says.

SEC. 625. Allowance Necessary, and Conclusive as to Execution. No will shall pass either the real or personal estate, unless it is proved and allowed in the Court of First Instance, or by appeal to the Supreme Court; and the allowance by the court of a will of real and personal estate shall be conclusive as to its due execution. (Emphasis ours.)

(In Manahan vs. Manahan 58 Phil., 448, 451), we held:

The decree of probate is conclusive with respect to the

. . . due execution thereof and it cannot be impugned on any of the grounds authorized by law, except that of fraud, in any separate or independent action or proceeding. Sec. 625, Code of Civil Procedure; Castañeda vs. Alemany, 3 Phil., 426; Pimentel vs. Palanca, 5 Phil., 436; Sahagun vs. De Gorostiza, 7 Phil., 347; Limjuco vs. Ganara, 11 Phil., 393; Montañano vs. Suesa, 14 Phil., 676; in re Estate of Johnson, 39 Phil, 156; Riera vs. Palmaroli, 40 Phil., 105; Austria vs. Ventenilla, 21 Phil., 180; Ramirez vs. Gmur, 42 Phil., 855; and Chiong Jocsoy vs. Vano, 8 Phil., 119.

In 28 R. C. L., p. 377, section 378, it is said.

The

probate

of

a

will

by

the

probate

court having

jurisdiction thereof is usually considered as conclusive as to its due execution and validity, and is also conclusive that

the testator was of sound and disposing mind at the time when he executed the will, and was not acting under duress, menace, fraud, or undue influence, and that the will is genuine and not a forgery. (Emphasis ours.)

As our law on wills, particularly section 625 of our Code of Civil Procedure aforequoted, was taken almost bodily from the Statutes of Vermont, the decisions of the Supreme Court of the State relative to the effect of the probate of a will are of persuasive authority in this jurisdiction. The Vermont statute as to the conclusiveness of the due execution of a probated will reads as follows.

SEC. 2356. No will shall pass either real or personal estate, unless it is proved and allowed in the probate court, or by appeal in the county or supreme court; and the probate of a will of real or personal estate shall be conclusive as to its due execution. (Vermont Statutes, p. 451.)

Said the Supreme Court of Vermont in the case of Missionary Society

vs. Eells (68 Vt., 497, 504): "The probate of a will by the probate court having jurisdiction thereof, upon the due notice, is conclusive as to its

due execution against the whole world. (Vt. St., sec. 2336; Fosters Exrs. vs. Dickerson, 64 Vt., 233.)"

The probate of a will in this jurisdiction is a proceeding in rem. The provision of notice by Publication as a prerequisite to the allowance of a will is constructive notice to the whole world, and when probate is granted, the judgment of the court is binding upon everybody, even against the State. This court held in the case of Manalo vs. Paredes and Philippine Food Co. (47 Phil., 938):

The proceeding for the probate of a will is one in rem (40 Cyc., 1265), and the court acquires jurisdiction over all the persons interested, through the publication of the notice prescribed by section 630 of the Code of Civil Procedure, and any order that may be entered therein is binding against all of them.

Through the publication of the petition for the probate of the will, the court acquires jurisdiction over all such persons as are interested in said will; and any judgment that may be rendered after said proceeding is binding against the whole world.

In

Everrett

vs.

Vermont held.

Wing (103

Vt., 488,

492),

the Supreme Court of

In this State the probate of a will is a proceeding

in rem

being in form and substance upon the will itself

to

determine its validity. The judgment determines the status

of the instrument, whether it is or is

not

the will of the

testator. When the proper steps required by law have been

taken the judgment is binding upon everybody, and makes the instrument as to all the world just what the judgment

declares it to be. (Woodruff

vs. Taylor, 20 Vt., 65, 73;

Burbeck vs. Little, 50 Vt., 713, 715; Missionary Society vs.

Eells, 68 Vt., 497, 504; 35 Atl., 463.) The proceedings before the probate court are statutory and are not governed by common law rules as to parties or causes of action. (Holdrige vs. Holdriges Estate, 53 Vt., 546, 550; Purdy vs. Estate of Purdy, 67 Vt. 50, 55; 30 Atl., 695.) No process is issued against anyone in such proceedings, but all persons interested in determining the state or conditions of the instrument are constructively notified by the publication of notice as required by G. L. 3219. (Woodruff vs. Taylor, supra; In re Warners Estate 98 Vt., 254; 271; 127 Atl., 362.)

Section 333, paragraph 4, of the Code of Civil Procedure establishes an incontrovertible presumption in favor of judgments declared by it to be conclusive.

 

Conclusive Presumptions. The following

SEC. 333. presumptions

or

deductions,

which

the

law

expressly

directs

to

be

made from particular

facts, are deemed

conclusive.

 

xxx

xxx

xxx

4. The judgment or order of a court, when declared by this code to be conclusive.

Conclusive presumptions are inferences which the law makes so peremptory that it will not allow them to be overturned by any contrary proof however strong. (Brant vs. Morning Journal Assn., 80 N.Y.S., 1002, 1004; 81 App. Div., 183; see, also, Joslyn vs. Puloer, 59 Hun., 129, 140, 13 N.Y.S., 311.) The will in question having been probated by a competent court, the law will not admit any proof to overthrow the legal presumption that it is genuine and not a forgery.

The majority decision of the Court of Appeals cites English decisions to bolster up its conclusion that "the judgment admitting the will to probate is binding upon the whole world as to the due execution and genuineness of the will insofar as civil rights and liabilities are concerned, but not for the purpose of punishment of a crime." The

cases of Dominus Rex vs. Vincent, 93 English Reports, Full Reprint, 795, the first case being decided in 1721, were cited to illustrate the earlier English decisions to the effect that upon indictment for forging a will, the probating of the same is conclusive evidence in the defendants favor of its genuine character. Reference is made, however, to the cases of Rex vs. Gibson, 168 English Reports, Full Reprint, 836, footnote (a), decided in 1802, and Rex vs. Buttery and Macnamarra, 168 English Reports, Full Reprint, 836, decided in 1818, which establish a contrary rule. Citing these later cases, we find the following quotation from Black on Judgments, Vol. II, page 764.

A judgment admitting a will to probate cannot be attacked collaterally although the will was forged; and a payment to the executor named therein of a debt due the decedent will discharge the same, notwithstanding the spurious character of the instrument probated. It has also been held that, upon an indictment for forging a will, the probate of the paper in question is conclusive evidence in the defendants favor of its genuine character. But this particular point has lately been ruled otherwise.

It was the case of Rex vs. Buttery, supra, which induced the Supreme Court of Massachussetts in the case of Waters vs. Stickney (12 Allen 1; 90 Am. Dec., 122) also cited by the majority opinion, to hold that "according to later and sounder decisions, the probate, though conclusive until set aside of the disposition of the property, does not protect the forger from punishment." This was reproduced in 28 R.C.L., p. 376, and quoted in Barry vs. Walker (103 Fla., 533; 137 So., 711, 715), and Thompson vs. Freeman (149 So., 740, 742), also cited in support of the majority opinion of the Court of Appeals. The dissenting opinion of the Court of Appeals in the instant case under review makes a cursory study of the statutes obtaining in England, Massachussetts and Florida, and comes to the conclusion that the decisions cited in the majority opinion do not appear to "have been promulgated in the face of statutes similar to ours." The dissenting opinion cites Whartons Criminal Evidence (11th ed., sec. 831), to show that the probate of a will in England is only prima facie proof of

the validity of the will (Op. Cit. quoting Marriot vs. Marriot, 93 English Reprint, 770); and 21 L.R.A. (pp. 686689 and note), to show that in Massachussetts there is no statute making the probate of a will conclusive, and that in Florida the statute(sec. 1810, Revised Statutes) makes the probate conclusive evidence as to the validity of the will with regard to personal, and prima facie as to real estate. The cases decided by the Supreme Court of Florida cited by the majority opinion, supra, refer to wills of both personal and real estate.

The

petitioner cites the case of State

vs.

McGlynn (20 Cal., 233,

decided in 1862), in which Justice Norton of the Supreme Court of

California, makes the

following review of

the

nature of probate

proceedings in England with respect to wills personal and real

property.

In England, the probate of wills of personal estate belongs to the Ecclesiastical Courts. No probate of a will relating to real estate is there necessary. The real estate, upon the death of the party seized, passes immediately to the devisee under the will if there be one; or if there be no will, to the heir at law. The person who thus becomes entitled takes possession. If one person claims to be the owner under a will, and another denies the validity of the will and claims to be the owner as heir at law, an action of ejectment is brought against the party who may be in possession by the adverse claimant; and on the trial of such an action, the validity of the will is contested, and evidence may be given by the respective parties as to the capacity of the testator to make a will, or as to any fraud practiced upon him, or as to the actual execution of it, or as to any other circumstance affecting its character as a valid devise of the real estate in dispute. The decision upon the validity of the will in such action becomes res adjudicata, and is binding and conclusive upon the parties to that action and upon any person who may subsequently acquire the title from either of those parties; but the decision has no effect upon other parties, and does not settle what may be

called the status or character of the will, leaving it subject to be enforced as a valid will, or defeated as invalid, whenever other parties may have a contest depending upon it. A probate of a will of personal property, on the contrary, is a judicial determination of the character of the will itself. It does not necessarily or ordinarily arise from any controversy between adverse claimants, but is necessary in order to authorize a disposition of the personal estate in pursuance of its provisions. In case of any controversy between adverse claimants of the personal estate, the probate is given in evidence and is binding upon the parties, who are not at liberty to introduce any other evidence as to the validity of the will.

The intervenors, on the other hand, attempt to show that the English law on wills is different from that stated in the case of State vs. McGlynn, supra, citing the following statutes.

1. The Wills Act, 1837 (7 Will. 4 E 1 Vict. c. 26).

  • 2. The Court of Probate Act, 1857 (20 and 21 Vict. c. 77).

  • 3. The Judicature Act, 1873 (36 and 37 Vict. c. 66).

The Wills Act of 1837 provides that probate may be granted of "every instrumental purporting to be testamentary and executed in

accordance with the statutory requirements

if it disposes of

. . . property, whether personal or real." The Ecclesiastical Courts which took charge of testamentary causes (Ewells Blackstone [1910], p. 460), were determined by the Court of Probate Act of 1857, and the

Court of Probate in turn was, together with other courts, incorporated into the Supreme Court of Judicature, and transformed into the Probate Division thereof, by the Judicature Act of 1873. (Lord Halsbury, The Laws of England[1910], pp. 151156.) The intervenors overlook the fact, however, that the case of Rex vs. Buttery and Macnamarra, supra, upon which they rely in support of their theory that the probate of a forged will does not protect the forger from punishment, was decided long before the foregoing amendatory

statutes to the English law on wills were enacted. The case of State

vs.

McGlynn

may

be

considered, therefore, as more or less

authoritative on the law of England at the time of the promulgation of

the decision in the case of Rex vs. Buttery and Macnamarra.

In the case of State vs. McGlynn, the Attorney General of California filed an information to set aside the probate of the will of one Broderick, after the lapse of one year provided by the law of California for the review of an order probating a will, in order that the estate may be escheated to the State of California for the review of an probated will was forged and that Broderick therefore died intestate, leaving no heirs, representatives or devisees capable of inheriting his estate. Upon these facts, the Supreme Court of California held.

The fact that a will purporting to be genuine will of Broderick, devising his estate to a devisee capable of inheriting and holding it, has been admitted to probate and established as a genuine will by the decree of a Probate Court having jurisdiction of the case, renders it necessary to decide whether that decree, and the will established by it, or either of them, can be set aside and vacated by the judgment of any other court. If it shall be found that the decree of the Probate Court, not reversed by the appellate court, is final and conclusive, and not liable to be vacated or questioned by any other court, either incidentally or by any direct proceeding, for the purpose of impeaching it, and that so long as the probate stands the will must be recognized and admitted in all courts to be valid, then it will be immaterial and useless to inquire whether the will in question was in fact genuine or forged. (State vs. McGlynn, 20 Cal., 233; 81 Am. Dec., 118, 121.).

Although in the foregoing case the information filed by the State was to set aside the decree of probate on the ground that the will was forged, we see no difference in principle between that case and the case at bar. A subtle distinction could perhaps be drawn between setting aside a decree of probate, and declaring a probated will to be a forgery. It is clear, however, that a duly probated will cannot be

declared to be a forgery without disturbing in a way the decree allowing said will to probate. It is at least anomalous that a will should be regarded as genuine for one purpose and spurious for another.

The American and English cases show a conflict of authorities on the question as to whether or not the probate of a will bars criminal prosecution of the alleged forger of the probate will. We have examined some important cases and have come to the conclusion that no fixed standard maybe adopted or drawn therefrom, in view of the conflict no less than of diversity of statutory provisions obtaining in different jurisdictions. It behooves us, therefore, as the court of last resort, to choose that rule most consistent with our statutory law, having in view the needed stability of property rights and the public interest in general. To be sure, we have seriously reflected upon the dangers of evasion from punishment of culprits deserving of the severity of the law in cases where, as here, forgery is discovered after the probate of the will and the prosecution is had before the prescription of the offense. By and large, however, the balance seems inclined in favor of the view that we have taken. Not only does the law surround the execution of the will with the necessary formalities and require probate to be made after an elaborate judicial proceeding, but section 113, not to speak of section 513, of our Code of Civil Procedure provides for an adequate remedy to any party who might have been adversely affected by the probate of a forged will, much in the same way as other parties against whom a judgment is rendered under the same or similar circumstances. (Pecson vs. Coronel, 43 Phil., 358.)The aggrieved party may file an application for relief with the proper court within a reasonable time, but in no case exceeding six months after said court has rendered the judgment of probate, on the ground of mistake, inadvertence, surprise or excusable neglect. An appeal lies to review the action of a court of first instance when that court refuses to grant relief. (Banco Español Filipino vs. Palanca, 37 Phil., 921; Philippine Manufacturing Co. vs. Imperial, 47 Phil., 810; Samia vs. Medina, 56 Phil., 613.) After a judgment allowing a will to be probated has become final and unappealable, and after the period fixed by section 113 of the Code of Civil Procedure has expired, the

law as an expression of the legislative wisdom goes no further and the case ends there.

The court of chancery has no capacity, as the

. . . authorities have settled, to judge or decide whether a will is or is not a forgery; and hence there would be an incongruity in its assuming to set aside a probate decree establishing a will, on the ground that the decree was procured by fraud, when it can only arrive at the fact of such fraud by first deciding that the will was a forgery. There seems, therefore, to be a substantial reason, so long as a court of chancery is not allowed to judge of the validity of a will, except as shown by the probate, for the exception of probate decrees from the jurisdiction which courts of chancery exercise in setting aside other judgments obtained by fraud. But whether the exception be founded in good reason or otherwise, it has become too firmly established to be disregarded. At the present day, it would not be a greater assumption to deny the general rule that courts of chancery may set aside judgments procured by fraud, than to deny the exception to that rule in the case of probate decrees. We must acquiesce in the principle established by the authorities, if we are unable to approve of the reason. Judge Story was a staunch advocate for the most enlarged jurisdiction of courts of chancery, and was compelled to yield to the weight of authority. He says "No other excepted case is known to exist; and it is not easy to discover the grounds upon which this exception stands, in point of reason or principle, although it is clearly settled by authority. (1 Storys Eq. Jur. sec. 440.)" (State vs. McGlynn, 20 Cal., 233; 81 Am. Dec., 118, 129. See, also, Tracy vs. Muir, 121 American State Reports, 118, 125.)

We hold, therefore, that in view of the provisions of sections 306, 333 and 625 of our Code of Civil Procedure, criminal action will not lie in this jurisdiction against the forger of a will which had been duly admitted to probate by a court of competent jurisdiction.

The resolution of the foregoing legal question is sufficient to dispose of the case. However, the other legal question with reference to the denial to the accused of his right to a speedy trial having been squarely raised and submitted, we shall proceed to consider the same in the light of cases already adjudicated by this court.

2. The Constitution of the Philippines provides that "In all criminal

prosecutions the accused

. . .

shall enjoy the right

. . .

to have

a

speedy

. . .

trial. . . .

(Art. III, sec. 1, par. 17. See, also, G.O. No. 58,

sec. 15, No. 7.) Similar provisions are to be found in the Presidents

Instructions to the

Second Philippine Commission (par. 11), the

Philippine Bill of July 1, 1902 (sec. 5, par. 2) and the Jones Act of

August 29, 1916

(sec.

3,

par.

2).

The provisions

in

the foregoing

organic acts appear to have been taken from similar provisions in the Constitution of the United States (6th Amendment) and those of the various states of the American Union. A similar injunction is contained

in

the Malolos Constitution (art. 8, Title

IV),

not

to

speak of other

constitutions. More than once this court had occasion to set aside the

proceedings in criminal cases

to

give

effect to the constitutional

injunction of speedy trial. (Conde

vs. Judge

of First Instance and

Fiscal of Tayabas [1923], 45 Phil., 173; Conde vs. Rivera and Unson[1924], 45 Phil., 650; People vs. Castañeda and Fernandez[1936]), 35 Off. Gaz., 1269; Kalaw vs. Apostol, Oct. 15, 1937, G.R. No. 45591; Esguerra vs. De la Costa, Aug. 30,1938, G.R. No. 46039.).

In Conde vs. Rivera and Unson, supra, decided before the adoption of our Constitution, we said.

Philippine organic and statutory law expressly guarantee that in all criminal prosecutions the accused shall enjoy the right to have a speedy trial. Aurelia Conde, like all other accused persons, has a right to a speedy trial in order that if innocent she may go free, and she has been deprived of that right in defiance of law. Dismissed from her humble position, and compelled to dance attendance on courts while investigations and trials are arbitrarily postponed without her consent, is palpably and openly unjust to her

and a detriment to the public. By the use of reasonable diligence, the prosecution could have settled upon the appropriate information, could have attended to the formal preliminary examination, and could have prepared the case for a trial free from vexatious, capricious, and oppressive delays.

In People vs. Castañeda and Fernandez, supra, this court found that the accused had not been given a fair and impartial trial. The case was to have been remanded to the court a quo for a new trial before an impartial judge. This step, however, was found unnecessary. A review of the evidence convinced this court that a judgment of conviction for theft, as charged, could not be sustained and, having in view the right to a speedy trial guaranteed by the Constitution to every person accused of crime, entered a judgment acquitting the accused, with costs de oficio. We said.

The Constitution, Article III, section 1, paragraph 17,

. . . guarantees to every accused person the right to a speedy trial. This criminal proceeding has been dragging on for almost five years now. The accused have twice appealed to this court for redress from the wrong that they have suffered at the hands of the trial court. At least one of them, namely Pedro Fernandez alias Piro, had been con-fined in prison from July 20, 1932 to November 27, 1934, for inability to post the required bond of P3,000 which was finally reduced to P300. The Government should be the last to set an example of delay and oppression in the administration of justice and it is the moral and legal obligation of this court to see that the criminal proceedings

against the accused come to an end and that they be immediately dis-charged from the custody of the law. (Conde vs. Rivera and Unson, 45 Phil., 651.)

In Kalaw vs. Apostol, supra, the petitioner invoked and this court applied and gave effect to the doctrines stated in the second Conde case, supra. In granting the writs prayed for, this court, after referring

to the constitutional and statutory provisions guaranteeing to persons accused of crime the right to a speedy trial, said:

Se infiere de los preceptos legales transcritos que todo acusado en causa criminal tiene derecho a ser juzgado pronta y publicamente. Juicio rapido significa un juicioque se celebra de acuerdo con la ley de procedimiento criminal y los reglamentos, libre de dilaciones vejatorias, caprichosas y opersivas (Burnett vs. State, 76 Ark., 295; 88S. W., 956; 113 AMSR, 94; Stewart vs. State, 13 Ark., 720; Peo. vs. Shufelt, 61 Mich., 237; 28 N. W., 79; Nixon vs. State, 10 Miss., 497; 41 AMD., 601; State vs. Cole, 4 Okl. Cr., 25; 109 P., 736; State vs. Caruthers, 1 Okl. Cr., 428; 98 P., 474; State vs. Keefe, 17 Wyo., 227, 98 p., 122;22 IRANS, 896; 17 Ann. Cas., 161). Segun los hechos admitidos resulta que al recurrente se le concedio vista parcial del asunto, en el Juzgado de Primera Instancia de Samar, solo despues de haber transcurrido ya mas de un año y medio desde la presentacion de la primera querella y desde la recepcion de la causa en dicho Juzgado, y despues de haberse transferido dos veces la vista delasunto sin su consentimiento. A esto debe añadirse que laprimera transferencia de vista era claramente injustificadaporque el motivo que se alego consistio unicamente en laconveniencia personal del ofendido y su abogado, no habiendose probado suficientemente la alegacion del primero de quese hallaba enfermo. Es cierto que el recurrente habia pedido que, en vez de señalarse a vista el asunto para el mayo de 1936, lo fuera para el noviembre del mismo año; pero,aparte de que la razon que alego era bastante fuerte porquesu abogado se oponia a comparecer por compromisos urgentes contraidos con anterioridad y en tal circunstancia hubiera quedado indefenso si hubiese sido obligado a entraren juicio, aparece que la vista se pospuso por el Juzgado amotu proprio, por haber cancelado todo el calendario judicial preparado por el Escribano para el mes de junio.

Declaramos, con visto de estos hechos, que al recurrents se leprivo de su derecho fundamental de ser juzgado prontamente.

Esguerra vs. De la Costa, supra, was a petition for mandamus to compel the respondent judge of the Court of First Instance of Rizal to dismiss the complaint filed in a criminal case against the petitioner, to cancel the bond put up by the said petitioner and to declare the costs de oficio. In accepting the contention that the petitioner had been denied speedy trial, this court said:

Consta que en menos de un año el recurrente fue procesado criminalmente por el alegado delito de abusos deshonestos, en el Juzgado de Paz del Municipio de Cainta, Rizal. Como consecuencia de las denuncias que contra el se presentaron fue arrestado tres veces y para gozar de libertad provisional, en espera de los juicios, se vio obligado a prestartres fianzas por la suma de P1,000 cada una. Si no se da fin al proceso que ultimamente se ha incoado contra el recurrente la incertidumbre continuara cerniendose sobre el y las consiguientes molestias y preocupaciones continuaran igualmente abrumandole. El Titulo III, articulo 1, No. 17,de la Constitucion preceptua que en todo proceso criminalel acusado tiene derecho de ser juzgado pronta y publicamente. El Articulo 15, No. 7, de la Orden General No. 58 dispone asimismo que en las causas criminales el acusado tendra derecho a ser juzgado pronta y publicamente. Si el recurrente era realmente culpable del delito que se le imputo, tenia de todos modos derechos a que fuera juzgado pronta y publicamente y sin dilaciones arbitrarias y vejatorias. Hemos declarado reiteradamente que existe un remedio positivo para los casos en que se viola el derecho constitucional del acusado de ser juzgado prontamente. El acusado que esprivado de su derecho fundomental de ser enjuiciado rapidamente tiene derecho a pedir que se le ponga en libertad, si estuviese detenido, o a que la causa que pende

contra el sea sobreseida definitivamente. (Conde contra Rivera y Unson, 45 Jur. Fil., 682; In the matter of Ford [1911], 160 Cal., 334; U. S. vs. Fox [1880], 3 Mont., 512; Kalaw contra Apostol, R. G. No. 45591, Oct. 15, 1937; Pueblo contra Castañeda y Fernandez, 35 Gac. Of., 1357.)

We are again called upon to vindicate the fundamental right to a speedy trial. The facts of the present case may be at variance with those of the cases hereinabove referred to. Nevertheless, we are of the opinion that, under the circumstances, we should consider the substance of the right instead of indulging in more or less academic or undue factual differentiations. The petitioner herein has been arrested four times, has put up a bond in the sum of P4,000 and has engaged the services of counsel to undertake his defense an equal number of times. The first arrest was made upon a complaint filed by one of the intervenors herein for alleged falsification of a will which, sixteen months before, had been probated in court. This complaint, after investigation, was dismissed at the complainant's own request. The second arrest was made upon a complaint charging the same offense and this complaint, too, was dismissed at the behest of the complainant herself who alleged the quite startling ground that the petitioner was in poor health. The third arrest was made following the filing of an information by the provincial fiscal of Pampanga, which information was dismissed, after due investigation, because of insufficiency of the evidence. The fourth arrest was made when the provincial fiscal secured a reinvestigation of the case against the petitioner on the pretext that he had additional evidence to present, although such evidence does not appear to have ever been presented.

It is true that the provincial fiscal did not intervene in the case until February 2, 1934, when he presented an information charging the petitioner, for the third time, of the offense of falsification. This, however, does not matter. The prosecution of offenses is a matter of public interest and it is the duty of the government or those acting in its behalf to prosecute all cases to their termination without oppressive, capricious and vexatious delay. The Constitution does not

say that the right to a speedy trial may be availed of only where the prosecution for crime is commenced and undertaken by the fiscal. It does not exclude from its operation cases commenced by private individuals. Where once a person is prosecuted criminally, he is entitled to a speedy trial, irrespective of the nature of the offense or the manner in which it is authorized to be commenced. In any event, even the actuations of the fiscal himself in this case is not entirely free from criticism. From October 27, 1932, when the first complaint was filed in the justice of the peace court of San Fernando, to February 2, 1934, when the provincial fiscal filed his information with the justice of the peace of Mexico, one year, three months and six days transpired; and from April 27, 1933, when the second criminal complaint was dismissed by the justice of the peace of Mexico, to February 2, 1934, nine months and six days elapsed. The investigation following the fourth arrest, made after the fiscal had secured a reinvestigation of the case, appears also to have dragged on for about a year. There obviously has been a delay, and considering the antecedent facts and circumstances within the knowledge of the fiscal, the delay may not at all be regarded as permissible. In Kalaw vs. Apostol, supra, we observed that the prosecuting officer all prosecutions for public offenses (secs. 1681 and 2465 of the Rev. Adm. Code), and that it is his duty to see that criminal cases are heard without vexatious, capricious and oppressive delays so that the courts of justice may dispose of them on the merits and determine whether the accused is guilty or not. This is as clear an admonition as could be made. An accused person is entitled to a trial at the earliest opportunity. (Sutherland on the Constitution, p. 664; United States vs. Fox, 3 Mont., 512.) He cannot be oppressed by delaying he commencement of trial for an unreasonable length of time. If the proceedings pending trial are deferred, the trial itself is necessarily delayed. It is not to be supposed, of course, that the Constitution intends to remove from the prosecution every reasonable opportunity to prepare for trial. Impossibilities cannot be expected or extraordinary efforts required on the part of the prosecutor or the court. As stated by the Supreme Court of the United States, "The right of a speedy trial is necessarily relative. It is consistent with delays and depends upon circumstances. It secures rights to a defendant. It does not preclude the rights of

public justice." (Beavers vs. Haubert [1905], 198 U. S., 86; 25 S. Ct., 573; 49 Law. ed., 950, 954.).

It may be true, as seems admitted by counsel for the intervenors, in paragraph 8, page 3 of his brief, that the delay was due to "the efforts towards reaching an amicable extrajudicial compromise," but this fact, we think, casts doubt instead upon the motive which led the intervenors to bring criminal action against the petitioner. The petitioner claims that the intention of the intervenors was to press upon settlement, with the continuous threat of criminal prosecution, notwithstanding the probate of the will alleged to have been falsified. Argument of counsel for the petitioner in this regard is not without justification. Thus after the filing of the second complaint with the justice of the peace court of Mexico, complainant herself, as we have seen, asked for dismissal of the complaint, on the ground that "el acusado tenia la salud bastante delicada," and, apparently because of failure to arrive at any settlement, she decided to renew her complaint.

Counsel for the intervenors contend and the contention is sustained by the Court of Appeals that the petitioner did not complain heretofore of the denial of his constitutional right to a speedy trial. This is a mistake. When the petitioner, for the fourth time, was ordered arrested by the Court of First Instance of Pampanga, he moved for reconsideration of the order of arrest, alleging, among other things, "Que por estas continuas acusaciones e investigaciones, el acusado compareciente no obstante su mal estado de salud desde el año 1932 en que tuvo que ser operado por padecer de tuberculosis ha tenido que sostener litigios y ha sufrido la mar de humiliaciones y zozobras y ha incudo en enormes gastos y molestias y ha desatendido su quebrantada salud." The foregoing allegation was inserted on page 6 of the amended petition for certiorari presented to the Court of Appeals. The constitutional issue also appears to have been actually raised and considered in the Court of Appeals. In the majority opinion of that court, it is stated:

Upon the foregoing facts, counsel for the petitioner submits for the consideration of this court the following questions of law: First, that the respondent court acted arbitrarily and

with

abuse

of

its

authority, with serious

prejudice to the rights and

interests of the

damage

and

petitioner, in

allowing that the latter be prosecuted and arrested for the

fourth time, and that he be subjected, also for the fourth time, to a preliminary investigation for the same offense,

 

hereby converting the court into

an

instrument

of

oppression and

vengeance

on

the

part

of

the

alleged

offended parties, Rosario Basa et al.;

.

And

in

the

dissenting

opinion,

we

find

the

following

opening

paragraph:

 

We cannot join in a decision declining to stop a prosecution that has dragged for about five years and caused the arrest on four different occasions of a law abiding citizen for the alleged offense of falsifying a will that years be competent jurisdiction.

From the view we take of the instant case, the petitioner is entitled to have the criminal proceedings against him quashed. The judgment of the Court of Appeals is hereby reversed, without pronouncement regarding costs. So ordered.

Avanceña,

concur.

C.J.,

Villa-Real,

Imperial,

Diaz and Concepcion, JJ.,

G.R. No. L-32213 November 26, 1973

AGAPITA

N.

CRUZ,

petitioner,

vs.

HON. JUDGE GUILLERMO P. VILLASOR, Presiding Judge of

Branch I, Court

of

LUGAY, respondents.

First Instance of

Cebu, and MANUEL B.

Paul G. Gorrez for petitioner.

Mario D. Ortiz for respondent Manuel B. Lugay.

ESGUERRA, J.:

Petition to review on certiorari the judgment of the Court First Instance of Cebu allowing the probate of the last will a testament of the late Valente Z. Cruz. Petitioner-appellant Agapita N. Cruz, the surviving spouse of the said decease opposed the allowance of the will (Exhibit "E"), alleging the will was executed through fraud, deceit, misrepresentation and undue influence; that the said instrument was execute without the testator having been fully informed of the content thereof, particularly as to what properties he was disposing and that the supposed last will and testament was not executed in accordance with law. Notwithstanding her objection, the Court allowed the probate of the said last will and testament Hence this appeal by certiorari which was given due course.

The only question presented for determination, on which the decision of the case hinges, is whether the supposed last will and testament of Valente Z. Cruz (Exhibit "E") was executed in accordance with law, particularly Articles 805 and 806 of the new Civil Code, the first requiring at least three credible witnesses to attest and subscribe to the will, and the second requiring the testator and the witnesses to acknowledge the will before a notary public.

Of the three instrumental witnesses thereto, namely Deogracias T. Jamaloas Jr., Dr. Francisco Pañares and Atty. Angel H. Teves, Jr., one of them, the last named, is at the same time the Notary Public before whom the will was supposed to have been acknowledged. Reduced to simpler terms, the question was attested and subscribed by at least three credible witnesses in the presence of the testator and of each other, considering that the three attesting witnesses must appear before the notary public to acknowledge the same. As the third witness is the notary public himself, petitioner argues that the result is that only two witnesses appeared before the notary public to acknowledge the will. On the other hand, private respondent-appellee, Manuel B. Lugay, who is the supposed executor of the will, following the reasoning of the trial court, maintains that there is substantial compliance with the legal requirement of having at least three attesting witnesses even if the notary public acted as one of them,

bolstering up his stand with 57 American Jurisprudence, p. 227 which, insofar as pertinent, reads as follows:

It is said that there are, practical reasons for upholding a will as against the purely technical reason that one of the witnesses required by law signed as certifying to an acknowledgment of the testator's signature under oath rather than as attesting the execution of the instrument.

After weighing the merits of the conflicting claims of the parties, We

are inclined to sustain that of the appellant that the last will and testament in question was not executed in accordance with law. The notary public before whom the will was acknowledged cannot be considered as the third instrumental witness since he cannot

acknowledge before himself his having signed the will. To acknowledge before means to avow (Javellana v. Ledesma, 97 Phil. 258, 262; Castro v. Castro, 100 Phil. 239, 247); to own as genuine, to assent, to admit; and "before" means in front or preceding in space or ahead of. (The New Webster Encyclopedic Dictionary of the English Language, p. 72; Funk & Wagnalls New Standard Dictionary of the

English Language, p. 252; Webster's New International Dictionary 2d. p. 245.) Consequently, if the third witness were the notary public himself, he would have to avow assent, or admit his having signed the will in front of himself. This cannot be done because he cannot split his personality into two so that one will appear before the other to acknowledge his participation in the making of the will. To permit such a situation to obtain would be sanctioning a sheer absurdity.

Furthermore, the function of a notary public is, among others, to guard against any illegal or immoral arrangement Balinon v. De Leon, 50 0. G. 583.) That function would defeated if the notary public were one of the attesting instrumental witnesses. For them he would be interested sustaining the validity of the will as it directly involves him and the validity of his own act. It would place him in inconsistent position and the very purpose of acknowledgment, which is to minimize fraud (Report of Code Commission p. 106-107), would be thwarted.

Admittedly, there are American precedents holding that notary public may, in addition, act as a witness to the executive of the document he has notarized. (Mahilum v. Court Appeals, 64 0. G. 4017; 17 SCRA 482; Sawyer v. Cox, 43 Ill. 130). There are others holding that his signing merely as notary in a will nonetheless makes him a witness thereon (Ferguson v. Ferguson, 47 S. E. 2d. 346; In Re Douglas Will, N. Y. S. 2d. 641; Ragsdal v. Hill, 269 S. W. 2d. 911, Tyson Utterback, 122 So. 496; In Re Baybee's Estate 160 N. 900; W. Merill v. Boal, 132 A. 721; See also Trenwith v. Smallwood, 15 So. 1030). But these authorities do not serve the purpose of the law in this jurisdiction or are not decisive of the issue herein because the notaries public and witnesses referred to aforecited cases merely acted as instrumental, subscribing attesting witnesses, and not as acknowledging witnesses. He the notary public acted not only as attesting witness but also acknowledging witness, a situation not envisaged by Article 805 of the Civil Code which reads:

ART. 806. Every will must be acknowledged before a notary public by the testator and the witnesses. The notary public shall not be required to retain a copy of the will or file another with the office of the Clerk of Court. [Emphasis supplied]

To allow the notary public to act as third witness, or one the attesting and acknowledging witnesses, would have the effect of having only two attesting witnesses to the will which would be in contravention of the provisions of Article 80 be requiring at least three credible witnesses to act as such and of Article 806 which requires that the testator and the required number of witnesses must appear before the notary public to acknowledge the will. The result would be, as has been said, that only two witnesses appeared before the notary public for or that purpose. In the circumstances, the law would not be duly in observed.

FOR ALL THE FOREGOING, the judgment appealed from is hereby reversed and the probate of the last will and testament of Valente Z. Cruz (Exhibit "E") is declared not valid and hereby set aside.

Cost against the appellee.

Makalintal, C.J., Castro, Teehankee, Makasiar and Muñoz Palma, JJ., concur.

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