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G.R. No.

L-32328 September 30, 1977


TESTATE ESTATE OF THE LATE ADRIANO MALOTO: vs. FELINO MALOTO and FELINO MALOTO,

This is a petition to review the order dated April 13, 1970 of the Court of First Instance of Iloilo, Branch III, in Special Proceeding No.
2176 dismissing the petition for the probate of a will.

One Adriana Maloto died on October 20, 1963 in Iloilo City, her place of residence.

Aldina Maloto Casiano, Constancio Maloto, Panfilo Maloto, and Felino Maloto, niece and nephews, respectively, of Adriana Maloto, in
the belief that decedent died intestate, commenced on November 4, 1963 in the Court of First Instance of iloilo an intestate proceeding
docketed as Special Proceeding No. 1736. In the course of said intestate proceeding, Aldina Maloto Casiano, Constancio Maloto,
Panfilo Maloto and Felino Maloto executed an extrajudicial Partition of the estate of Adriana Maloto on February 1, 1964 whereby they
adjudicated said estate unto themselves in the proportion of one-fourth (1/4) share for each. 2 The Court of First Instance of iloilo, then
prescribed by Judge Emigdio V. Nietes, ed he diamond partition on March approve extrajudicial on March 21, 1964.

On April 1, 1967, a document dated January 3, 1940 purporting to be the last with and testament of Adriana Maloto was delivered to the
Clerk of Art of the Art of First Instant of Iloilo. 4 It appears that Aldina Maloto Casiano Consent Maloto, Panfilo Maloto, and Felino Maloto
are named as heirs but Maloto Casiano and Constancio Maloto allegedly have shares in said with which are bigger, different and more
valuable than what they obtained in the extrajudicial partition. The said will also allegedly made dispositions to certain devisees and/or
legatees, among whom being the Asilo de Molo, the Roman Catholic Church of Molo, and Purificacion Miraflor.

On May 24, 1967, Aldina Maloto Casiano and Constancio Maloto filed in Special Proceeding No. 1736 a motion (1) for reconsideration;
(2) annulment of the proceedings; and (3) for the allowance of the last will and testament of Adriana Maloto. 5 The Asilo de Molo, the
Roman Catholic Church of Molo, and Purificacion Miraflor also filed in Special Proceeding No. 1736 petitions for the allowance of the
will of Adriana Maloto.

Panfilo Maloto and Felino Maloto opposed the motion of Aldina Maloto Casiano and Constancio Maloto.

The Court of First Instance of iloilo, through Judge Emigdio V. Nietes, issued an order dated November 16, 1968 denying the motion to
reopen the proceedings on the ground that the said motion had been filed out of time. A motion for reconsideration of said order was
denied. Petitioners appealed from the order of denial. On motion of Panfilo Maloto and Felino Maloto, the lower court dismissed the
appeal on the ground that it was filed late. A motion for reconsideration of the order of dismissal was denied. A supplemental order
dated April 1, 1969 stating as additional ground that the appeal is improper was issued.

The petitioners filed a petition for certiorari and mandamus with the Supreme Court docketed as G.R. No. L-30479. This Court
dismissed the petition in a resolution dated May 14, 1969 which reads:

L-010479 (Constancio Maloto, et al, vs. Hon. Emigdio V. Nietes, etc., et al.) — THE COURT RESOLVED to dismiss
the petition for certiorari and mandamus, without passing on the issue of whether or not the petitioners appeal from
the order of November 16, 1968 of respondent Judge was made on time, it appearing that the more appropriate
remedy of petitioners in the premises stated in the petition is for petitioners to initiate a separate proceeding for the
probate of the alleged will in question.

Acting on the petitioners' motion for reconsideration and citation, fl Art issued a resolution dated July 15, 1969 which reads:

Acting on the motion for reconsideration and/or clarification filed by petitioner in G. R. No. L-30479, Constancio
Maloto, et al., vs. Hon. Emigdio V. Nietes, etc. et al., dated June 11, 1969, the Court resolved to DENY the motion for
reconsideration, with the clarification that the matter of whether or not the pertinent findings of facts of respondent
Judge in his herein subject order of November 16, 1968 constitute res adjudicata may be raised in the proceedings
for probate of the alleged will in question indicated in the resolution of this Court of May 14, 1969, wherein such
matter will be more appropriately determined.

Thereupon, the herein petitioners commenced Special Proceeding No. 2176 in the Court of First Instance of Iloilo for the probate of the
alleged last will and testament of Adriana Maloto.

Panfilo Maloto and Felino Maloto filed an opposition with a motion to dismiss on the following grounds:
I. THAT THE ALLEGED WILL SOUGHT TO BE PROBATED HAD BEEN DESTROYED AND REVOKED BY THE
TESTATRIX.
II. THAT THE INSTANT PETITION FOR PROBATE IS NOW BARRED BY PRIOR JUDGMENT OR ORDER (OR
RES JUDICATA).
III. THAT THE ESTATE OF THE LATE ADRIANA MALOTO HAD ALREADY PASSED OUT OF EXISTENCE AND
TITLE THERETO HAD ALREADY ARRESTED IN THE DISTRIBUTEES OF THEIR ASSIGNS.
IV. THAT PETITIONERS ALDINA MALOTO CASIANO AND CONSTANCIO MALOTO ARE NOW ESTOPPED
FROM SEEKING THE REMEDY TENDER THIS PROCEEDING, THEY HAVING CEASED TO BE INTERESTED
PARTIES.

In an order dated April 13, 1970, the probate court dismissed the petition for the probate of the with on the basis of the finding of said
court in Special Proceeding No. 1736 that the alleged win sought to be Probated had been destroyed and revoked by the testatrix. The
probate court sustained the oppositors' contention that the petition for probate is now barred by the order of November 16, 1968 in the
intestate estate proceeding, Special Proceeding No. 1736.

The herein petitioners allege that the probate court committed the following errors:
I
THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN HOLDING THAT THE .kl).NIITTEI)I,Y GENUINE LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT
OF THE LATE ADRIANA MALOTO (THE SUBJECT OF PETITION FOR PROBATE — SPECIAL PROCEEDING NO.
2176, CFI ILOILO) HAD PREVIOUSLY BEEN REVOKED BY HER (ADRIANA MALOTO).
II
THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN HOLDING THAT SAID PETITION (FOR PROBATE OF THE AFORESAID LAST
WILL AND TESTAMENT OF THE LATE ADRIANA MALOTO) IS NOW BARRED BY PRIOR JUDGMENT. I. E.,
THAT THE MATTER CONCERNED IS NOW RES ADJUDICATA
III
THE LOWER COURT, THEREFORE, ERRED IN DISMISSING THE AFORESAID PETITION FOR PROBATE OF
THE LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT OF THE LATE ADRIANA MALOTO AND IN NOT, INSTEAD, GIVING IT (THE
PETITION ABOVE-CITED DUE COURSE.

The instant petition for review is meritorious.

The probate court had no jurisdiction to entertain the petition for the probate of the alleged with of Adriana Maloto in Special Proceeding
No. 1736. Indeed, the motion to reopen the was denied because the same was filed out of time. Moreover, it is not proper to make a
finding in an intestate estate proceeding that the discovered will has been revoked. As a matter of fact, the probate court in Special
Proceeding No. 1736 stated in the order of November 16, 1968 that "Movants should have filed a separate action for the probate of the
Will." 13 And this court stated in its resolution of May 14, 1969 that "The more appropriate remedy of the petitioners in the premises
stated in the petition is for petitioners to initiate a separate proceeding for the probate of the alleged with in question."
In view of the foregoing, the order of November 16, 1968 in Special Proceeding No. 1736 is not a bar to the present petition for the
probate of the alleged will of Adriana Maloto.

WHEREFORE, the order dated April 13, 1970 dismissing the petition for the probate of the alleged will of Adriana Maloto is hereby set
aside and the lower court is directed to proceed with the hearing of the petition in Special Proceeding No. 2176 on the merits, with costs
against the respondents.

SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. L-24742 October 26, 1973


ROSA CAYETANO CUENCO vs. THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS

Petition for certiorari to review the decision of respondent Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. No. 34104-R, promulgated 21 November 1964,
and its subsequent Resolution promulgated 8 July 1964 denying petitioner's Motion for Reconsideration.

The pertinent facts which gave rise to the herein petition follow:

On 25 February 1964 Senator Mariano Jesus Cuenco died at the Manila Doctors' Hospital, Manila. He was survived by his widow, the
herein petitioner, and their two (2) minor sons, Mariano Jesus, Jr. and Jesus Salvador, both surnamed Cuenco, all residing at 69 Pi y
Margal St., Sta. Mesa Heights, Quezon City, and by his children of the first marriage, respondents herein, namely, Manuel Cuenco,
Lourdes Cuenco, Concepcion Cuenco Manguera, Carmen Cuenco, Consuelo Cuenco Reyes and Teresita Cuenco Gonzales, all of
legal age and residing in Cebu.

On 5 March 1964, (the 9th day after the death of the late Senator)1 respondent Lourdes Cuenco filed a Petition for Letters of
Administration with the court of first instance of Cebu (Sp. Proc. No. 2433-R), alleging among other things, that the late senator
died intestate in Manila on 25 February 1964; that he was a resident of Cebu at the time of his death; and that he left real and personal
properties in Cebu and Quezon City. On the same date, the Cebu court issued an order setting the petition for hearing on 10 April 1964,
directing that due notice be given to all the heirs and interested persons, and ordering the requisite publication thereof at LA PRENSA,
a newspaper of general circulation in the City and Province of Cebu.

The aforesaid order, however, was later suspended and cancelled and a new and modified one released on 13 March 1964, in view of
the fact that the petition was to be heard at Branch II instead of Branch I of the said Cebu court. On the same date, a third order was
further issued stating that respondent Lourdes Cuenco's petition for the appointment of a special administrator dated 4 March 1964 was
not yet ready for the consideration of the said court, giving as reasons the following:

It will be premature for this Court to act thereon, it not having yet regularly acquired jurisdiction to try this proceeding,
the requisite publication of the notice of hearing not yet having been complied with. Moreover, copies of the petition
have not been served on all of the heirs specified in the basic petition for the issuance of letters of administration.

In the meantime, or specifically on 12 March 1964, (a week after the filing of the Cebu petition) herein petitioner Rosa Cayetano
Cuenco filed a petition with the court of first instance of Rizal (Quezon City) for the probate of the deceased's last will and
testament and for the issuance of letters testamentary in her favor, as the surviving widow and executrix in the said last will and
testament. The said proceeding was docketed as Special Proceeding No. Q-7898.

Having learned of the intestate proceeding in the Cebu court, petitioner Rosa Cayetano Cuenco filed in said Cebu court an Opposition
and Motion to Dismiss, dated 30 March 1964, as well as an Opposition to Petition for Appointment of Special Administrator, dated 8
April 1964. On 10 April 1964, the Cebu court issued an order holding in abeyance its resolution on petitioner's motion to dismiss "until
after the Court of First Instance of Quezon City shall have acted on the petition for probate of that document purporting to be the last
will and testament of the deceased Don Mariano Jesus Cuenco." 3 Such order of the Cebu court deferring to the probate proceedings in
the Quezon City court was neither excepted to nor sought by respondents to be reconsidered or set aside by the Cebu court nor did
they challenge the same by certiorari or prohibition proceedings in the appellate courts.

Instead, respondents filed in the Quezon City court an Opposition and Motion to Dismiss, dated 10 April 1964, opposing probate of the
will and assailing the jurisdiction of the said Quezon City court to entertain petitioner's petition for probate and for appointment as
executrix in Sp. Proc. No. Q-7898 in view of the alleged exclusive jurisdiction vested by her petition in the Cebu court in Sp. Proc. No.
2433-R. Said respondent prayed that Sp. Proc. No. Q-7898 be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction and/or improper venue.

In its order of 11 April 1964, the Quezon City court denied the motion to dismiss, giving as a principal reason the "precedence of
probate proceeding over an intestate proceeding." 4 The said court further found in said order that the residence of the late senator at
the time of his death was at No. 69 Pi y Margal, Sta. Mesa Heights, Quezon City. The pertinent portion of said order follows:

On the question of residence of the decedent, paragraph 5 of the opposition and motion to dismiss reads as follows:
"that since the decedent Don Mariano Jesus Cuenco was a resident of the City of Cebu at the time of his death, the
aforesaid petition filed by Rosa Cayetano Cuenco on 12 March 1964 was not filed with the proper Court (wrong
venue) in view of the provisions of Section 1 of Rule 73 of the New Rules of Court ...". From the aforequoted
allegation, the Court is made to understand that the oppositors do not mean to say that the decedent being a resident
of Cebu City when he died, the intestate proceedings in Cebu City should prevail over the probate proceedings in
Quezon City, because as stated above the probate of the will should take precedence, but that the probate
proceedings should be filed in the Cebu City Court of First Instance. If the last proposition is the desire of the
oppositors as understood by this Court, that could not also be entertained as proper because paragraph 1 of the
petition for the probate of the will indicates that Don Mariano Jesus Cuenco at the time of his death was a resident of
Quezon City at 69 Pi y Margal. Annex A (Last Will and Testament of Mariano Jesus Cuenco) of the petition for
probate of the will shows that the decedent at the time when he executed his Last Will clearly stated that he is a
resident of 69 Pi y Margal, Sta. Mesa Heights, Quezon City, and also of the City of Cebu. He made the former as his
first choice and the latter as his second choice of residence." If a party has two residences, the one will be deemed or
presumed to his domicile which he himself selects or considers to be his home or which appears to be the center of
his affairs. The petitioner, in thus filing the instant petition before this Court, follows the first choice of residence of the
decedent and once this court acquires jurisdiction of the probate proceeding it is to the exclusion of all others.

Respondent Lourdes Cuenco's motion for reconsideration of the Quezon City court's said order of 11 April 1964 asserting its exclusive
jurisdiction over the probate proceeding as deferred to by the Cebu court was denied on 27 April 1964 and a second motion for
reconsideration dated 20 May 1964 was likewise denied.

On 11 May 1964, pursuant to its earlier order of 11 April 1964, the hearing for probate of the last will of the decedent was called three
times at half-hour intervals, but notwithstanding due notification none of the oppositors appeared and the Quezon City court proceeded
at 9:00 a.m. with the hearing in their absence.

As per the order issued by it subsequently on 15 May 1964, the Quezon City court noted that respondents-oppositors had opposed
probate under their opposition and motion to dismiss on the following grounds:

(a) That the will was not executed and attested as required by law;
(b) That the will was procured by undue and improper pressure and influence on the part of the beneficiary or some
other persons for his benefit;
(c) That the testator's signature was procured by fraud and/or that the testator acted by mistake and did not intend
that the instrument he signed should be his will at the time he affixed his signature thereto.

The Quezon City court further noted that the requisite publication of the notice of the hearing had been duly complied with and that all
the heirs had been duly notified of the hearing, and after receiving the testimony of the three instrumental witnesses to the decedent's
last will, namely Atty. Florencio Albino, Dr. Guillermo A. Picache and Dr. Jose P. Ojeda, and of the notary public, Atty. Braulio A. Arriola,
Jr., who ratified the said last will, and the documentary evidence (such as the decedent's residence certificates, income tax return,
diplomatic passport, deed of donation) all indicating that the decedent was a resident of 69 Pi y Margal St., Quezon City, as also
affirmed by him in his last will, the Quezon City court in its said order of 15 May 1964 admitted to probate the late senator's last will and
testament as having been "freely and voluntarily executed by the testator" and "with all formalities of the law" and appointed petitioner-
widow as executrix of his estate without bond "following the desire of the testator" in his will as probated.

Instead of appealing from the Quezon City court's said order admitting the will to probate and naming petitioner-widow as executrix
thereof, respondents filed a special civil action of certiorari and prohibition with preliminary injunction with respondent Court of Appeals
(docketed as case CA-G.R. No. 34104-R) to bar the Rizal court from proceeding with case No. Q-7898.

On 21 November 1964, the Court of Appeals rendered a decision in favor of respondents (petitioners therein) and against the herein
petitioner, holding that:
Section 1, Rule 73, which fixes the venue in proceedings for the settlement of the estate of a deceased person,
covers both testate and intestate proceedings. Sp. Proc. 2433-R of the Cebu CFI having been filed ahead, it is that
court whose jurisdiction was first invoked and which first attached. It is that court which can properly and exclusively
pass upon the factual issues of (1) whether the decedent left or did not leave a valid will, and (2) whether or not the
decedent was a resident of Cebu at the time of his death.

Considering therefore that the first proceeding was instituted in the Cebu CFI (Special Proceeding 2433-R), it follows
that the said court must exercise jurisdiction to the exclusion of the Rizal CFI, in which the petition for probate was
filed by the respondent Rosa Cayetano Cuenco (Special Proceeding Q-7898). The said respondent should assert her
rights within the framework of the proceeding in the Cebu CFI, instead of invoking the jurisdiction of another court.
The respondents try to make capital of the fact that on March 13, 1964, Judge Amador Gomez of the Cebu CFI,
acting in Sp. Proc. 2433-R, stated that the petition for appointment of special administrator was "not yet ready for the
consideration of the Court today. It would be premature for this Court to act thereon, it not having yet regularly
acquired jurisdiction to try this proceeding ... . " It is sufficient to state in this connection that the said judge was
certainly not referring to the court's jurisdiction over the res, not to jurisdiction itself which is acquired from the
moment a petition is filed, but only to the exercise of jurisdiction in relation to the stage of the proceedings. At all
events, jurisdiction is conferred and determined by law and does not depend on the pronouncements of a trial judge.

The dispositive part of respondent appellate court's judgment provided as follows:


ACCORDINGLY, the writ of prohibition will issue, commanding and directing the respondent Court of First Instance of
Rizal, Branch IX, Quezon City, and the respondent Judge Damaso B. Tengco to refrain perpetually from proceeding
and taking any action in Special Proceeding Q-7898 pending before the said respondent court. All orders heretofore
issued and actions heretofore taken by said respondent court and respondent Judge, therein and connected
therewith, are hereby annulled. The writ of injunction heretofore issued is hereby made permanent. No
pronouncement as to costs.

Petitioner's motion for reconsideration was denied in a resolution of respondent Court of Appeals, dated 8 July 1965; hence the herein
petition for review on certiorari.

The principal and decisive issue at bar is, theretofore, whether the appellate court erred in law in issuing the writ of prohibition against
the Quezon City court ordering it to refrain perpetually from proceeding with the testateproceedings and annulling and setting aside all
its orders and actions, particularly its admission to probate of the decedent's last will and testament and appointing petitioner-widow as
executrix thereof without bond in compliance with the testator's express wish in his testament. This issue is tied up with the issue
submitted to the appellate court, to wit, whether the Quezon City court acted without jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion in
taking cognizance and assuming exclusive jurisdiction over the probate proceedings filed with it, in pursuance of the Cebu court's order
of 10 April 1964 expressly consenting in deference to the precedence of probate over intestate proceedings that it (the Quezon City
court) should first act "on the petition for probate of the document purporting to be the last will and testament of the deceased Don
Mariano Jesus Cuenco" - which order of the Cebu court respondents never questioned nor challenged by prohibition
or certiorari proceedings and thus enabled the Quezon City court to proceed without any impediment or obstruction, once it denied
respondent Lourdes Cuenco's motion to dismiss the probate proceeding for alleged lack of jurisdiction or improper venue, to proceed
with the hearing of the petition and to admit the will to probate upon having been satisfied as to its due execution and authenticity.
The Court finds under the above-cited facts that the appellate court erred in law in issuing the writ of prohibition against the Quezon City
court from proceeding with the testate proceedings and annulling and setting aside all its orders and actions, particularly its admission
to probate of the deceased's last will and testament and appointing petitioner-widow as executrix thereof without bond pursuant to the
deceased testator's express wish, for the following considerations:

The Judiciary Act7 concededly confers original jurisdiction upon all Courts of First Instance over "all matter of probate, both of testate
and intestate estates." On the other hand, Rule 73, section of the Rules of Court lays down the rule of venue, as the very caption of the
Rule indicates, and in order to prevent conflict among the different courts which otherwise may properly assume jurisdiction from doing
so, the Rule specifies that "the court first taking cognizance of the settlement of the estate of a decedent, shall exercise jurisdiction to
the exclusion of all other courts." The cited Rule provides:

Section 1. Where estate of deceased persons settled. If the decedent is an inhabitant of the Philippines at the time of his death,
whether a citizen or an alien, his will shall be proved, or letters of administration granted, and his estate settled, in the Court of First
Instance in the Province in which he resides at the time of his death, and if he is an inhabitant of a foreign country, the Court of First
Instance of the province in which he had estate. The court first taking cognizance of the settlement of the estate of a decedent,
shall exercise jurisdiction to the exclusion of all other courts. The jurisdiction assumed by a court, so far as it depends on the place of
residence, of the decedent, or of the location of his estate, shall not be contested in a suit or proceeding, except in an appeal from that
court, in the original case, or when the want of jurisdiction appears on the record. (Rule 73)

It is equally conceded that the residence of the deceased or the location of his estate is not an element of jurisdiction over the subject
matter but merely of venue. This was lucidly stated by the late Chief Justice Moran in Sy Oa vs. Co Ho9 as follows:

We are not unaware of existing decisions to the effect that in probate cases the place of residence of the deceased is regarded as a
question of jurisdiction over the subject-matter. But we decline to follow this view because of its mischievous consequences. For
instance, a probate case has been submitted in good faith to the Court of First Instance of a province where the deceased had not
resided. All the parties, however, including all the creditors, have submitted themselves to the jurisdiction of the court and the case is
therein completely finished except for a claim of a creditor who also voluntarily filed it with said court but on appeal from an adverse
decision raises for the first time in this Court the question of jurisdiction of the trial court for lack of residence of the deceased in the
province. If we consider such question of residence as one affecting the jurisdiction of the trial court over the subject-matter, the effect
shall be that the whole proceedings including all decisions on the different incidents which have arisen in court will have to
be annulled and the same case will have to be commenced anew before another court of the same rank in another province. That this
is of mischievous effect in the prompt administration of justice is too obvious to require comment. (Cf. Tanunchuan vs. Dy Buncio & Co.,
G.R. No. 48206, December 31, 1942) Furthermore, section 600 of Act No. 190, 10 providing that the estate of a deceased person shall
be settled in the province where he had last resided, could not have been intended as defining the jurisdiction of the probate court over
the subject-matter, because such legal provision is contained in a law of procedure dealing merely with procedural matters, and, as we
have said time and again, procedure is one thing and jurisdiction over the subject matter is another. (Attorney-General vs. Manila
Railroad Company, 20 Phil. 523.) The law of jurisdiction — Act No. 136, 11Section 56, No. 5 — confers upon Courts of First Instance
jurisdiction over all probate cases independently of the place of residence of the deceased. Since, however, there are many courts of
First Instance in the Philippines, the Law of Procedure, Act No. 190, section 600, fixes the venue or the place where each case shall be
brought. Thus, the place of residence of the deceased is not an element of jurisdiction over the subject-matter but merely of venue. And
it is upon this ground that in the new Rules of Court the province where the estate of a deceased person shall be settled is properly
called "venue".

It should be noted that the Rule on venue does not state that the court with whom the estate or intestate petition is first filed acquires
exclusive jurisdiction.

The Rule precisely and deliberately provides that "the court first taking cognizance of the settlement of the estate of a decedent,
shall exercise jurisdiction to the exclusion of all other courts."

A fair reading of the Rule — since it deals with venue and comity between courts of equal and co-ordinate jurisdiction — indicates that
the court with whom the petition is first filed, must also first take cognizance of the settlement of the estate in order to exercise
jurisdiction over it to the exclusion of all other courts.

Conversely, such court, may upon learning that a petition for probate of the decedent's last will has been presented in another court
where the decedent obviously had his conjugal domicile and resided with his surviving widow and their minor children, and that the
allegation of the intestate petition before it stating that the decedent died intestatemay be actually false, may decline to take
cognizance of the petition and hold the petition before it in abeyance, and instead defer to the second court which has before it the
petition for probate of the decedent's alleged last will.

This exactly what the Cebu court did. Upon petitioner-widow's filing with it a motion to dismiss Lourdes' intestate petition, it issued its
order holding in abeyance its action on the dismissal motion and deferred to the Quezon City court, awaiting its action on the petition
for probate before that court. Implicit in the Cebu court's order was that if the will was duly admitted to probate, by the Quezon City
court, then it would definitely decline to take cognizance of Lourdes' intestate petition which would thereby be shown to be false and
improper, and leave the exercise of jurisdiction to the Quezon City court, to the exclusion of all other courts. Likewise by its act of
deference, the Cebu court left it to the Quezon City court to resolve the question between the parties whether the
decedent's residence at the time of his death was in Quezon City where he had his conjugal domicile rather than in Cebu City as
claimed by respondents. The Cebu court thus indicated that it would decline to take cognizance of the intestate petition before it and
instead defer to the Quezon City court, unless the latter would make a negative finding as to the probate petition and the residence of
the decedent within its territory and venue.

Under these facts, the Cebu court could not be held to have acted without jurisdiction or with grave abuse of jurisdiction in declining to
take cognizance of the intestate petition and deferring to the Quezon City court.

Necessarily, neither could the Quezon City court be deemed to have acted without jurisdiction in taking cognizance of and acting on the
probate petition since under Rule 73, section 1, the Cebu court must first take cognizance over the estate of the decedent and
must exercise jurisdiction to exclude all other courts, which the Cebu court declined to do. Furthermore, as is undisputed, said rule only
lays down a rule of venue and the Quezon City court indisputably had at least equal and coordinate jurisdiction over the estate.
Since the Quezon City court took cognizance over the probate petition before it and assumed jurisdiction over the estate, with the
consent and deference of the Cebu court, the Quezon City court should be left now, by the same rule of venue of said Rule 73, to
exercise jurisdiction to the exclusion of all other courts.
Under the facts of the case and where respondents submitted to the Quezon City court their opposition to probate of the will, but failed
to appear at the scheduled hearing despite due notice, the Quezon City court cannot be declared, as the appellate court did, to have
acted without jurisdiction in admitting to probate the decedent's will and appointing petitioner-widow as executrix thereof in accordance
with the testator's testamentary disposition.
12 13
The relatively recent case of Uriarte vs. Court of First Instance of Negros Occidental with facts analogous to the present case is
authority against respondent appellate court's questioned decision.

In said case, the Court upheld the doctrine of precedence of probate proceedings over intestate proceedings in this wise:

It can not be denied that a special proceeding intended to effect the distribution of the estate of a deceased person, whether in
accordance with the law on intestate succession or in accordance with his will, is a "probate matter" or a proceeding for the settlement
of his estate. It is equally true, however, that in accordance with settled jurisprudence in this jurisdiction, testate proceedings for the
settlement of the estate of a deceased person take precedence over intestate proceedings for the same purpose. Thus it has been held
repeatedly that, if in the course of intestate proceedings pending before a court of first instance it is found that the decedent had left a
last will, proceedings for the probate of the latter should replace the intestate proceedings even if at that state an administrator had
already been appointed, the latter being required to render final account and turn over the estate in his possession to the executor
subsequently appointed. This however, is understood to be without prejudice that should the alleged last will be rejected or is
disapproved, the proceeding shall continue as an intestacy. As already adverted to, this is a clear indication that proceedings for the
probate of a will enjoy priority over intestate proceedings.

The Court likewise therein upheld the jurisdiction of the second court, (in this case, the Quezon City court) although opining that certain
considerations therein "would seem to support the view that [therein respondent] should have submitted said will for probate to the
Negros Court, [in this case, the Cebu court] either in a separate special proceeding or in an appropriate motion for said purpose filed in
the already pending Special Proceeding No. 6344," 15 thus:

But the fact is that instead of the aforesaid will being presented for probate to the Negros Court, Juan Uriarte Zamacona filed the
petition for the purpose with the Manila Court. We can not accept petitioner's contention in this regard that the latter court had no
jurisdiction to consider said petition, albeit we say that it was not the proper venue therefor.

It is well settled in this jurisdiction that wrong venue is merely a waivable procedural defect, and, in the light of the circumstances
obtaining in the instant case, we are of the opinion, and so hold, that petitioner has waived the right to raise such objection or is
precluded from doing so by laches. It is enough to consider in this connection that petitioner knew of the existence of a will executed by
Juan Uriarte y Goite since December 19, 1961 when Higinio Uriarte filed his opposition to the initial petition filed in Special Proceeding
No. 6344; that petitioner likewise was served with notice of the existence (presence) of the alleged last will in the Philippines and of the
filing of the petition for its probate with the Manila Court since August 28, 1962 when Juan Uriarte Zamacona filed a motion for the
dismissal of Special Proceeding No. 6344. All these notwithstanding, it was only on April 15, 1963 that he filed with the Manila Court in
Special Proceeding No. 51396 an Omnibus motion asking for leave to intervene and for the dismissal and annulment of all the
proceedings had therein up to that date; thus enabling the Manila Court not only to appoint an administrator with the will annexed but
also to admit said will to probate more than five months earlier, or more specifically, on October 31, 1962. To allow him now to assail
the exercise of jurisdiction over the probate of the will by the Manila Court and the validity of all the proceedings had in Special
Proceeding No. 51396 would put a premium on his negligence. Moreover, it must be remembered that this Court is not inclined to annul
proceedings regularly had in a lower court even if the latter was not the proper venue therefor, if the net result would be to have the
same proceedings repeated in some other court of similar jurisdiction; more so in a case like the present where the objection against
said proceedings is raised too late.

5. Under Rule 73, section 1 itself, the Quezon City court's assumption of jurisdiction over the decedent's estate on the basis of the will
duly presented for probate by petitioner-widow and finding that Quezon City was the first choiceof residence of the decedent, who had
his conjugal home and domicile therein — with the deference in comity duly given by the Cebu court — could not be contested except
by appeal from said court in the original case. The last paragraph of said Rule expressly provides:

... The jurisdiction assumed by a court, so far as it depends on the place of residence of the decedent, or of the
location of his estate, shall not be contested in a suit or proceeding, except in an appeal from that court, in the original
case, or when the want of jurisdiction appears on the record. (Rule 73)

The exception therein given, viz, "when the want of jurisdiction appears on the record" could probably be properly invoked, had
such deference in comity of the Cebu court to the Quezon City court not appeared in the record, or had the record otherwise shown that
the Cebu court had taken cognizance of the petition before it and assumed jurisdiction.
6. On the question that Quezon City established to be the residence of the late senator, the appellate court while recognizing that "the
issue is a legitimate one" held in reliance on Borja vs. Tan 17 that.

... The issue of residence comes within the competence of whichever court is considered to prevail in the exercise jurisdiction - in this
case, the Court of First Instance of Cebu as held by this Court. Parenthetically, we note that the question of the residence of the
deceased is a serious one, requiring both factual and legal resolution on the basis of ample evidence to be submitted in the ordinary
course of procedure in the first instance, particularly in view of the fact that the deceased was better known as the Senator from Cebu
and the will purporting to be his also gives Cebu, besides Quezon City, as his residence. We reiterate that this matter requires airing in
the proper court, as so indicated in the leading and controlling case of Borja vs. Hon. Bienvenido Tan, et al., G.R. L-7792, July 27,
1955.

In the case at bar, however, the Cebu court declined to take cognizance of the intestate petition first filed with it and deferred to
the testate proceedings filed with the Quezon City court and in effect asked the Quezon City court to determine the residence of the
decedent and whether he did leave a last will and testament upon which would depend the proper venue of the estate proceedings,
Cebu or Quezon City. The Quezon City court having thus determined in effect for both courts — at the behest and with the deference
and consent of the Cebu court — that Quezon City was the actual residence of the decedent who died testate and therefore the proper
venue, the Borja ruling would seem to have no applicability. It would not serve the practical ends of justice to still require the Cebu
court, if the Borja ruling is to be held applicable and as indicated in the decision under review, to determine for itself the actual
residence of the decedent (when the Quezon City court had already so determined Quezon City as the actual residence at the Cebu
court's behest and respondents have not seriously questioned this factual finding based on documentary evidence) and if the Cebu
court should likewise determine Quezon City as the actual residence, or its contrary finding reversed on appeal, only then to allow
petitioner-widow after years of waiting and inaction to institute the corresponding proceedings in Quezon City.
7. With more reason should the Quezon City proceedings be upheld when it is taken into consideration that Rule 76, section 2 requires
that the petition for allowance of a will must show: "(a) the jurisdictional facts." Such "jurisdictional facts" in probate proceedings, as held
by the Court in Fernando vs. Crisostomo 18 " are the death of the decedent, his residence at the time of his death in the province where
the probate court is sitting, or if he is an inhabitant of a foreign country, his having left his estate in such province."

This tallies with the established legal concept as restated by Moran that "(T)he probate of a will is a proceeding in rem. The notice by
publication as a pre-requisite to the allowance of a will, is a constructive notice to the whole world, and when probate is granted, the
judgment of the court is binding upon everybody, even against the State. The probate of a will by a court having jurisdiction thereof is
conclusive as to its due execution and validity." 19 The Quezon City court acted regularly within its jurisdiction (even if it were to be
conceded that Quezon City was not the proper venue notwithstanding the Cebu court's giving way and deferring to it,) in admitting the
decedent's last will to probate and naming petitioner-widow as executrix thereof. Hence, the Quezon city court's action should not be
set aside by a writ of prohibition for supposed lack of jurisdiction as per the appellate court's appealed decision, and should instead be
sustained in line with Uriarte, supra, where the Court, in dismissing the certiorari petition challenging the Manila court's action admitting
the decedent's will to probate and distributing the estate in accordance therewith in the second proceeding, held that "it must be
remembered that this Court is not inclined to annul proceedings regularly had in a lower court even if the latter was not the proper
venue therefor, if the net result would be to have the same proceedings repeated in some other court of similar jurisdiction." As stressed
by Chief Justice Moran in Sy Oa, supra, "the mischievous effect in the administration of justice" of considering the question
of residence as affecting the jurisdiction of the trial court and annulling the whole proceedings only to start all over again the same
proceedings before another court of the same rank in another province "is too obvious to require comment."

8. If the question of jurisdiction were to be made to depend only on who of the decedent's relatives gets first to file a petition for
settlement of the decedent's estate, then the established jurisprudence of the Court that Rule 73, section 1 provides only a rule
of venue in order to preclude different courts which may properly assume jurisdiction from doing so and creating conflicts between them
to the detriment of the administration of justice, and that venue is waivable, would be set at naught. As between relatives who
unfortunately do not see eye to eye, it would be converted into a race as to who can file the petition faster in the court of his/her choice
regardless of whether the decedent is still in cuerpo presente and in disregard of the decedent's actual last domicile, the fact that he left
a last will and testament and the right of his surviving widow named as executrix thereof. Such dire consequences were certainly not
intended by the Rule nor would they be in consonance with public policy and the orderly administration of justice.

9. It would finally be unjust and inequitable that petitioner-widow, who under all the applicable rules of venue, and despite the fact that
the Cebu court (where respondent Lourdes Cuenco had filed an intestate petition in the Cebu court earlier by a week's time on 5 March
1964) deferred to the Quezon City court where petitioner had within fifteen days (on March 12, 1964) after the decedent's death (on
February 25, 1964) timely filed the decedent's last will and petitioned for letters testamentary and is admittedly entitled to preference in
the administration of her husband's estate, 20 would be compelled under the appealed decision to have to go all the way to Cebu and
submit anew the decedent's will there for probate either in a new proceeding or by asking that the intestate proceedings
be convertedinto a testate proceeding — when under the Rules, the proper venue for the testate proceedings, as per the facts of record
and as already affirmed by the Quezon City court is Quezon City, where the decedent and petitioner-widow had their conjugal domicile.
It would be an unfair imposition upon petitioner as the one named and entitled to be executrix of the decedent's last will and settle his
estate in accordance therewith, and a disregard of her rights under the rule on venue and the law on jurisdiction to require her to spend
much more time, money and effort to have to go from Quezon City to the Cebu court everytime she has an important matter of the
estate to take up with the probate court.

It would doubly be an unfair imposition when it is considered that under Rule 73, section 2, 21 since petitioner's marriage has been
dissolved with the death of her husband, their community property and conjugal estate have to be administered and liquidated in the
estate proceedings of the deceased spouse. Under the appealed decision, notwithstanding that petitioner resides in Quezon City, and
the proper venue of the testate proceeding was in Quezon City and the Quezon City court properly took cognizance and exercised
exclusive jurisdiction with the deference in comity and consent of the Cebu court, such proper exercise of jurisdiction would be nullified
and petitioner would have to continually leave her residence in Quezon City and go to Cebu to settle and liquidate
even her own community property and conjugal estate with the decedent.

10. The Court therefore holds under the facts of record that the Cebu court did not act without jurisdiction nor with grave abuse of
discretion in declining to take cognizance of the intestate petition and instead deferring to the testateproceedings filed just a week later
by petitioner as surviving widow and designated executrix of the decedent's last will, since the record before it (the petitioner's
opposition and motion to dismiss) showed the falsity of the allegation in the intestate petition that the decedent had died without a will. It
is noteworthy that respondents never challenged by certiorari or prohibition proceedings the Cebu court's order of 10 April 1964
deferring to the probate proceedings before the Quezon City court, thus leaving the latter free (pursuant to the Cebu court's order of
deference) to exercise jurisdiction and admit the decedent's will to probate.

For the same reasons, neither could the Quezon City court be held to have acted without jurisdiction nor with grave abuse of
discretion in admitting the decedent's will to probate and appointing petitioner as executrix in accordance with its testamentary
disposition, in the light of the settled doctrine that the provisions of Rule 73, section 1 lay down only a rule of venue, not of jurisdiction.
Since respondents undisputedly failed to appeal from the Quezon City court's order of May 15, 1964 admitting the will to probate and
appointing petitioner as executrix thereof, and said court concededly has jurisdiction to issue said order, the said order of probate has
long since become final and can not be overturned in a special civic action of prohibition.

11. Finally, it should be noted that in the Supreme Court's exercise of its supervisory authority over all inferior courts, 22 it may properly
determine, as it has done in the case at bar, that venue was properly assumed by and transferredto the Quezon City court and that it is
the interest of justice and in avoidance of needless delay that the Quezon City court's exercise of jurisdiction over the testate estate of
the decedent (with the due deference and consent of the Cebu court) and its admission to probate of his last will and testament and
appointment of petitioner-widow as administratrix without bond in pursuance of the decedent's express will and all its orders and actions
taken in the testate proceedings before it be approved and authorized rather than to annul all such proceedings regularly had and to
repeat and duplicate the same proceedings before the Cebu court only to revert once more to the Quezon City court should the Cebu
court find that indeed and in fact, as already determined by the Quezon City court on the strength of incontrovertible documentary
evidence of record, Quezon City was the conjugal residence of the decedent.

ACCORDINGLY, judgment is hereby rendered reversing the appealed decision and resolution of the Court of Appeals and the petition
for certiorari and prohibition with preliminary injunction originally filed by respondents with the Court of Appeals (CA-G.R. No. 34104-R)
is ordered dismissed. No costs.

Separate Opinions

BARREDO, J., concurring:


I concur in the main opinion of Mr. Justice Teehankee.
I only want to stress that in my view, the failure of respondents to question within a reasonable time the laying of the venu e in the
Quezon City Court of First Instance and the assumption of jurisdiction by that court, after the Court of First Instance of Cebu deferred in
its favor, in order to prevent the holding therein of any proceeding and trial, and their having filed therein a formal opposition to the
probate of the will, makes them guilty of laches, for which reason they are not entitled to the equitable relief prayed for in the present
petition.

Separate Opinions
BARREDO, J., concurring:
I concur in the main opinion of Mr. Justice Teehankee.
I only want to stress that in my view, the failure of respondents to question within a reasonable time the laying of the venue in the
Quezon City Court of First Instance and the assumption of jurisdiction by that court, after the Court of First Instance of Cebu deferred in
its favor, in order to prevent the holding therein of any proceeding and trial, and their having filed therein a formal opposition to the
probate of the will, makes them guilty of laches, for which reason they are not entitled to the equitable relief prayed for in the present
petition.

G.R. No. 198680 July 8, 2013

HEIRS OF MAGDALENO YPON vs. GAUDIOSO PONTERAS RICAFORTE

This is a direct recourse to the Court from the Regional Trial Court of Toledo City, Branch 59 (RTC), through a petition for review on
certiorari1 under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, raising a pure question of law. In particular, petitioners assail the July 27, 2011 2 and
August 31, 20113 Orders of the RTC, dismissing Civil Case No. T-2246 for lack of cause of action.

On July 29, 2010, petitioners, together with some of their cousins,4 filed a complaint for Cancellation of Title and Reconveyance with
Damages (subject complaint) against respondent Gaudioso Ponteras Ricaforte a.k.a. "Gaudioso E. Ypon" (Gaudioso), docketed as
Civil Case No. T-2246.5 In their complaint, they alleged that Magdaleno Ypon (Magdaleno) died intestate and childless on June 28,
1968, leaving behind Lot Nos. 2-AA, 2-C, 2-F, and 2-J which were then covered by Transfer Certificates of Title (TCT) Nos. T-44 and T-
77-A.6 Claiming to be the sole heir of Magdaleno, Gaudioso executed an Affidavit of Self-Adjudication and caused the cancellation of
the aforementioned certificates of title, leading to their subsequent transfer in his name under TCT Nos. T-2637 and T-2638,7 to the
prejudice of petitioners who are Magdaleno’s collateral relatives and successors-in-interest.

In his Answer, Gaudioso alleged that he is the lawful son of Magdaleno as evidenced by: (a) his certificate of Live Birth; (b) two (2)
letters from Polytechnic School; and (c) a certified true copy of his passport. 9 Further, by way of affirmative defense, he claimed that: (a)
petitioners have no cause of action against him; (b) the complaint fails to state a cause of action; and (c) the case is not prosecuted by
the real parties-in-interest, as there is no showing that the petitioners have been judicially declared as Magdaleno’s lawful heirs.

On July 27, 2011, the RTC issued the assailed July 27, 2011 Order, 11 finding that the subject complaint failed to state a cause of action
against Gaudioso. It observed that while the plaintiffs therein had established their relationship with Magdaleno in a previous special
proceeding for the issuance of letters of administration, 12 this did not mean that they could already be considered as the decedent’s
compulsory heirs. Quite the contrary, Gaudioso satisfactorily established the fact that he is Magdaleno’s son – and hence, his
compulsory heir – through the documentary evidence he submitted which consisted of: (a) a marriage contract between Magdaleno and
Epegenia Evangelista; (b) a Certificate of Live Birth; (c) a Letter dated February 19, 1960; and (d) a passport.13
The plaintiffs therein filed a motion for reconsideration which was, however, denied on August 31, 2011 due to the counsel’s failure to
state the date on which his Mandatory Continuing Legal Education Certificate of Compliance was issued. 14
Aggrieved, petitioners, who were among the plaintiffs in Civil Case No. T-2246,15 sought direct recourse to the Court through the instant
petition.

The Issue Before the Court


The core of the present controversy revolves around the issue of whether or not the RTC’s dismissal of the case on the ground that the
subject complaint failed to state a cause of action was proper.

The Court’s Ruling


The petition has no merit.
Cause of action is defined as the act or omission by which a party violates a right of another.16 It is well-settled that the existence of a
cause of action is determined by the allegations in the complaint. 17 In this relation, a complaint is said to assert a sufficient cause of
action if, admitting what appears solely on its face to be correct, the plaintiff would be entitled to the relief prayed for.18Accordingly, if the
allegations furnish sufficient basis by which the complaint can be maintained, the same should not be dismissed, regardless of the
defenses that may be averred by the defendants.

As stated in the subject complaint, petitioners, who were among the plaintiffs therein, alleged that they are the lawful heirs of
Magdaleno and based on the same, prayed that the Affidavit of Self-Adjudication executed by Gaudioso be declared null and void and
that the transfer certificates of title issued in the latter’s favor be cancelled. While the foregoing allegations, if admitted to be true, would
consequently warrant the reliefs sought for in the said complaint, the rule that the determination of a decedent’s lawful heirs should be
made in the corresponding special proceeding 20 precludes the RTC, in an ordinary action for cancellation of title and reconveyance,
from granting the same. In the case of Heirs of Teofilo Gabatan v. CA, 21 the Court, citing several other precedents, held that the
determination of who are the decedent’s lawful heirs must be made in the proper special proceeding for such purpose, and not in an
ordinary suit for recovery of ownership and/or possession, as in this case

Jurisprudence dictates that the determination of who are the legal heirs of the deceased must be made in the proper special
proceedings in court, and not in an ordinary suit for recovery of ownership and possession of property.1âwphi1 This must take
precedence over the action for recovery of possession and ownership. The Court has consistently ruled that the trial court cannot make
a declaration of heirship in the civil action for the reason that such a declaration can only be made in a special proceeding. Under
Section 3, Rule 1 of the 1997 Revised Rules of Court, a civil action is defined as one by which a party sues another for the enforcement
or protection of a right, or the prevention or redress of a wrong while a special proceeding is a remedy by which a party seeks to
establish a status, a right, or a particular fact. It is then decisively clear that the declaration of heirship can be made only in a special
proceeding inasmuch as the petitioners here are seeking the establishment of a status or right

In the early case of Litam, et al. v. Rivera, this Court ruled that the declaration of heirship must be made in a special proceeding, and
not in an independent civil action. This doctrine was reiterated in Solivio v. Court of Appeals
In the more recent case of Milagros Joaquino v. Lourdes Reyes, the Court reiterated its ruling that matters relating to the rights of
filiation and heirship must be ventilated in the proper probate court in a special proceeding instituted precisely for the purpose of
determining such rights. Citing the case of Agapay v. Palang, this Court held that the status of an illegitimate child who claimed to be an
heir to a decedent's estate could not be adjudicated in an ordinary civil action which, as in this case, was for the recovery of
property.22 (Emphasis and underscoring supplied; citations omitted)

By way of exception, the need to institute a separate special proceeding for the determination of heirship may be dispensed with for the
sake of practicality, as when the parties in the civil case had voluntarily submitted the issue to the trial court and already presented their
evidence regarding the issue of heirship, and the RTC had consequently rendered judgment thereon, 23 or when a special proceeding
had been instituted but had been finally closed and terminated, and hence, cannot be re-opened.24
In this case, none of the foregoing exceptions, or those of similar nature, appear to exist. Hence, there lies the need to institute the
proper special proceeding in order to determine the heirship of the parties involved, ultimately resulting to the dismissal of Civil Case
No. T-2246.

Verily, while a court usually focuses on the complaint in determining whether the same fails to state a cause of action, a court cannot
disregard decisions material to the proper appreciation of the questions before it. 25 Thus, concordant with applicable jurisprudence,
since a determination of heirship cannot be made in an ordinary action for recovery of ownership and/or possession, the dismissal of
Civil Case No. T-2246 was altogether proper. In this light, it must be pointed out that the RTC erred in ruling on Gaudioso’s heirship
which should, as herein discussed, be threshed out and determined in the proper special proceeding. As such, the foregoing
pronouncement should therefore be devoid of any legal effect.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The dismissal of Civil Case No. T-2246 is hereby AFFIRMED, without prejudice to any
subsequent proceeding to determine the lawful heirs of the late Magdaleno Ypon and the rights concomitant therewith.
SO ORDERED.

[G.R. No. 127920. August 9, 2005]

EMILIO B. PACIOLES, JR. vs. MIGUELA CHUATOCO-CHING

Oftentimes death brings peace only to the person who dies but not to the people he leaves behind. For in death, a persons estate
remains, providing a fertile ground for discords that break the familial bonds. Before us is another case that illustrates such reality.
Here, a husband and a mother of the deceased are locked in an acrimonious dispute over the estate of their loved one.

This is a petition for review on certiorari filed by Emilio B. Pacioles, Jr., herein petitioner, against Miguela Chuatoco-Ching, herein
respondent, assailing the Court of Appeals Decision [1] dated September 25, 1996 and Resolution[2] dated January 27, 1997 in CA-G.R.
SP No. 41571.[3] The Appellate Court affirmed the Order dated January 17, 1996 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 99, Quezon
City denying petitioners motion for partition and distribution of the estate of his wife, Miguelita Ching-Pacioles; and his motion for
reconsideration.

The facts are undisputed.

On March 13, 1992, Miguelita died intestate, leaving real properties with an estimated value of P10.5 million, stock investments
worth P518,783.00, bank deposits amounting to P6.54 million, and interests in certain businesses. She was survived by her husband,
petitioner herein, and their two minor children.

Consequently, on August 20, 1992, petitioner filed with the RTC a verified petition [4] for the settlement of Miguelitas estate. He prayed
that (a) letters of administration be issued in his name, and (b) that the net residue of the estate be divided among the compulsory
heirs.

Miguelitas mother, Miguela Chuatoco-Ching, herein respondent, filed an opposition, specifically to petitioners prayer for the issuance of
letters of administration on the grounds that (a) petitioner is incompetent and unfit to exercise the duties of an administrator; and (b) the
bulk of Miguelitas estate is composed of paraphernal properties. Respondent prayed that the letters of administration be issued to her
instead.[5] Afterwards, she also filed a motion for her appointment as special administratrix. [6]

Petitioner moved to strike out respondents opposition, alleging that the latter has no direct and material interest in the estate, she not
being a compulsory heir, and that he, being the surviving spouse, has the preferential right to be appointed as administrator under the
law.

Respondent countered that she has direct and material interest in the estate because she gave half of her inherited properties to
Miguelita on condition that both of them would undertake whatever business endeavor they decided to, in the capacity of
business partners.

In her omnibus motion[9] dated April 23, 1993, respondent nominated her son Emmanuel Ching to act as special administrator.

On April 20, 1994, the intestate court issued an order appointing petitioner and Emmanuel as joint regular administrators of the
estate.[10] Both were issued letters of administration after taking their oath and posting the requisite bond.

Consequently, Notice to Creditors was published in the issues of the Manila Standard on September 12, 19, and 26, 1994. However, no
claims were filed against the estate within the period set by the Revised Rules of Court.

Thereafter, petitioner submitted to the intestate court an inventory of Miguelitas estate. [11] Emmanuel did not submit an inventory.

On May 17, 1995, the intestate court declared petitioner and his two minor children as the only compulsory heirs of Miguelita.[12]
On July 21, 1995, petitioner filed with the intestate court an omnibus motion [13] praying, among others, that an Order be issued directing
the: 1) payment of estate taxes; 2) partition and distribution of the estate among the declared heirs; and 3) payment of attorneys
fees.

Respondent opposed petitioners motion on the ground that the partition and distribution of the estate is premature and precipitate,
considering that there is yet no determination whether the properties specified in the inventory are conjugal, paraphernal or owned in a
joint venture.[14] Respondent claimed that she owns the bulk of Miguelitas estate as an heir and co-owner. Thus, she prayed
that a hearing be scheduled.

On January 17, 1996, the intestate court allowed the payment of the estate taxes and attorneys fees but denied petitioners prayer
for partition and distribution of the estate, holding that it is indeed premature. The intestate court ratiocinated as follows:

On the partition and distribution of the deceaseds properties, among the declared heirs, the Court finds the prayer of petitioner in this
regard to be premature. Thus, a hearing on oppositors claim as indicated in her opposition to the instant petition is necessary to
determine whether the properties listed in the amended complaint filed by petitioner are entirely conjugal or the paraphernal
properties of the deceased, or a co-ownership between the oppositor and the petitioner in their partnership venture.

Petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration but it was denied in the Resolution dated May 7, 1996.

Forthwith, petitioner filed with the Court of Appeals a petition for certiorari seeking to annul and set aside the intestate courts Order
dated January 17, 1996 and Resolution dated May 7, 1996 which denied petitioners prayer for partition and distribution of the estate for
being premature, indicating that it (intestate court) will first resolve respondents claim of ownership.

The Appellate Court dismissed the petition for certiorari, holding that in issuing the challenged Order and Resolution, the intestate court
did not commit grave abuse of discretion.

The Appellate Court ruled:

Regarding the second issue raised, respondent judge did not commit grave abuse of discretion in entertaining private respondents
unsupported claim of ownership against the estate. In fact, there is no indication that the probate court has already made a finding of
title or ownership. It is inevitable that in probate proceedings, questions of collation or of advancement are involved for these are
matters which can be passed upon in the course of the proceedings. The probate court in exercising its prerogative to schedule a
hearing, to inquire into the propriety of private respondents claim, is being extremely cautious in determining the composition of the
estate. This act is not tainted with an iota of grave abuse of discretion.

Petitioner moved for a reconsideration but it was likewise denied. Hence, this petition for review on certiorari anchored on the following
assignments of error:

RESPONDENT COURTS DECISION WHICH AFFIRMS THE INTESTATE COURTS ORDER IS A GRAVE ERROR FOR BEING
CONTRARY TO THE SETTLED JURISPRUDENCE AND POLICY OF THE LAW THAT ESTATE PROCEEDINGS MUST BE
SETTLED EXPEDITIOUSLY.

II

RESPONDENT COURT COMMITTED GRAVE ERROR IN SUSTAINING THE INTESTATE COURTS ORDER TO CONDUCT
HEARING ON THE ISSUE OF OWNERSHIP CLAIM AGAINST THE ESTATE, AS SAID FUNCTION IS OUTSIDE AND BEYOND THE
JURISDICTION OF THE INTESTATE COURT.

III

RESPONDENT COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN AFFIRMING THE INTESTATE COURTS ORDER AND RESOLUTION
NOTWITHSTANDING THAT RESPONDENT CHINGS OWNERSHIP CLAIMS ARE CONFLICTING, FRIVOLOUS AND BASELESS.

The fundamental issue for our resolution is: May a trial court, acting as an intestate court, hear and pass upon questions of ownership
involving properties claimed to be part of the decedents estate?

The general rule is that the jurisdiction of the trial court either as an intestate or a probate court relates only to matters having to do with
the settlement of the estate and probate of will of deceased persons but does not extend to the determination of questions of
ownership that arise during the proceedings.[15] The patent rationale for this rule is that such court exercises special and limited
jurisdiction.[16]

A well-recognized deviation to the rule is the principle that an intestate or a probate court may hear and pass upon questions of
ownership when its purpose is to determine whether or not a property should be included in the inventory. In such situations the
adjudication is merely incidental and provisional. Thus, in Pastor, Jr. vs. Court of Appeals,[17]we held:

x x x As a rule, the question of ownership is an extraneous matter which the probate court cannot resolve with finality. Thus, for the
purpose of determining whether a certain property should or should not be included in the inventory of estate properties, the
probate court may pass upon the title thereto, but such determination is provisional, not conclusive, and is subject to the final
decision in a separate action to resolve title.

The Court of Appeals relied heavily on the above principle in sustaining the jurisdiction of the intestate court to conduct a hearing on
respondents claim. Such reliance is misplaced. Under the said principle, the key consideration is that the purpose of the intestate or
probate court in hearing and passing upon questions of ownership is merely to determine whether or not a property should be
included in the inventory. The facts of this case show that such was not the purpose of the intestate court.

First, the inventory was not disputed. In fact, in her Manifestation and Opposition [18] dated September 18, 1995, respondent expressly
adopted the inventory prepared by petitioner, thus:

6. She adopts the inventory submitted by the petitioner in his Amended Compliance dated October 6, 1994, and filed only on
November 4, 1994 not October 5, 1995 as erroneously asserted in Par. 12 of the Omnibus Motion. Oppositor, however, takes exception
to the low valuation placed on the real estate properties and reserves her right to submit a more accurate and realistic pricing on each.
Respondent could have opposed petitioners inventory and sought the exclusion of the specific properties which she believed or
considered to be hers. But instead of doing so, she expressly adopted the inventory, taking exception only to the low valuation placed
on the real estate properties.

And second, Emmanuel, respondents son and representative in the settlement of Miguelitas estate, did not submit his own inventory.
His mandate, as co-administrator, is to submit within three (3) months after his appointment a true inventory and appraisal of all the real
and personal estate of the deceased which have come into his possession or knowledge.[19] He could have submitted an inventory,
excluding therefrom those properties which respondent considered to be hers. The fact that he did not endeavor to submit
one shows that he acquiesced with petitioners inventory.

Obviously, respondents purpose here was not to obtain from the intestate court a ruling of what properties should or should not be
included in the inventory. She wanted something else, i.e., to secure from the intestate court a final determination of her claim of
ownership over properties comprising the bulk of Miguelitas estate. The intestate court went along with respondent on this point
as evident in its Resolution[20] dated May 7, 1996, thus:

On petitioners motion for partition and distribution of the estate of the late Miguelita Ching Pacioles, it is believed that since oppositor
had interposed a claim against the subject estate, the distribution thereof in favor of the heirs could not possibly be implemented as
there is still a need for appropriate proceedings to determine the propriety of oppositors claim. It must be mentioned that if it is true that
oppositor owns the bulk of the properties, which she allegedly placed/registered in the name of the deceased for convenience,
Oppositor, therefore, has a material and direct interest in the estate and hence, should be given her day in Court.

It is apparent from the foregoing Resolution that the purpose of the hearing set by the intestate court was actually to determine the
propriety of oppositors (respondents) claim. According to the intestate court, if it is true that the oppositor (respondent) owns
the bulk of (Miguelitas) properties, then it means that she has amaterial and direct interest in the estate and, hence, she should
be given her day in court. The intended day in court or hearing is geared towards resolving the propriety of respondents contention
that she is the true owner of the bulk of Miguelitas estate.

Surely, we cannot be deluded by respondents ingenious attempt to secure a proceeding for the purpose of resolving her blanket claim
against Miguelitas estate. Although, she made it appear that her only intent was to determine the accuracy of petitioners inventory,
however, a close review of the facts and the pleadings reveals her real intention.

Clearly, the RTC, acting as an intestate court, had overstepped its jurisdiction. Its proper course should have been to maintain a hands-
off stance on the matter. It is well-settled in this jurisdiction, sanctioned and reiterated in a long line of decisions, that when a question
arises as to ownership of property alleged to be a part of the estate of the deceased person, but claimed by some other person to be
his property, not by virtue of any right of inheritance from the deceased but by title adverse to that of the deceased and his estate, such
question cannot be determined in the course of an intestate or probate proceedings. The intestate or probate court has no
jurisdiction to adjudicate such contentions, which must be submitted to the court in the exercise of its general jurisdiction as
a regional trial court.[21] Jurisprudence teaches us that:

[A] probate court or one in charge of proceedings whether testate or intestate cannot adjudicate or determine title to
properties claimed to be a part of the estate and which are claimed to belong to outside parties. All that the said court could do
as regards said properties is to determine whether they should or should not be included in the inventory or list of properties to be
administered by the administrator. If there is no dispute, well and good, but if there is, then the parties, the administrator, and
the opposing parties have to resort to an ordinary action for a final determination of the conflicting claims of title because the
probate court cannot do so.

Hence, respondents recourse is to file a separate action with a court of general jurisdiction. The intestate court is not the appropriate
forum for the resolution of her adverse claim of ownership over properties ostensibly belonging to Miguelita's estate.

Now, even assuming that the intestate court merely intended to make a provisional or prima facie determination of the issue of
ownership, still respondents claim cannot prosper. It bears stressing that the bulk of Miguelitas estate, as stated in petitioners inventory,
comprises real estates covered by the Torrens System which are registered either in the name of Miguelita alone or with petitioner. As
such, they are considered the owners of the properties until their title is nullified or modified in an appropriate ordinary
action. We find this Courts pronouncement in Bolisay vs. Alcid[23] relevant, thus:

It does not matter that respondent-administratrix has evidence purporting to support her claim of ownership, for, on the other hand,
petitioners have a Torrens title in their favor, which under the law is endowed with incontestability until after it has been set aside in the
manner indicated in the law itself, which, of course, does not include, bringing up the matter as a mere incident in special
proceedings for the settlement of the estate of deceased persons. x x x

In regard to such incident of inclusion or exclusion, We hold that if a property covered by Torrens Title is involved, the presumptive
conclusiveness of such title should be given due weight, and in the absence of strong compelling evidence to the contrary, the holder
thereof should be considered as the owner of the property in controversy until his title is nullified or modified in an
appropriate ordinary action, particularly, when as in the case at bar, possession of the property itself is in the persons named
in the title. x x x

Corrolarily, P.D. 1529, otherwise known as, The Property Registration Decree, proscribes collateral attack against Torrens Title, hence:

Section 48. Certificate not subject to collateral attack.

A certificate of title shall not be subject to collateral attack. It cannot be altered, modified or cancelled except in a direct
proceeding in accordance with law.

Significantly, a perusal of the records reveals that respondent failed to present convincing evidence to bolster her bare assertion of
ownership. We quote her testimony, thus:

Q: I now direct your attention to paragraph (5) appearing on page 1 of this sworn statement of yours which I quote: In
accordance with the Chinese tradition and culture in the distribution of properties to the legal heirs, we decided to give
only a token to our daughter Miguelita and leave the rest to our only son Emmanuel, with the undertaking that being the
son he will take full responsibility of the rest of the family despite his marriage. Madame witness, do you recall having
stated that in your sworn statement?
A: Yes sir, but it was not carried out.
Q What was actually given to your daughter Miguelita is only a token, is that right?
A: Not a token, sir, but one half of the share of the estate was given to Lita and the other half was given to Emmanuel.
Q: What went to Emmanuel was also , is that right?
A: Yes, sir.
Q: What makes up the one half share of Lita, if you recall?
A: What was given to her were all checks, sir, but I cannot remember any more the amount.

xxxxxx

Q: Summing up your testimony, Madame, you cannot itemize the one half share of the estate of Miguelita, is that
right?
A: Yes, sir.
Q: Was there any document covering this partition of the estate among you, Emmanuel and Miguelita with respect
to the estate of your late husband?
A: If I only knew that this will happen
Q: Samakatuwid po ay walang dokumento?
A: Wala po.[24]
She further testified as follows:
Q: Among the properties listed like the various parcels of land, stocks, investments, bank accounts and deposits
both here and abroad, interests and participation in IFS Pharmaceuticals and Medical Supplies, Inc. and
various motor vehicles, per your pleasure, Madam Witness, how should these properties be partitioned or
what should be done with these properties? According to you earlier, you are agreeable for the partition of the
said properties with Emil on a 50-50 basis, is that right?
A: Kung ano po ang sa akin, iyon ang dapat na bumalik sa akin, sir.
Q Halimbawa ay ano po iyon? Real estate properties, parcels of land located in Pag-Asa, in Silangan, in San Lazaro,
in Sta. Cruz, in San Francisco del Monte and shares of stock. Alinsunod sa inyo, paano po ang dapat na
partihan o hatian ninyo ni Emil?
A: Kung ano ang sa akin

xxxxxx

Q Ang tanong ko po sa inyo ay ganito, ito po ba ang inyong iminungkahi kay Emil? Ito po ba ang inyong
paghahatian or hindi?
A: Iyo akin talaga na hindi nila pinaghirapan, sir.[25]
Unfortunately, respondent could not even specify which of the properties listed in petitioners inventory belong to her. Neither could
she present any document to prove her claim of ownership. The consistently changing basis of her claim did nothing to improve her
posture. Initially, she insisted that the bulk of Miguelitas estate is composed of paraphernal properties. [26] Sensing that such assertion
could not strengthen her claim of ownership, she opted to change her submission and declare that she and Miguelita were business
partners and that she gave to the latter most of her properties to be used in a joint business venture. [27] Respondent must have realized
early on that if the properties listed in petitioners inventory are paraphernal, then Miguelita had the absolute title and ownership over
them and upon her death, such properties would be vested to her compulsory heirs, petitioner herein and their two minor children.[28]
At any rate, we must stress that our pronouncements herein cannot diminish or deprive respondent of whatever rights or
properties she believes or considers to be rightfully hers. We reiterate that the question of ownership of properties alleged to be part of
the estate must be submitted to the Regional Trial Court in the exercise of its general jurisdiction. [29]

WHEREFORE, the instant petition is GRANTED. The assailed Decision and Resolution of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP
No. 41571 are hereby REVERSED.
SO ORDERED.

BERSAMIN, J.:
The probate court is authorized to determine the issue of ownership of properties for purposes of their inclusion or exclusion from the
inventory to be submitted by the administrator, but its determination shall only be provisional unless the interested parties are all heirs
of the decedent, or the question is one of collation or advancement, or the parties consent to the assumption of jurisdiction by the
probate court and the rights of third parties are not impaired. Its jurisdiction extends to matters incidental or collateral to the settlement
and distribution of the estate, such as the determination of the status of each heir and whether property included in the inventory is the
conjugal or exclusive property of the deceased spouse.

Antecedents

Emigdio S. Mercado (Emigdio) died intestate on January 12, 1991, survived by his second wife, Teresita V. Mercado (Teresita), and
their five children, namely: Allan V. Mercado, Felimon V. Mercado, Carmencita M. Sutherland, Richard V. Mercado, and Maria Teresita
M. Anderson; and his two children by his first marriage, namely: respondent Franklin L. Mercado and petitioner Thelma M. Aranas
(Thelma).

Emigdio inherited and acquired real properties during his lifetime. He owned corporate shares in Mervir Realty Corporation (Mervir
Realty) and Cebu Emerson Transportation Corporation (Cebu Emerson). He assigned his real properties in exchange for corporate
stocks of Mervir Realty, and sold his real property in Badian, Cebu (Lot 3353 covered by Transfer Certificate of Title No. 3252) to Mervir
Realty.

On June 3, 1991, Thelma filed in the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Cebu City a petition for the appointment of Teresita as the
administrator of Emigdio's estate (Special Proceedings No. 3094-CEB).[1] The RTC granted the petition considering that there was no
opposition. The letters of administration in favor of Teresita were issued on September 7, 1992.
As the administrator, Teresita submitted an inventory of the estate of Emigdio on December 14, 1992 for the consideration and
approval by the RTC. She indicated in the inventory that at the time of his death, Emigdio had "left no real properties but only personal
properties" worth P6,675,435.25 in all, consisting of cash of P32,141.20; furniture and fixtures worth P20,000.00; pieces of jewelry
valued at P15,000.00; 44,806 shares of stock of Mervir Realty worth P6,585,585.80; and 30 shares of stock of Cebu Emerson worth
P22,708.25.[2]

Claiming that Emigdio had owned other properties that were excluded from the inventory, Thelma moved that the RTC direct Teresita to
amend the inventory, and to be examined regarding it. The RTC granted Thelma's motion through the order of January 8, 1993.

On January 21, 1993, Teresita filed a compliance with the order of January 8, 1993,[3] supporting her inventory with copies of three
certificates of stocks covering the 44,806 Mervir Realty shares of stock; [4] the deed of assignment executed by Emigdio on January 10,
1991 involving real properties with the market value of P4,440,651.10 in exchange for 44,407 Mervir Realty shares of stock with total
par value of P4,440,700.00;[5] and the certificate of stock issued on January 30, 1979 for 300 shares of stock of Cebu Emerson worth
P30,000.00.[6]

On January 26, 1993, Thelma again moved to require Teresita to be examined under oath on the inventory, and that she (Thelma) be
allowed 30 days within which to file a formal opposition to or comment on the inventory and the supporting documents Teresita had
submitted.

On February 4, 1993, the RTC issued an order expressing the need for the parties to present evidence and for Teresita to be examined
to enable the court to resolve the motion for approval of the inventory. [7]

On April 19, 1993, Thelma opposed the approval of the inventory, and asked leave of court to examine Teresita on the inventory.

With the parties agreeing to submit themselves to the jurisdiction of the court on the issue of what properties should be included in or
excluded from the inventory, the RTC set dates for the hearing on that issue.[8]

Ruling of the RTC

After a series of hearings that ran for almost eight years, the RTC issued on March 14, 2001 an order finding and holding that the
inventory submitted by Teresita had excluded properties that should be included, and accordingly ruled:

WHEREFORE, in view of all the foregoing premises and considerations, the Court hereby denies the administratrix's motion for
approval of inventory. The Court hereby orders the said administratrix to re-do the inventory of properties which are supposed to
constitute as the estate of the late Emigdio S. Mercado by including therein the properties mentioned in the last five immediately
preceding paragraphs hereof and then submit the revised inventory within sixty (60) days from notice of this order.

The Court also directs the said administratrix to render an account of her administration of the estate of the late Emigdio S. Mercado
which had come to her possession. She must render such accounting within sixty (60) days from notice hereof.

SO ORDERED.[9]

On March 29, 2001, Teresita, joined by other heirs of Emigdio, timely sought the reconsideration of the order of March 14, 2001 on the
ground that one of the real properties affected, Lot No. 3353 located in Badian, Cebu, had already been sold to Mervir Realty, and that
the parcels of land covered by the deed of assignment had already come into the possession of and registered in the name of Mervir
Realty.[10] Thelma opposed the motion.

On May 18, 2001, the RTC denied the motion for reconsideration,[11] stating that there was no cogent reason for the reconsideration,
and that the movants' agreement as heirs to submit to the RTC the issue of what properties should be included or excluded from the
inventory already estopped them from questioning its jurisdiction to pass upon the issue.

Decision of the CA

Alleging that the RTC thereby acted with grave abuse of discretion in refusing to approve the inventory, and in ordering her as
administrator to include real properties that had been transferred to Mervir Realty, Teresita, joined by her four children and her stepson
Franklin, assailed the adverse orders of the RTC promulgated on March 14, 2001 and May 18, 2001 by petition for certiorari, stating:

THE HONORABLE RESPONDENT JUDGE HAS COMMITTED GRAVE ABUSE OF JURISDICTION (sic) AMOUNTING TO LACK OR
EXCESS OF JURISDICTION IN HOLDING THAT THE REAL PROPERTY WHICH WAS SOLD BY THE LATE EMIGDIO S.
MERCADO DURING HIS LIFETIME TO A PRIVATE CORPORATION (MERVIR REALTY CORPORATION) BE INCLUDED IN THE
INVENTORY OF THE ESTATE OF THE LATE EMIGDIO S. MERCADO.

II

THE HONORABLE RESPONDENT JUDGE HAS COMMITTED GRAVE ABUSE OF JURISDICTION (sic) AMOUNTING TO LACK OR
EXCESS OF JURISDICTION IN HOLDING THAT REAL PROPERTIES WHICH ARE IN THE POSSESSION OF AND ALREADY
REGISTERED IN THE NAME (OF) PRIVATE CORPORATION (MERVIR REALTY CORPORATION) BE INCLUDED IN THE
INVENTORY OF THE ESTATE OF THE LATE EMIGDIO S. MERCADO.

III

THE HONORABLE RESPONDENT JUDGE HAS COMMITTED GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION AMOUNTING TO LACK OR
EXCESS OF JURISDICTION IN HOLDING THAT PETITIONERS ARE NOW ESTOPPED FROM QUESTIONING ITS JURISDICTION
IN PASSING UPON THE ISSUE OF WHAT PROPERTIES SHOULD BE INCLUDED IN THE INVENTORY OF THE ESTATE OF THE
LATE EMIGDIO MERCADO.[12]

On May 15, 2002, the CA partly granted the petition for certiorari, disposing as follows: [13]
WHEREFORE, FOREGOING PREMISES CONSIDERED, this petition is GRANTED partially. The assailed Orders dated March 14,
2001 and May 18, 2001 are hereby reversed and set aside insofar as the inclusion of parcels of land known as Lot No. 3353 located at
Badian, Cebu with an area of 53,301 square meters subject matter of the Deed of Absolute Sale dated November 9, 1989 and the
various parcels of land subject matter of the Deeds of Assignment dated February 17, 1989 and January 10, 1991 in the revised
inventory to be submitted by the administratrix is concerned and affirmed in all other respects.

SO ORDERED.

The CA opined that Teresita, et al. had properly filed the petition for certiorari because the order of the RTC directing a new inventory of
properties was interlocutory; that pursuant to Article 1477 of the Civil Code, to the effect that the ownership of the thing sold "shall be
transferred to the vendee" upon its "actual and constructive delivery," and to Article 1498 of the Civil Code, to the effect that the sale
made through a public instrument was equivalent to the delivery of the object of the sale, the sale by Emigdio and Teresita had
transferred the ownership of Lot No. 3353 to Mervir Realty because the deed of absolute sale executed on November 9, 1989 had been
notarized; that Emigdio had thereby ceased to have any more interest in Lot 3353; that Emigdio had assigned the parcels of land to
Mervir Realty as early as February 17, 1989 "for the purpose of saving, as in avoiding taxes with the difference that in the Deed of
Assignment dated January 10, 1991, additional seven (7) parcels of land were included"; that as to the January 10, 1991 deed of
assignment, Mervir Realty had been "even at the losing end considering that such parcels of land, subject matter(s) of the Deed of
Assignment dated February 12, 1989, were again given monetary consideration through shares of stock"; that even if the assignment
had been based on the deed of assignment dated January 10, 1991, the parcels of land could not be included in the inventory
"considering that there is nothing wrong or objectionable about the estate planning scheme"; that the RTC, as an intestate court, also
had no power to take cognizance of and determine the issue of title to property registered in the name of third persons or corporation;
that a property covered by the Torrens system should be afforded the presumptive conclusiveness of title; that the RTC, by
disregarding the presumption, had transgressed the clear provisions of law and infringed settled jurisprudence on the matter; and that
the RTC also gravely abused its discretion in holding that Teresita, et al. were estopped from questioning its jurisdiction because of
their agreement to submit to the RTC the issue of which properties should be included in the inventory.

The CA further opined as follows:

In the instant case, public respondent court erred when it ruled that petitioners are estopped from questioning its jurisdiction considering
that they have already agreed to submit themselves to its jurisdiction of determining what properties are to be included in o r excluded
from the inventory to be submitted by the administratrix, because actually, a reading of petitioners' Motion for Reconsideration dated
March 26, 2001 filed before public respondent court clearly shows that petitioners are not questioning its jurisdiction but the manner in
which it was exercised for which they are not estopped, since that is their right, considering that there is grave abuse of discretion
amounting to lack or in excess of limited jurisdiction when it issued the assailed Order dated March 14, 2001 denying the
administratrix's motion for approval of the inventory of properties which were already titled and in possession of a third person that is,
Mervir Realty Corporation, a private corporation, which under the law possessed a personality distinct and separate from its
stockholders, and in the absence of any cogency to shred the veil of corporate fiction, the presumption of conclusiveness of said titles in
favor of Mervir Realty Corporation should stand undisturbed.

Besides, public respondent court acting as a probate court had no authority to determine the applicability of the doctrine of piercing the
veil of corporate fiction and even if public respondent court was not merely acting in a limited capacity as a probate court, private
respondent nonetheless failed to adjudge competent evidence that would have justified the court to impale the veil of corporate fiction
because to disregard the separate jurisdictional personality of a corporation, the wrongdoing must be clearly and convincingly
established since it cannot be presumed.[14]

On November 15, 2002, the CA denied the motion for reconsideration of Teresita, et al.[15]

Issue

Did the CA properly determine that the RTC committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in directing
the inclusion of certain properties in the inventory notwithstanding that such properties had been either transferred by sale or
exchanged for corporate shares in Mervir Realty by the decedent during his lifetime?

Ruling of the Court

The appeal is meritorious.

Was certiorari the proper recourse to assail the questioned orders of the RTC?

The first issue to be resolved is procedural. Thelma contends that the resort to the special civil action for certiorari to assail the orders of
the RTC by Teresita and her co-respondents was not proper.

Thelma's contention cannot be sustained.

The propriety of the special civil action for certiorari as a remedy depended on whether the assailed orders of the RTC were final or
interlocutory in nature. In Pahila-Garrido v. Tortogo,[16] the Court distinguished between final and interlocutory orders as follows:

The distinction between a final order and an interlocutory order is well known. The first disposes of the subject matter in its entirety or
terminates a particular proceeding or action, leaving nothing more to be done except to enforce by execution what the court has
determined, but the latter does not completely dispose of the case but leaves something else to be decided upon. An interlocutory
order deals with preliminary matters and the trial on the merits is yet to be held and the judgment rendered. The test to ascertain
whether or not an order or a judgment is interlocutory or final is: does the order or judgment leave something to be done in the trial
court with respect to the merits of the case? If it does, the order or judgment is interlocutory; otherwise, it is final.

The order dated November 12, 2002, which granted the application for the writ of preliminary injunction, was an interlocutory, not a
final, order, and should not be the subject of an appeal. The reason for disallowing an appeal from an interlocutory order is to avoid
multiplicity of appeals in a single action, which necessarily suspends the hearing and decision on the merits of the action during the
pendency of the appeals. Permitting multiple appeals will necessarily delay the trial on the merits of the case for a considerable length
of time, and will compel the adverse party to incur unnecessary expenses, for one of the parties may interpose as many appeals as
there are incidental questions raised by him and as there are interlocutory orders rendered or issued by the lower court. An interlocutory
order may be the subject of an appeal, but only after a judgment has been rendered, with the ground for appealing the order being
included in the appeal of the judgment itself.

The remedy against an interlocutory order not subject of an appeal is an appropriate special civil action under Rule 65, provided that
the interlocutory order is rendered without or in excess of jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion. Then is certiorari under Rule 65
allowed to be resorted to.

The assailed order of March 14, 2001 denying Teresita's motion for the approval of the inventory and the order dated May 18, 2001
denying her motion for reconsideration were interlocutory. This is because the inclusion of the properties in the inventory was not yet a
final determination of their ownership. Hence, the approval of the inventory and the concomitant determination of the ownership as
basis for inclusion or exclusion from the inventory were provisional and subject to revision at anytime during the course of the
administration proceedings.

In Valero Vda. De Rodriguez v. Court of Appeals,[17] the Court, in affirming the decision of the CA to the effect that the order of the
intestate court excluding certain real properties from the inventory was interlocutory and could be changed or modified at anytime
during the course of the administration proceedings, held that the order of exclusion was not a final but an interlocutory order "in the
sense that it did not settle once and for all the title to the San Lorenzo Village lots." The Court observed there that:

The prevailing rule is that for the purpose of determining whether a certain property should or should not be included in the
inventory, the probate court may pass upon the title thereto but such determination is not conclusive and is subject to the final
decision in a separate action regarding ownership which may be instituted by the parties (3 Moran's Comments on the Rules of
Court, 1970 Edition, pages 448-9 and 473; Lachenal vs. Salas, L-42257, June 14, 1976, 71 SCRA 262, 266).[18] (Bold emphasis
supplied)

To the same effect was De Leon v. Court of Appeals,[19] where the Court declared that a "probate court, whether in a testate or intestate
proceeding, can only pass upon questions of title provisionally," and reminded, citing Jimenez v. Court of Appeals, that the "patent
reason is the probate court's limited jurisdiction and the principle that questions of title or ownership, which result in inclusion or
exclusion from the inventory of the property, can only be settled in a separate action." Indeed, in the cited case of Jimenez v. Court of
Appeals, the Court pointed out:

All that the said court could do as regards the said properties is determine whether they should or should not be included in the
inventory or list of properties to be administered by the administrator. If there is a dispute as to the ownership, then the opposing
parties and the administrator have to resort to an ordinary action for a final determination of the conflicting claims of title
because the probate court cannot do so. (Bold emphasis supplied)

On the other hand, an appeal would not be the correct recourse for Teresita, et al. to take against the assailed orders. The final
judgment rule embodied in the first paragraph of Section 1, Rule 41, Rules of Court,[21] which also governs appeals in special
proceedings, stipulates that only the judgments, final orders (and resolutions) of a court of law "that completely disposes of the case, or
of a particular matter therein when declared by these Rules to be appealable" may be the subject of an appeal in due course. The same
rule states that an interlocutory order or resolution (interlocutory because it deals with preliminary matters, or that the trial on the merits
is yet to be held and the judgment rendered) is expressly made non-appealable.

Multiple appeals are permitted in special proceedings as a practical recognition of the possibility that material issues may be finally
determined at various stages of the special proceedings. Section 1, Rule 109 of the Rules of Court enumerates the specific instances in
which multiple appeals may be resorted to in special proceedings, viz:

Section 1. Orders or judgments from which appeals may be taken. - An interested person may appeal in special proceedings from an
order or judgment rendered by a Court of First Instance or a Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, where such order or judgment:

(a) Allows or disallows a will;

(b) Determines who are the lawful heirs of a deceased person, or the distributive share of the estate to which such person is entitled;

(c) Allows or disallows, in whole or in part, any claim against the estate of a deceased person, or any claim presented on behalf of the
estate in offset to a claim against it;

(d) Settles the account of an executor, administrator, trustee or guardian;

(e) Constitutes, in proceedings relating to the settlement of the estate of a deceased person, or the administration of a trustee or
guardian, a final determination in the lower court of the rights of the party appealing, except that no appeal shall be allowed from the
appointment of a special administrator; and

(f) Is the final order or judgment rendered in the case, and affects the substantial rights of the person appealing, unless it be an order
granting or denying a motion for a new trial or for reconsideration.

Clearly, the assailed orders of the RTC, being interlocutory, did not come under any of the instances in which multiple appeals are
permitted.

II. Did the RTC commit grave abuse of discretion in directing the inclusion of the properties in the estate of the decedent?

In its assailed decision, the CA concluded that the RTC committed grave abuse of discretion for including properties in the inventory
notwithstanding their having been transferred to Mervir Realty by Emigdio during his lifetime, and for disregarding the registration of the
properties in the name of Mervir Realty, a third party, by applying the doctrine of piercing the veil of corporate fiction.
Was the CA correct in its conclusion?

The answer is in the negative. It is unavoidable to find that the CA, in reaching its conclusion, ignored the law and the facts that had
fully warranted the assailed orders of the RTC.

Under Section 6(a), Rule 78 of the Rules of Court, the letters of administration may be granted at the discretion of the court to the
surviving spouse, who is competent and willing to serve when the person dies intestate. Upon issuing the letters of administration to the
surviving spouse, the RTC becomes duty-bound to direct the preparation and submission of the inventory of the properties of the
estate, and the surviving spouse, as the administrator, has the duty and responsibility to submit the inventory within three months from
the issuance of letters of administration pursuant to Rule 83 of the Rules of Court, viz:

Section 1. Inventory and appraisal to be returned within three months. Within three (3) months after his appointment every executor or
administrator shall return to the court a true inventory and appraisal of all the real and personal estate of the deceased which has
come into his possession or knowledge. In the appraisement of such estate, the court may order one or more of the inheritance tax
appraisers to give his or their assistance.

The usage of the word all in Section 1, supra, demands the inclusion of all the real and personal properties of the decedent in the
inventory.[22] However, the word all is qualified by the phrase which has come into his possession or knowledge, which signifies that the
properties must be known to the administrator to belong to the decedent or are in her possession as the administrator. Section 1 allows
no exception, for the phrase true inventory implies that no properties appearing to belong to the decedent can be excluded from the
inventory, regardless of their being in the possession of another person or entity.

The objective of the Rules of Court in requiring the inventory and appraisal of the estate of the decedent is "to aid the court in revising
the accounts and determining the liabilities of the executor or the administrator, and in making a final and equitable distribution
(partition) of the estate and otherwise to facilitate the administration of the estate."[23] Hence, the RTC that presides over the
administration of an estate is vested with wide discretion on the question of what properties should be included in the inventory.
According to Peralta v. Peralta,[24] the CA cannot impose its judgment in order to supplant that of the RTC on the issue of which
properties are to be included or excluded from the inventory in the absence of "positive abuse of discretion," for in the administration of
the estates of deceased persons, "the judges enjoy ample discretionary powers and the appellate courts should not interfere with or
attempt to replace the action taken by them, unless it be shown that there has been a positive abuse of discretion." [25] As long as the
RTC commits no patently grave abuse of discretion, its orders must be respected as part of the regular performance of its judicial duty.

There is no dispute that the jurisdiction of the trial court as an intestate court is special and limited. The trial court cannot adjudicate title
to properties claimed to be a part of the estate but are claimed to belong to third parties by title adverse to that of the decedent and the
estate, not by virtue of any right of inheritance from the decedent. All that the trial court can do regarding said properties is to determine
whether or not they should be included in the inventory of properties to be administered by the administrator. Such determination is
provisional and may be still revised. As the Court said in Agtarap v. Agtarap:[26]

The general rule is that the jurisdiction of the trial court, either as a probate court or an intestate court, relates only to matters having to
do with the probate of the will and/or settlement of the estate of deceased persons, but does not extend to the determination of
questions of ownership that arise during the proceedings. The patent rationale for this rule is that such court merely exercises special
and limited jurisdiction. As held in several cases, a probate court or one in charge of estate proceedings, whether testate or intestate,
cannot adjudicate or determine title to properties claimed to be a part of the estate and which are claimed to belong to outside parties,
not by virtue of any right of inheritance from the deceased but by title adverse to that of the deceased and his estate. All that the said
court could do as regards said properties is to determine whether or not they should be included in the inventory of properties to be
administered by the administrator. If there is no dispute, there poses no problem, but if there is, then the parties, the administrator, and
the opposing parties have to resort to an ordinary action before a court exercising general jurisdiction for a final determination of the
conflicting claims of title.

However, this general rule is subject to exceptions as justified by expediency and convenience.

First, the probate court may provisionally pass upon in an intestate or a testate proceeding the question of inclusion in, or
exclusion from, the inventory of a piece of property without prejudice to final determination of ownership in a separate
action. Second, if the interested parties are all heirs to the estate, or the question is one of collation or advancement, or the parties
consent to the assumption of jurisdiction by the probate court and the rights of third parties are not impaired, then the
probate court is competent to resolve issues on ownership. Verily, its jurisdiction extends to matters incidental or collateral to the
settlement and distribution of the estate, such as the determination of the status of each heir and whether the property in the
inventory is conjugal or exclusive property of the deceased spouse.[27] (Italics in the original; bold emphasis supplied)

It is clear to us that the RTC took pains to explain the factual bases for its directive for the inclusion of the properties in question in its
assailed order of March 14, 2001, viz:

In the first place, the administratrix of the estate admitted that Emigdio Mercado was one of the heirs of Severina Mercado who, upon
her death, left several properties as listed in the inventory of properties submitted in Court in Special Proceedings No. 306-R which are
supposed to be divided among her heirs. The administratrix admitted, while being examined in Court by the counsel for the petitioner,
that she did not include in the inventory submitted by her in this case the shares of Emigdio Mercado in the said estate of Severina
Mercado. Certainly, said properties constituting Emigdio Mercado's share in the estate of Severina Mercado should be included in the
inventory of properties required to be submitted to the Court in this particular case.

In the second place, the administratrix of the estate of Emigdio Mercado also admitted in Court that she did not include in the inventory
shares of stock of Mervir Realty Corporation which are in her name and which were paid by her from money derived from the taxicab
business which she and her husband had since 1955 as a conjugal undertaking. As these shares of stock partake of being conjugal in
character, one-half thereof or of the value thereof should be included in the inventory of the estate of her husband.

In the third place, the administratrix of the estate of Emigdio Mercado admitted, too, in Court that she had a bank account in her name
at Union Bank which she opened when her husband was still alive. Again, the money in said bank account partakes of being conjugal in
character, and so, one-half thereof should be included in the inventory of the properties constituting as estate of her husband.

In the fourth place, it has been established during the hearing in this case that Lot No. 3353 of Pls-657-D located in Badian, Cebu
containing an area of 53,301 square meters as described in and covered by Transfer Certificate of Title No. 3252 of the Registry of
Deeds for the Province of Cebu is still registered in the name of Emigdio S. Mercado until now. When it was the subject o f Civil Case
No. CEB-12690 which was decided on October 19, 1995, it was the estate of the late Emigdio Mercado which claimed to be the owner
thereof. Mervir Realty Corporation never intervened in the said case in order to be the owner thereof. This fact was admitted by Richard
Mercado himself when he testified in Court. x x x So the said property located in Badian, Cebu should be included in the inventory in
this case.

Fifthly and lastly, it appears that the assignment of several parcels of land by the late Emigdio S. Mercado to Mervir Realty Corporation
on January 10, 1991 by virtue of the Deed of Assignment signed by him on the said day (Exhibit N for the petitioner and Exhibit 5 for
the administratrix) was a transfer in contemplation of death. It was made two days before he died on January 12, 1991. A transfer made
in contemplation of death is one prompted by the thought that the transferor has not long to live and made in place of a testamentary
disposition (1959 Prentice Hall, p. 3909). Section 78 of the National Internal Revenue Code of 1977 provides that the gross estate of
the decedent shall be determined by including the value at the time of his death of all property to the extent of any interest therein of
which the decedent has at any time made a transfer in contemplation of death. So, the inventory to be approved in this case should still
include the said properties of Emigdio Mercado which were transferred by him in contemplation of death. Besides, the said properties
actually appeared to be still registered in the name of Emigdio S. Mercado at least ten (10) months after his death, as shown by the
certification issued by the Cebu City Assessor's Office on October 31, 1991 (Exhibit O). [28]

Thereby, the RTC strictly followed the directives of the Rules of Court and the jurisprudence relevant to the procedure for preparing the
inventory by the administrator. The aforequoted explanations indicated that the directive to include the properties in question in the
inventory rested on good and valid reasons, and thus was far from whimsical, or arbitrary, or capricious.

Firstly, the shares in the properties inherited by Emigdio from Severina Mercado should be included in the inventory because
Teresita, et al. did not dispute the fact about the shares being inherited by Emigdio.

Secondly, with Emigdio and Teresita having been married prior to the effectivity of the Family Code in August 3, 1988, their property
regime was the conjugal partnership of gains.[29] For purposes of the settlement of Emigdio's estate, it was unavoidable for Teresita to
include his shares in the conjugal partnership of gains. The party asserting that specific property acquired during that property regime
did not pertain to the conjugal partnership of gains carried the burden of proof, and that party must prove the exclusive ownership by
one of them by clear, categorical, and convincing evidence.[30] In the absence of or pending the presentation of such proof, the conjugal
partnership of Emigdio and Teresita must be provisionally liquidated to establish who the real owners of the affected properties
were,[31]and which of the properties should form part of the estate of Emigdio. The portions that pertained to the estate of Emigdio must
be included in the inventory.

Moreover, although the title over Lot 3353 was already registered in the name of Mervir Realty, the RTC made findings that put that title
in dispute. Civil Case No. CEB-12692, a dispute that had involved the ownership of Lot 3353, was resolved in favor of the estate of
Emigdio, and Transfer Certificate of Title No. 3252 covering Lot 3353 was still in Emigdio's name. Indeed, the RTC noted in the order of
March 14, 2001, or ten years after his death, that Lot 3353 had remained registered in the name of Emigdio.

Interestingly, Mervir Realty did not intervene at all in Civil Case No. CEB-12692. Such lack of interest in Civil Case No. CEB-12692 was
susceptible of various interpretations, including one to the effect that the heirs of Emigdio could have already threshed out their
differences with the assistance of the trial court. This interpretation was probable considering that Mervir Realty, whose business was
managed by respondent Richard, was headed by Teresita herself as its President. In other words, Mervir Realty appeared to be a
family corporation.

Also, the fact that the deed of absolute sale executed by Emigdio in favor of Mervir Realty was a notarized instrument did not
sufficiently justify the exclusion from the inventory of the properties involved. A notarized deed of sale only enjoyed the presumption of
regularity in favor of its execution, but its notarization did not per se guarantee the legal efficacy of the transaction under the deed, and
what the contents purported to be. The presumption of regularity could be rebutted by clear and convincing evidence to the
contrary.[32] As the Court has observed in Suntay v. Court of Appeals:[33]

x x x. Though the notarization of the deed of sale in question vests in its favor the presumption of regularity, it is not the intention nor the
function of the notary public to validate and make binding an instrument never, in the first place, intended to have any binding legal
effect upon the parties thereto. The intention of the parties still and always is the primary consideration in determining the true
nature of a contract. (Bold emphasis supplied)

It should likewise be pointed out that the exchange of shares of stock of Mervir Realty with the real properties owned by Emigdio would
still have to be inquired into. That Emigdio executed the deed of assignment two days prior to his death was a circumstance that should
put any interested party on his guard regarding the exchange, considering that there was a finding about Emigdio having been sick of
cancer of the pancreas at the time.[34] In this regard, whether the CA correctly characterized the exchange as a form of an estate
planning scheme remained to be validated by the facts to be established in court.

The fact that the properties were already covered by Torrens titles in the name of Mervir Realty could not be a valid basis for
immediately excluding them from the inventory in view of the circumstances admittedly surrounding the execution of the deed of
assignment. This is because:

The Torrens system is not a mode of acquiring titles to lands; it is merely a system of registration of titles to lands. However, justice and
equity demand that the titleholder should not be made to bear the unfavorable effect of the mistake or negligence of the State's agents,
in the absence of proof of his complicity in a fraud or of manifest damage to third persons. The real purpose of the Torrens system is to
quiet title to land and put a stop forever to any question as to the legality of the title, except claims that were noted in the certificate at
the time of registration or that may arise subsequent thereto. Otherwise, the integrity of the Torrens system shall forever be sullied by
the ineptitude and inefficiency of land registration officials, who are ordinarily presumed to have regularly performed their duties.[35]

Assuming that only seven titled lots were the subject of the deed of assignment of January 10, 1991, such lots should still be included in
the inventory to enable the parties, by themselves, and with the assistance of the RTC itself, to test and resolve the issue on the validity
of the assignment. The limited jurisdiction of the RTC as an intestate court might have constricted the determination of the rights to the
properties arising from that deed,[36] but it does not prevent the RTC as intestate court from ordering the inclusion in the inventory of the
properties subject of that deed. This is because the RTC as intestate court, albeit vested only with special and limited jurisdiction, was
still "deemed to have all the necessary powers to exercise such jurisdiction to make it effective." [37]

Lastly, the inventory of the estate of Emigdio must be prepared and submitted for the important purpose of resolving the difficult issues
of collation and advancement to the heirs. Article 1061 of the Civil Code required every compulsory heir and the surviving spouse,
herein Teresita herself, to "bring into the mass of the estate any property or right which he (or she) may have received from the
decedent, during the lifetime of the latter, by way of donation, or any other gratuitous title, in order that it may be computed in the
determination of the legitime of each heir, and in the account of the partition." Section 2, Rule 90 of the Rules of Court also provided
that any advancement by the decedent on the legitime of an heir "may be heard and determined by the court having jurisdiction of the
estate proceedings, and the final order of the court thereon shall be binding on the person raising the questions and on the heir." Rule
90 thereby expanded the special and limited jurisdiction of the RTC as an intestate court about the matters relating to the inventory of
the estate of the decedent by authorizing it to direct the inclusion of properties donated or bestowed by gratuitous title to any
compulsory heir by the decedent.[38]

The determination of which properties should be excluded from or included in the inventory of estate properties was well within the
authority and discretion of the RTC as an intestate court. In making its determination, the RTC acted with circumspection, and
proceeded under the guiding policy that it was best to include all properties in the possession of the administrator or were known to the
administrator to belong to Emigdio rather than to exclude properties that could turn out in the end to be actually part of the estate. As
long as the RTC commits no patent grave abuse of discretion, its orders must be respected as part of the regular performance of its
judicial duty. Grave abuse of discretion means either that the judicial or quasi-judicial power was exercised in an arbitrary or despotic
manner by reason of passion or personal hostility, or that the respondent judge, tribunal or board evaded a positive duty, or virtually
refused to perform the duty enjoined or to act in contemplation of law, such as when such judge, tribunal or board exercising judicial or
quasi-judicial powers acted in a capricious or whimsical manner as to be equivalent to lack of jurisdiction. [39]

In light of the foregoing, the CA's conclusion of grave abuse of discretion on the part of the RTC was unwarranted and erroneous.

WHEREFORE, the Court GRANTS the petition for review on certiorari; REVERSES and SETS ASIDE the decision promulgated on
May 15, 2002; REINSTATES the orders issued on March 14, 2001 and May 18, 2001 by the Regional Trial Court in
Cebu; DIRECTS the Regional Trial Court in Cebu to proceed with dispatch in Special Proceedings No. 3094-CEB entitled Intestate
Estate of the late Emigdio Mercado, Thelma Aranas, petitioner, and to resolve the case; and ORDERS the respondents to pay the costs
of suit.

SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 194366 October 10, 2012

NAPOLEON D. NERI vs. HEIRS OF HADJI YUSOP UY AND JULPHA* IBRAHIM UY

In this Petition for Review on Certiorari 1 under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, petitioners Napoleon D. Neri (Napoleon), Alicia D. Neri-
Mondejar (Alicia), Visminda D. Neri-Chambers (Visminda), Rosa D. Neri-Millan (Rosa), Douglas D. Neri (Douglas), Eutropia D. Illut-
Cockinos (Eutropia), and Victoria D. Illut-Piala (Victoria) seek to reverse and set aside the April 27, 2010 Decision 2 and October 18,
2010 Resolution3 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CV No. 01031-MIN which annulled the October 25, 2004 Decision4 of the
Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Panabo City, Davao del Norte and instead, entered a new one dismissing petitioners’ complaint for
annulment of sale, damages and attorney’s feesagainst herein respondents heirs of spouses Hadji Yusop Uy and Julpha Ibrahim Uy
(heirs of Uy).

The Facts
During her lifetime, Anunciacion Neri (Anunciacion) had seven children, two (2) from her first marriage with Gonzalo Illut (Gonzalo),
namely: Eutropia and Victoria, and five (5) from her second marriage with Enrique Neri (Enrique), namely: Napoleon, Alicia, Visminda,
Douglas and Rosa. Throughout the marriage of spouses Enrique and Anunciacion, they acquired several homestead properties with a
total area of 296,555 square meters located in Samal, Davao del Norte, embraced by Original Certificate of Title (OCT) Nos. (P-7998)
P-21285 , (P-14608) P-51536and P-20551 (P-8348)7 issued on February 15, 1957, August 27, 1962 and July 7, 1967, respectively.

On September 21, 1977, Anunciacion died intestate. Her husband, Enrique, in his personal capacity and as natural guardian of his
minor children Rosa and Douglas, together with Napoleon, Alicia, and Vismindaexecuted an Extra-Judicial Settlement of the Estate with
Absolute Deed of Sale8 on July 7, 1979, adjudicating among themselves the said homestead properties, and thereafter, conveying
themto the late spouses Hadji Yusop Uy and Julpha Ibrahim Uy (spouses Uy)for a consideration of ₱ 80,000.00.

On June 11, 1996, the children of Enrique filed a complaint for annulment of saleof the said homestead properties against spouses Uy
(later substituted by their heirs)before the RTC, docketed as Civil Case No.96-28, assailing the validity of the sale for having been sold
within the prohibited period. Thecomplaint was later amended to include Eutropia and Victoriaas additional plaintiffs for having been
excluded and deprived of their legitimes as childrenof Anunciacion from her first marriage.

In their amended answer with counterclaim, the heirs of Uy countered that the sale took place beyond the 5-year prohibitory period from
the issuance of the homestead patents. They also denied knowledge of Eutropia and Victoria’s exclusionfrom the extrajudicial
settlement and sale of the subject properties, and interposed further the defenses of prescription and laches.

The RTC Ruling


On October 25, 2004, the RTC rendered a decision ordering, among others, the annulment of the Extra-Judicial Settlement of the
Estate with Absolute Deed of Sale. It ruled that while the sale occurred beyond the 5-year prohibitory period, the sale is still void
because Eutropia and Victoria were deprived of their hereditary rights and that Enrique had no judicial authority to sell the shares of his
minor children, Rosa and Douglas.

Consequently, it rejected the defenses of laches and prescription raised by spouses Uy, who claimed possession of the subject
properties for 17 years, holding that co-ownership rights are imprescriptible.

The CA Ruling
On appeal, the CAreversed and set aside the ruling of the RTC in its April 27, 2010 Decision and dismissed the complaint of the
petitioners. It held that, while Eutropia and Victoria had no knowledge of the extrajudicial settlement and sale of the subje ct properties
and as such, were not bound by it, the CA found it unconscionable to permit the annulment of the sale considering spouses Uy’s
possession thereof for 17 years, and thatEutropia and Victoriabelatedlyfiled their actionin 1997, ormore than two years fromknowledge
of their exclusion as heirs in 1994 when their stepfather died. It, however, did not preclude the excluded heirs from recovering their
legitimes from their co-heirs.
Similarly, the CA declared the extrajudicial settlement and the subsequent saleas valid and binding with respect to Enrique and
hischildren, holding that as co-owners, they have the right to dispose of their respective shares as they consider necessary or fit.While
recognizing Rosa and Douglas to be minors at that time, they were deemed to have ratified the sale whenthey failed to question it upon
reaching the age of majority.Italso found laches to have set in because of their inaction for a long period of time.

The Issues
In this petition, petitioners imputeto the CA the following errors:
I. WHEN IT UPHELDTHE VALIDITY OF THE "EXTRA JUDICIAL SETTLEMENT OF THE ESTATE WITH ABSOLUTE DEED OF
SALE" AS FAR AS THE SHARES OF EUTROPIA AND VICTORIA WERE CONCERNED, THEREBY DEPRIVING THEM OF THEIR
INHERITANCE;
II. WHEN IT DID NOT NULLIFY OR ANNUL THE "EXTRA JUDICIAL SETTLEMENT OF THE ESTATE WITH ABSOLUTE DEED OF
SALE" WITH RESPECT TO THE SHARESOF ROSA AND DOUGLAS, THEREBY DEPRIVING THEM OF THEIR INHERITANCE; and
III. WHEN IT FOUND THAT LACHES OR PRESCRIPTION HAS SET IN.

The Ruling of the Court


The petitionis meritorious.
It bears to stress that all the petitioners herein are indisputably legitimate children of Anunciacion from her first and second marriages
with Gonzalo and Enrique, respectively, and consequently, are entitled to inherit from her in equal shares, pursuant to Articles 979 and
980 of the Civil Code which read:

ART. 979. Legitimate children and their descendants succeed the parents and other ascendants, without distinction as to sex or age,
and even if they should come from different marriages.

xxx
ART. 980. The children of the deceased shall always inherit from him in their own right, dividing the inheritance in equal shares.
As such, upon the death of Anunciacion on September 21, 1977, her children and Enrique acquired their respective
inheritances,9 entitling them to their pro indiviso shares in her whole estate, as follows:
Enrique 9/16 (1/2 of the conjugal assets + 1/16)
Eutropia 1/16
Victoria 1/16
Napoleon 1/16
Alicia 1/16
Visminda 1/16
Rosa 1/16
Douglas 1/16
Hence, in the execution of the Extra-Judicial Settlement of the Estate with Absolute Deed of Sale in favor of spouses Uy, all the heirs of
Anunciacionshould have participated. Considering that Eutropia and Victoria were admittedly excluded and that then minors Rosa and
Douglas were not properly represented therein, the settlement was not valid and binding uponthem and consequently, a total nullity.
Section 1, Rule 74 of the Rules of Court provides:

SECTION 1. Extrajudicial settlement by agreement between heirs. – x x x

The fact of the extrajudicial settlement or administration shall be published in a newspaper of general circulation in the manner provided
in the next succeeding section; but no extrajudicial settlement shall be binding upon any person who has not participated therein or had
no notice thereof. (Underscoring added)

The effect of excluding the heirs in the settlement of estate was further elucidated in Segura v. Segura,10 thus:

It is clear that Section 1 of Rule 74 does not apply to the partition in question which was null and void as far as the plaintiffs were
concerned. The rule covers only valid partitions. The partition in the present case was invalid because it excluded six of the nine heirs
who were entitled to equal shares in the partitioned property. Under the rule "no extrajudicial settlement shall be binding upon any
person who has not participated therein or had no notice thereof." As the partition was a total nullity and did not affect the excluded
heirs, it was not correct for the trial court to hold that their right to challenge the partition had prescribed after two years from its
execution.

However, while the settlement of the estate is null and void, the subsequent sale of the subject propertiesmade by Enrique and his
children, Napoleon, Alicia and Visminda, in favor of the respondents isvalid but only with respect to their proportionate shares therein.It
cannot be denied that these heirs have acquired their respective shares in the properties of Anunciacion from the moment of her
death11 and that, as owners thereof, they can very well sell their undivided share in the estate.

With respect to Rosa and Douglas who were minors at the time of the execution of the settlement and sale, their natural guardian and
father, Enrique, represented them in the transaction. However, on the basis of the laws prevailing at that time, Enrique was merely
clothed with powers of administration and bereft of any authority to dispose of their 2/16 shares in the estate of their mother,
Anunciacion.

Articles 320 and 326 of the Civil Code, the laws in force at the time of the execution of the settlement and sale, provide:

ART. 320. The father, or in his absence the mother, is the legal administrator of the property pertaining to the child under parental
authority. If the property is worth more than two thousand pesos, the father or mother shall give a bond subject to the approval of the
Court of First Instance.

ART. 326. When the property of the child is worth more than two thousand pesos, the father or mother shall be considered a guardian
of the child’s property, subject to the duties and obligations of guardians under the Rules of Court.

Corollarily, Section 7, Rule 93 of the Rules of Court also provides:

SEC. 7. Parents as Guardians. – When the property of the child under parental authority is worth two thousand pesos or less, the father
or the mother, without the necessity of court appointment, shall be his legal guardian. When the property of the child is worth more than
two thousand pesos, the father or the mother shall be considered guardian of the child’s property, with the duties and obligations of
guardians under these Rules, and shall file the petition required by Section 2 hereof. For good reasons, the court may, however,
appoint another suitable persons.

Administration includes all acts for the preservation of the property and the receipt of fruits according to the natural purpose of the thing.
Any act of disposition or alienation, or any reduction in the substance of the patrimony of child, exceeds the limits of
administration.13 Thus, a father or mother, as the natural guardian of the minor under parental authority, does not have the power to
dispose or encumber the property of the latter. Such power is granted by law only to a judicial guardian of the ward’s property and even
then only with courts’ prior approval secured in accordance with the proceedings set forth by the Rules of Court.

Consequently, the disputed sale entered into by Enrique in behalf of his minor children without the proper judicial authority, unless
ratified by them upon reaching the age of majority, 15 is unenforceable in accordance with Articles 1317 and 1403(1) of the Civil Code
which provide:

ART. 1317. No one may contract in the name of another without being authorized by the latter or unless he has by law a right to
represent him.

A contract entered into in the name of another by one who has no authority or legal representation, or who has acted beyond his
powers, shall be unenforceable, unless it is ratified, expressly or impliedly, by the person on whose behalf it has been executed, before
it is revoked by the other contracting party.

ART. 1403. The following contracts are unenforceable, unless they are ratified:

(1) Those entered into the name of another person by one who has been given no authority or legal representation, or who has acted
beyond his powers;

Ratification means that one under no disability voluntarily adopts and gives sanction to some unauthorized act or defective proceeding,
which without his sanction would not be binding on him. It is this voluntary choice, knowingly made, which amounts to a ratification of
what was theretofore unauthorized, and becomes the authorized act of the party so making the ratification. 16 Once ratified, expressly or
impliedly such as when the person knowingly received benefits from it, the contract is cleansed from all its defects from the moment it
was constituted,17 as it has a retroactive effect.

Records, however, show that Rosa had ratified the extrajudicial settlement of the estate with absolute deed of sale. In Napoleon and
Rosa’s Manifestation18 before the RTC dated July 11, 1997,they stated:

"Concerning the sale of our parcel of land executed by our father, Enrique Neri concurred in and conformed to by us and our other two
sisters and brother (the other plaintiffs), in favor of Hadji Yusop Uy and his spouse Hadja Julpa Uy on July 7, 1979, we both confirmed
that the same was voluntary and freely made by all of us and therefore the sale was absolutely valid and enforceable as far as we all
plaintiffs in this case are concerned;"

In their June 30, 1997 Joint-Affidavit,19 Napoleon and Rosa also alleged:

"That we are surprised that our names are included in this case since we do not have any intention to file a case against Hadji Yusop
Uy and Julpha Ibrahim Uy and their family and we respect and acknowledge the validity of the Extra-Judicial Settlement of the Estate
with Absolute Deed of Sale dated July 7, 1979;"

Clearly, the foregoing statements constitutedratification of the settlement of the estate and the subsequent sale, thus, purging all the
defects existing at the time of its execution and legitimizing the conveyance of Rosa’s 1/16 share in the estate of Anunciacion to
spouses Uy. The same, however, is not true with respect to Douglas for lack of evidence showing ratification.

Considering, thus, that the extrajudicial settlement with sale is invalid and therefore, not binding on Eutropia, Victoria and Douglas, only
the shares ofEnrique, Napoleon, Alicia, Visminda and Rosa in the homestead properties have effectivelybeen disposed in favor of
spouses Uy. "A person can only sell what he owns, or is authorized to sell and the buyer can as a consequence acquire no more than
what the sellercan legally transfer."20 On this score, Article 493 of the Civil Codeis relevant, which provides:

Each co-owner shall have the full ownership of his part and of the fruits and benefits pertaining thereto, and he may therefore alienate,
assign or mortgage it, and even substitute another person in its enjoyment, except when personal rights are involved. But the effect of
the alienation or the mortgage, with respect to the co-owners, shall be limited to the portion which may be allotted to him in the division
upon the termination of the co-ownership.

Consequently, spouses Uy or their substituted heirs became pro indiviso co-owners of the homestead properties with Eutropia, Victoria
and Douglas, who retained title to their respective 1/16 shares. They were deemed to be holding the 3/16 shares of Eutropia, Victoria
and Douglas under an implied constructive trust for the latter’s benefit, conformably with Article 1456 of the Civil Code which states:"if
property is acquired through mistake or fraud, the person obtaining it is, by force of law, considered a trustee of an implied trust for the
benefit of the person from whom the property comes." As such, it is only fair, just and equitable that the amount paid for their shares
equivalent to ₱ 5,000.0021 each or a total of ₱ 15,000.00 be returned to spouses Uy with legal interest.

On the issue of prescription, the Court agrees with petitioners that the present action has not prescribed in so far as it seeks to annul
the extrajudicial settlement of the estate. Contrary to the ruling of the CA, the prescriptive period of 2 years provided in Section 1 Rule
74 of the Rules of

Court reckoned from the execution of the extrajudicial settlement finds no application to petitioners Eutropia, Victoria and Douglas, who
were deprived of their lawful participation in the subject estate. Besides, an "action or defense for the declaration of the inexistence of a
contract does not prescribe" in accordance with Article 1410 of the Civil Code.

However, the action to recover property held in trust prescribes after 10 years from the time the cause of action accrues, 22 which is from
the time of actual notice in case of unregistered deed.23 In this case, Eutropia, Victoria and Douglas claimed to have knowledge of the
extrajudicial settlement with sale after the death of their father, Enrique, in 1994 which spouses Uy failed to refute. Hence, the complaint
filed in 1997 was well within the prescriptive period of 10 years.

WHEREFORE, the instant petition is GRANTED. The April 27, 2010 Decision and October 18, 2010 Resolution of the Court of Appeals
are REVERSED and SET ASIDE and a new judgment is entered:
1. Declaring the Extra-Judicial Settlement of the Estate of Anunciacion Neri NULL and VOID;

2. Declaring the Absolute Deed of Sale in favor of the late spouses Hadji Yusop Uy and Julpha Ibrahim Uy as regards the
13/16 total shares of the late Enrique Neri, Napoleon Neri, Alicia D. Neri-Mondejar, Visminda D. Neri-Chambers and Rosa D.
Neri-Millan VALID;

2. Declaring Eutropia D. Illut-Cockinos, Victoria D. Illut-Piala and Douglas D. Neri as the LAWFUL OWNERSof the 3/16
portions of the subject homestead properties, covered by Original Certificate of Title Nos. (P-7998) P-2128, (P-14608) P-
5153 and P-20551 (P-8348); and

4. Ordering the estate of the late Enrique Neri, as well as Napoleon Neri, Alicia D. Neri-Mondejar, Visminda D. Neri-Chambers
and Rosa D. Neri-Millan to return to the respondents jointly and solidarily the amount paid corresponding to the 3/16 shares of
Eutropia, Victoria and Douglas in the total amount of ₱ 15,000.00, with legal interest at 6% per annum computed from the time
of payment until finality of this decision and 12% per annum thereafter until fully paid.

No pronouncement as to costs.
SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 160556

TEOFILO BAUTISTA vs. ALEGRIA

During her lifetime, Teodora Rosario was the owner of a 211.80-square meter parcel of land (the property) in Poblacion, San
Carlos City, Pangasinan, covered by Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. 12951. She died intestate on January 19, 1970, leaving
behind her spouse Isidro Bautista (Isidro) and five children, namely:Teofilo Bautista (Teofilo), Alegria Bautista (Alegria), Angelica
Bautista (Angelica), Pacita Bautista (Pacita) and Gil Bautista (Gil).

On April 21, 1981, Isidro and four of his five children Pacita, Gil, Alegria, and Angelica executed a Deed of Extra-Judicial
Partition[1] of the property in which Isidro waived his share in favor of his said four children. Teofilo was excluded from the partition.

Alegria and Angelica, who, under the Deed of Extra-Judicial Partition, acquired of the property, sold the same, by Deed of
Absolute Sale dated May 14, 1981, to their sibling Pacita and her common-law husband Pedro Tandoc (Pedro).[2]

Pacita and Pedro soon obtained tax declarations [3] and TCT No. 18777[4] in their names over 209.85 square meters of the
property including the shares they purchased from Angelica and Alegria.

Pacita, with Pedros conformity, later conveyed via Deed of Absolute Sale [5] dated April 13, 1993 of the property in favor of
Cesar Tamondong, Pedros nephew.

On January 24, 1994, herein petitioner Teofilo, represented by his attorney-in-fact Francisco Muoz, filed a Complaint[6] against
his siblings Alegria and Angelica, along with Pedro (the common-law husband of his already deceased sister Pacita), Priscilla Bautista
(wife of his already deceased brother Gil), Pricillas children Gilbert, Jim, Glenda, Guen, and Gelacio and Cesar Tamondong before the
Regional Trial Court (RTC) of San Carlos City, for annulment of documents, partition, recovery of ownership, possession and damages.

In his complaint, petitioner claimed that his co-heirs defrauded him of his rightful share of the property and that the deed of
sale executed by Pacita in favor of Cesar Tamondong was fictitious as it was impossible for her to have executed the same in Manila,
she being already seriously ill at the time. [7]

In their Answer,[8] the defendants-herein respondents sisters Alegria and Angelica, who were joined therein by their co-
defendants-respondents Priscilla, Gilbert, Jim, Glenda, Guen, Gelacio, and Gracia, claimed that it was Pacita who caused the execution
of the Deed of Extra-Judicial Partition and because they trusted Pacita, they signed the document without scrutinizing it; and that they
learned about the contents of the partition only upon Teofilos filing of the Complaint.

By way of cross-claim[9] against Pedro and Cesar Tamondong, the answering defendants-respondents claimed that a few
weeks after the partition, Pacita approached Angelica and Alegria to borrow their share in the property on her representation that it
would be used as security for a business loan; and that agreeing to accommodate Pacita, Angelica and Alegria signed a document
which Pacita prepared which turned out to be the deed of absolute sale in Pacitas favor.

In their Answer with Counterclaim,[10] Pedro and Cesar Tamondong claimed that they were buyers in good faith. [11] In any
event, they contended that prescription had set in, and that the complaint was a mere rehash of a previous complaint for falsification of
public document which had been dismissed by the prosecutors office. [12]

By Decision[13] of June 24, 1999, Branch 57 of the RTC of San Carlos City rendered judgment in favor of Teofilo, disposing as
follows:

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, judgment is hereby rendered:

1) Declaring as null and void and of no force and effect the following documents:

a) Deed of Extra-Judicial Partition dated April 21, 1981;


b) Deed of Absolute Sale [d]ated May 14, 1981;
c) Transfer Certificate of Title No. 18777;
d) Tax Declaration Nos. 59941, 45999, and 46006;
e) Deed of Absolute Sale dated April 13, 1993;

2) Ordering the partition of the land in question among the compulsory heirs of the late Spouses Isidro
Bautista and Teodora Rosario

3) Ordering defendants Cesar Tamondong and Pedro Tandoc to vacate the premises.
No pronouncement[s] as to cost.[14] (Underscoring supplied)

On appeal by Pedro and Cesar Tamondong, the Court of Appeals, by Decision [15] of February 21, 2003, reversed and set
aside the trial courts decision and dismissed Teofilos complaint on the ground of prescription. [16] His Motion for
Reconsideration[17] having been denied,[18] Teofilo filed the present Petition for Review on Certiorari.[19]

The petition is impressed with merit.

The Court of Appeals, in holding that prescription had set in, reasoned:

Unquestionably, the Deed of Extra-judicial Partition is invalid insofar as it affects the legitimate share
pertaining to the defendant-appellee in the property in question.There can be no question that the Deed of Extra-
judicial Partition was fraudulently obtained. Hence, an action to set it aside on the ground of fraud could be
instituted. Such action for the annulment of the said partition, however, must be brought within four years from the
discovery of the fraud. Significantly, it cannot be denied, either, that by its registration in the manner provided by law,
a transaction may be known actually or constructively.

In the present case, defendant-appellee is deemed to have been constructively notified of the extra-judicial
settlement by reason of its registration and annotation in the certificate of title over the subject lot on December 21,
1981. From the time of its registration, defendant-appellee had four (4) years or until 21 December 1985, within which
to file his objections or to demand the appropriate settlement of the estate. Unfortunately, defendant-appellee failed to
institute the present civil action within said period, having filed the same only on 17 January 1994 or more than twelve
(12) years from the registration of the deed of extra-judicial partition. Hence, defendant-appellees right to question the
deed of extra-judicial partition has prescribed.

Even on the extreme assumption that defendant-appellees complaint in Civil Case No. SC-1797 is an action
for reconveyance of a portion of the property which rightfully belongs to him based upon an implied trust resulting
from fraud, said remedy is already barred by prescription. An action of reconveyance of land based upon an implied
or constructive trust prescribes after ten years from the registration of the deed or from the issuance of the title.

xxxx

The complaint of defendant-appellee was filed only on 17 January 1994, while the deed of extra-judicial
partition was registered and inscribed on Transfer Certificate of Title 12951, on 21 December 1981. Clearly, the
complaint was filed twelve (12) years and twenty-seven (27) days after the inscription of the deed of extra-judicial
partition on TCT 12951. Hence, even if We consider defendant-appellees complaint as an action for reconveyance
against plaintiff-appellants on the basis of implied trust, we find and so hold that his remedy for reconveyance has
also prescribed.[20] (Underscoring supplied)

As gathered from the above-quoted portion of its decision, the Court of Appeals applied the prescriptive periods for annulment
on the ground of fraud and for reconveyance of property under a constructive trust.

The extra-judicial partition executed by Teofilos co-heirs was invalid, however. So Segura v. Segura[21] instructs:

x x x The partition in the present case was invalid because it excluded six of the nine heirs who were entitled
to equal shares in the partitioned property. Under the rule, no extra-judicial settlement shall be binding upon any
person who has not participated therein or had no notice thereof. As the partition was a total nullity and did not affect
the excluded heirs, it was not correct for the trial court to hold that their right to challenge the partition had prescribed
after two years x x x[22] (Underscoring supplied)

The deed of extra-judicial partition in the case at bar being invalid, the action to have it annulled does not prescribe. [23]

Since the deed of extra-judicial partition is invalid, it transmitted no rights to Teofilos co-heirs.[24] Consequently, the subsequent
transfer by Angelica and Alegria of of the property to Pacita and her husband Pedro, as well as the transfer of of the property to
Cesar Tamondong is invalid, hence, conferring no rights upon the transferees under the principle of nemo dat quod non habet.[25]

WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The decision of the court a quo is SET ASIDE and the Decision of
the Regional Trial Court of San Carlos City, Pangasinan, Branch 57 is REINSTATED.

SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 156021 September 23, 2005

CYNTHIA C. ALABAN vs. COURT OF APPEALS

This is a petition for review of the Resolutions[1] of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. SP No. 69221,[2] dismissing petitioners petition
for annulment of judgment.

On 8 November 2000, respondent Francisco Provido (respondent) filed a petition, docketed as SP Proc. No. 00-135, for the
probate of the Last Will and Testament[3] of the late Soledad Provido Elevencionado (decedent), who died on 26 October 2000 in
Janiuay, Iloilo.[4] Respondent alleged that he was the heir of the decedent and the executor of her will. On 30 May 2001, the Regional
Trial Court (RTC), Branch 68, in P.D. Monfort North, Dumangas, Iloilo, rendered its Decision,[5] allowing the probate of the will of the
decedent and directing the issuance of letters testamentary to respondent. [6]

More than four (4) months later, or on 4 October 2001, herein petitioners filed a motion for the reopening of the probate
proceedings.[7]Likewise, they filed an opposition to the allowance of the will of the decedent, as well as the issuance of letters
testamentary to respondent,[8] claiming that they are the intestate heirs of the decedent. Petitioners claimed that the RTC did not
acquire jurisdiction over the petition due to non-payment of the correct docket fees, defective publication, and lack of notice to the other
heirs. Moreover, they alleged that the will could not have been probated because: (1) the signature of the decedent was forged; (2) the
will was not executed in accordance with law, that is, the witnesses failed to sign below the attestation clause; (3) the decedent lacked
testamentary capacity to execute and publish a will; (4) the will was executed by force and under duress and improper pressure; (5) the
decedent had no intention to make a will at the time of affixing of her signature; and (6) she did not know the properties to be disposed
of, having included in the will properties which no longer belonged to her. Petitioners prayed that the letters testamentary issued to
respondent be withdrawn and the estate of the decedent disposed of under intestate succession. [9]

On 11 January 2002, the RTC issued an Order[10] denying petitioners motion for being unmeritorious. Resolving the issue of jurisdiction,
the RTC held that petitioners were deemed notified of the hearing by publication and that the deficiency in the payment of docket fees is
not a ground for the outright dismissal of the petition. It merely required respondent to pay the deficiency.[11] Moreover, the
RTCs Decision was already final and executory even before petitioners filing of the motion to reopen. [12]

Petitioners thereafter filed a petition[13] with an application for preliminary injunction with the CA, seeking the annulment of the
RTCs Decision dated 30 May 2001 and Order dated 11 January 2002. They claimed that after the death of the decedent, petitioners,
together with respondent, held several conferences to discuss the matter of dividing the estate of the decedent, with respondent
agreeing to a one-sixth (1/6) portion as his share. Petitioners allegedly drafted a compromise agreement to implement the division of
the estate. Despite receipt of the agreement, respondent refused to sign and return the same. Petitioners opined that respondent
feigned interest in participating in the compromise agreement so that they would not suspect his intention to secure the probate of the
will.[14] They claimed that they learnt of the probate proceedings only in July of 2001, as a result of which they filed their motion to
reopen the proceedings and admit their opposition to the probate of the will only on 4 October 2001. They argued that the
RTC Decision should be annulled and set aside on the ground of extrinsic fraud and lack of jurisdiction on the part of the RTC. [15]

In its Resolution[16] promulgated on 28 February 2002, the CA dismissed the petition. It found that there was no showing that petitioners
failed to avail of or resort to the ordinary remedies of new trial, appeal, petition for relief from judgment, or other appropriate remedies
through no fault of their own.[17] Moreover, the CA declared as baseless petitioners claim that the proceedings in the RTC was attended
by extrinsic fraud. Neither was there any showing that they availed of this ground in a motion for new trial or petition for relief from
judgment in the RTC, the CA added.[18] Petitioners sought reconsideration of the Resolution, but the same was denied by the CA for
lack of merit.[19]

Petitioners now come to this Court, asserting that the CA committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction when it
dismissed their petition for the alleged failure to show that they have not availed of or resorted to the remedies of new trial, appeal,
petition for relief from judgment or other remedies through no fault of their own, and held that petitioners were not denied their day in
court during the proceedings before the RTC.[20] In addition, they assert that this Court has yet to decide a case involving Rule 47 of the
Rules of Court and, therefore, the instant petition should be given due course for the guidance of the bench and bar. [21]

For his part, respondent claims that petitioners were in a position to avail of the remedies provided in Rules 37 and 38, as they in fact
did when they filed a motion for new trial. [22] Moreover, they could have resorted to a petition for relief from judgment since they learned
of the RTCs judgment only three and a half months after its promulgation. [23] Respondent likewise maintains that no extrinsic fraud
exists to warrant the annulment of the RTCs Decision, since there was no showing that they were denied their day in court. Petitioners
were not made parties to the probate proceedings because the decedent did not institute them as her heirs.[24] Besides,
assuming arguendo that petitioners are heirs of the decedent, lack of notice to them is not a fatal defect since personal notice upon the
heirs is a matter of procedural convenience and not a jurisdictional requisite. [25] Finally, respondent charges petitioners of
forumshopping, since the latter have a pending suit involving the same issues as those in SP No. 00-135, that is SP No. 1181[26] filed
before Branch 23, RTC of General Santos City and subsequently pending on appeal before the CA in CA-G.R. No.74924.[27]

It appears that one of the petitioners herein, Dolores M. Flores (Flores), who is a niece of the decedent, filed a petition for
letters of administration with the RTC of General Santos City, claiming that the decedent died intestate without any issue, survived by
five groups of collateral heirs. Flores, armed with a Special Power of Attorney from most of the other petitioners, prayed for her
appointment as administratrix of the estate of the decedent. The RTC dismissed the petition on the ground of lack of jurisdiction, stating
that the probate court in Janiuay, Iloilo has jurisdiction since the venue for a petition for the settlement of the estate of a decedent is the
place where the decedent died. This is also in accordance with the rule that the first court acquiring jurisdiction shall continue hearing
the case to the exclusion of other courts, the RTC added. [28] On 9 January 2002, Flores filed a Notice of Appeal [29] and on 28 January
2002, the case was ordered forwarded to the CA.[30]

Petitioners maintain that they were not made parties to the case in which the decision sought to be annulled was rendered
and, thus, they could not have availed of the ordinary remedies of new trial, appeal, petition for relief from judgment and other
appropriate remedies, contrary to the ruling of the CA. They aver that respondents offer of a false compromise and his failure to notify
them of the probate of the will constitute extrinsic fraud that necessitates the annulment of the RTCs judgment. [31]

The petition is devoid of merit.

Section 37 of the Rules of Court allows an aggrieved party to file a motion for new trial on the ground of fraud, accident,
mistake, or excusable negligence. The same

Rule permits the filing of a motion for reconsideration on the grounds of excessive award of damages, insufficiency of evidence to justify
the decision or final order, or that the decision or final order is contrary to law. [32] Both motions should be filed within the period for
taking an appeal, or fifteen (15) days from notice of the judgment or final order.

Meanwhile, a petition for relief from judgment under Section 3 of Rule 38 is resorted to when a judgment or final order is
entered, or any other proceeding is thereafter taken, against a party in any court through fraud, accident, mistake, or excusable
negligence. Said party may file a petition in the same court and in the same case to set aside the judgment, order or proceeding. It must
be filed within sixty (60) days after the petitioner learns of the judgment and within six (6) months after entry thereof. [33]

A motion for new trial or reconsideration and a petition for relief from judgment are remedies available only to parties in the proceedings
where the assailed judgment is rendered.[34] In fact, it has been held that a person who was never a party to the case, or even
summoned to appear therein, cannot avail of a petition for relief from judgment.[35]

However, petitioners in this case are mistaken in asserting that they are not or have not become parties to the probate proceedings.
Under the Rules of Court, any executor, devisee, or legatee named in a will, or any other person interested in the estate may,
at any time after the death of the testator, petition the court having jurisdiction to have the will allowed. [36] Notice of the time and place
for proving the will must be published for three (3) consecutive weeks, in a newspaper of general circulation in the province,[37] as well
as furnished to the designated or other known heirs, legatees, and devisees of the testator. [38] Thus, it has been held that a proceeding
for the probate of a will is one in rem, such that with the corresponding publication of the petition the court's jurisdiction extends to all
persons interested in said will or in the settlement of the estate of the decedent.[39]

Publication is notice to the whole world that the proceeding has for its object to bar indefinitely all who might be minded to
make an objection of any sort against the right sought to be established. It is the publication of such notice that brings in the whole
world as a party in the case and vests the court with jurisdiction to hear and decide it. [40] Thus, even though petitioners were not
mentioned in the petition for probate, they eventually became parties thereto as a consequence of the publication of the notice of
hearing.

As parties to the probate proceedings, petitioners could have validly availed of the remedies of motion for new trial or reconsideration
and petition for relief from judgment. In fact, petitioners filed a motion to reopen, which is essentially a motion for new trial, with
petitioners praying for the reopening of the case and the setting of further proceedings. However, the motion was denied for having
been filed out of time, long after the Decision became final and executory.
Conceding that petitioners became aware of the Decision after it had become final, they could have still filed a petition for relief from
judgment after the denial of their motion to reopen. Petitioners claim that they learned of the Decision only on 4 October 2001, or almost
four (4) months from the time the Decision had attained finality. But they failed to avail of the remedy.

For failure to make use without sufficient justification of the said remedies available to them, petitioners could no longer resort
to a petition for annulment of judgment; otherwise, they would benefit from their own inaction or negligence. [41]

Even casting aside the procedural requisite, the petition for annulment of judgment must still fail for failure to comply with the
substantive requisites, as the appellate court ruled.

An action for annulment of judgment is a remedy in law independent of the case where the judgment sought to be annulled
was rendered.[42] The purpose of such action is to have the final and executory judgment set aside so that there will be a renewal of
litigation. It is resorted to in cases where the ordinary remedies of new trial, appeal, petition for relief from judgment, or other
appropriate remedies are no longer available through no fault of the petitioner, [43] and is based on only two grounds: extrinsic fraud, and
lack of jurisdiction or denial of due process.[44] A person need not be a party to the judgment sought to be annulled, and it is only
essential that he can prove his allegation that the judgment was obtained by the use of fraud and collusion and he would be adversely
affected thereby.[45]

An action to annul a final judgment on the ground of fraud lies only if the fraud is extrinsic or collateral in character. [46] Fraud is
regarded as extrinsic where it prevents a party from having a trial or from presenting his entire case to the court, or where it operates
upon matters pertaining not to the judgment itself but to the manner in which it is procured. The overriding consideration when extrinsic
fraud is alleged is that the fraudulent scheme of the prevailing litigant prevented a party from having his day in court. [47]

To sustain their allegation of extrinsic fraud, petitioners assert that as a result of respondents deliberate omission or concealment of
their names, ages and residences as the other heirs of the decedent in his petition for allowance of the will, they were not notified of the
proceedings, and thus they were denied their day in court. In addition, they claim that respondents offer of a false compromise even
before the filing of the petition prevented them from appearing and opposing the petition for probate.

The Court is not convinced.

According to the Rules, notice is required to be personally given to known heirs, legatees, and devisees of the testator. [48] A
perusal of the will shows that respondent was instituted as the sole heir of the decedent. Petitioners, as nephews and nieces of the
decedent, are neither compulsory nor testate heirs [49] who are entitled to be notified of the probate proceedings under the Rules.
Respondent had no legal obligation to mention petitioners in the petition for probate, or to personally notify them of the same.

Besides, assuming arguendo that petitioners are entitled to be so notified, the purported infirmity is cured by the publication of
the notice. After all, personal notice upon the heirs is a matter of procedural convenience and not a jurisdictional requisite.[50]

The non-inclusion of petitioners names in the petition and the alleged failure to personally notify them of the proceedings do
not constitute extrinsic fraud. Petitioners were not denied their day in court, as they were not prevented from participating in the
proceedings and presenting their case before the probate court.

One other vital point is the issue of forum-shopping against petitioners. Forum-shopping consists of filing multiple suits in
different courts, either simultaneously or successively, involving the same parties, to ask the courts to rule on the same or related
causes and/or to grant the same or substantially same reliefs,[51] on the supposition that one or the other court would make a favorable
disposition.[52] Obviously, the parties in the instant case, as well as in the appealed case before the CA, are the same. Both cases deal
with the existence and validity of the alleged will of the decedent, with petitioners anchoring their cause on the state of intestacy. In the
probate proceedings, petitioners position has always been that the decedent left no will and if she did, the will does not comply with the
requisites of a valid will. Indeed, that position is the bedrock of their present petition. Of course, respondent maintains the contrary
stance. On the other hand, in the petition for letters of administration, petitioner Flores prayed for her appointment as administratrix of
the estate on the theory that the decedent died intestate. The petition was dismissed on the ground of lack of jurisdiction, and it is this
order of dismissal which is the subject of review in CA-G.R. No. 74924. Clearly, therefore, there is forum-shopping.

Moreover, petitioners failed to inform the Court of the said pending case in their certification against forum- shopping. Neither
have they done so at any time thereafter. The Court notes that even in the petition for annulment of judgment, petitioners failed to
inform the CA of the pendency of their appeal in CA-G.R. No. 74924, even though the notice of appeal was filed way before the petition
for annulment of judgment was instituted.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. Costs against petitioners.

SO ORDERED.