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Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila SECOND DIVISION G.R. No.

118680 March 5, 2001

MARIA ELENA RODRIGUEZ PEDROSA, petitioner, vs. THE HON. COURT OF APPEALS, JOSE, CARMEN, MERCEDES & RAMON, all surnamed RODRIGUEZ, ROSALINA RODRIGUEZ, CHAN LUNG FAI, MATEO TAN TE, TE ENG SUY, LORETA TE, VICTORIO S. DETALIA, JEROME DEIPARINE, PETRONILO S. DETALIA, HUBERT CHIU YULO, PATERIO N. LAO, LORENSITA M. PADILLA, IMMACULATE CONCEPCION COLLEGE AND LILIAN EXPRESS, INC. and TIO TUAN, respondents. QUISUMBING, J.: This petition assails the decision of the Court of Appeals dated May 23, 1994 which affirmed the judgment of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 15, of Ozamiz City in Civil Case No. OZ-1397. The facts of this case are as follows: On April 8, 1946, the spouses Miguel Rodriguez and Rosalina J. de Rodriguez initiated proceedings before the CFI of Ozamiz City for the legal adoption of herein petitioner, Maria Elena Rodriguez Pedrosa. On August 1, 1946, the CFI granted the petition and declared petitioner Pedrosa the adopted child of Miguel and Rosalina. On April 29, 1972, Miguel died intestate. Thereafter, petitioner and Rosalina entered into an extrajudicial settlement of Miguel's estate, adjudicating between themselves in equal proportion the estate of Miguel. On November 21, 1972, private respondents filed an action to annul the adoption of petitioner before the CFI of Ozamiz City, with petitioner and herein respondent Rosalina as defendants docketed as OZ 349. On August 28, 1974, the CFI denied the petition and upheld the validity of the adoption. Thereafter, the private respondents appealed said decision to the Court of Appeals. On March 11, 1983, while said appeal was pending, the Rodriguezes entered into an extrajudicial settlement with respondent Rosalina for the partition of the estate of Miguel and of another sister, Pilar. Rosalina acted as the representative of the heirs of Miguel Rodriguez. Pilar had no heirs except his brothers and sisters. The Deed of Extrajudicial Settlement and Partition covered fourteen parcels of land covering a total area of 224,883 square meters. These properties were divided among Jose, Carmen, Mercedes, Ramon and the heirs of Miguel, represented solely by Rosalina. The heirs of Miguel were given 226 square meters of parcel 2, and 9,567 square meters and 24,457 square meters of parcels 7 and 9, respectively.1 The total land area allocated to the heirs of Miguel was 34,250 square meters.

Armed with the Deed of Extrajudicial Settlement and Partition, respondents Rodriguezes were able to secure new Transfer Certificates of Title (TCTs) and were able to transfer some parcels to the other respondents herein. 2 Lots 504-A-6, 504-B-3 and 504-C-4, portions of Parcel 3, designated as Lot 504, were transferred to respondents Chuan Lung Fai,3 but not included in the Deed of Settlement and Partition, were transferred to respondent Lilian Express, Inc. and are now registered under TCT No. T-11337. Parcel 6, Lot 560, was subdivided among Ramon, Jose, Carmen and Mercedes and was designated as Lots 560-A, 560-B, 560-C, 560-D and 560-E. Lot 560-A covering 500 square meters was transferred to respondent Victorino Detall 4 and was subsequently transferred to Jerome Deiparine who registered it under his name under TCT No. T-10706. Lot 560-B with 500 square meters was transferred to respondent Petronilo Detalla5 and was later transferred to respondent Hubert Chiu Yulo who registered it under his name under TCT No. T-11305. Lot 560-C was transferred and registered under the name of respondent Paterio Lao with TCT No. T-10206. Lot 560-D was sold to and subsequently registered in the name of Lorensita M. Padilla under TCT No. T-10207. The remaining portion, Lot 560-E consisting of 43,608 square meters was bought by respondent Immaculate Concepcion College and was registered in its name under TCT No. T-10208.6 On June 19, 1986, the parties in the appeal which sought to annul the adoption of petitioner Pedrosa filed a joint Motion to Dismiss. On June 25, 1986, the Court of Appeals dismissed the appeal but upheld the validity of the adoption of petitioner. Thereafter, petitioner sent her daughter, Loreto Jocelyn, to claim their share of the properties from the Rodriguezes. The latter refused saying that Maria Elena and Loreto were not heirs since they were not their blood relatives. Petitioner, then, filed a complaint to annul the 1983 partition. The said complaint was filed on January 28, 1987. Said complaint was later amended on March 25, 1987 to include the allegation "that earnest efforts toward a compromise were made between the plaintiffs and the defendants, but the same failed." 7 The Regional Trial Court dismissed the complaint. Petitioner appealed to the Court of Appeals. The appellate court affirmed the decision of the trial court. Its ruling was premised on the following grounds:8 1) that the participation of Rosalina has already estopped her from questioning the validity of the partition, and since she is already estopped, it naturally follows that Maria Elena, her successor-in-interest, is likewise estopped, applying Article 1439 of the Civil Code; 2) that the appeal of Maria Elena and her claim that the partition is null and void is weakened by her inconsistent claim that the partition would have been alright had she been given a more equitable share; 3) the action is essentially an action for rescission and had been filed late considering that it was filed beyond the 4 year period provided for in Article 1100 of the Civil Code;9 4) that fraud and/or bad faith was never established.

Petitioner filed a Motion for Reconsideration, which was denied by the Court of Appeals in a Resolution dated December 20, 1994.10 Hence, this petition wherein the petitioner asserts that the following errors were allegedly committed by the Court of Appeals in I. FINDING THAT THE EXTRAJUDICIAL SETTLEMENT AND PARTITION ENTERED INTO BY DEFENDANT JUREDINI AND DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS RODRIGUEZES WAS VALID AND BINDING UPON THE PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT WHO DID NOT PARTICIPATE IN SAID TRANSACTION II. CONCLUDING THAT THE CLAIM OF PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT HAVE ALREADY PRESCRIBED TWO (2) YEARS AFTER PUBLICATION OF THE EXTRAJUDICIAL SETTLEMENT AND PARTITION IN THE NEWSPAPER OF GENERAL CIRCULATION III. ...CONCLUDING THAT THE CLAIM OF PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT IS BARRED OR ESTOPPED IN FILING THIS CASE (sic) IN VIEW OF THE DISMISSAL OF THE APPEAL IN CIVIL CASE NO. OZ 349 INTERPOSED BY HEREIN DEFENDANTSAPPELLEES WHO WERE THEN PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS IN AC [C]-G.R. NO. SP00208 IV. SUSTAINING THE DEFENDANT-APPELLEES' CLAIM THAT AS THEY HAVE NOT AS YET RECOGNIZED PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT AS AN ADOPTED DAUGHTER OF MIGUEL RODRIGUEZ IT WAS NOT NECESSARY FOR THEM TO HAVE HER PARTICIPATE IN THE EXTRAJUDICIAL SETTLEMENT, EXHIBITS "S" AND "I" V. CONCLUDING THAT THE PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT HAD NOT CONCLUSIVELY SHOWN THAT MIGUEL RODRIGUEZ WAS A CO-OWNER OF THE LANDS SOLD AND HENCE IT FOLLOWS THAT SHE HAS NO RIGHT OF REDEMPTION OF THOSE LANDS VI. FINDING THAT PORTION OF LOTS NOS. 504 AND 560 SOLD TO THE OTHER DEFENDANTSAPPELLEES WERE CLEAN AND FREE FROM ENCUMBRANCES OR ANY FLAWS HENCE WERE VALID VII. FINDING THAT THE PLANTIFFAPPELLANT NEVER APPEARED IN COURT TO TESTIFY OR REBUT THE ASSERTIONS OF THE DEFENDANTSAPPELLANTS THAT THERE WAS A VALID PARTITION VIII. AWARDING PLAINTIFFAPPELLANT DAMAGES FOR THE INCOME OF HER SHARE IN THE PROPERTIES IN QUESTION11 In sum, the issues to be resolved in our view are (1) whether or not the complaint for annulment of the "Deed of Extrajudicial Settlement and Partition" had already prescribed; (2) whether or not said deed is valid; and (3) whether or not the petitioner is entitled to recover the lots which had already been transferred to the respondent buyers. Petitioner argues that the complaint for annulment of the extrajudicial partition has not yet prescribed since the prescriptive period which should be applied is four years following the case of Beltran vs. Ayson, 4 SCRA 69 (1962). She also avers that Sec. 4, Rule 74 which provides for a two-year prescriptive period needs two requirements. One, the party assailing the partition must have been given notice, and two, the party assailing the partition must have participated therein. Petitioner insists these requirements are not present in her case,12 since

she did not participate in the "Deed of Extrajudicial Settlement and Partition." She cites Villaluz vs. Neme, 7 SCRA 27, 30 (1963), where we held that a deed of extrajudicial partition executed without including some of the heirs, who had no knowledge and consent to the same, is fraudulent. She asserts that she is an adoptive daughter and thus an heir of Miguel.13 Petitioner also contends that the respondent buyers were buyers in bad faith since they failed to exercise the necessary due diligence required before purchasing the lots in question.14 In the alternative, petitioner wants to redeem the said lots as a co-owner of respondent Rodriguezes under the provisions of Article 1620 of the New Civil Code.15 Lastly, petitioner asserts that she will suffer lesion if the partition would be allowed. She asks for the rescission of the said partitioning under Articles 165175 of the Civil Code.16 Respondents, in response, claim that the action of petitioner had already prescribed. In addition, they argue that petitioner, Maria Elena, and Rosalina already have their shares in the estate of Miguel Rodriguez reflected in the compromise agreement they entered into with the respondent Rodriguezes in ACG.R. SP 00208. Finally, respondents aver that the non-participation of Maria Elena in the extrajudicial partition was understandable since her status as an adopted child was then under litigation. In any case, they assert that the shares of Miguel's heirs were adequately protected in the said partition. 17 Section 4, Rule 7418 provides for a two year prescriptive period (1) to persons who have participated or taken part or had notice of the extrajudicial partition, and in addition (2) when the provisions of Section 119 of Rule 74 have been strictly complied with, i.e., that all the persons or heirs of the decedent have taken part in the extrajudicial settlement or are represented by themselves or through guardians.20 Petitioner, as the records confirm, did not participate in the extrajudicial partition. Patently then, the two-year prescriptive period is not applicable in her case. The applicable prescriptive period here is four (4) years as provided in Gerona vs. De Guzman, 11 SCRA 153 (1964), which held that: [The action to annul] a deed of "extrajudicial settlement" upon the ground of fraud...may be filed within four years from the discovery of the fraud. Such discovery is deemed to have taken place when said instrument was filed with the Register of Deeds and new certificates of title were issued in the name of respondents exclusively.21 Considering that the complaint of the petitioner was filed on January 28, 1987, or three years and ten months after the questioned extrajudicial settlement dated March 11, 1983, was executed, we hold that her action against the respondents on the basis of fraud has not yet prescribed. Section 1 of Rule 74 of the Rules of Court is the applicable rule on publication of extrajudicial settlement. It states: 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 .22 Under said provision, without the participation of all persons involved in the proceedings, the extrajudicial settlement cannot be binding on said persons. The rule contemplates a notice which must be sent out or issuedbefore the Deed of Settlement and/or Partition is agreed upon, i.e., a notice calling all interested parties to participate in the said deed of extrajudicial settlement and partition, not after, which was when publication was done in the instant case. Following Rule 74 and the ruling in Beltran vs. Ayson, since Maria Elena did not participate in the said partition, the settlement is not binding on her. The provision of Section 4, Rule 74 will also not apply when the deed of extrajudicial partition is sought to be annulled on the ground of fraud. A deed of extrajudicial partition executed without including some of the heirs, who had no knowledge of and consent to the same, is fraudulent and vicious. 23 Maria Elena is an heir of Miguel together with her adopting mother, Rosalina. Being the lone descendant of Miguel, she excludes the collateral relatives of Miguel from participating in his estate, following the provisions of Article 1003 of the Civil Code.24 The private respondent Rodriguezes cannot claim that they were not aware of Maria Elena's adoption since they even filed an action to annul the decree of adoption. Neither can they claim that their actions were valid since the adoption of Maria Elena was still being questioned at the time they executed the deed of partition. The complaint seeking to annul the adoption was filed only twenty six (26) years after the decree of adoption, patently a much delayed response to prevent Maria Elena from inheriting from her adoptive parents. The decree of adoption was valid and existing. With this factual setting, it is patent that private respondents executed the deed of partition in bad faith with intent to defraud Maria Elena. In the case of Segura vs. Segura, the Court held: This section [referring to section 4, Rule 74] provides in gist that a person who has been deprived of his lawful participation in the estate of the decedent, whether as heir or as creditor, must assert his claim within two years after the extrajudicial or summary settlement of such estate under Sections 1 and 2 respectively of the same Rule 74. Thereafter, he will be precluded from doing so as the right will have prescribed. 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 in 1941.25 To say that Maria Elena was represented by Rosalina in the partitioning is imprecise. Maria Elena, the adopted child, was no longer a minor at the time Miguel died. Rosalina, only represented her own interests and not those of Maria Elena. Since Miguel predeceased Pilar, a sister, his estate automatically vested to his child and widow, in equal shares. Respondent Rodriguezes' interests did not include Miguel's estate but only Pilar's estate.

Could petitioner still redeem the properties from buyers? Given the circumstances in this case, we are constrained to hold that this is not the proper forum to decide this issue. The properties sought to be recovered by the petitioner are now all registered under the name of third parties. Well settled is the doctrine that a Torrens Title cannot be collaterally attacked. The validity of the title can only be raised in an action expressly instituted for such purpose.26 Petitioner asks for the award of damages. No receipts, agreements or any other documentary evidence was presented to justify such claim for damages. Actual damages, to be recoverable, must be proved with a reasonable degree of certainty. Courts cannot simply rely on speculation, conjecture or guesswork in determining the fact and amount of damages.27 The same is true for moral damages. These cannot be awarded in the absence of any factual basis.28 The unsubstantiated testimony of Loreto Jocelyn Pedrosa is hearsay and has no probative value. It is settled in jurisprudence that damages may not be awarded on the basis of hearsay evidence.29 Nonetheless, the failure of the petitioner to substantiate her claims for damages does not mean that she will be totally deprived of any damages. Under the law, nominal damages are awarded, so that a plaintiff's right, which has been invaded or violated by defendants may be vindicated and recognized.30 Considering that (1) technically, petitioner sustained injury but which, unfortunately, was not adequately and properly proved, (2) petitioner was unlawfully deprived of her legal participation in the partition of the estate of Miguel, her adoptive father, (3) respondents had transferred portions of the properties involved to third parties, and (4) this case has dragged on for more than a decade, we find it reasonable to grant in petitioner's favor nominal damages in recognition of the existence of a technical injury.31 The amount to be awarded as such damages should at least commensurate to the injury sustained by the petitioner considering the concept and purpose of said damages.32 Such award is given in view of the peculiar circumstances cited and the special reasons extant in this case.33 Thus, the grant of ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND (P100,000.00) PESOS to petitioner as damages is proper in view of the technical injury she has suffered. WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The assailed decision of the Court of Appeals is hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The "Deed of Extrajudicial Settlement and Partition" executed by private respondents on March 11, 1983 is declared invalid. The amount of P100,000.00 is hereby awarded to petitioner as damages to be paid by private respondents, who are also ordered to pay the costs. SO ORDERED.

EN BANC G.R. No. L-19382 August 31, 1965

IN RE SUMMARY SETTLEMENT OF THE ESTATE OF MELODIA FERRARIS. FILOMENA ABELLANA DE BACAYO, petitioner-appellant, vs. GAUDENCIA FERRARIS DE BORROMEO, CATALINA FERARIS DE VILLEGAS, JUANITO FERRARIS and CONCHITA FERRARIS, oppositorsappellees. This is a pauper's appeal, directly brought to this Court on points of law, from a resolution, dated September 20, 1961, excluding petitioner-appellant herein, Filomena Abellana de Bacayo, as heir in the summary settlement of the estate of Melodia Ferraris, Special Proceeding No. 2177-R of the Court of First Instance of Cebu, Third Branch, as well as from the order, dated October 16, 1961, denying a motion to reconsider said resolution. The facts of this case are not disputed by the parties. Melodia Ferraris was a resident of Cebu City until 1937 when she transferred to Intramuros, Manila. She was known to have resided there continuously until 1944. Thereafter, up to the filing on December 22, 1960 of the petition for the summary settlement of her estate, she has not been heard of and her whereabouts are still unknown. More than ten (10) years having elapsed since the last time she was known to be alive, she was declared presumptively dead for purposes of opening her succession and distributing her estate among her heirs. Melodia Ferraris left properties in Cebu City, consisting of one-third (1/3) share in the estate of her aunt, Rosa Ferraris, valued at P6,000.00, more or less, and which was adjudicated to her in Special Proceeding No. 13-V of the same court. The deceased Melodia Ferraris left no surviving direct descendant, ascendant, or spouse, but was survived only by collateral relatives, namely, Filomena Abellana de Bacayo, an aunt and half-sister of decedent's father, Anacleto Ferraris; and by Gaudencia, Catalina, Conchita, and Juanito, all surnamed Ferraris, her nieces and nephew, who were the children of Melodia's only brother of full blood, Arturo Ferraris, who pre-deceased her (the decedent). These two classes of heirs claim to be the nearest intestate heirs and seek to participate in the estate of said Melodia Ferraris. The following diagram will help illustrate the degree of relationship of the contending parties to said Melodia Ferraris: Note: Picture The sole issue to be resolved in this case is: Who should inherit the intestate estate of a deceased person when he or she is survived only by collateral relatives, to wit an aunt and the children of a brother who predeceased him or her? Otherwise, will the aunt concur with the children of the decedent's brother in the inheritance or will the former be excluded by the latter? The trial court ruled that the oppositors-appellees, as children of the only predeceased brother of the decedent, exclude the aunt (petitioner-appellant) of the same decedent reasoning out that the former are nearer in degree (two degrees) than the latter since nieces and nephews succeed by right of

representation, while petitioner-appellant is three degrees distant from the decedent, and that other collateral relatives are excluded by brothers or sisters or children of brothers or sisters of the decedent in accordance with article 1009 of the New Civil Code. Against the above ruling, petitioner-appellant contends in the present appeal that she is of the same or equal degree of relationship as the oppositors appellees, three degrees removed from the decedent; and that under article 975 of the New Civil Code no right of representation could take place when the nieces and nephew of the decedent do not concur with an uncle or aunt, as in the case at bar, but rather the former succeed in their own right. We agree with appellants that as an aunt of the deceased she is as far distant as the nephews from the decedent (three degrees) since in the collateral line to which both kinds of relatives belong degrees are counted by first ascending to the common ancestor and then descending to the heir (Civil Code, Art. 966). Appellant is likewise right in her contention that nephews and nieces alone do not inherit by right of representation (i.e., per stripes) unless concurring with brothers or sisters of the deceased, as provided expressly by Article 975: ART. 975. When children of one or more brothers or sisters of the deceased survive, they shall inherit from the latter by representation, if they survive with their uncles or aunts. But if they alone survive, they shall inherit in equal portions. Nevertheless, the trial court was correct when it held that, in case of intestacy, nephews and nieces of the de cujusexclude all other collaterals (aunts and uncles, first cousins, etc.) from the succession. This is readily apparent from articles 1001, 1004, 1005, and 1009 of the Civil Code of the Philippines, that provided as follows: ART. 1001. Should brothers and sisters or their children survive with the widow or widower, the latter shall be entitled to one-half of the inheritance and the brothers and sisters or their children to the other half. ART. 1004. Should the only survivors be brothers and sisters of the full blood, they shall inherit in equal shares. ART. 1005. Should brothers and sisters survive together with nephews and nieces, who are the children of the decedent's brothers and sisters of the full blood, the former shall inherit per capita, and the latter per stripes. ART. 1009. Should there be neither brothers nor sister nor children of brothers or sisters, the other collateral relatives shall succeed to the estate. The latter shall succeed without distinction of lines or preference among them by reason of relationship by the whole blood. Under the last article (1009), the absence of brothers, sisters, nephews and nieces of the decedent is a precondition to the other collaterals (uncles, cousins, etc.) being called to the succession. This was also and more clearly the case under the Spanish Civil Code of 1889, that immediately preceded the Civil Code now in force (R.A. 386). Thus, Articles 952 and 954 of the Code of 1889 prescribed as follows:

ART. 952. In the absence of brother, or sisters and of nephews or nieces, children of the former, whether of the whole blood or not, the surviving spouse, if not separated by a final decree of divorce, shall succeed to the entire estate of the deceased. ART. 954. Should there be neither brothers or sisters, nor children of brothers or sisters, nor a surviving spouse, the other collateral relatives shall succeed to the estate of deceased. The latter shall succeed without distinction of lines or preference among them by reason of the whole blood. It will be seen that under the preceding articles, brothers and sisters and nephews and nieces inherited ab intestato ahead of the surviving spouse, while other collaterals succeeded only after the widower or widow. The present Civil Code of the Philippines merely placed the spouse on a par with the nephews and nieces and brothers and sisters of the deceased, but without altering the preferred position of the latter vis-a-vis the other collaterals. Appellants quote paragraph 2 of Tolentino's commentaries to Article 1009 of the present Civil Code as declaring that Article 1009 does not establish a rule of preference. Which is true as to "other collaterals," since preference among them is according to their proximity to the decedent, as established by Article 962, paragraph 1. ART. 962. In every inheritance, the relative nearest in degree excludes the more distant ones, saving the right of representation when it properly takes place. But Tolentino does not state that nephews and nieces concur with other collaterals of equal degree. On the contrary, in the first paragraph of his commentaries to Article 1009 (Vol II, p. 439) (which counsel for appellants had unethically omitted to quote), Tolentino expressly states: Other collaterals. The last of the relatives of the decedent to succeed in intestate succession are the collaterals other than brothers or sisters or children of brothers or sisters. They are, however, limited to relatives within the fifth degree. Beyond this, we can safely say there is hardly any affection to merit the succession of collaterals. Under the law, therefore, relatives beyond the fifth degree are no longer considered as relatives, for successional purposes. Article 1009 does not state any order of preference. However, this article should be understood in connection with the general rule that the nearest relatives exclude the farther. Collaterals of the same degree inherit in equal parts, there being no right of representation. They succeed without distinction of lines or preference among them on account of the whole blood relationship. (Emphasis supplied) We, therefore, hold, and so rule, that under our laws of succession, a decedent's uncles and aunts may not succeed ab intestato so long as nephews and nieces of the decedent survive and are willing and qualified to succeed. The decision appealed from, in so far as it conforms to this rule, is hereby affirmed. No costs.

Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila SECOND DIVISION G.R. No. 155733 January 27, 2006

IN THE MATTER OF THE INTESTATE ESTATES OF THE DECEASED JOSEFA DELGADO AND GUILLERMO RUSTIA CARLOTA DELGADO VDA. DE DE LA ROSA and other HEIRS OF LUIS DELGADO, namely, HEIRS OF CONCHA VDA. DE AREVALO, HEIRS OF LUISA DELGADO VDA. DE DANAO, ANGELA DELGADO ARESPACOCHAGA, TERESA DELGADO PERLAS, CAROLINA DELGADO-ARESPACOCHAGA, RODOLFO DELGADO, BENJAMIN DELGADO, GLICERIA DELGADO and CLEOFAS DELGADO; and HEIRS OF GORGONIO DELGADO, namely, RAMON DELGADO CAMPO, CARLOS DELGADO CAMPO, CLARITA DELGADO CAMPO-REIZA, YOLANDA DELGADO ENCINAS, FELISA DELGADO CAMPO-ENCINAS and MELINDA DELGADO CAMPOMADARANG, Petitioners, vs. HEIRS OF MARCIANA RUSTIA VDA. DE DAMIAN, namely, GUILLERMO R. DAMIAN and JOSE R. DAMIAN; HEIRS OF HORTENCIA RUSTIA CRUZ, namely, TERESITA CRUZ-SISON, HORACIO R. CRUZ, JOSEFINA CRUZRODIL, AMELIA CRUZ-ENRIQUEZ and FIDEL R. CRUZ, JR.; HEIRS OF ROMAN RUSTIA, SR., namely, JOSEFINA RUSTIA ALBANO, VIRGINIA RUSTIA PARAISO, ROMAN RUSTIA, JR., SERGIO RUSTIA, FRANCISCO RUSTIA, LETICIA RUSTIA-MIRANDA; and GUILLERMINA RUSTIA, as Oppositors;1 and GUILLERMA RUSTIA, as Intervenor,2 Respondents.3 DECISION CORONA, J.: In this petition for review on certiorari, petitioners seek to reinstate the May 11, 1990 decision of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Manila, Branch 55,4 in SP Case No. 97668, which was reversed and set aside by the Court of Appeals in its decision5 dated October 24, 2002. FACTS OF THE CASE This case concerns the settlement of the intestate estates of Guillermo Rustia and Josefa Delgado.6 The main issue in this case is relatively simple: who, between petitioners and respondents, are the lawful heirs of the decedents. However, it is attended by several collateral issues that complicate its resolution. The claimants to the estates of Guillermo Rustia and Josefa Delgado may be divided into two groups: (1) the alleged heirs of Josefa Delgado, consisting of her half- and full-blood siblings, nephews and nieces, and grandnephews and grandnieces, and (2) the alleged heirs of Guillermo Rustia, particularly, his sisters,7 his nephews and nieces,8 his illegitimate child,9 and the de facto adopted child10 (ampun-ampunan) of the decedents. The alleged heirs of Josefa Delgado

The deceased Josefa Delgado was the daughter of Felisa11 Delgado by one Lucio Campo. Aside from Josefa, five other children were born to the couple, namely, Nazario, Edilberta, Jose, Jacoba, and Gorgonio, all surnamed Delgado. Felisa Delgado was never married to Lucio Campo, hence, Josefa and her full-blood siblings were all natural children of Felisa Delgado. However, Lucio Campo was not the first and only man in Felisa Delgados life. Before him was Ramon Osorio12with whom Felisa had a son, Luis Delgado. But, unlike her relationship with Lucio Campo which was admittedly one without the benefit of marriage, the legal status of Ramon Osorios and Felisa Delgados union is in dispute. The question of whether Felisa Delgado and Ramon Osorio ever got married is crucial to the claimants because the answer will determine whether their successional rights fall within the ambit of the rule against reciprocal intestate succession between legitimate and illegitimate relatives.13 If Ramon Osorio and Felisa Delgado had been validly married, then their only child Luis Delgado was a legitimate half-blood brother of Josefa Delgado and therefore excluded from the latters intestate estate. He and his heirs would be barred by the principle of absolute separation between the legitimate and illegitimate families. Conversely, if the couple were never married, Luis Delgado and his heirs would be entitled to inherit from Josefa Delgados intestate estate, as they would all be within the illegitimate line. Petitioners allege that Ramon Osorio and Felisa Delgado were never married. In support thereof, they assert that no evidence was ever presented to establish it, not even so much as an allegation of the date or place of the alleged marriage. What is clear, however, is that Felisa retained the surname Delgado. So did Luis, her son with Ramon Osorio. Later on, when Luis got married, his Partida de Casamiento14 stated that he was "hijo natural de Felisa Delgado" (the natural child of Felisa Delgado),15 significantly omitting any mention of the name and other circumstances of his father.16 Nevertheless, oppositors (now respondents) insist that the absence of a record of the alleged marriage did not necessarily mean that no marriage ever took place. Josefa Delgado died on September 8, 1972 without a will. She was survived by Guillermo Rustia and some collateral relatives, the petitioners herein. Several months later, on June 15, 1973, Guillermo Rustia executed an affidavit of selfadjudication of the remaining properties comprising her estate. The marriage of Guillermo Rustia and Josefa Delgado Sometime in 1917, Guillermo Rustia proposed marriage to Josefa Delgado 17 but whether a marriage in fact took place is disputed. According to petitioners, the two eventually lived together as husband and wife but were never married. To prove their assertion, petitioners point out that no record of the contested marriage existed in the civil registry. Moreover, a baptismal certificate naming Josefa Delgado as one of the sponsors referred to her as "Seorita" or unmarried woman. The oppositors (respondents here), on the other hand, insist that the absence of a marriage certificate did not of necessity mean that no marriage transpired. They maintain that Guillermo Rustia and Josefa Delgado were married on June 3, 1919 and from then on lived together as husband and wife until the death of Josefa on September 8, 1972. During this period spanning more than half a

century, they were known among their relatives and friends to have in fact been married. To support their proposition, oppositors presented the following pieces of evidence: 1. Certificate of Identity No. 9592 dated [December 1, 1944] issued to Mrs. Guillermo J. Rustia by Carlos P. Romulo, then Resident Commissioner to the United States of the Commonwealth of the Philippines; 2. Philippine Passport No. 4767 issued to Josefa D. Rustia on June 25, 1947; 3. Veterans Application for Pension or Compensation for Disability Resulting from Service in the Active Military or Naval Forces of the United States- Claim No. C-4, 004, 503 (VA Form 526) filed with the Veterans Administration of the United States of America by Dr. Guillermo J. Rustia wherein Dr. Guillermo J. Rustia himself [swore] to his marriage to Josefa Delgado in Manila on 3 June 1919;18 4. Titles to real properties in the name of Guillermo Rustia indicated that he was married to Josefa Delgado. The alleged heirs of Guillermo Rustia Guillermo Rustia and Josefa Delgado never had any children. With no children of their own, they took into their home the youngsters Guillermina Rustia Rustia and Nanie Rustia. These children, never legally adopted by the couple, were what was known in the local dialect as ampun-ampunan. During his life with Josefa, however, Guillermo Rustia did manage to father an illegitimate child,19 the intervenor-respondent Guillerma Rustia, with one Amparo Sagarbarria. According to Guillerma, Guillermo Rustia treated her as his daughter, his own flesh and blood, and she enjoyed open and continuous possession of that status from her birth in 1920 until her fathers demise. In fact, Josefa Delgados obituary which was prepared by Guillermo Rustia, named the intervenor-respondent as one of their children. Also, her report card from the University of Santo Tomas identified Guillermo Rustia as her parent/guardian.20 Oppositors (respondents here) nonetheless posit that Guillerma Rustia has no interest in the intestate estate of Guillermo Rustia as she was never duly acknowledged as an illegitimate child. They contend that her right to compulsory acknowledgement prescribed when Guillermo died in 1974 and that she cannot claim voluntary acknowledgement since the documents she presented were not the authentic writings prescribed by the new Civil Code.21 On January 7, 1974, more than a year after the death of Josefa Delgado, Guillermo Rustia filed a petition for the adoption22 of their ampunampunan Guillermina Rustia. He stated under oath "[t]hat he ha[d] no legitimate, legitimated, acknowledged natural children or natural children by legal fiction."23 The petition was overtaken by his death on February 28, 1974. Like Josefa Delgado, Guillermo Rustia died without a will. He was survived by his sisters Marciana Rustia vda. deDamian and Hortencia Rustia-Cruz, and by the children of his predeceased brother Roman Rustia Sr., namely, Josefina Rustia Albano, Virginia Rustia Paraiso, Roman Rustia, Jr., Sergio Rustia, Francisco Rustia and Leticia Rustia Miranda.24

ANTECEDENT PROCEEDINGS On May 8, 1975, Luisa Delgado vda. de Danao, the daughter of Luis Delgado, filed the original petition for letters of administration of the intestate estates of the "spouses Josefa Delgado and Guillermo Rustia" with the RTC of Manila, Branch 55.25 This petition was opposed by the following: (1) the sisters of Guillermo Rustia, namely, Marciana Rustia vda. de Damian and Hortencia RustiaCruz;26 (2) the heirs of Guillermo Rustias late brother, Roman Rustia, Sr., and (3) the ampun-ampunan Guillermina Rustia Rustia. The opposition was grounded on the theory that Luisa Delgado vda. de Danao and the other claimants were barred under the law from inheriting from their illegitimate half-blood relative Josefa Delgado. In November of 1975, Guillerma Rustia filed a motion to intervene in the proceedings, claiming she was the only surviving descendant in the direct line of Guillermo Rustia. Despite the objections of the oppositors (respondents herein), the motion was granted. On April 3, 1978, the original petition for letters of administration was amended to state that Josefa Delgado and Guillermo Rustia were never married but had merely lived together as husband and wife. On January 24, 1980, oppositors (respondents herein) filed a motion to dismiss the petition in the RTC insofar as the estate of Guillermo Rustia was concerned. The motion was denied on the ground that the interests of the petitioners and the other claimants remained in issue and should be properly threshed out upon submission of evidence. On March 14, 1988, Carlota Delgado vda. de de la Rosa substituted for her sister, Luisa Delgado vda. de Danao, who had died on May 18, 1987. On May 11, 1990, the RTC appointed Carlota Delgado vda. de de la Rosa as administratrix of both estates.27 The dispositive portion of the decision read: WHEREFORE, in view of all the foregoing, petitioner and her co-claimants to the estate of the late Josefa Delgado listed in the Petitions, and enumerated elsewhere in this Decision, are hereby declared as the only legal heirs of the said Josefa Delgado who died intestate in the City of Manila on September 8, 1972, and entitled to partition the same among themselves in accordance with the proportions referred to in this Decision. Similarly, the intervenor Guillerma S. Rustia is hereby declared as the sole and only surviving heir of the late Dr. Guillermo Rustia, and thus, entitled to the entire estate of the said decedent, to the exclusion of the oppositors and the other parties hereto. The Affidavit of Self-Adjudication of the estate of Josefa Delgado executed by the late Guillermo J. Rustia on June 15, 1973 is hereby SET ASIDE and declared of no force and effect. As the estates of both dece[d]ents have not as yet been settled, and their settlement [is] considered consolidated in this proceeding in accordance with law, a single administrator therefor is both proper and necessary, and, as the petitioner Carlota Delgado Vda. de dela Rosa has established her right to the appointment as administratrix of the estates, the Court hereby APPOINTS her as

the ADMINISTRATRIX of the intestate estate of the decedent JOSEFA DELGADO in relation to the estate of DR. GUILLERMO J. RUSTIA. Accordingly, let the corresponding LETTERS OF ADMINISTRATION issue to the petitioner CARLOTA DELGADO VDA. DE DE LA ROSA upon her filing of the requisite bond in the sum of FIVE HUNDRED THOUSAND PESOS (P500,000.00). Finally, oppositor GUILLERMINA RUSTIA RUSTIA is hereby ordered to cease and desist from her acts of administration of the subject estates, and is likewise ordered to turn over to the appointed administratix all her collections of the rentals and income due on the assets of the estates in question, including all documents, papers, records and titles pertaining to such estates to the petitioner and appointed administratix CARLOTA DELGADO VDA. DE DE LA ROSA, immediately upon receipt of this Decision. The same oppositor is hereby required to render an accounting of her actual administration of the estates in controversy within a period of sixty (60) days from receipt hereof. SO ORDERED.28 On May 20, 1990, oppositors filed an appeal which was denied on the ground that the record on appeal was not filed on time.29 They then filed a petition for certiorari and mandamus30 which was dismissed by the Court of Appeals.31 However, on motion for reconsideration and after hearing the parties oral arguments, the Court of Appeals reversed itself and gave due course to oppositors appeal in the interest of substantial justice.32 In a petition for review to this Court, petitioners assailed the resolution of the Court of Appeals, on the ground that oppositors failure to file the record on appeal within the reglementary period was a jurisdictional defect which nullified the appeal. On October 10, 1997, this Court allowed the continuance of the appeal. The pertinent portion of our decision33 read: As a rule, periods prescribed to do certain acts must be followed. However, under exceptional circumstances, a delay in the filing of an appeal may be excused on grounds of substantial justice. xxx xxx xxx The respondent court likewise pointed out the trial courts pronouncements as to certain matters of substance, relating to the determination of the heirs of the decedents and the party entitled to the administration of their estate, which were to be raised in the appeal, but were barred absolutely by the denial of the record on appeal upon too technical ground of late filing. xxx xxx xxx In this instance, private respondents intention to raise valid issues in the appeal is apparent and should not have been construed as an attempt to delay or prolong the administration proceedings. xxx xxx xxx A review of the trial courts decision is needed. xxx xxx xxx

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing considerations, the Court hereby AFFIRMS the Resolution dated November 27, 1991 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 23415, for the APPROVAL of the private respondents Record on Appeal and the CONTINUANCE of the appeal from the Manila, Branch LV Regional Trial Courts May 11, 1990 decision. SO ORDERED. Acting on the appeal, the Court of Appeals34 partially set aside the trial courts decision. Upon motion for reconsideration,35 the Court of Appeals amended its earlier decision.36 The dispositive portion of the amended decision read: With the further modification, our assailed decision is RECONSIDERED and VACATED. Consequently, the decision of the trial court is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. A new one is hereby RENDERED declaring: 1.) Dr. Guillermo Rustia and Josefa Delgado Rustia to have been legally married; 2.) the intestate estate of Dr. Guillermo Rustia, Jacoba Delgado-Encinas and the children of Gorgonio Delgado (Campo) entitled to partition among themselves the intestate estate of Josefa D. Rustia in accordance with the proportion referred to in this decision; 3.) the oppositors-appellants as the legal heirs of the late Dr. Guillermo Rustia and thereby entitled to partition his estate in accordance with the proportion referred to herein; and 4.) the intervenor-appellee Guillerma S. Rustia as ineligible to inherit from the late Dr. Guillermo Rustia; thus revoking her appointment as administratrix of his estate. The letters of administration of the intestate estate of Dr. Guillermo Rustia in relation to the intestate estate of Josefa Delgado shall issue to the nominee of the oppositors-appellants upon his or her qualification and filing of the requisite bond in the sum of FIVE HUNDRED THOUSAND PESOS (P500,000.00). Oppositor-appellant Guillermina Rustia Rustia is hereby ordered to cease and desist from her acts of administration of the subject estates and to turn over to the appointed administrator all her collections of the rentals and incomes due on the assets of the estates in question, including all documents, papers, records and titles pertaining to such estates to the appointed administrator, immediately upon notice of his qualification and posting of the requisite bond, and to render an accounting of her (Guillermina Rustia Rustia) actual administration of the estates in controversy within a period of sixty (60) days from notice of the administrators qualification and posting of the bond. The issue of the validity of the affidavit of self-adjudication executed by Dr. Guillermo Rustia on June 15, 1973 isREMANDED to the trial court for further proceedings to determine the extent of the shares of Jacoba Delgado-Encinas and the children of Gorgonio Delgado (Campo) affected by the said adjudication. Hence, this recourse. The issues for our resolution are: 1. whether there was a valid marriage between Guillermo Rustia and Josefa Delgado; 2. who the legal heirs of the decedents Guillermo Rustia and Josefa Delgado are;

3. who should be issued letters of administration. The marriage of Guillermo Rustia and Josefa Delgado A presumption is an inference of the existence or non-existence of a fact which courts are permitted to draw from proof of other facts. Presumptions are classified into presumptions of law and presumptions of fact. Presumptions of law are, in turn, either conclusive or disputable. 37 Rule 131, Section 3 of the Rules of Court provides: Sec. 3. Disputable presumptions. The following presumptions are satisfactory if uncontradicted, but may be contradicted and overcome by other evidence: xxx xxx xxx (aa) That a man and a woman deporting themselves as husband and wife have entered into a lawful contract of marriage; xxx xxx xxx In this case, several circumstances give rise to the presumption that a valid marriage existed between Guillermo Rustia and Josefa Delgado. Their cohabitation of more than 50 years cannot be doubted. Their family and friends knew them to be married. Their reputed status as husband and wife was such that even the original petition for letters of administration filed by Luisa Delgado vda. de Danao in 1975 referred to them as "spouses." Yet, petitioners maintain that Josefa Delgado and Guillermo Rustia had simply lived together as husband and wife without the benefit of marriage. They make much of the absence of a record of the contested marriage, the testimony of a witness38 attesting that they were not married, and a baptismal certificate which referred to Josefa Delgado as "Seorita" or unmarried woman.39 We are not persuaded. First, although a marriage contract is considered a primary evidence of marriage, its absence is not always proof that no marriage in fact took place.40 Once the presumption of marriage arises, other evidence may be presented in support thereof. The evidence need not necessarily or directly establish the marriage but must at least be enough to strengthen the presumption of marriage. Here, the certificate of identity issued to Josefa Delgado as Mrs. Guillermo Rustia,41 the passport issued to her as Josefa D. Rustia,42 the declaration under oath of no less than Guillermo Rustia that he was married to Josefa Delgado43 and the titles to the properties in the name of "Guillermo Rustia married to Josefa Delgado," more than adequately support the presumption of marriage. These are public documents which are prima facie evidence of the facts stated therein.44 No clear and convincing evidence sufficient to overcome the presumption of the truth of the recitals therein was presented by petitioners. Second, Elisa vda. de Anson, petitioners own witness whose testimony they primarily relied upon to support their position, confirmed that Guillermo Rustia had proposed marriage to Josefa Delgado and that eventually, the two had "lived together as husband and wife." This again could not but strengthen the presumption of marriage.

Third, the baptismal certificate45 was conclusive proof only of the baptism administered by the priest who baptized the child. It was no proof of the veracity of the declarations and statements contained therein,46 such as the alleged single or unmarried ("Seorita") civil status of Josefa Delgado who had no hand in its preparation. Petitioners failed to rebut the presumption of marriage of Guillermo Rustia and Josefa Delgado. In this jurisdiction, every intendment of the law leans toward legitimizing matrimony. Persons dwelling together apparently in marriage are presumed to be in fact married. This is the usual order of things in society and, if the parties are not what they hold themselves out to be, they would be living in constant violation of the common rules of law and propriety.Semper praesumitur pro matrimonio. Always presume marriage.47 The Lawful Heirs Of Josefa Delgado To determine who the lawful heirs of Josefa Delgado are, the questioned status of the cohabitation of her mother Felisa Delgado with Ramon Osorio must first be addressed. As mentioned earlier, presumptions of law are either conclusive or disputable. Conclusive presumptions are inferences which the law makes so peremptory that no contrary proof, no matter how strong, may overturn them. 48On the other hand, disputable presumptions, one of which is the presumption of marriage, can be relied on only in the absence of sufficient evidence to the contrary. Little was said of the cohabitation or alleged marriage of Felisa Delgado and Ramon Osorio. The oppositors (now respondents) chose merely to rely on the disputable presumption of marriage even in the face of such countervailing evidence as (1) the continued use by Felisa and Luis (her son with Ramon Osorio) of the surname Delgado and (2) Luis Delgados and Caridad Concepcions Partida de Casamiento49 identifying Luis as "hijo natural de Felisa Delgado" (the natural child of Felisa Delgado).50 All things considered, we rule that these factors sufficiently overcame the rebuttable presumption of marriage. Felisa Delgado and Ramon Osorio were never married. Hence, all the children born to Felisa Delgado out of her relations with Ramon Osorio and Lucio Campo, namely, Luis and his half-blood siblings Nazario, Edilberta, Jose, Jacoba, Gorgonio and the decedent Josefa, all surnamed Delgado,51 were her natural children.52 Pertinent to this matter is the following observation: Suppose, however, that A begets X with B, and Y with another woman, C; then X and Y would be natural brothers and sisters, but of half-blood relationship. Can they succeed each other reciprocally? The law prohibits reciprocal succession between illegitimate children and legitimate children of the same parent, even though there is unquestionably a tie of blood between them. It seems that to allow an illegitimate child to succeed ab intestato (from) another illegitimate child begotten with a parent different from that of the former, would be allowing the illegitimate child greater rights than a legitimate child. Notwithstanding this, however, we submit that

succession should be allowed, even when the illegitimate brothers and sisters are only of the half-blood. The reason impelling the prohibition on reciprocal successions between legitimate and illegitimate families does not apply to the case under consideration. That prohibition has for its basis the difference in category between illegitimate and legitimate relatives. There is no such difference when all the children are illegitimate children of the same parent, even if begotten with different persons. They all stand on the same footing before the law, just like legitimate children of half-blood relation. We submit, therefore, that the rules regarding succession of legitimate brothers and sisters should be applicable to them. Full blood illegitimate brothers and sisters should receive double the portion of half-blood brothers and sisters; and if all are either of the full blood or of the half-blood, they shall share equally.53 Here, the above-named siblings of Josefa Delgado were related to her by fullblood, except Luis Delgado, her half-brother. Nonetheless, since they were all illegitimate, they may inherit from each other. Accordingly, all of them are entitled to inherit from Josefa Delgado. We note, however, that the petitioners before us are already the nephews, nieces, grandnephews and grandnieces of Josefa Delgado. Under Article 972 of the new Civil Code, the right of representation in the collateral line takes place only in favor of the children of brothers and sisters (nephews and nieces). Consequently, it cannot be exercised by grandnephews and grandnieces.54 Therefore, the only collateral relatives of Josefa Delgado who are entitled to partake of her intestate estate are her brothers and sisters, or their children who were still alive at the time of her death on September 8, 1972. They have a vested right to participate in the inheritance.55 The records not being clear on this matter, it is now for the trial court to determine who were the surviving brothers and sisters (or their children) of Josefa Delgado at the time of her death. Together with Guillermo Rustia,56 they are entitled to inherit from Josefa Delgado in accordance with Article 1001 of the new Civil Code:57 Art. 1001. Should brothers and sisters or their children survive with the widow or widower, the latter shall be entitled to one-half of the inheritance and the brothers and sisters or their children to the other one-half. Since Josefa Delgado had heirs other than Guillermo Rustia, Guillermo could not have validly adjudicated Josefas estate all to himself. Rule 74, Section 1 of the Rules of Court is clear. Adjudication by an heir of the decedents entire estate to himself by means of an affidavit is allowed only if he is the sole heir to the estate: SECTION 1. Extrajudicial settlement by agreement between heirs. If the decedent left no will and no debts and the heirs are all of age, or the minors are represented by their judicial or legal representatives duly authorized for the purpose, the parties may, without securing letters of administration, divide the estate among themselves as they see fit by means of a public instrument filed in the office of the register of deeds, and should they disagree, they may do so in an ordinary action of partition. If there is only one heir, he may adjudicate to himself the estate by means of an affidavit filed in the office of the register of deeds. x x x (emphasis supplied) The Lawful Heirs Of Guillermo Rustia Intervenor (now co-respondent) Guillerma Rustia is an illegitimate child 58 of Guillermo Rustia. As such, she may be entitled to successional rights only upon

proof of an admission or recognition of paternity.59 She, however, claimed the status of an acknowledged illegitimate child of Guillermo Rustia only after the death of the latter on February 28, 1974 at which time it was already the new Civil Code that was in effect. Under the old Civil Code (which was in force till August 29, 1950), illegitimate children absolutely had no hereditary rights. This draconian edict was, however, later relaxed in the new Civil Code which granted certain successional rights to illegitimate children but only on condition that they were first recognized or acknowledged by the parent. Under the new law, recognition may be compulsory or voluntary.60 Recognition is compulsory in any of the following cases: (1) in cases of rape, abduction or seduction, when the period of the offense coincides more or less with that of the conception; (2) when the child is in continuous possession of status of a child of the alleged father (or mother)61 by the direct acts of the latter or of his family; (3) when the child was conceived during the time when the mother cohabited with the supposed father; (4) when the child has in his favor any evidence or proof that the defendant is his father. 62 On the other hand, voluntary recognition may be made in the record of birth, a will, a statement before a court of record or in any authentic writing. 63 Intervenor Guillerma sought recognition on two grounds: first, compulsory recognition through the open and continuous possession of the status of an illegitimate child and second, voluntary recognition through authentic writing. There was apparently no doubt that she possessed the status of an illegitimate child from her birth until the death of her putative father Guillermo Rustia. However, this did not constitute acknowledgment but a mere ground by which she could have compelled acknowledgment through the courts .64 Furthermore, any (judicial) action for compulsory acknowledgment has a dual limitation: the lifetime of the child and the lifetime of the putative parent.65On the death of either, the action for compulsory recognition can no longer be filed. 66 In this case, intervenor Guillermas right to claim compulsory acknowledgment prescribed upon the death of Guillermo Rustia on February 28, 1974. The claim of voluntary recognition (Guillermas second ground) must likewise fail. An authentic writing, for purposes of voluntary recognition, is understood as a genuine or indubitable writing of the parent (in this case, Guillermo Rustia). This includes a public instrument or a private writing admitted by the father to be his.67 Did intervenors report card from the University of Santo Tomas and Josefa Delgados obituary prepared by Guillermo Rustia qualify as authentic writings under the new Civil Code? Unfortunately not. The report card of intervenor Guillerma did not bear the signature of Guillermo Rustia. The fact that his name appears there as intervenors parent/guardian holds no weight since he had no participation in its preparation. Similarly, while witnesses testified that it was Guillermo Rustia himself who drafted the notice of death of Josefa Delgado which was published in the Sunday Times on September 10, 1972, that published

obituary was not the authentic writing contemplated by the law. What could have been admitted as an authentic writing was the original manuscript of the notice, in the handwriting of Guillermo Rustia himself and signed by him, not the newspaper clipping of the obituary. The failure to present the original signed manuscript was fatal to intervenors claim. The same misfortune befalls the ampun-ampunan, Guillermina Rustia Rustia, who was never adopted in accordance with law. Although a petition for her adoption was filed by Guillermo Rustia, it never came to fruition and was dismissed upon the latters death. We affirm the ruling of both the trial court and the Court of Appeals holding her a legal stranger to the deceased spouses and therefore not entitled to inherit from them ab intestato. We quote: Adoption is a juridical act, a proceeding in rem, which [created] between two persons a relationship similar to that which results from legitimate paternity and filiation. Only an adoption made through the court, or in pursuance with the procedure laid down under Rule 99 of the Rules of Court is valid in this jurisdiction. It is not of natural law at all, but is wholly and entirely artificial. To establish the relation, the statutory requirements must be strictly carried out, otherwise, the adoption is an absolute nullity. The fact of adoption is never presumed, but must be affirmatively [proven] by the person claiming its existence.68 Premises considered, we rule that two of the claimants to the estate of Guillermo Rustia, namely, intervenor Guillerma Rustia and the ampun-ampunan Guillermina Rustia Rustia, are not lawful heirs of the decedent. Under Article 1002 of the new Civil Code, if there are no descendants, ascendants, illegitimate children, or surviving spouse, the collateral relatives shall succeed to the entire estate of the deceased. Therefore, the lawful heirs of Guillermo Rustia are the remaining claimants, consisting of his sisters,69 nieces and nephews.70 Entitlement To Letters Of Administration An administrator is a person appointed by the court to administer the intestate estate of the decedent. Rule 78, Section 6 of the Rules of Court prescribes an order of preference in the appointment of an administrator: Sec. 6. When and to whom letters of administration granted. If no executor is named in the will, or the executor or executors are incompetent, refuse the trust, or fail to give a bond, or a person dies intestate, administration shall be granted: (a) To the surviving husband or wife, as the case may be, or next of kin, or both, in the discretion of the court, or to such person as such surviving husband or wife, or next of kin, requests to have appointed, if competent and willing to serve; (b) If such surviving husband or wife, as the case may be, or next of kin, or the person selected by them, be incompetent or unwilling, or if the husband or widow or next of kin, neglects for thirty (30) days after the death of the person to apply for administration or to request that the administration be granted to some other person, it may be granted to one or more of the principal creditors, if competent and willing to serve; (c) If there is no such creditor competent and willing to serve, it may be granted to such other person as the court may select.

In the appointment of an administrator, the principal consideration is the interest in the estate of the one to be appointed.71 The order of preference does not rule out the appointment of co-administrators, specially in cases where justice and equity demand that opposing parties or factions be represented in the management of the estates,72 a situation which obtains here. It is in this light that we see fit to appoint joint administrators, in the persons of Carlota Delgado vda. de de la Rosa and a nominee of the nephews and nieces of Guillermo Rustia. They are the next of kin of the deceased spouses Josefa Delgado and Guillermo Rustia, respectively. WHEREFORE, the petition (which seeks to reinstate the May 11, 1990 decision of the RTC Manila, Branch 55) is hereby DENIED. The assailed October 24, 2002 decision of the Court of Appeals is AFFIRMED with the following modifications: 1. Guillermo Rustias June 15, 1973 affidavit of self-adjudication is hereby ANNULLED. 2. the intestate estate of Guillermo Rustia shall inherit half of the intestate estate of Josefa Delgado. The remaining half shall pertain to (a) the full and half-siblings of Josefa Delgado who survived her and (b) the children of any of Josefa Delgados full- or half-siblings who may have predeceased her, also surviving at the time of her death. Josefa Delgados grandnephews and grandnieces are excluded from her estate. In this connection, the trial court is hereby ordered to determine the identities of the relatives of Josefa Delgado who are entitled to share in her estate. 3. Guillermo Rustias estate (including its one-half share of Josefa Delgados estate) shall be inherited by Marciana Rustia vda. de Damian and Hortencia Rustia Cruz (whose respective shares shall be per capita) and the children of the late Roman Rustia, Sr. (who survived Guillermo Rustia and whose respective shares shall be per stirpes). Considering that Marciana Rustia vda. de Damian and Hortencia Rustia Cruz are now deceased, their respective shares shall pertain to their estates. 4. Letters of administration over the still unsettled intestate estates of Guillermo Rustia and Josefa Delgado shall issue to Carlota Delgado vda. de de la Rosa and to a nominee from among the heirs of Guillermo Rustia, as joint administrators, upon their qualification and filing of the requisite bond in such amount as may be determined by the trial court. No pronouncement as to costs. SO ORDERED. RENATO C. CORONA Associate Justice

G.R. No. L-26306 April 27, 1988 TESTATE ESTATE OF THE LATE GREGORIO VENTURA MARIA VENTURA, executrix- appellant, MIGUEL VENTURA and JUANA CARDONA, heirs-appellants, vs. GREGORIA VENTURA and HER HUSBAND, EXEQUIEL VICTORIO, MERCEDES VENTURA and HER HUSBAND, PEDRO D. CORPUZ, oppositorsappellees.

PARAS, J.: This is an appeal from the order of the Court of First Instance of Nueva Ecija, Guimba, Branch V in Special Proceedings No. 812, Testate of the late Gregorio Venture, dated October 5, 1965, removing the appellant Maria Ventura as executrix and administratrix of the estate of the late Gregorio Ventura, and in her place appointing the appellees Mercedes Ventura and Gregoria Ventura as joint administratrices of the estate. (Record on Appeal, pp. 120-131.) Appellant Maria Ventura is the illegitimate daughter of the deceased Gregorio Ventura while Miguel Ventura and Juana Cardona are his son and saving spouse who are also the brother and mother of Maria Ventura. On the other hand, appellees Mercedes and Gregoria Ventura are the deceased's legitimate children with his former wife, the late Paulina Simpliciano (Record on Appeal, p. 122) but the paternity of appellees was denied by the deceased in his will (Record on Appeal, p. 4). On December 14,1953, Gregorio Ventura filed a petition for the probate of his will which did not include the appellees and the petition was docketed as Special Proceedings No. 812 (Record on Appeal, pp. 1-3). In the said will, the appellant Maria Ventura, although an illegitimate child, was named and appointed by the testator to be the executrix of his will and the administratrix of his estate (Record on Appeal, p. 7). In due course, said will was admitted to probate on January 14,1954 (Record on Appeal, pp. 8-10). Gregorio Ventura died on September 26,1955. On October 10, 1955, the appellant Maria Ventura filed a motion for her appointment as executrix and for the issuance of letters testamentary in her favor (Record on Appeal, pp. 10-11). On October 17, 1955, Maria Ventura was appointed executrix and the corresponding letters testamentary was issued in her favor (Record on Appeal, pp. 11-12). On or about July 26, 1956, Maria Ventura submitted an inventory of the estate of Gregorio Ventura (Record on Appeal, pp. 12-20). On June 17,1960, she filed her accounts of administration for the years 1955 to 1960, inclusive. (Record on Appeal, pp. 20-27). Said account of administration was opposed by the spouses Mercedes Ventura and Pedro Corpuz on July 25, 1960 (Record on Appeal, pp. 27-33) and by Exequiel Victorio and Gregoria Ventura on August 5,1963 (Record on Appeal, pp. 46-50). Both oppositions assailed the veracity of the report as not reflecting the true income of the estate and the expenses which allegedly are not administration expenses. But on January 25, 1961, Maria Ventura filed a motion to hold in abeyance the approval of the accounts of administration or to have their approval without the opposition

of the spouses Mercedes Ventura and Pedro Corpuz and Gregoria Ventura and Exequiel Victorio on the ground that the question of the paternity of Mercedes Ventura and Gregoria Ventura is still pending final determination before the Supreme Court and that should they be adjudged the adulterous children of testator, as claimed, they are not entitled to inherit nor to oppose the approval of the counts of administration (Record on Appeals, pp. 33-36). Spouses Mercedes Ventura and Pedro Corpuz filed on February 2, 1961 their opposition to the motion to hold in abeyance the approval of the accounts of administration on the ground that Mercedes and Gregoria Ventura had already been declared by the Court of First Instance in Civil Cases No. 1064 and 1476, which cases are supposed to be pending before the Supreme Court, as the legitimate children of Gregorio Ventura, hence, they have reason to protect their interest (Record on Appeal, pp. 36-39). On February 9,1961, the motion to hold in abeyance the approval of the accounts was denied (Record on Appeal, pp. 39-40). It appears that on July 12, 1963, the Court set the case for pre-trial on August 7, 1963 in connection with the accounts of the executrix Maria Ventura dated June 17, 1960 and the Motion to Annul Provision of Will dated July 14,1962 of Mercedes Ventura (Record on Appeal, p. 45). On October 22, 1963, four motions were filed by Mercedes Ventura and Gregoria Ventura, namely: (1) motion to remove the executrix Maria Ventura which was supplemented on April 27, 1965; (2) motion to require her to deposit the harvest of palay of the property under administration in a bonded warehouse; (3) motion to render an accounting of the proceeds and expenses of Administration; and (4) motion to require her to include in the inventory of the estate certain excluded properties (Record on Appeal, pp. 50-53; 71). An opposition to said motions was filed by the heirs Juana Cardona and Miguel Ventura and by the executrix Maria Ventura herself (Record on Appeal, pp. 56-61; 61-70 and 71). On motion of counsel for Exequiel Victorio and Gregoria Ventura the joint motions to require an Up-to-date Accounting and to Require Executrix Ventura to Include Excluded Properties in Her Inventory were ordered withdrawn (Order dated February 2, 1965, Record on Appeal, p. 73). The other two motions were however set for hearing. The grounds of aforesaid joint motions to remove the executrix Maria Ventura are: (1) that she is grossly incompetent; (2) that she has maliciously and purposely concealed certain properties of the estate in the inventory; (3) that she is merely an illegitimate daughter who can have no harmonious relations with the appellees; (4) that the executrix has neglected to render her accounts and failed to comply with the Order of the Court of December 12, 1963, requiring her to file her accounts of administration for the years 1961 to 1963 (Record on Appeal, pp. 70 and 75-76) and the Order of June 11, 1964, reiterating aforesaid Order of December 12, 1963 (Record on Appeal, p. 76); and (5) that she is with permanent physical defect hindering her from efficiently performing her duties as an executrix (Record on Appeal, pp. 50-53 and 74-79). On May 17, 1965, the executrix Maria Ventura finally submitted her accounts of administration covering the period 1961 to 1965 (Record on Appeal, pp. 79-84) which were again opposed by the spouses Exequiel Victorio and Gregoria Ventura on September 21, 1965 and by the spouses Mercedes Ventura and Pedro Corpuz on September 29, 1965 (Record on Appeal, pp. 106-120). On June 2, 1965, the executrix filed her supplemental opposition to the aforesaid four motions, and prayed that the joint supplemental motion to remove the executrix be denied or held in abeyance until after the status of Mercedes and Gregoria Ventura as heirs

of the testator is finally decided (Record on Appeal, pp. 85-1 01). On June 3, 1965, the Court, finding that the estate taxes have not been paid, ordered the administratrix to pay the same within thirty (30) days. On September 13, 1965, the lower court denied the suspension of the proceedings and deferred the resolution of the joint motion to remove executrix Maria Ventura until after the examination of the physical fitness of said executrix to undertake her duties as such. Also, it ordered the deposit of all palay to be harvested in the next agricultural year and subsequent years to be deposited in a bonded warehouse to be selected by the Court and the palay so deposited shall not be withdrawn without the express permission of the Court (Record on Appeal, pp. 103-105). On September 21, 1965, spouses Exequiel Victorio and Gregoria Ventura filed their opposition to the accounts of administration of Maria Ventura dated May 17, 1965, while that of spouses Mercedes Ventura and Pedro Corpuz was filed on September 29, 1965, both oppositions alleging among others that said accounts do not reflect the true and actual income of the estate and that the expenses reported thereunder are fake, exhorbitant and speculative (Record on Appeal, pp. 106-120). On October 5, 1965, the court a quo, finding that the executrix Maria Ventura has squandered the funds of the estate, was inefficient and incompetent, has failed to comply with the orders of the Court in the matter of presenting up-to-date statements of accounts and neglected to pay the real estate taxes of the estate, rendered the questioned decision, the dispositive portion of which reads: WHEREFORE, Maria Ventura is hereby removed as executrix and administratrix of the estate and in her place Mercedes Ventura and Gregoria Ventura are hereby appointed joint a tratrices of the estate upon filing by each of them of a bond of P 7,000.00. Let letters of administration be issued to Mercedes Ventura and Gregoria Ventura upon their qualification. IT IS SO ORDERED. (Record on Appeal pp. 120-131). Hence, this appeal. In their brief, appellants Maria Ventura and spouses Juana Cardona and Miguel Ventura assign the following errors allegedly committed by the probate court: ASSIGNMENT OF ERRORS I The lower court erred in ordering the removal of Maria Ventura as executrix and administratrix of the will and estate of the deceased Gregorio Ventura without giving her full opportunity to be heard and to present all her evidence. II The lower court erred in finding that the executrix Maria Ventura had squandered and dissipated the funds of the estate under her administration.

III The lower court erred in finding that the executrix Maria Ventura was inefficient and incompetent. IV That, considering the circumtances surrounding the case, the lower court erred in finding that the failure of Maria Ventura to submit her periodical account had justified her removal as executrix. V The lower court erred in considering as an established fact that the appellees Mercedes Ventura and Gregoria Ventura are the legitimate daughters of the deceased Gregorio Ventura. VI The lower court erred in finding that the devises and bequests in favor of Maria Ventura and Miguel Ventura as specified in paragraph 8 of the last Will and Testament of the late Gregorio Ventura have ipso facto been annulled. VII The lower court erred in allowing the appellees Mercedes Ventura and Gregoria Ventura to intervene in the hearing of the accounts of administration submitted by the executrix Maria Ventura and/or in not suspending the hearing of the said accounts until the said appellees have finally established their status as legitimate children of the deceased Gregorio Ventura. VIII The lower court erred in appointing (even without a proper petition for appointment and much less a hearing on the appointment of) the appellees Mercedes Ventura and Gregoria Ventura who have an adverse interest as joint administratrices of the estate of the deceased Gregorio Ventura. IX The lower court erred in not appointing the surviving widow, Juana Cardona, or Miguel Ventura, as administratrix of the estate of Gregorio Ventura in case the removal of Maria Ventura as executrix and administratrix thereof is legally justified. X Considering that there are in fact two (2) factions representing opposite interests in the estate, the lower court erred in not appointing Juana Cardona, or Miguel Ventura, as one of the two (2) administratrices.' (Joint Brief for the Appellants, pp. 1-4)

On July 19,1967, Atty. Arturo Tolentino (representing appellees Mercedes Ventura and Pedro Corpuz) and Atty. Jose J. Francisco (representing Gregoria and Exequiel Victoria), having failed to submit their respective briefs within the period for the purpose, which expired on July 2 and May 29,1967, respectively, the Supreme Court Resolved to consider this case submitted for decision WITHOUT SAID APPELLEES' BRIEF (Rollo, p. 152). The crucial issue in this case is whether or not the removal of Maria Ventura as executrix is legally justified. This issue has, however, become moot and academic in view of the decision of this Court in related cases. At the outset, it is worthy to note that aside from the instant special proceedings, there are two other civil cases involving the estate of the deceased Gregoria Ventura, namely, Civil Cases Nos. 1064 and 1476. Civil Case No. 1064 was filed on December 2, 1952 by herein appellee Gregoria Ventura in the Court of First Instance of Nueva Ecija, Branch I, against the other appellees herein Mercedes Ventura and their father, Gregorio Ventura. Later Mercedes Ventura joined cause with Gregoria Ventura. (Record on Appeal, p. 95). Gregoria and Mercedes Ventura claimed that they are the legitimate children of Gregorio Ventura and his wife Paulina Simpliciano, who died in 1943, and asked that one-half of the properties described in the complaint be declared as the share of their mother in the conjugal partnership, with them as the only forced heirs of their mother Paulina (Joint Brief for the Appellants, pp. 53-68). Subsequently, Civil Case No. 1476 was filed by Alipio, Eufracia and Juliana, all surnamed Simpliciano, against Gregorio Ventura and the two sisters, Mercedes and Gregoria Ventura, before the Court of First Instance of Nueva Ecija, Branch I. They alleged that as the only children of Modesto Simpliciano, sole brother of Paulina Simpliciano, they, instead of Mercedes and Gregoria Ventura, whom they claimed are adulterous children of Paulina with another man, Teodoro Ventura and as such are not entitled to inherit from her, are the ones who should inherit the share of Paulina Simpliciano in the conjugal Partnership with Gregorio Ventura (Joint Brief For The Appealant,pp.69-79) It appears that on November 4, 1959, after a joint hearing of Civil Cases Nos. 1064 and 1476, the lower court rendered its judgment, the dispositive portion of which reads as follows: WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered declaring Mercedes Ventura and Gregoria Ventura to be the ligitimate daughters of Paulina Simpliciano and Gregorio Ventura; declaring that as such ligitimate daughters of Paulina Simpliciano they are entitled to 1/2 of the properties described in paragraph six of the complaint; ordering the defendant Maria Ventura, as administratrix of the estate of Gregorio Ventura to pay to Mercedes Ventura and Gregorio Ventura the amount of P 19,074.09 which shall be divided equally between Mercedes and Gregoria Ventura declaring Mercedes Ventura and Pedro Corpuz are the exclusive owners of the property describe in the certificate of Title Nos. T-1102, 212, T1213, T-1214, Exhibits 32, 33, 34 and 35, respectively; ordering Mercedes Ventura and Pedro D. Corpuz to pay to the conjugal partnership of Gregorio Ventura and Paulina Simpliciano the sum of P100,000.00, one-half of which shall pertain to the estate of Gregorio Ventura and the other half to the estate of Paulina Simpliciano to whom Mercedes and Gregoria Ventura have succeeded, to be divided between Mercedes and Gregoria in equal

parts; and dismissing Civil Case No. 1476. The parties are urged to arrive at an amicable partition of the properties herein adjudicated within twenty days from receipt of this decision. Upon their failure to do so, the Court shall appoint commissioners to divide the properties in accordance with the terms of the decision. Without pronouncements as to costs. (Emphasis supplied). (Joint Brief for the Appellants, pp. 3738.) Thereafter, on July 14, 1962, Mercedes Ventura filed a motion to annul the provisions of the will of the deceased Gregorio Ventura in Special Proceedings No. 812, which motion was opposed by Miguel Ventura and Juana Cardona and later by Maria Ventura. They claimed that the decision dated November 4,1959 in Civil Cases Nos. 1064 and 1476 was not yet final. On February 26,1964, the court annulled the institution of the heirs in the probated will of Gregorio Ventura. The motion for reconsideration of the aforesaid order filed by executrix Maria Ventura was denied on June 11, 1964. Accordingly, Maria Ventura appealed the February 26, 1964 and June 11, 1964 orders of the probate court in Special Proceedings No. 812 before the Supreme Court and was docketed as G.R. No. L-23878. On May 27,1977, this Court, through then Associate Justice Antonio P. Barredo, ruled, as follows: And so, acting on appellees' motion to dismiss appeal, it is Our considered opinion that the decision in Civil Cases Nos.1064 and 1476 declaring that appellees Mercedes and Gregoria Ventura are the ligimate children of the deceased Gregorio Ventura and his wife, Paulina Simpliciano, and as such are entitled to the annulment of the institution of heirs made in the probated will of said deceased became final and executory upon the finality of the order, approving ther partition directed in the decision in question . We need not indulge in any discussion as to whether or not, as of the time the orders here in question were issued by the trial court said decision had the nature of an interlocutory order only. To be sure, in the case of Miranda, aforementioned, the opinion of the majority of the Court may well be invoked against appellant's pose. In any event, even if the Court were minded to modify again Miranda and go back to Fuentebella and Zaldariaga and it is not, as of now there can be no question that the approval by the trial court in Civil Cases Nos. 1064 and 1476 of the partition report of the commissioners appointed for the purpose, one of whom, Emmanuel Mariano, is the husband of appellant, put a definite end to those cases, leaving nothing else to be done in the trial court. That order of approval is an appealable one, and inasmuch as no appeal has been taken from the same, it is beyond dispute that the decision in controversy has already become final and executory in all respects. Hence, the case at bar has become moot and academic. (Ventura vs. Ventura, 77 SCRA 159, May 27,1977) Under Article 854 of the Civil Code, "the pretention or omission of one, some, or all of the compulsory heirs in the direct line, whether living at the time of the execution of the will or born after the death of the testator, shall annul the institution of heir; but the devises and legacies shall be valid insofar as they are not inofficious," and as a result, intestacy follows, thereby rendering the previous appointment of Maria Ventura as executrix moot and academic. This would now

necessitate the appointment of another administrator, under the following provision: Section 6, Rule 78 of the Rules of Court: When and to whom letters of administration granted.-If no executor is named in the will, or the executor or executors are incompetent, refuse the trust, or fail to give bond, or a person dies intestate, a petition shall be granted: (a) To the surviving husband or wife, as the case may be or next of kin, or both, in the discretion of the court, or to such person as such surviving husband or wife, or both, in the discretion of the court, or to such person as such surviving husband or wife, or next of kin, requests to have appointed, if competent and willing to serve;" xxx xxx xxx In the case at bar, the surviving spouse of the deceased Gregorio Ventura is Juana Cardona while the next of kin are: Mercedes and Gregoria Ventura and Maria and Miguel Ventura. The "next of kin" has been defined as those persons who are entitled under the statute of distribution to the decedent's property (Cooper vs. Cooper, 43 Ind. A. 620, 88 NE 341). It is generally said that "the nearest of kin, whose interest in the estate is more preponderant, is preferred in the choice of administrator. 'Among members of a class the strongest ground for preference is the amount or preponderance of interest. As between next of kin, the nearest of kin is to be preferred." (Cabanas, et al. vs. Enage et al., 40 Off. Gaz. 12 Suppl. 227; citing 12 Am. Jur. Sec. 77, p. 416, cited in Francisco Vicente J., The Revised Rules of Court in the Philippines, Vol. V-B 1970 Ed., p. 23). As decided by the lower court and sustained by the Supreme Court, Mercedes and Gregoria Ventura are the legitimate children of Gregorio Ventura and his wife, the late Paulina Simpliciano. Therefore, as the nearest of kin of Gregorio Ventura they are entitled to preference over the illegitimate children of Gregorio Ventura, namely: Maria and Miguel Ventura. Hence, under the aforestated preference provided in Section 6 of Rule 78, the person or persons to be appointed administrator are Juana Cardona, as the surviving spouse, or Mercedes and Gregoria Ventura as nearest of kin, or Juana Cardona and Mercedes and Gregoria Ventura in the discretion of the Court, in order to represent both interests. PREMISES CONSIDERED, the appeal interposed by appellants Maria Ventura, Juana Cardona and Miguel Ventura is hereby DISMISSED. SO ORDERED.