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G.R. No. 82027 March 29, 1990 ROMARICO G. VITUG, petitioner, vs. THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS and ROWENA FAUSTINO- CORONA, respondents. SURVIVORSHIP AGREEMENT SARMIENTO, J.: This case is a chapter in an earlier suit decided by this Court 1 involving the probate of the two wills of the late Dolores Luchangco Vitug, who died in New York, U. S.A., on November 10, 1980, naming private respondent Rowena Faustino-Corona executrix. In our said decision, we upheld the appointment of Nenita Alonte as co-special administrator of Mrs. Vitug's estate with her (Mrs. Vitug's) widower, petitioner Romarico G. Vitug, pending probate. On January 13, 1985, Romarico G. Vitug filed a motion asking for authority from the probate court to sell certain shares of stock and real properties belonging to the estate to cover allegedly his advances to the estate in the sum of P667,731.66, plus interests, which he claimed were personal funds . As found by the Court of Appeals, 2 the alleged advances consisted of P58,147.40 spent for the payment of estate tax, P518,834.27 as deficiency estate tax, and P90,749.99 as "increment thereto." 3 According to Mr. Vitug, he withdrew the sums of P518,834.27 and P90,749.99 from savings account No. 35342-038 of the Bank of America, Makati, Metro Manila. On April 12, 1985 , Rowena Corona opposed the motion to sell on the ground that the same funds withdrawn from savings account No. 35342-038 were conjugal partnership properties and part of the estate, and hence, there was allegedly no ground for reimbursement. She also sought his ouster for failure to include the sums in question for inventory and for "concealment of funds belonging to the estate." 4 Vitug insists that the said funds are his exclusive property having acquired the same through a survivorship agreement executed with his late wife and the bank on June 19, 1970 . The agreement provides: We hereby agree with each other and with the BANK OF AMERICAN NATIONAL TRUST AND SAVINGS ASSOCIATION (hereinafter referred to as the BANK), that all money now or hereafter deposited by us or any or either of us with the BANK in our joint savings current account shall be the property of all or both of us and shall be payable to and collectible or withdrawable by either or any of us during our lifetime, and after the death of either or any of us shall belong to and be the sole property of the survivor or survivors, and shall be

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G.R. No. 82027 March 29, 1990

ROMARICO G. VITUG,petitioner,vs.THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS and ROWENA FAUSTINO-CORONA,respondents.

SURVIVORSHIP AGREEMENT

SARMIENTO,J.:

This case is a chapter in an earlier suit decided by this Court1involving the probate of the two wills of the late Dolores Luchangco Vitug, who died in New York, U. S.A., on November 10, 1980, naming private respondent Rowena Faustino-Corona executrix. In our said decision, we upheld the appointment of Nenita Alonte as co-special administrator of Mrs. Vitug's estate with her (Mrs. Vitug's) widower, petitioner Romarico G. Vitug, pending probate.

On January 13, 1985, Romarico G. Vitug filed a motion asking for authority from the probate court to sell certain shares of stock and real properties belonging to the estate to cover allegedly his advances to the estate in the sum of P667,731.66, plus interests, which he claimed were personal funds. As found by the Court of Appeals,2the alleged advances consisted of P58,147.40 spent for the payment of estate tax, P518,834.27 as deficiency estate tax, and P90,749.99 as "increment thereto."3According to Mr. Vitug, he withdrew the sums of P518,834.27 and P90,749.99 from savings account No. 35342-038 of the Bank of America, Makati, Metro Manila.

On April 12, 1985, Rowena Corona opposed the motion to sell on the ground that the same funds withdrawn from savings account No. 35342-038 were conjugal partnership properties and part of the estate, and hence, there was allegedly no ground for reimbursement. She also sought his ouster for failure to include the sums in question for inventory and for "concealment of funds belonging to the estate."4

Vitug insists that the said funds are his exclusive property having acquired the same through a survivorship agreement executed with his late wife and the bank on June 19, 1970. The agreement provides:

We hereby agree with each other and with the BANK OF AMERICAN NATIONAL TRUST AND SAVINGS ASSOCIATION (hereinafter referred to as the BANK), that all money now or hereafter deposited by us or any or either of us with the BANK in our joint savings current account shall be the property of all or both of us and shall be payable to and collectible or withdrawable by either or any of us during our lifetime, and after the death of either or any of us shall belong to and be the sole property of the survivor or survivors, and shall be payable to and collectible or withdrawable by such survivor or survivors.

We further agree with each other and the BANK that the receipt or check of either, any or all of us during our lifetime, or the receipt or check of the survivor or survivors, for any payment or withdrawal made for our above-mentioned account shall be valid and sufficient release and discharge of the BANK for such payment or withdrawal.5

The trial courts6upheld the validity of this agreement and granted "the motion to sell some of the estate of Dolores L. Vitug, the proceeds of which shall be used to pay the personal funds of Romarico Vitug in the total sum of P667,731.66 ... ."7

On the other hand, the Court of Appeals, in the petition for certiorari filed by the herein private respondent, held that the above-quoted survivorship agreement constitutes a conveyancemortis causawhich "did not comply with the formalities of a valid will as prescribed by Article 805 of the Civil Code,"8and secondly, assuming that it is a mere donationinter vivos,it is a prohibited donation under the provisions of Article 133 of the Civil Code.9

The dispositive portion of the decision of the Court of Appeals states:

WHEREFORE, the order of respondent Judge dated November 26, 1985 (Annex II, petition) is hereby set aside insofar as it granted private respondent's motion to sell certain properties of the estate of Dolores L. Vitug for reimbursement of his alleged advances to the estate, but the same order is sustained in all other respects. In addition, respondent Judge is directed to include provisionally the deposits in Savings Account No. 35342-038 with the Bank of America, Makati, in the inventory of actual properties possessed by the spouses at the time of the decedent's death. With costs against private respondent.10

In his petition, Vitug, the surviving spouse, assails the appellate court's ruling on the strength of our decisions inRivera v. People's Bank and Trust Co.11andMacam v. Gatmaitan12in which we sustained the validity of "survivorship agreements" and considering them as aleatory contracts.13

The petition is meritorious.

The conveyance in question is not, first of all, one ofmortis causa,which should be embodied in a will.

A will has been defined as "a personal, solemn, revocable and free act by which a capacitated person disposes of his property and rights and declares or complies with duties to take effect after his death."14

In other words, the bequest or device must pertain to the testator.15

In this case, the monies subject of savings account No. 35342-038 were in the nature of conjugal funds In the case relied on,Rivera v. People's Bank and Trust Co.,16we rejected claims that a survivorship agreement purports to deliver one party's separate properties in favor of the other, but simply, their joint holdings:

xxx xxx xxx

... Such conclusion is evidently predicated on the assumption that Stephenson was the exclusive owner of the funds-deposited in the bank, which assumption was in turn based on the facts (1) that the account was originally opened in the name of Stephenson alone and (2) that Ana Rivera "served only as housemaid of the deceased." But it not infrequently happens that a person deposits money in the bank in the name of another; and in the instant case it also appears that Ana Rivera served her master for about nineteen years without actually receiving her salary from him. The fact that subsequently Stephenson transferred the account to the name of himself and/or Ana Rivera and executed with the latter the survivorship agreement in question although there was no relation of kinship between them but only that of master and servant, nullifies the assumption that Stephenson was the exclusive owner of the bank account. In the absence, then, of clear proof to the contrary, we must give full faith and credit to the certificate of deposit which recites in effect that the funds in question belonged to Edgar Stephenson and Ana Rivera; that they were joint (and several) owners thereof; and that either of them could withdraw any part or the whole of said account during the lifetime of both, and the balance, if any, upon the death of either, belonged to the survivor.17

xxx xxx xxx

InMacam v. Gatmaitan,18it was held:

xxx xxx xxx

This Court is of the opinion that Exhibit C

is an aleatory contract whereby, according to article 1790 of the Civil Code, one of the parties or both reciprocally bind themselves to give or do something as an equivalent for that which the other party is to give or do in case of the occurrence of an event which is uncertain or will happen at an indeterminate time.

As already stated, Leonarda was the owner of the house and Juana of the Buick automobile and most of the furniture. By virtue of Exhibit C, Juana would become the owner of the house in case Leonarda died first, and Leonarda would become the owner of the automobile and the furniture if Juana were to die first. In this manner Leonarda and Juana reciprocally assigned their respective property to one another conditioned upon who might die first, the time of death determining the event upon which the acquisition of such right by the one or the other depended. This contract, as any other contract, is binding upon the parties thereto. Inasmuch as Leonarda had died before Juana, the latter thereupon acquired the ownership of the house, in the same manner as Leonarda would have acquired the ownership of the automobile and of the furniture if Juana had died first.19

xxx xxx xxx

There is no showing that the funds exclusively belonged to one party, and hence it must be presumed to be conjugal, having been acquired during the existence of the marital relations.20

Neither is the survivorship agreement a donationinter vivos,for obvious reasons, because it was to take effect after the death of one party. Secondly, it is not a donation between the spouses because it involved no conveyance of a spouse's own properties to the other.

It is also our opinion that the agreement involves no modification petition of the conjugal partnership, as held by the Court of Appeals,21by "mere stipulation"22and that it is no "cloak"23to circumvent the law on conjugal property relations. Certainly, the spouses are not prohibited by law to invest conjugal property, say, by way of a joint and several bank account, more commonly denominated in banking parlance as an "and/or" account. In the case at bar, when the spouses Vitug opened savings account No. 35342-038, they merely put what rightfully belonged to them in a money-making venture. They did not dispose of it in favor of the other, which would have arguably been sanctionable as a prohibited donation. And since the funds were conjugal, it can not be said that one spouse could have pressured the other in placing his or her deposits in the money pool.

The validity of the contract seems debatable by reason of its "survivor-take-all" feature, but in reality, that contract imposed a mere obligation with a term, the term being death. Such agreements are permitted by the Civil Code.24

Under Article 2010 of the Code:

ART. 2010. By an aleatory contract, one of the parties or both reciprocally bind themselves to give or to do something in consideration of what the other shall give or do upon the happening of an event which is uncertain, or which is to occur at an indeterminate time.

Under the aforequoted provision, the fulfillment of an aleatory contract depends on either the happening of an event which is (1) "uncertain," (2) "which is to occur at an indeterminate time." A survivorship agreement, the sale of a sweepstake ticket, a transaction stipulating on the value of currency, and insurance have been held to fall under the first category, while a contract for life annuity or pension under Article 2021,et sequentia, has been categorized under the second.25In either case, the element of risk is present. In the case at bar, the risk was the death of one party and survivorship of the other.

However, as we have warned:

xxx xxx xxx

But although the survivorship agreement is per se not contrary to law its operation or effect may be violative of the law. For instance, if it be shown in a given case that such agreement is a mere cloak to hide an inofficious donation, to transfer property in fraud of creditors, or to defeat the legitime of a forced heir, it may be assailed and annulled upon such grounds. No such vice has been imputed and established against the agreement involved in this case.26

xxx xxx xxx

There is no demonstration here that the survivorship agreement had been executed for such unlawful purposes, or, as held by the respondent court, in order to frustrate our laws on wills, donations, and conjugal partnership.

The conclusion is accordingly unavoidable that Mrs. Vitug having predeceased her husband, the latter has acquired upon her death a vested right over the amounts under savings account No. 35342-038 of the Bank of America. Insofar as the respondent court ordered their inclusion in the inventory of assets left by Mrs. Vitug, we hold that the court was in error. Being the separate property of petitioner, it forms no more part of the estate of the deceased.

WHEREFORE, the decision of the respondent appellate court, dated June 29, 1987, and its resolution, dated February 9, 1988, are SET ASIDE.

ANTONIO B. BALTAZAR,

- versus -

LORENZO LAXA,

MAGULYAN CASE

DELCASTILLO,J.:

It is incumbent upon those who oppose the probate of a will to clearly establish that the decedent was not of sound and disposing mind at the time of the execution of said will. Otherwise, the state is duty-bound to give full effect to the wishes of the testator to distribute his estate in the manner provided in his will so long as it is legally tenable.[1]

Before us is a Petition for Review onCertiorari[2]of the June 15, 2006 Decision[3]of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CV No. 80979 which reversed the September 30, 2003 Decision[4]of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 52, Guagua, Pampanga in Special Proceedings No. G-1186.The assailed CA Decision granted the petition for probate of the notarial will of Paciencia Regala (Paciencia), to wit:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, finding the appeal to be impressed with merit, the decision in SP. PROC. NO. G-1186 dated 30 September 2003, is hereby SET ASIDE and a new one entered GRANTING the petition for the probate of the will of PACIENCIA REGALA.

SO ORDERED.[5]

Also assailed herein is the August 31, 2006 CA Resolution[6]which denied the Motion for Reconsideration thereto.

Petitioners call us to reverse the CAs assailed Decision and instead affirm the Decision of the RTC which disallowed the notarial will of Paciencia.

Factual Antecedents

Paciencia was a 78 year old spinster when she made her last will and testament entitledTauli Nang Bilin o Testamento Miss Paciencia Regala[7](Will) in the Pampango dialect on September 13, 1981.The Will, executed in the house of retired Judge Ernestino G. Limpin (Judge Limpin), was read to Paciencia twice.After which, Paciencia expressed in the presence of the instrumental witnesses that the document is her last will and testament.She thereafter affixed her signature at the end of the said document on page 3[8]and then on the left margin of pages 1, 2 and 4 thereof.[9]

The witnesses to the Will were Dra. Maria Lioba A. Limpin (Dra. Limpin), Francisco Garcia (Francisco) and Faustino R. Mercado (Faustino).The three attested to the Wills due execution by affixing their signatures below its attestation clause[10]and on the left margin of pages 1, 2 and 4 thereof,[11]in the presence of Paciencia and of one another and of Judge Limpin who acted as notary public.

Childless and without any brothers or sisters, Paciencia bequeathed all her properties to respondent Lorenzo R. Laxa (Lorenzo) and his wife Corazon F. Laxa and their children Luna Lorella Laxa and Katherine Ross Laxa, thus:

x x x x

Fourth - In consideration of their valuable services to me since then up to the present by the spouses LORENZO LAXA and CORAZON F. LAXA, I hereby BEQUEATH, CONVEY and GIVE all my properties enumerated in parcels 1 to 5 unto the spouses LORENZO R. LAXA and CORAZON F. LAXAand their children, LUNA LORELLA LAXA and KATHERINE LAXA, and the spouses Lorenzo R. Laxa and Corazon F. Laxa both of legal age, Filipinos, presently residing at Barrio Sta. Monica, [Sasmuan], Pampanga and their children, LUNA LORELLA and KATHERINE ROSS LAXA, who are still not of legal age and living with their parents who would decide to bequeath since they are the children of the spouses;

x x x x

[Sixth] - Should other properties of mine may be discovered aside from the properties mentioned in this last will and testament, I am also bequeathing and giving the same to the spouses Lorenzo R. Laxa and Corazon F. Laxa and their two children and I also command them to offer masses yearly for the repose of my soul and that of D[]a Nicomeda Regala, Epifania Regala and their spouses and with respect to the fishpond situated at San Antonio, I likewise command to fulfill the wishes of D[]a Nicomeda Regala in accordance with her testament as stated in my testament. x x x[12]

The filial relationship of Lorenzo with Paciencia remains undisputed.Lorenzo is Paciencias nephew whom she treated as her own son. Conversely, Lorenzo came to know and treated Paciencia as his own mother.[13]Paciencia lived with Lorenzos family in Sasmuan, Pampanga and it was she who raised and cared for Lorenzo since his birth.Six days after the execution of the Will or on September 19, 1981, Paciencia left for the United States of America (USA).There, she resided with Lorenzo and his family until her death on January 4, 1996.

In the interim, the Will remained in the custody of Judge Limpin.

More than four years after the death of Paciencia or on April 27, 2000, Lorenzo filed a petition[14]with the RTC of Guagua, Pampanga for the probate of the Will of Paciencia and for the issuance of Letters of Administration in his favor, docketed as Special Proceedings No. G-1186.

There being no opposition to the petition after its due publication, the RTC issued an Order on June 13, 2000[15]allowing Lorenzo to present evidence on June 22, 2000.On said date, Dra. Limpin testified that she was one of the instrumental witnesses in the execution of the last will and testament of Paciencia on September 13, 1981.[16]The Will was executed in her fathers (Judge Limpin) home office, in her presence and of two other witnesses, Francisco and Faustino.[17]Dra. Limpin positively identified the Will and her signatures on all its four pages.[18]She likewise positively identified the signature of her father appearing thereon.[19]Questioned by the prosecutor regarding Judge Limpins present mental fitness, Dra. Limpin testified that her father had a stroke in 1991 and had to undergo brain surgery.[20]The judge can walk but can no longer talk and remember her name.Because of this, Dra. Limpin stated that her father can no longer testify in court.[21]

The following day or on June 23, 2000, petitioner Antonio Baltazar (Antonio) filed an opposition[22]to Lorenzos petition.Antonio averred that the properties subject of Paciencias Will belong to Nicomeda Regala Mangalindan, his predecessor-in-interest; hence, Paciencia had no right to bequeath them to Lorenzo.[23]

Barely a month after or on July 20, 2000, Antonio, now joined by petitioners Sebastian M. Baltazar, Virgilio Regala, Jr., Nenita A. Pacheco, Felix B. Flores, Rafael Titco, Rosie M. Mateo (Rosie) and Antonio L. Mangalindan filed a Supplemental Opposition[24]contending that Paciencias Will was null and void because ownership of the properties had not been transferred and/or titled to Paciencia before her death pursuant to Article 1049, paragraph 3 of the Civil Code.[25]Petitioners also opposed the issuance of Letters of Administration in Lorenzos favor arguing that Lorenzo was disqualified to be appointed as such, he being a citizen and resident of theUSA.[26]Petitioners prayed that Letters of Administration be instead issued in favor of Antonio.[27]

Later still on September 26, 2000, petitioners filed an Amended Opposition[28]asking the RTC to deny the probate of Paciencias Will on the following grounds:

the Will was not executed and attested to in accordance with the requirements of the law;

that Paciencia was mentally incapable to make a Will at the time of its execution;

that she was forced to execute the Will under duress or influence of fear or threats;

that the execution of the Will had been procured by undue and improper pressure and influence by Lorenzo or by some other persons for his benefit;

that the signature of Paciencia on the Will was forged; that assuming the signature to be genuine, it was obtained through fraud or trickery; and,

that Paciencia did not intend the document to be her Will.

Simultaneously, petitioners filed an Opposition and Recommendation[29]reiterating their opposition to the appointment of Lorenzo as administrator of the properties and requesting for the appointment of Antonio in his stead.

On January 29, 2001, the RTC issued an Order[30]denying the requests of both Lorenzo and Antonio to be appointed administrator since the former is a citizen and resident of theUSA while the latters claim as a co-owner of the properties subject of the Will has not yet been established.

Meanwhile, proceedings on the petition for the probate of the Will continued.Dra. Limpin was recalled for cross-examination by the petitioners.She testified as to the age of her father at the time the latter notarized the Will of Paciencia;the living arrangements of Paciencia at the time of the execution of the Will; and the lack of photographs when the event took place.[31]

Aside from Dra. Limpin, Lorenzo andMonico Mercado (Monico)also took the witness stand.Monico, son of Faustino, testified on his fathers condition.According to him his father can no longer talk and express himself due to brain damage.A medical certificate was presented to the court to support this allegation.[32]

For his part, Lorenzo testified that: from 1944 until his departure for the USA in April 1980, he lived in Sasmuan, Pampanga with his family and his aunt, Paciencia; in 1981 Paciencia went to the USA and lived with him and his family until her death in January 1996; the relationship between him and Paciencia was like that of a mother and child since Paciencia took care of him since birth and took him in as an adopted son; Paciencia was a spinster without children, and without brothers and sisters; at the time of Paciencias death, she did not suffer from any mental disorder and was of sound mind, was not blind, deaf or mute; the Will was in the custody of Judge Limpin and was only given to him after Paciencias death through Faustino; and he was already residing in the USA when the Will was executed.[33]Lorenzo positively identified the signature of Paciencia in three different documents and in the Will itself and stated that he was familiar with Paciencias signature because he accompanied her in her transactions.[34]Further, Lorenzo belied and denied having used force, intimidation, violence, coercion or trickery upon Paciencia to execute the Will as he was not in thePhilippineswhen the same was executed.[35]On cross-examination, Lorenzo clarified that Paciencia informed him about the Will shortly after her arrival in theUSAbut that he saw a copy of the Will only after her death.[36]

As to Francisco, he could no longer be presented in court as he already died on May 21, 2000.

For petitioners, Rosie testified that her mother and Paciencia were first cousins.[37]She claimed to have helped in the household chores in the house of Paciencia thereby allowing her to stay therein from morning until evening and that during the period of her service in the said household, Lorenzos wife and his children were staying in the same house.[38]She served in the said household from 1980 until Paciencias departure for theUSAon September 19, 1981.[39]

On September 13, 1981, Rosie claimed that she saw Faustino bring something for Paciencia to sign at the latters house.[40]Rosie admitted, though, that she did not see what that something was as same was placed inside an envelope.[41]However, she remembered Paciencia instructing Faustino to first look for money before she signs them.[42]A few days after or on September 16, 1981, Paciencia went to the house of Antonios mother and brought with her the said envelope.[43]Upon going home, however, the envelope was no longer with Paciencia.[44]Rosie further testified that Paciencia was referred to asmagulyanor forgetful because she would sometimes leave her wallet in the kitchen then start looking for it moments later.[45]On cross examination, it was established that Rosie was neither a doctor nor a psychiatrist, that her conclusion that Paciencia wasmagulyanwas based on her personal assessment,[46]and that it was Antonio who requested her to testify in court.[47]

In his direct examination, Antonio stated that Paciencia was his aunt.[48]He identified the Will and testified that he had seen the said document before because Paciencia brought the same to his mothers house and showed it to him along with another document on September 16, 1981.[49]Antonio alleged that when the documents were shown to him, the same were still unsigned.[50]According to him, Paciencia thought that the documents pertained to a lease of one of her rice lands,[51]and it was he who explained that the documents were actually a special power of attorney to lease and sell her fishpond and other properties upon her departure for the USA, and a Will which would transfer her properties to Lorenzo and his family upon her death.[52]Upon hearing this, Paciencia allegedly uttered the following words:Why will I never [return], why will I sell all my properties?Who is Lorenzo?Is he the only [son] of God?I have other relatives [who should] benefit from my properties.Why should I die already?[53]Thereafter, Antonio advised Paciencia not to sign the documents if she does not want to, to which the latter purportedly replied,I know nothing about those, throw them away or it is up to you. The more I will not sign them.[54]After which, Paciencia left the documents with Antonio.Antonio kept the unsigned documents and eventually turned them over to Faustino on September 18, 1981.[55]

Ruling of the Regional Trial Court

On September 30, 2003, the RTC rendered its Decision[56]denying the petition thus:

WHEREFORE, this court hereby (a) denies the petition dated April 24, 2000; and (b) disallows the notarized will dated September 13, 1981 of Paciencia Regala.

SO ORDERED.[57]

The trial court gave considerable weight to the testimony of Rosie and concluded that at the time Paciencia signed the Will, she was no longer possessed of sufficient reason or strength of mind to have testamentary capacity.[58]

Ruling of the Court of Appeals

On appeal, the CA reversed the RTC Decision and granted the probate of the Will of Paciencia.The appellate court did not agree with the RTCs conclusion that Paciencia was of unsound mind when she executed the Will.It ratiocinated that the state of beingmagulyandoes not make a person mentally unsound so [as] to render [Paciencia] unfit for executing a Will.[59]Moreover, the oppositors in the probate proceedings were not able to overcome the presumption that every person is of sound mind.Further, no concrete circumstances or events were given to prove the allegation that Paciencia was tricked or forced into signing the Will.[60]

Petitioners moved for reconsideration[61]but the motion was denied by the CA in its Resolution[62]dated August 31, 2006.

Hence, this petition.

Issues

Petitioners come before this Court by way of Petition for Review onCertiorariascribing upon the CA the following errors:

I.

THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS SERIOUSLY ERRED WHEN IT ALLOWED THE PROBATE OF PACIENCIAS WILL DESPITE RESPONDENTS UTTER FAILURE TO COMPLY WITH SECTION 11, RULE 76 OF THE RULES OF COURT;

II.

THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED IN MAKING CONCLUSIONS NOT IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE EVIDENCE ON RECORD;

III.

THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED IN RULING THAT PETITIONERS FAILED TO PROVE THAT PACIENCIA WAS NOT OF SOUND MIND AT THE TIME THE WILL WAS ALLEGEDLY EXECUTED[63]

The pivotal issue is whether the authenticity and due execution of the notarial Will was sufficiently established to warrant its allowance for probate.

Our Ruling

We deny the petition.

Faithful compliance with the formalities

laid down by law is apparent from the face of the Will.

Courts are tasked to determine nothing more than the extrinsic validity of a

Will in probate proceedings.[64]This is expressly provided for in Rule 75, Section 1 of the Rules of Court, which states:

Rule 75

PRODUCTION OF WILL. ALLOWANCE OF WILL NECESSARY.

Section 1.Allowance necessary. Conclusive as to execution.No will shall pass either real or personal estate unless it is proved and allowed in the proper court. Subject to the right of appeal, such allowance of the will shall be conclusive as to its due execution.

Due execution of the will or its extrinsic validity pertains to whether the testator, being of sound mind, freely executed the will in accordance with the formalities prescribed by law.[65]These formalities are enshrined in Articles 805 and 806 of the New Civil Code, to wit:

WLSASNAN

Art. 805. Every will, other than a holographic will, must be subscribed at the end thereof by the testator himself or by the testator's name written by some other person in his presence, and by his express direction, and attested and subscribed by three or more credible witnesses in the presence of the testator and of one another.

The testator or the person requested by him to write his name and the instrumental witnesses of the will, shall also sign, as aforesaid, each and every page thereof, except the last, on the left margin, and all the pages shall be numbered correlatively in letters placed on the upper part of each page.

The attestation shall state the number of pages used upon which the will is written, and the fact that the testator signed the will and every page thereof, or caused some other person to write his name, under his express direction, in the presence of the instrumental witnesses, and that the latter witnessed and signed the will and all the pages thereof in the presence of the testator and of one another.

If the attestation clause is in a language not known to the witnesses, it shall be interpreted to them.

Art. 806. Every will must be acknowledged before a notary public by the testator and the witnesses. The notary public shall not be required to retain a copy of the will, or file another with the Office of the Clerk of Court.

Here, a careful examination of the face of the Will shows faithful compliance with the formalities laid down by law.The signatures of the testatrix, Paciencia, her instrumental witnesses and the notary public, are all present and evident on the Will.Further, the attestation clause explicitly states the critical requirement that the testatrix and her instrumental witnesses signed the Will in the presence of one another and that the witnesses attested and subscribed to the Will in the presence of the testator and of one another.In fact, even the petitioners acceded that the signature of Paciencia in the Will may be authentic although they question her state of mind when she signed the same as well as the voluntary nature of said act.

The burden to prove that Paciencia was of unsound mind at the time of the execution of the will lies on the shoulders of the petitioners.

Petitioners, through their witness Rosie, claim that Paciencia wasmagulyanor forgetful so much so that it effectively stripped her of testamentary capacity. They likewise claimed in their Motion for Reconsideration[66]filed with the CA that Paciencia was not onlymagulyanbut was actually suffering from paranoia.[67]

We are not convinced.

We agree with the position of the CA that the state of being forgetful does not necessarily make a person mentally unsound so as to render him unfit to execute a Will.[68]

Forgetfulness is not equivalent to being of unsound mind.Besides, Article 799 of the New Civil Code states:

Art.799.To be of sound mind, it is not necessary that the testator be in full possession of all his reasoning faculties, or that his mind be wholly unbroken, unimpaired, or unshattered by disease, injury or other cause.

It shall be sufficient if the testator was able at the time of making the will to NPC

1. know the nature of the estate to be disposed of,

2. the proper objects of his bounty, and

3. the character of the testamentary act.

In this case, apart from the testimony of Rosie pertaining to Paciencias forgetfulness,

there is no substantial evidence, medical or otherwise, that would show that Paciencia was of unsound mind at the time of the execution of the Will.

On the other hand, we find more worthy of credence Dra. Limpins testimony as to the soundness of mind of Paciencia when the latter went to Judge Limpins house and voluntarily executed the Will.The testimony of subscribing witnesses to a Will concerning the testators mental condition is entitled to great weight where they are truthful and intelligent.[69]More importantly, a testator is presumed to be of sound mind at the time of the execution of the Will and the burden to prove otherwise lies on the oppositor.Article 800 of the New Civil Code states:

Art. 800. The law presumes that every person is of sound mind, in the absence of proof to the contrary.

The burden of proof that the testator was not of sound mind at the time of making his dispositions is on the person who opposes the probate of the will; but if the testator, one month, or less, before making his will was publicly known to be insane, the person who maintains the validity of the will must prove that the testator made it during a lucid interval.

Here, there was no showing that Paciencia was publicly known to be insane one month or less before the making of the Will.Clearly, thus, the burden to prove that Paciencia was of unsound mind lies upon the shoulders of petitioners.However and as earlier mentioned, no substantial evidence was presented by them to prove the same, thereby warranting the CAs finding that petitioners failed to discharge such burden.

Furthermore, we are convinced that Paciencia was aware of the nature of her estate to be disposed of, the proper objects of her bounty and the character of the testamentary act.As aptly pointed out by the CA:

A scrutiny of the Will discloses that [Paciencia] was aware of the nature of the document she executed.She specially requested that the customs of her faith be observed upon her death. She was well aware of how she acquired the properties from her parents and the properties she is bequeathing to LORENZO, to his wife CORAZON and to his two (2) children. A third child was born after the execution of the will and was not included therein as devisee.[70]

Bare allegations of duress or influence of fear or threats, undue and improper influence and pressure, fraud and trickery cannot be used as basis to deny the probate of a will.

An essential element of the validity of the Will is the willingness of the testator or testatrix to execute the document that will distribute his/her earthly possessions upon his/her death.Petitioners claim that Paciencia was forced to execute the Will under duress or influence of fear or threats; that the execution of the Will had been procured by undue and improper pressure and influence by Lorenzo or by some other persons for his benefit; and that assuming Paciencias signature to be genuine, it was obtained through fraud or trickery.These are grounded on the alleged conversation between Paciencia and Antonio on September 16, 1981 wherein the former purportedly repudiated the Will and left it unsigned.

We are not persuaded.

We take into consideration the unrebutted fact that Paciencia loved and treated Lorenzo as her own son and that love even extended to Lorenzos wife and children.This kind of relationship is not unusual.It is in fact not unheard of in our culture for old maids or spinsters to care for and raise their nephews and nieces and treat them as their own children.Such is a prevalent and accepted cultural practice that has resulted in many family discords between those favored by the testamentary disposition of a testator and those who stand to benefit in case of intestacy.

In this case, evidence shows the acknowledged fact that Paciencias relationship with Lorenzo and his family is different from her relationship with petitioners.The very fact that she cared for and raised Lorenzo and lived with him both here and abroad, even if the latter was already married and already has children, highlights the special bond between them. This unquestioned relationship between Paciencia and the devisees tends to support the authenticity of the said document as against petitioners allegations of duress, influence of fear or threats, undue and improper influence, pressure, fraud, and trickery which, aside from being factual in nature, are not supported by concrete, substantial and credible evidence on record.It is worth stressing that bare arguments, no matter how forceful, if not based on concrete and substantial evidence cannot suffice to move the Court to uphold said allegations.[71]Furthermore, a purported will is not [to be] denied legalization on dubious grounds.Otherwise, the very institution of testamentary succession will be shaken to its foundation, for even if a will has been duly executed in fact, whether x x x it will be probated would have to depend largely on the attitude of those interested in [the estate of the deceased].[72]

Court should be convinced by the evidence presented before it that the Will was duly executed.

Petitioners dispute the authenticity of Paciencias Will on the ground that Section 11 of Rule 76 of the Rules of Court was not complied with.It provides:

RULE 76

ALLOWANCE OR DISALLOWANCE OF WILL

Section 11.Subscribing witnesses produced or accounted for where will contested.If the will is contested, all the subscribing witnesses, and the notary in the case of wills executed under the Civil Code of the Philippines, if present in the Philippines and not insane, must be produced and examined, and the death, absence, or insanity of any of them must be satisfactorily shown to the court. If all or some of such witnesses are present in thePhilippinesbut outside the province where the will has been filed, their deposition must be taken. If any or all of them testify against the due execution of the will, or do not remember having attested to it, or are otherwise of doubtful credibility, the will may nevertheless, be allowed if the court is satisfied from the testimony of other witnesses and from all the evidence presented that the will was executed and attested in the manner required by law.

If a holographic will is contested, the same shall be allowed if at least three (3) witnesses who know the handwriting of the testator explicitly declare that the will and the signature are in the handwriting of the testator; in the absence of any competent witnesses, and if the court deem it necessary, expert testimony may be resorted to. (Emphasis supplied.)

They insist that all subscribing witnesses and the notary public should have been presented in court since all but one witness, Francisco, are still living.

We cannot agree with petitioners.

We note that the inability of Faustino and Judge Limpin to appear and testify before the court was satisfactorily explainedduring the probate proceedings. As testified to by his son, Faustino had a heart attack, was already bedridden and could no longer talk and express himself due to brain damage.To prove this, said witness presented the corresponding medical certificate.For her part, Dra. Limpin testified that her father, Judge Limpin, suffered a stroke in 1991 and had to undergo brain surgery.At that time, Judge Limpin could no longer talk and could not even remember his daughters name so that Dra. Limpin stated that given such condition, her father could no longer testify.It is well to note that at that point, despite ample opportunity, petitioners neither interposed any objections to the testimonies of said witnesses nor challenged the same on cross examination.We thus hold that for all intents and purposes, Lorenzo was able to satisfactorily account for the incapacity and failure of the said subscribing witness and of the notary public to testify in court.Because of this the probate of Paciencias Will may be allowed on the basis of Dra. Limpins testimony proving her sanity and the due execution of the Will, as well as on the proof of her handwriting.It is an established rule that [a] testament may not be disallowed just because the attesting witnesses declare against its due execution; neither does it have to be necessarily allowed just because all the attesting witnesses declare in favor of its legalization; what is decisive is that the court is convinced by evidence before it, not necessarily from the attesting witnesses, although they must testify, that the will was or was not duly executed in the manner required by law.[73]

Moreover, it bears stressing that [i]rrespective x x x of the posture of any of the parties as regards the authenticity and due execution of the will x x x in question, it is the mandate of the law that it is the evidence before the court and/or [evidence that] ought to be before it that is controlling.[74]The very existence of [the Will] is in itselfprima facieproof that the supposed [testatrix] has willed that [her] estate be distributed in the manner therein provided, and it is incumbent upon the state that, if legally tenable, such desire be given full effect independent of the attitude of the parties affected thereby.[75]This, coupled with Lorenzos established relationship with Paciencia, the evidence and the testimonies of disinterested witnesses, as opposed to the total lack of evidence presented by petitioners apart from their self-serving testimonies, constrain us to tilt the balance in favor of the authenticity of the Will and its allowance for probate.

WHEREFORE, the petition isDENIED.The Decision dated June 15, 2006 and the Resolution dated August 31, 2006 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 80979 areAFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.

NENITA DE VERA SUROZA,complainant,vs.JUDGE REYNALDO P. HONRADO of the Court of First Instance of Rizal, Pasig Branch 25 and EVANGELINE S. YUIPCO, Deputy Clerk of Court,respondents.

LABANDERA CASE

Should disciplinary action be taken against respondent judge for having admitted to probate a will, which on its face isvoidbecause it is written in English, a language not known to the illiterate testatrix, and which is probably aforged willbecause she and the attesting witnesses did not appear before the notary as admitted by the notary himself?

That question arises under the pleadings filed in the testate case and in the certiorari case in the Court of Appeals which reveal the following tangled strands of human relationship:

Mauro Suroza, a corporal in the 45th Infantry of the U.S. Army (Philippine Scouts), Fort McKinley, married Marcelina Salvador in 1923 (p. 150, Spec. Proc. No. 7816). They were childless. They reared a boy named Agapito who used the surname Suroza and who considered them as his parents as shown in his 1945 marriage contract with Nenita de Vera (p. 15, Rollo of CA-G.R. No. 08654-R; p. 148, Rollo of Testate Case showing that Agapito was 5 years old when Mauro married Marcelina in 1923).

Mauro died in 1942. Marcelina, as a veteran's widow, became a pensioner of the Federal Government. That explains why on her death she had accumulated some cash in two banks.

Agapito and Nenita begot a child named Lilia who became a medical technologist and went abroad. Agapito also became a soldier. He was disabled and his wife Nenita was appointed as his guardian in 1953 when he was declared an incompetent in Special Proceeding No. 1807 of the Court of First Instance of Rizal, Pasig Branch I (p. 16, Rollo of CA-G.R. No. 08654-R).

In that connection, it should be noted that a woman named Arsenia de la Cruz wanted also to be his guardian in another proceeding. Arsenia tried to prove that Nenita was living separately from Agapito and that she (Nenita) admitted to Marcelina that she was unfaithful to Agapito (pp. 61-63, Record of testate case).

Judge Bienvenido A. Tan dismissed the second guardianship proceeding and confirmed Nenita's appointment as guardian of Agapito (p. 16, Rollo of CA case). Agapito has been staying in a veteran's hospital in San Francisco or Palo Alto, California (p. 87, Record).

On a date not indicated in the record, the spouses Antonio Sy and Hermogena Talan begot a child named Marilyn Sy, who, when a few days old, was entrusted to Arsenia de la Cruz (apparently a girl friend of Agapito) and who was later delivered to Marcelina Salvador Suroza who brought her up as a supposed daughter of Agapito and as her granddaughter (pp. 23-26, Rollo of CA-G.R. No.SP-08654-R). Marilyn used the surname Suroza. She stayed with Marcelina but was not legally adopted by Agapito. She married Oscar Medrano and is residing at 7666 J.B. Roxas Street, Makati, apparently a neighbor of Marina Paje, a resident of 7668 J.B. Roxas Street.

Marcelina supposedly executed a notarial will in Manila on July 23, 1973, when she was 73 years old.That will which is in English was thumbmarked by her.She was illiterate.Her letters in English to the Veterans Administration were also thumbmarked by her (pp. 38-39, CA Rollo). In that wig, Marcelina bequeathed all her estate to her supposed granddaughter Marilyn.

Marcelina died on November 15, 1974 at the Veterans Hospital in Quezon City. At the time of her death, she was a resident of 7374 San Maximo Street, Olimpia, Makati, Rizal. She owned a 150-square meter lot and house in that place. She acquired the lot in 1966 (p. 134, Record of testate case).

On January 13, 1975, Marina Paje, alleged to be a laundrywoman of Marcelina (P. 97, CA Rollo) and the executrix in her will (the alternate executrix was Juanita Macaraeg, mother of Oscar, Marilyn's husband), filed with the Court of First Instance of Rizal, Pasig Branch 25, a petition for the probate of Marcelina's alleged will. The case was assigned to Judge Reynaldo P. Honrado.

As there was no opposition, Judge Honrado commissioned his deputy clerk of court, Evangeline S. Yuipco, to hear the evidence. The transcripts of the stenographic notes taken at the hearing before the deputy clerk of court are not in the record.

In an order dated March 31, 1975, Judge Honrado appointed Marina as administratrix. On the following day, April 1, Judge Honrado issued two orders directing the Merchants Banking Corporation and the Bank of Americato allow Marina to withdraw the sum of P10,000from the savings accounts of Marcelina S. Suroza and Marilyn Suroza and requiring Corazon Castro, the custodian of the passbooks, to deliver them to Marina.

Upon motion of Marina, Judge Honrado issued another order dated April 11, 1975, instructing a deputy sheriff to eject the occupants of the testatrix's house, among whom was Nenita V. Suroza, and to place Marina in possession thereof.

That order alerted Nenita to the existence of the testamentary proceeding for the settlement of Marcelina's estate. She and the other occupants of the decedent's house filed on April 18 in the said proceeding a motion to set aside the order of April 11 ejecting them. They alleged that the decedent's son Agapito was the sole heir of the deceased, that he has a daughter named Lilia, that Nenita was Agapito's guardian and that Marilyn was not Agapito's daughter nor the decedent's granddaughter (pp. 52-68, Record of testate case). Later, they questioned the probate court's jurisdiction to issue the ejectment order.

In spite of the fact that Judge Honrado was already apprised that persons, other than Marilyn, were claiming Marcelina's estate, he issued on April 23 an order probating her supposed will wherein Marilyn was the instituted heiress (pp. 74-77, Record).

On April 24, Nenita filed in the testate case an omnibus petition "to set aside proceedings, admit opposition with counter-petition for administration and preliminary injunction".

Nenita in that motion reiterated her allegation that Marilyn was a stranger to Marcelina, that the will was not duly executed and attested, that it was procured by means of undue influence employed by Marina and Marilyn and that the thumbmarks of the testatrix were procured by fraud or trick.

Nenita further alleged that the institution of Marilyn as heir is void because of the preterition of Agapito and that Marina was not qualified to act as executrix (pp. 83-91, Record).

To that motion was attached an affidavit of Zenaida A. Penaojas the housemaid of Marcelina, who swore thatthe alleged will was falsified(p. 109, Record).

Not content with her motion to set aside the ejectment order (filed on April 18) and her omnibus motion to set aside the proceedings (filed on April 24), Nenita filed the next day, April 25, an opposition to the probate of the will and a counter-petition for letters of administration. In that opposition, Nenita assailed the due execution of the will and stated the names and addresses of Marcelina's intestate heirs, her nieces and nephews (pp. 113-121, Record). Nenita was not aware of the decree of probate dated April 23, 1975.

To that opposition was attached an affidavit of Dominga Salvador Teodocio, Marcelina's niece, who swore that Marcelina never executed a win (pp. 124-125, Record).

Marina in her answer to Nenita's motion to set aside the proceedings admitted that Marilyn was not Marcelina's granddaughter but was the daughter of Agapito and Arsenia de la Cruz and that Agapito was not Marcelina's sonbut merely ananak-anakanwho was not legally adopted (p. 143, Record).

Judge Honrado in his order of July 17, 1975 dismissed Nenita's counter-petition for the issuance of letters of administration because of the non-appearance of her counsel at the hearing. She moved for the reconsideration of that order.

In a motion dated December 5, 1975, for the consolidation of all pending incidents, Nenita V. Suroza reiterated her contention that the alleged will is void because Marcelina did not appear before the notary and because it is written in English which is not known to her (pp. 208-209, Record).

Judge Honrado in his order of June 8, 1976 "denied" the various incidents "raised" by Nenita (p. 284, Record).

Instead of appealing from that order and the order probating the wig, Nenita "filed a case to annul" the probate proceedings (p. 332, Record). That case, Civil Case No. 24276, Suroza vs. Paje and Honrado (p. 398, Record), was also assigned to Judge Honrado. He dismissed it in his order of February 16, 1977 (pp. 398-402, Record).

Judge Honrado in his order dated December 22, 1977, after noting that the executrix had delivered the estate to Marilyn, and that the estate tax had been paid, closed the testamentary proceeding.

About ten months later, in a verified complaint dated October 12, 1978, filed in this Court, Nenita charged Judge Honrado with having probated the fraudulent will of Marcelina. The complainant 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 win was written. (In the decree of probate Judge Honrado did not make any finding that the will was written in a language known to the testatrix.)

Nenita further alleged that Judge Honrado, in spite of his knowledge that the testatrix had a son named Agapito (the testatrix's supposed sole compulsory and legal heir), who was preterited in the will, did not take into account the consequences of such a preterition.

Nenita disclosed that she talked several times with Judge Honrado and informed him that the testatrix did not know the executrix Marina Paje, that the beneficiary's real name is Marilyn Sy and that she was not the next of kin of the testatrix.

Nenita denounced Judge Honradofor having acted corruptly in allowing Marina and her cohorts to withdraw from various banks the deposits Marcelina.

She also denounced Evangeline S. Yuipco, the deputy clerk of court, for not giving her access to the record of the probate case by alleging that it was useless for Nenita to oppose the probate since Judge Honrado would not change his decision. Nenita also said that Evangeline insinuated that if she (Nenita) had ten thousand pesos, the case might be decided in her favor. Evangeline allegedly advised Nenita to desist from claiming the properties of the testatrix because she (Nenita) had no rights thereto and, should she persist, she might lose her pension from the Federal Government.

Judge Honrado in his brief comment did not deal specifically with the allegations of the complaint. He merely pointed to the fact that Nenita did not appeal from the decree of probate and that in a motion dated July 6, 1976 she asked for a thirty day period within which to vacate the house of the testatrix.

Evangeline S. Yuipco in her affidavit said that she never talked with Nenita and that the latter did not mention Evangeline in her letter dated September 11, 1978 to President Marcos.

Evangeline branded as a lie Nenita's imputation that she (Evangeline) prevented Nenita from having access to the record of the testamentary proceeding. Evangeline was not the custodian of the record. Evangeline " strongly, vehemently and flatly denied" Nenita's charge that she (Evangeline) said that the sum of ten thousand pesos was needed in order that Nenita could get a favorable decision. Evangeline also denied that she has any knowledge of Nenita's pension from the Federal Government.

The 1978 complaint against Judge Honorado was brought to attention of this Court in the Court Administrator's memorandum of September 25, 1980. The case was referred to Justice Juan A. Sison of the Court of Appeals for investigation, report and recommendation. He submitted a report dated October 7, 1981.

On December 14, 1978, Nenita filed in the Court of Appeals against Judge Honrado a petition for certiorari and prohibition wherein she prayed that the will, the decree of probate and all the proceedings in the probate case be declared void.

Attached to the petition was the affidavit of Domingo P. Aquino, who notarized the will.He swore that the testatrix and the three attesting witnesses did not appear before him and that he notarized the will "just to accommodate a brother lawyer on the condition" that said lawyer would bring to the notary the testatrix and the witnesses but the lawyer never complied with his commitment.

The Court of Appeals 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 (Suroza vs. Honrado, CA-G.R. No. SP-08654, May 24, 1981).

Relying on that decision, Judge Honrado filed on November 17, 1981 a motion to dismiss the administrative case for having allegedly become moot and academic.

We hold that disciplinary action should be taken against respondent judge for his improper disposition of the testate case which might have resulted in a miscarriage of justice because the decedent's legal heirs and not the instituted heiress in the void win should have inherited the decedent's estate.

A judge may be criminally liable or knowingly rendering an unjust judgment or interlocutory order or rendering a manifestly unjust judgment or interlocutory order by reason of inexcusable negligence or ignorance (Arts. 204 to 206, Revised Penal Code).

Administrative action may be taken against a judge of the court of first instance for serious misconduct or inefficiency ( Sec. 67, Judiciary Law). Misconduct implies malice or a wrongful intent, not a mere error of judgment. "For serious misconduct to exist, there must be reliable evidence showing that the judicial acts complained of were corrupt or inspired by an intention to violate the law, or were in persistent disregard of well-known legal rules" (In relmpeachment of Horrilleno, 43 Phil. 212, 214-215).

Inefficiency implies negligence, incompetence, ignorance and carelessness. A judge would be inexcusably negligent if he failed to observe in the performance of his duties that diligence, prudence and circumspection which the law requires in the rendition of any public service (In reClimaco, Adm. Case No. 134-J, Jan. 21, 1974, 55 SCRA 107, 119).

In this case, 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". (p. 16, Record of testate case).

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. Thus, a will written in English, which was not known to the Igorot testator, is void and was disallowed (Acop vs. Piraso, 52 Phil. 660).

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 respondent 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.

Under the circumstances, we find his negligence and dereliction of duty to be inexcusable.

WHEREFORE, for inefficiency in handling the testate case of Marcelina S. Suroza, a fine equivalent to his salary for one month is imposed on respondent judge (his compulsory retirement falls on December 25, 1981).

The case against respondent Yuipco has become moot and academic because she is no longer employed in the judiciary. Since September 1, 1980 she has been assistant city fiscal of Surigao City. She is beyond this Court's disciplinary jurisdiction (Peralta vs. Firm Adm. Matter No. 2044-CFI November 21, 1980, 101 SCRA 225).

G.R. No. 42258 September 5, 1936

In re Will of the deceased Leoncia Tolentino. VICTORIO PAYAD,petitioner-appellant,vs.AQUILINA TOLENTINO,oppositor-appellant.

Vicente Foz, Marciano Almario, and Leonardo Abola for petitioner-appellant.Leodegario Azarraga for oppositor-appellant.

???

There are two motions filed by the oppositor Aquilina Tolentino, pending resolution: That of January 29, 1935, praying for the reconsideration of the decision of the court and that of the same date, praying for a new trial.

The oppositor bases her motion for reconsideration upon the following facts relied upon in her pleading:

1. That the testatrix did not personally place her thumbmark on her alleged will;

2. That the testatrix did not request Attorney Almario to write her name and surname on the spaces of the will where she should place her thumbmarks;

3. That the will in question was not signed by the testatrix on the date indicated therein;

4. That the testatrix never made the will in question; and

5. That on the date the will in question was executed, the testatrix was no longer in a physical or mental condition to make it.

We have again reviewed the evidence to determine once more whether the errors assigned by the oppositor in her brief have not been duly considered, whether some fact or detail which might have led us to another conclusion has been overlooked, or whether the conclusions arrived at in our decision are not supported by the evidence.

We have found that the testatrix Leoncia Tolentino, notwithstanding her advanced age of 92 years, was in good health until September 1, 1933. She had a slight cold on said date for which reason she was visited by her physician, Dr. Florencio Manuel. Said physician again visited her three or four days later and found her still suffering from said illness but there was no indication that she had but a few days to live. She ate comparatively well and conserved her mind and memory at least long after noon of September 7, 1933. She took her last nourishment of milk in the morning of the following day, September 8, 1933, and death did not come to her until 11 o'clock sharp that morning.

The will in question was prepared by Attorney Marciano Almario between 11 and 12 o'clock noon on September 7, 1933, in the house of the testatrix Leoncia Tolentino, after she had expressed to said attorney her desire to make a will and bequeath her property to the petitioner Victorio Payad in compensation according to her, for his diligent and faithful services rendered to her. Victorio Payad had grown up under the care of the testatrix who had been in her home from childhood. The will was written by Attorney Almario in his own handwriting, and was written in Spanish because he had been instructed to do so by the testatrix. It was later read to her in the presence of Pedro L. Cruz, Jose Ferrer Cruz, Perfecto L. Ona and other persons who were then present. The testatrix approved all the contents of the document and requested Attorney Almario to write her name where she had to sign by means of her thumbmark in view of the fact that her fingers no longer had the necessary strength to hold a pen. She did after having taken the pen and tried to sign without anybody's help. Attorney Almario proceeded to write the name of the testatrix on the three pages composing the will and the testatrix placed her thumbmark on said writing with the help of said attorney, said help consisting in guiding her thumb in order to place the mark between her name and surname, after she herself had moistened the tip of her thumb with which she made such mark, on the ink pad which was brought to her for said purpose. Said attorney later signed the three pages of the will in the presence of the testatrix and also of Pedro L. Cruz, and Jose Ferrer Cruz and Perfecto L. Ona, who, in turn, forthwith signed it successively and exactly under the same circumstances above stated.

In support of her claim that the testatrix did not place her thumbmark on the will on September 7, 1983, and that she never made said will because she was no longer physically or mentally in a condition do so, the oppositor cites the testimony of Julian Rodriguez, Gliceria Quisonia, Paz de Leon and her own.

Julian Rodriguez and Gliceria Quisonia testified that they had not seen Attorney Almario in the morning of September 7, 1933, in the house of the deceased where they were then living, and that the first time that they saw him there was at about 12 o'clock noon on September 8th of said year, when Leoncia Tolentino was already dead, Gliceria Quisonia stating that on that occasion Almario arrived there accompanied only by woman named Pacing. They did not state that Almario was accompanied by Pedro L. Cruz, Jose Ferrer Cruz and Perfecto L. Ona, the instrumental witnesses of the will. Said two witnesses, however, could not but admit that their room was situated at the other end of the rooms occupied by the deceased herself and by the petitioner Victorio Payad, and that their said room and that of Victorio Payad are separated by the stairs of the house; that Gliceria Quisonia saw the deceased only once on the 7th and twice on the 8th, and that Julian Rodriguez stayed in his room, without leaving it, from 9 to 12 o'clock a. m. on the 7th of said month. Gliceria Quisonia further stated that in the morning of September 7th, she prepared the noonday meal in the kitchen which was situated under the house. Under such circumstances it is not strange that the two did not see the testatrix when, according to the evidence for the petitioner, she made her will and signed it by means of her thumbmark. In order to be able to see her and also Almario and the instrumental witnesses of the will, on that occasion, it was necessary for them to enter the room where the deceased was, or at least the adjoining room where the will was prepared by Attorney Almario, but they did not do so.

Gliceria Quisonia and Julian Rodriguez also testified that on the 7th the testatrix was already so weak that she could not move and that she could hardly be understood because she could no longer enunciate, making it understood thereby, that in such condition it was absolutely impossible for her to make any will. The attorney for the oppositor insists likewise and more so because, according to him and his witness Paz de Leon, two days before the death of the testatrix, or on September 6, 1933, she could not even open her eyes or make herself understood.

The testimony of said witnesses is not sufficient to overthrow, or discredit the testimony of the petitioner-appellant or that of Attorney Almario and the three instrumental witnesses of the will because, to corroborate them, we have of record the testimony of the physician of the deceased and the accountant Ventura Loreto who are two disinterested witnesses, inasmuch as the outcome of these proceedings does not affect them in the least. The two testified that two, three or four days before the death of the testatrix, they visited her in her home, the former professionally, and the latter as an acquaintance, and they then found her not so ill as to be unable to move or hold a conversation. They stated that she spoke to them intelligently; that she answered all the questions which they had put to her, and that she could still move in spite of her weakness.

In view of the foregoing facts and considerations, we deem it clear that the oppositor's motion for reconsideration is unfounded.

The oppositor's motion for a new trial is based upon the following facts: (1) That upon her death, the deceased left a letter signed by herself, placed in a stamped envelope and addressed to Teodoro R. Yangco, with instructions not to open it until after her death; (2) that there are witnesses competent to testify on the letter in question, in addition to other evidence discovered later, which could not be presented at the trial; (3) that in the letter left by the deceased, she transfers all her property to Teodoro R. Yangco stating therein that, upon her death, all the property in question should become Yangco's. From this alleged fact, the oppositor infers that the deceased never had and could not have had the intention to make the will in question, and (4) that said oppositor knew of the existence of said letter only after her former attorney, Alejandro Panis, had been informed thereof in May, 1935, by one of Teodoro R. Yangco's attorneys named Jose Cortes.

Subsequent to the presentation of the motion for a new trial, the oppositor filed another supplementary motion alleging that she had discovered some additional new evidence consisting in the affidavit of Attorney Gabino Fernando Viola wherein the latter affirms that Victorio Payad had called him on September 5, 1933, to prepare the will of the deceased but he did not do so because after seeing her he had been convinced that she could not make a will because she had lost her speech and her eyes were already closed.

The affidavits of Attorneys Jose Cortes and Gabino Fernando Viola, substantially affirming the facts alleged by the oppositor, are attached to both motions for a new trial.

The affidavits of Attorneys Jose Cortes and Gabino Fernando Viola are not and cannot be newly discovered evidence, and are not admissible to warrant the holding of a new trial, because the oppositor had been informed of the facts affirmed by Attorney Jose Cortes in his affidavit long before this case was decided by this court. It is stated in said affidavit that in May, 1935, Attorney Jose Cortes revealed to the attorney for oppositor the fact that the deceased had left a letter whereby she transferred all her property to Teodoro R. Yangco, and the judgment was rendered only on January 15, 1936, or eight months later.

The oppositor contends that she had no reason to inform the court of said newly discovered evidence inasmuch as the judgment of the lower court was favorable to her. She, however, overlooks the fact that she also appealed from the decision of the lower court and it was her duty, under the circumstances, to inform this court of the discovery of said allegedly newly discovered evidence and to take advantage of the effects thereof because, by so doing, she could better support her claim that the testatrix made no will, much less the will in question. Said evidence, is not new and is not of the nature of that which gives rise to a new trial because, under the law, in order that evidence may be considered newly discovered evidence and may serve as a ground for a new trial, it is necessary (a) that it could not have been discovered in time, even by the exercise of due diligence; (b) that it be material, and (c) that it also be of such a character as probably to change the result if admitted (section 497, Act No. 190; Banalvs.Safont, 8 Phil., 276).

The affidavit of Attorney Cortes is neither material nor important in the sense that, even considering it newly discovered evidence, it will be sufficient to support the decision of the lower court and modify that of this court. It is simply hearsay or, at most, corroborative evidence. The letter of the deceased Leoncia Tolentino to Teodoro R. Yangco would, in the eyes of the law, be considered important or material evidence but this court has not the letter in question before it, and no attempt was ever made to present a copy thereof.

The affidavit of Attorney Gabino Fernando Viola or testimony he may give pursuant thereto is not more competent than that of Attorney Jose Cortes because, granting that when he was called by Victorio Payad to help the deceased Leoncia Tolentino to make her will and he went to her house on September 5, 1933, the deceased was almost unconscious, was unintelligible and could not speak, it does not necessarily mean that on the day she made her will, September 7, 1933, she had not recovered consciousness and all her mental faculties to capacitate her to dispose of all her property. What Attorney Gabino Fernando Viola may testify pursuant to his affidavit in question is not and can not be newly discovered evidence of the character provided for by law, not only because it does not exclude the possibility that testatrix had somewhat improved in health, which possibility became a reality at the time she made her will because she was then in the full enjoyment of her mental faculties, according to the testimony of Pedro L. Cruz, Jose Ferrer Cruz, Perfecto L. Ona, Victorio Payad and Marciano Almario, but also because during the hearing of these proceedings in the Court of First Instance, Attorney Viola was present, and the oppositor then could have very well called him to the witness stand, inasmuch as her attorney already knew what Attorney Viola was to testify about, yet she did not call him. The last fact is shown by the following excerpt from pages 148 to 150 of the transcript:

Mr. PANIS (attorney for the oppositor, addressing the court): Your Honor, I should like to present as the last witness Attorney Fernando Viola who was called by the petitioner Victoria Payad to prepare the will of the deceased in his favor on September 5, 1933.

COURT: But, Mr. Panis, are you going to testify for Attorney Fernando Viola? Mr. PANIS: No, Your Honor.

COURT: Well, where is that attorney? Where is that witness whom you wish to call to the witness stand? Mr. PANIS: Your Honor, he is busy in the branch, presided over by Judge Sison.

COURT: And when can he come? Mr. PANIS. I am now going to find out, Your Honor. If the other party, Your Honor, is willing to admit what said witness is going to testify in the sense that said Attorney Fernando Viola went to the house of the deceased on September 5, 1933, for the purpose of talking to the deceased to draft the will upon petition of Mr. Victorio Payad; if the other party admits that, then I am going waive the presentation of the witness Mr. Fernando Viola.

Mr. ALMARIO (attorney for the petitioner): We cannot admit that.

COURT: The court had already assumed beforehand that the other party would not admit that proposition.

Mr. PANIS: I request Your Honor to reserve us the right to call the witness, Mr. Viola, without prejudice to the other party's calling the witness it may wish to call.

COURT: The court reserves to the oppositor its right to call Attorney Viola to the witness stand.

If, after all, the oppositor did not decide to call Attorney Viola to testify as a witness in her favor, it might have been because she considered his testimony unimportant and unnecessary, and at the present stage of the proceedings, it is already too late to claim that what said attorney may now testify is a newly discovered evidence.

For the foregoing considerations, those stated by this court in the original decision, and the additional reason that, as held in the case ofChung Kiat vs. Lim Kio(8 Phil., 297), the right to a new trial on the ground of newly discovered evidence is limited to ordinary cases pending in this court on bills of exceptions, the motion for reconsideration and a new trial filed by the oppositor are hereby denied, ordering that the record be remanded immediately to the lower court. So ordered.

In the Matter of the will of ANTERO MERCADO, deceased. ROSARIO GARCIA,petitioner,vs.JULIANA LACUESTA, ET AL.,respondents.

CROSS SIGN

This is an appeal from a decision of the Court of Appeals disallowing the will of Antero Mercado dated January 3, 1943. The will is written in the Ilocano dialect and contains the following attestation clause:

We, the undersigned, by these presents to declare that the foregoing testament of Antero Mercado was signed by himself and also by us below his name and of this attestation clause and that of the left margin of the three pages thereof. Page three the continuation of this attestation clause; this will is written in Ilocano dialect which is spoken and understood by the testator, and it bears the corresponding number in letter which compose of three pages and all them were signed in the presence of the testator and witnesses, and the witnesses in the presence of the testator and all and each and every one of us witnesses.

In testimony, whereof, we sign this statement, this the third day of January, one thousand nine hundred forty three, (1943) A.D.

(Sgd.) NUMERIANO EVANGELISTA

(Sgd.) "ROSENDA CORTES

(Sgd.) BIBIANA ILLEGIBLE

The will appears to have been signed by Atty. Florentino Javier who wrote the name of Antero Mercado, followed below by "A reugo del testator" and the name of Florentino Javier. Antero Mercado is alleged to have written a cross immediately after his name. The Court of Appeals, reversing the judgement of the Court of First Instance of Ilocos Norte, ruled that the attestation clause failed (1) to certify that the will was signed on all the left margins of the three pages and at the end of the will by Atty. Florentino Javier at the express request of the testator in the presence of the testator and each and every one of the witnesses; (2) to certify that after the signing of the name of the testator by Atty. Javier at the former's request said testator has written a cross at the end of his name and on the left margin of the three pages of which the will consists and at the end thereof; (3) to certify that the three witnesses signed the will in all the pages thereon in the presence of the testator and of each other.

In our opinion, the attestation clause is fatally defective for failing to state that Antero Mercado caused Atty. Florentino Javier to write the testator's name under his express direction, as required by section 618 of the Code of Civil Procedure. The herein petitioner (who is appealing by way of certiorari from the decision of the Court of Appeals) argues, however, that there is no need for such recital because the cross written by the testator after his name is a sufficient signature and the signature of Atty. Florentino Javier is a surplusage. Petitioner's theory is that the cross is as much a signature as a thumbmark, the latter having been held sufficient by this Court in the cases of De Galavs.Gonzales and Ona, 53 Phil., 104; Dolarvs.Diancin, 55 Phil., 479; Payadvs.Tolentino, 62 Phil., 848; Neyravs.Neyra, 76 Phil., 296 and Lopezvs.Liboro, 81 Phil., 429.

It is not here pretended that the cross appearing on the will is the usual signature of Antero Mercado or even one of the ways by which he signed his name. After mature reflection, we are not prepared to liken the mere sign of the cross to a thumbmark, and the reason is obvious. The cross cannot and does not have the trustworthiness of a thumbmark.

What has been said makes it unnecessary for us to determine there is a sufficient recital in the attestation clause as to the signing of the will by the testator in the presence of the witnesses, and by the latter in the presence of the testator and of each other.

Wherefore, the appealed decision is hereby affirmed, with against the petitioner. So ordered.

Barut vs. Cabacungan G.R. L-6825 Febriary 15, 1912 Ponente: SC Justice Moreland

Facts: 1.Pedro Barut applied for the probate of the will of Maria Salomon. It is alleged in the petition that testatrix died on Nov. 1908 in Sinait, Ilocos Sur leaving the will dated March 3, 1907. The said will was witnessed by 3 persons. From the terms it appears that the petitioner received a larger part of decedent's property. After this disposition, the testatrix revoked all other wills and stated that since she is unable to read nor write, the will was read to her and that she has instructed Severino Agapan, one of the witnesses to sign her name in her behalf.

2. The lower court ruled that the will is not entitled to probate on the sole ground that the handwriting of the person who signed the name of the testatrix does not appear to be that of Agapan but that of another witness.

Issue: Whether or not a will's validity is affected when the person instructed by a testator to write his name did not sign his name

HELD: No, it is immaterial who wrote the name of the testator provided it is written at her request and in her present, and in the presence of the witnesses. This is the only requirement under Sec. 618 of the Civil Code of procedure at that time. - See more at: http://lawsandfound.blogspot.com/2013/02/barut-v-cabacungan-digest.html#sthash.yhGNpL7p.dpuf