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CASE DIGEST: SUROZA V. HONRADO(110 SCRA 388 )


Published by paul on June 25, 2013 | Leave a response

Suroza v. Honrado
110 SCRA 388

FACTS:

Spouses Mauro Suroza and Marcelina Salvador, who were childless, reared a boy
named Agapito. Agapito and his wife Nenita de Vera had a daughter named Lilia.
Nenita became Agapito’s guardian when he became disabled. A certain Arsenia de la
Cruz also wanted to be his guardian in another proceeding but it was dismissed.
Arsenia then delivered a child named Marilyn Sy to Marcelina who brought her up
as a supposed daughter of Agapito. Marilyn used the surname Suroza although not
legally adopted by Agapito. When Marcelina (who was an illiterate) was 73 years old,
she supposedly executed a notarial will which was in English and thumbmarked by
her. In the will, she allegedly bequeathed all her properties to Marilyn. She also
named as executrix her laundrywoman, Marina Paje. Paje filed a petition for probate
of Marcelina’s will. Judge Honrado appointed Paje as administratrix and issued
orders allowing the latter to withdraw money from the savings account of Marcelina
and Marilyn, and instructing the sheriff to eject the occupants of testatrix’s house,
among whom was Nenita. She and the other occupants filed a motion to set aside the
order ejecting them, alleging that Agapito was the sole heir of the deceased, and that
Marilyn was not the decedent’s granddaughter. Despite this, Judge Honrado issued
an order probating Marcelina’s will.

Nenita filed an omnibus petition to set aside proceedings, admit opposition with
counter-petition for administration and preliminary injunction, and an opposition to
the probate of the will and a counter-petition for letters of administration, which
were dismissed by Judge Honrado. Instead of appealing, Nenita filed a case to annul
the probate proceedings but Judge Honrado dismissed it. The judge then closed the
testamentary proceeding after noting that the executrix had delivered the estate to
Marilyn, and that the estate tax had been paid.

Ten months later, Nenita filed a complaint before the SC, charging Judge Honrado
with having probated the fraudulent will of Marcelina. She reiterated her contention
that the testatrix was illiterate as shown by the fact that she affixed her thumbmark
to the will and that she did not know English, the language in which the will was
written. She further alleged that Judge Honrado did not take into account the
consequences of the preterition of testatrix’s son, Agapito. Judge Honrado in his
comment did not deal specifically with the allegations but merely pointed to the fact
that Nenita did not appeal from the decree of probate and that in a motion, she asked
for a thirty day period within which to vacate the house of the testatrix. Nenita
subsequently filed in the CA a petition for certiorari and prohibition against Judge
Honrado wherein she prayed that the will, the decree of probate and all the
proceedings in the probate case be declared void. The CA dismissed the petition
because Nenita’s remedy was an appeal and her failure to do so did not entitle her to
resort to the special civil action of certiorari. Relying on that decision, Judge Honrado
filed a MTD the administrative case for having allegedly become moot and academic.

ISSUE:

W/N disciplinary action be taken against respondent judge for having admitted to
probate a will, which on its face is void because it is written in English, a language
not known to the illiterate testatrix, and which is probably a forged will because she
and the attesting witnesses did not appear before the notary as admitted by the
notary himself.

HELD:

YES. Respondent judge, on perusing the will and noting that it was written in English
and was thumbmarked by an obviously illiterate testatrix, could have readily
perceived that the will is void. In the opening paragraph of the will, it was stated that
English was a language “understood and known” to the testatrix. But in its
concluding paragraph, it was stated that the will was read to the testatrix “and
translated into Filipino language”. That could only mean that the will was written in
a language not known to the illiterate testatrix and, therefore, it is void because of
the mandatory provision of article 804 of the Civil Code that every will must be
executed in a language or dialect known to the testator.

The hasty preparation of the will is shown in the attestation clause and notarial
acknowledgment where Marcelina Salvador Suroza is repeatedly referred to as the
“testator” instead of “testatrix”. Had respondent judge been careful and observant,
he could have noted not only the anomaly as to the language of the will but also that
there was something wrong in instituting the supposed granddaughter as sole
heiress and giving nothing at all to her supposed father who was still alive.
Furthermore, after the hearing conducted by the deputy clerk of court, respondent
judge could have noticed that the notary was not presented as a witness. In spite of
the absence of an opposition, respondent judge should have personally conducted
the hearing on the probate of the will so that he could have ascertained whether the
will was validly executed.

Filipino Guardians

RELATED ARTICLES:

May 2013 Pangasinan Election Case Digest: Dela Cerna v.


Results Potot (12 SCRA 576)

Case Digest: BLAS v. SANTOS Case Digest: GONZALES v.


LEGARDA

Case Digest: Austria v. Reyes Case Digest: CHUA v. CFI


(31 SCRA 754)

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